I am back in Ghana for a holiday but I am trying to make the most of the time here. Learning as much about what is new in Ghana as possible. Fortunately for me, the Stars For All Nations (SFAN) event at the British council, that I wrote about here, took place during my stay here. After a morning meeting at La Wireless school, to organise our upcoming coding club, I was a little late to the event and sadly missed the beginning.
The fact that I missed part of Airtel MD Lucy Quist’s presentation was disappointing for me personally, but optimistic for the event. What this means is, the event started on time! I have been to many events here in Ghana in which I had to wait for a long time for the beginning. Even yesterdays Easter celebration in the village delayed by 5 hours! But, this even starting on time was a sign of good things to come. As I arrived the 200 strong audience were quietly and attentively listening to Lucy Quist’s inspiring insights.
Lucy Quist, a renowned speaker who is an advocate for STEM education, was the main speaker at SFAN. During her opening speech, she spoke about how important it is that Africa supports Africa. As we have been saying on Inventive Africa for sometime, “Change is happening” in Africa, and Africa needs to be ready to take advantage of it. Quist explained that “the majority of people preparing for the African demographic and opportunity boom are not African”. From just walking around Ghana this is quite clear. There are many non-Ghanaians in Ghana taking advantage of the potential of the Ghanaian market. It is time for Ghanaians to also recognise the potential here and start utilising the market. Quist also pointed out that African’s need not only to create jobs, but to buy from other Africans. Continue reading “Did You Know Africa is thinking about the future of employment?”→
The tag line of Inventive Africa has been that ‘Change is happening now’ in Africa. For more than a year now I have been writing this blog, with the help of the occasional guest blogger, and talking about the tremendous change going on across the continent. The problem has been is that I had not been in the continent for 4 years, so I had not seen any of this change first hand.
So, I have come back to where I used to live, Ghana, to check out exactly what is happening on the ground. It has now been a week living between Sogakope and Accra and I have certainly seen big changes. The first major change that is evident is the amount of construction that has taken place in the past few years. Parts of Accra are simply not recognisable, with huge apartment complexes, hotels and office buildings standing where once chop bars and kiosks where selling their wares. Even Oxford Street, Osu, one of the main areas for partying, has changed substantially. There still a few of the old shops and restaurants around, but now a huge shopping mall towers over the surrounding bars.
Now, seeing development like this is a good thing, but I can’t help but ask myself who is it that can afford to live in such apartment complexes in the middle of the city, and are their any affordable housing projects for the ‘ordinary’ (for want of a better word) Ghanaians.
Another concerning trend is the amount of Casinos that are now dotted around the city. As you would imagine, these buildings are massive and adorned with flashing lights, enticing people in. I ventured into one (for research purposes of course) and found people from all over the world mesmerised by the gaming machines and throwing their money around the roulette tables, whilst taking advantage of the free food and drinks. It is not just these huge buildings that are encouraging people to gamble.
In most football showing bars that I have seen, around Accra and out of the city, there are systems set up to enable punters to bet on the games in play. And, it is not just that. Even in Sogakope, about 2 hours outside of Accra towards the Togo border, a little betting shop has opened up where punters watch 4 screens with 4 different gambling opportunities. They can bet on roulette (electronically controlled) or horse and dog racing. Now, you may think there can’t be must horse and dog racing in Ghana, and you would be right. These races take place only in the confines of a computer! They are betting on cartoon dogs!
Anyway, enough of the negative, there are certainly some positives here! Yesterday, for Easter, I was in a little village Agorhome, for their harvest celebrations. I have been going to this village for 15 years and it is always a joy. This time around, what surprised me the most was that I had 4g connection. In previous trips I have hardly been able to make phone calls, but this time I was able to live stream the celebrations directly to Facebook. Check out the Facebook page to see the saved video!
There is a buzz here in the tech world. There is a lot of enthusiasm and optimism that change is happening. SO many events are taking place, promoting technology, innovation, STEM education, women empowerment, etc etc etc! Just last week I was at the SFAN event, which I will write about in the next blog. There is a huge effort and collaboration trying to push Ghana forward. It is very exciting.
Keep an eye out for the next blogs, which will look at some of the organisations pushing Ghanaian and African innovation. I will also be setting up a coding club in partner ship with Airtel Ghana and CoderDojo, starting from Saturday 22nd.
If you would like an innovation featured, or you want to be a guest blogger get in contact with us on Twitter @InventiveAfrica or via email, and please share the blog with your network on Twitter and Facebook. Also, we have a new Facebook page! Please like it, and carry on the dialogue about African Innovation there!
Innovation can be found across Africa in many forms. There are different sets of problems in Africa that can be solved by utilising and improving on technology from all over the world. 3D printing technology is saving lives, mobile phone technology is educating people and Fintech is encouraging more and more to think about their finances and save. Technology is enabling African communities and individuals to change their lives, to take different career paths, to learn new skills and be safer.
Safety is something that is not necessarily important across the continent. Cars are often old and no longer meet safety regulations, maintenance culture is not always up to scratch, things break and people get hurt. The same goes for the heavily populated “slum” areas. If disaster strikes there, and a fire breaks out, it would not take long for the fire to spread through the packed together homes. In South Africa this is a common occurrence, with fires often killing many and displacing thousands.
3D printing is a trend that doesn’t look to fizzle out. It is changing the way industry works and enabling small businesses all over the world. The prices of printers are coming down steadily and it is even possible to scavenge the parts and make one yourself! 3D printers and the availability of effective 3D scanners are giving unlimited opportunities to individuals, businesses and even medical suppliers, as you will see below. There are some negative aspects to this, with security threatened as it is now very easy to scan and print house keys using fairly rudimental 3D printing equipment. But, on the whole, 3D printing will speed up the supply chain and change people’s lives in a positive way.
3D printing has already been drastically changing the lives of some Africans. RoboBeast have been printing prosthetic limbs for people off the back of a Landrover in the African bush. This durable 3D printer is working under tough condition in remote areas and proves how versatile the 3D printing industry has become. It is now even possible to 3D print in metal, which would cut out the transportation fees for many industries. (The metal 3D printers are still very expensive)
ReFab Dar, based in Tanzania, are hoping to take advantage of the increased effectiveness of 3D printing. The aim to create the opportunity to 3D print vital medical supplies across Africa. This would enable Africa to take control, supplying itself with medical equipment it can not do without. They have set up a hacking competition and invited participants to design 3D printed medical tools. The competition focusses on tools that hep prevent HIV and birthing equipment. The submission date was on the 20th, and finalists will be announced on the 31st of March.
ReFab Dar have another innovation up their sleeve, also in the 3D printing sector, killing two birds with one stone! Currently they are taking plastic waste and turning it into the raw material for 3D printers, unlocking its value. Plastic waste is a scourge that plagues the continent. Countries like Rwanda seem to have been able to deal with it, but in many other countries, plastic is seen everywhere throughout the major cities in Africa. Currently, 3D printing is not utilised enough in anywhere in the world to clean up all the plastic waste, but as it becomes more and more effective, and with competitions like ReFab Dar’s for creating medical supplies, it will become more prevalent across the continent. The raw material is just sitting their waiting to be used. It is even possible that the bottling and packaging companies realise that they are missing out on an income and will do more to clear up and recycle the waste after its usage. Check out the video from their website, it is incredible innovation that can change Tanzania and the whole of Africa!
3D printing can be utilised in so may industries. Medical supplies may be one of the most important for the general health of the continent, but equipment for farmers, mechanics, tradesman, like plumbers and electricians, scientific equipment for schools, and even bigger industries such as laptop manufacturers like Positivo in Rwanda, could take advantage of 3D printing to make their operations more efficient.
Good luck to all those taking part in the ReFab Dar 3D printing hack. We can’t wait to see the results! If you know of any other 3D printing solutions and innovations in Africa, or you want to be a guest blogger get in contact with us on Twitter @InventiveAfrica or via email, and please share the blog with your network on Twitter and Facebook. Also, we have a new Facebook page! Please like it, and carry on the dialogue about African Innovation there!
Without farms, we wouldn’t survive. Well some of us may manage to scavenge for food, maybe even pick up hunting again, but life would not be the same again. The life of a farmer is not plain sailing. There are many hurdles to cross whether they are growing crops or producing livestock. The weather, disease type of seed, availability of machinery, storage and transportation all play a role in whether or not a farmer is successful.
The weather, sadly, can not be controlled, as we are seeing now in parts of East Africa where they are facing a devastating famine. There are some methods of farming that may have been able to mitigate against some of the hardships they face, such as aquaponics, a method of farming that uses much less water, or cow insurance, which offers an innovative way of providing security to farmers in high risk areas. Access to machinery is also a possibility using the power of cooperatives, which enable farmers to come together, pool their money and invest in machinery like the Tryctor, which will benefit them all. There are even mobile apps that enable people to sell their produce at the right price and to easily transport it to the market.
Seeds also play a big role in the quality of farm produce. It may seem obvious (without a seed there would be no plant) but choosing the wrong variety can drastically alter the success of a farming season. There has been great strides taken in recent years by companies like Syngenta, who are producing seeds that will be more effective in certain areas.
Africa is innovating, but in many instances the world refuses to see it. I have many conversations with people that are very sceptical about African innovation. But, within the continent there is a feeling of enthusiasm towards innovation and optimism that innovation can improve the lives of individuals and the continent as a whole.
In these changing times, the Africa youth are potentially best placed to take advantage of the changing circumstances that new technologies are creating for the world we live in. I say potentially because, despite the optimism, Africa is still lacking important infrastructure. Measures are being taken by governments and private organisations to close the digital divide and enable the youth to take advantage of technology and innovation. One upcoming event that is approaching that very topic is the Quantum Leap Career Fair, which will be taking place on April 12th in Accra, Ghana. The event is part of a collaboration between Stars From All Nations (SFAN), who aim to enable the next generation of African Leaders, and iSpace, one of the leading technology hubs in Ghana. The theme of the event is ‘Technology and the Future of Work in Africa’.
A Mckinsey study suggests that when current primary school students reach working age, 65% of the jobs will have been newly created and not existed today. Automations are making many jobs more efficient and there is more and more need for computer programmers as well as other positions. As well as being a careers fair, and preparing job seekers for work, SFAN and iSpace are seeking to highlight the importance of being prepared for these new job functions. If Africa can take the lead in these preparations, then it is possibly to close the gap to the rest of the world much more efficiently. Continue reading “Did You Know events across Africa are focussing on Innovation?”→
If you have ever done a spot of gardening, you will realise that, unless you have green fingers, it is pretty hard to get your plant to grow exactly as you like it. Getting the right amount of water, putting it in the correct place, feeding it with the right kind of soil and nutrients are all important, and a little mistake, could be the end of your beloved plant. Some plants seem pretty easy to maintain, but trust me, anything can be killed. (I even managed to destroy a cactus by over watering it!)
So, scale this up to an actual farm and put that farm somewhere in Africa where there is a lot more to contend with than just watering your tomatoes on your balcony. I am not keen on writing about the negative stereotypes of Africa, but farming can be nay on impossible in some regions of the continent. Right now in East Africa they are preparing, with some difficulty for the onset of a potentially devastating drought. The UN estimates that roughly 6 million people in Somalia, northern Kenya, southern Ethiopia and South Sudan are at risk and will need some sort of aid. El Nino is this time the cause of this drought, but this is the third to sweep the region in the last 25 years. With climate change also impacting on weather, it is more and more important for African farmers to cultivate techniques that get the most out of the land and resources available.
One technique that is becoming popular worldwide is aquaponics farming. Aquaponics is a system that combines aquaculture, which is the farming of fish or any other water based animal, such as snails and prawns, and hydroponics, the growing of plants in water. Essentially, it is a micro climate, or a mini water cycle, which needs very little input from the farmer. The fish are fed, and then excrete into the water, then, after a little treatment, the water is pumped up to the plants. The water then travels through the plants where it leaves all the nutrients and is filtered before it returns once again to the fish.
As you may have guessed there is a little expense for running this, with a pump needed. It is also important to have a small oxygenator to keep the plants and the fish healthy. But, with sun as a great natural resource in Africa, this can easily be run via solar power and small batter for the night time. But, it is only one pump that is needed as gravity does most of the work. The water is pumped to the highest point and then flows down towards the lowest.
So, why is this good for Africa? With water shortages and unpredictable rainfall in much of the continent, aquaponics is the perfect solution. It uses an estimated 2% of the water used in irrigation farming. That is staggering difference that makes you realise exactly how much water is being wasted in irrigation farming. The efficiency doesn’t stop there, some have said that aquaponics is 10 times more productive for crop growing than normal farming. This is because you can grow crops on more than one level, and because they have a constant supply of nutrients. It could even be turned into a sustainable circular system, where the fish essentially grow their own food, so no need to spend on expensive fish food. Not only do you get a food crop, you get a fish crop, so there are two types of income, which are more reliable.
The system in the below video is a great set up in Kenya by Nelson Mmbando.
I don’t want to make aquaponics sound too easy. A little mistake can destroy your whole fish stock, so it is important that people are properly trained in the management of the farm. Even cleanliness is important, as the wrong bacteria entering the water supply could lead to disaster. The acidity of the water and the amount of nitrate in the water is are also important. But, if this system is used and maintained properly it can bring profitable and sustainable farming all year round in a region that usually has to sit and hope on an unreliable water supply.
If you have an aquaponics system, please send us some photos and let us know how it is going. If you want to be a guest blogger get in contact with us on Twitter @InventiveAfrica or via email, and please share the blog with your network on Twitter and Facebook.
Also, we have a new Facebook page! Please like it, and carry on the dialogue about African Innovation there!