Blog: How I navigated Kenya using Twitter
June 21, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Errol Barnett*
Nairobi, Kenya (CNN) — Surfers beware. There is an incredibly influential and vocal group on Twitter, using a common hashtag and blazing keyboards to ensure their African country is discussed fairly and with respect online. Kenyans on Twitter, better known as #KOT, are a 21st century phenomenon born out of the social media boom and growing economy in East Africa’s most populous city, Nairobi.
Why are they so vocal and what is it doing for the country at large? My mission for “Inside Africa” recently was to find out – and I did so with an experiment.
The concept was simple; if Kenyans are so connected I should be able to assemble a quick meet-up; I should be able to navigate Nairobi via Twitter. The entire process should teach me how tech-savvy this country really is and show me where its heading. It worked far better than expected.
Technically speaking, Kenyans are special, as they are members of an exclusive and enviable club. The country is among the top four users of the web in all of Africa, behind only Egypt, Morocco and Nigeria. What’s more impressive is the connection speed at which they surf. The Kenyan government recently installed broadband infrastructure, which behind Ghana, is the second fastest on the continent.
Also, the Kenyan Government, in coordination with the World Bank, has embarked on a multi-million dollar initiative to use information and communications technology — or ICT — to accelerate economic growth and promote transparency.
For these reasons and more, the response to my call for a random meeting was met with enthusiasm. One by one, half a dozen #KOTs approached me in the predetermined cafe (offering free wi-fi) shouting the password, “connected!” Each told me how the internet is making their lives easier from paying bills through a mobile money service called Mpesa or sending out links to their resumes via social media.
What’s more fascinating is the place they all suggested I visit, iHub. Essentially it’s a nexus of innovation with free-flowing ideas meant to serve as an incubator for future Kenyan-grown advancements. Via Twitter, users gave me advice on how to get there and who to meet.
I met the manager Tosh Juma standing amid what appeared to be a college study hall. He introduced me to software developers, web designers and tech enthusiasts all at different stages of their ICT projects. Of course there was the obligatory coffee bar, foosball table and comfy gaming seats on the floor — but there was also a real sense of responsibility for the future and well-being of the country.
One young entrepreneur is Susan Eve Oguya, eagerly telling me about her SMS or text service for Kenyan farmers, MFarm. It allows them to check up-to-the-minute market rates for their goods so devious middlemen can’t deceive them. She tells me its especially important for her since she comes from a family of people who make their living on farms.
Another developer, Nevi Mukherjee showed me a tablet-based application designed for Kenya’s school children called eLimu. It brings the country’s academic curriculum to life with pictures, video and interactive quizzes. It’s no wonder Google plucked many of iHub’s members, like Ory Okolloh of the crisis-mapping site Ushahidi, to join their African ranks.
My final stop on this online experiment was Google’s offices in Kenya. Joe Mucheru, Google’s Ambassador for everything related to Sub-Saharan Africa gave me a tour and sneak peak into new services. They include a mapping service keeping the government accountable on schools that it has agreed to build or expand — the map reveals any progress — or lack thereof. From Joe’s corner office overlooking Nairobi he tells me of his wish for his young children, “I think they are going to have a much easier life and hopefully… compete globally even more. They don’t have the same hang ups we had, that ‘we’re behind’. They think they deserve everything and should be doing everything — that’s the right attitude for young people now.”
Kenya online usage has grown exponentially. Back in the year 2000 only 200,000 were logged onto the web, at the end of 2011, that number was around 10.5 million. No one knows how many internet users – or #KOTs for that matter – there will be in 2021 but one thing is for sure; there will be many and they will be helping Kenya stand out proudly in an increasingly crowded online universe.
*Culled from CNN. Every week, Inside Africa takes its viewers on a journey across Africa, exploring the true diversity and depth of different cultures, countries and regions.
East Africa: Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania Uniform Visa Fees to Boost Revenue
June 19, 2012 | 0 Comments
By David Muwanga*
Arusha, Tanzania — Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya have harmonised tourist visa fees with the aim of boosting the region’s revenue and marketing the region as a single destination, a Tanzanian official has said.
“Each of the three countries is now charging $50. However this is not the end since we are still negotiating on other measures aimed at marketing the region as a single destination,” said the deputy minister of natural resources and tourism Lazaro Nyalandu.
“It is possible that we shall have a single regional tourist visa since we have managed to develop a single customs union thus far. As we continue to implement the regional common market protocol,” he said at the opening of a three-day Karibu Travel and Tourism Fair held at the Magereza open grounds in Arusha, Tanzania.
The fair that attracted over 250 exhibitors from Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Tanzania, DR Congo among others was jointly organized by the Tanzania Association of Tour Operators (TATO), the Tanzania Tourist Board (TTB), and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Tourism (MNRT).
The deputy minister said that Tanzania emerged as a winner at a similar event, popularly known as INDABA, held in Durban, South Africa, from May 12 to 15, 2012.
“Tanzania received an award for the best exhibition as other nations in the region recognize that Tanzania’s tourist destinations continue to dazzle and attract visitors from all continents,” he said.
Hanspaul Automechs Limited managing g director Satbir Hanspaul told East African Business Week that introduction of a single visa would make East Africa a cheaper destination compared to other regions. Originally created to promote Tanzania, it’s now a regional event that also features products and delegates from Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.
Karibu’s major function is one of a relationship broker who targets, attracts and matches the needs of buyers and suppliers. He said that with the new charges, the Tanzania government targets to attract two million tourists in the next five year’s compared to the 950,000 who visited the country last year.
“However we should also stop taking tourism to mean only foreign visitors but we are also encouraging local people to start visiting the tourist sites,” he said.
Chairman of the Association of Uganda Tour Operators Bonafice Byamukama said although negotiations for single visa continue the common ground is that the region should be marketed as a single destination.
*Culled from East African Business Week,Kampala
Feeding South Africa’s elite
June 18, 2012 | 0 Comments
South Africa’s fine dining restaurant business is largely dominated by foreign nationals and white South Africans, but this did not stop Soweto-born Desmond Mabuza from wanting to join those feeding the elite.
Desmond Mabuza is one of the very few black South Africans to own a stake in the country’s burgeoning business of fine dining.
In his high-end Johannesburg eateries, Signature Restaurant and Wall Street, Mr Mabuza serves expensive food to the rich, famous and politically connected.
“We’ve had the likes of Arsene Wenger during the World Cup, Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Patrick Vieira,” he told the BBC series African Dream.
“Two deputy presidents of the country have been here in the last two weeks, ministers, the list is endless.”
A US-trained civil engineer, he returned to South Africa a year before the end of apartheid and set up his own firm.
But he decided on a career change eight years later, realising his passion did not lie in his chosen profession.
“By some chance I got involved in the restaurant business and it grew on me,” he said.
“The bug caught me in a way and I could see myself doing that for the rest of my life.”
He began his dream in 2001, when aged 28, he opened his first restaurant.
Using money generated from his civil engineering company, he raised the money needed to invest in the design of a new building.
His initial plan was to hand the business over to a manager once the restaurant had been designed, but he quickly found he enjoyed the process too much to hand it over to someone else.
“It’s a very dynamic industry, you get to meet and socialise with different people on a daily basis, no day’s ever like the one before.”
Patrons visiting his restaurant can expect to pay up to 450 rand (£32, $53) on a three-course meal and can choose anything from oysters to stuffed calamari, garlic snails or orange-glazed salmon.
Customers are then invited to wash down their meal with some of South Africa’s finest wines to complete the fine dining experience.
Many of Mr Mabuza’s customers include some of South Africa’s growing black middle class, but he asserts that he is the sole black businessman to operate at the top of the restaurant business.
“For me colour was never something that I made much of an issue of.”
However, he admits to feeling like he is making history and says that many black South Africans have told him that they are proud of him.
Attention to detail
For Mr Mabuza, the key to his success was setting himself the goal of putting out a product which would excel and stand out from everyone else on the market.
Given his lack of experience in setting up a restaurant business, many critics may have doubted his ability to create a success.
But he says his background in civil engineering has been an invaluable asset.
“[In engineering] you’re paying attention to detail, the overall project planning, being objective, processes.
“A lot of that training has come in handy for me in terms of how I implement and go about my daily business.”
Now with a second restaurant and close to 100 employees, he says business is in good financial shape.
“We are continuously full which is a good way of knowing you are doing something right, because the people will always vote and they vote by coming to your restaurant.”
Eleven years on and Mr Mabuza says his restaurants have become regular recipients of praise from food critics.
“Both, in a very short space of time, have earned themselves quite an immense reputation in terms of awards and accolades in the industry.”
He is now mapping out his plans and hopes to build his brand across the continent by building new restaurants in key markets such as Ghana, Kenya, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“The idea is to make it a pan-African venture,” he says of his expansion plans.
This is all begins in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, where he will open a restaurant in a boutique hotel.
*Culled From BBC Africa .African Dream is broadcast on the BBC Network Africa programme every Monday morning, and on BBC World News throughout the day on Fridays
iROKOtv, the “Netflix of Africa”, reaches 500,000 subscribers in less than six months
June 15, 2012 | 0 Comments
14 June 2012. iROKOtv, the “Netflix of Africa” and the continent’s first legal online source of Nollywood films, is delighted to reveal that it has recorded over 500,000 registered users in less than six months since its launch. The news comes just months after the company announced that it had secured $8m in funding from US-based hedge Tiger Global, early investors in Facebook.
Headquartered in Lagos, Nigeria and with offices in London and New York and a staff of almost 100, iROKOtv has been groundbreaking in bringing Nollywood to the African Diaspora, with viewers logging on from over 178 countries across the world. To date, over 9.3 million hours of Nollywood movies have been watched on irokotv.com.
Jason Njoku, CEO and Founder of iROKO Partners says: “What an incredible six months it has been for iROKOtv – 500,000 subscribers in under 6 months is an awesome feat for us. We are a relatively young start-up and are super excited to have built up such momentum in such a short space of time.
“The secret of our success to-date is pretty simple; we love what we do, we love Nollywood movies and so do our 500,000 registered subscribers. Content is king and we are unrivalled in what we can offer from our 5,000-strong movie library. The iROKOtv team uploads movies onto the site every single week, so our fans, who we know have a voracious appetite for all things Nollywood, have a constant stream of awesome content at their fingertips.
“Nollywood is a global phenomenon – our fans are scattered all over the world and had previously struggled to get hold of any movies. The iROKOtv platform enables them to watch classic and new films, on a safe, easy to use, beautifully designed site, whether they are on a computer, tablet or on their mobile phone – anywhere in the world. Nollywood has never been so accessible and this is only the beginning for us.”
iROKOtv’s largest markets are the US, UK, Canada and Germany – the site currently has more viewers in London than in Lagos. The West now has a reliable outlet to access Nollywood movies. However, as Africa comes online and broadband penetration surges, it is expected that the site will see considerable growth in traffic from across the continent, which will position iROKOtv as one of the leading sites for aggregating the African Diaspora.
As of 1 July 2012, iROKOtv is introducing a subscription service, where viewers will retain free access to the current catalogue of Nollywood films, but will also be able to watch brand new, exclusive Nollywood releases, uploaded weekly, for only $5 per month.
Launched in December 2011, iROKOtv is a subsidiary of iROKO Partners, Africa’s largest, legitimate distributor of Nigerian film and music entertainment with key partnerships with the likes of Facebook; iROKOtv viewers can login via their Facebook account, and is YouTube’s largest African partner. iROKO Partners is expected to increase its viewers to over 250 million in 2012 across its brands iROKOtv, iROKING (the “Spotify of Africa”), Nollywood Love and iROKtv, Africa’s answer to “E!”.
In April 2012 Tiger Global, a New York-based private equity and hedge fund run by an early investor in Facebook and Zynga, led two $4 million rounds of investment into iROKO Partners, in one of the largest ever fundraisings into a West African tech firm. The funding will continue to be used to build iROKOtv’s library and to continue working directly with Nollywood production houses to buy the higher prices for the online licenses to Nollywood films which enables them to better monetize their content and to reinvest in making more, higher quality productions.
In May 2012, iROKOtv announced that from 1 July 2012, subscribers across the world will have exclusive access to brand new and exclusive Nollywood releases, uploaded weekly for $5 per month and payable by SMS, PayPal or card.
For additional Information Contact
iROKO Partners email@example.com
Jessica Hope +44 203 176 2808
Pelham Bell Pottinger +44 20 7861 3925
Banking on Africa’s poor
June 15, 2012 | 0 Comments
New mobile services mean that now, subsistence workers have access to banks. That’s changing lives.
Vast distances, high costs and unstable incomes.Those are just some of the challenges faced by millions of Africa’s poorest trying to access financial services in rural communities in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Until recently, commercial banks across the continent hadn’t bothered to reach out to impoverished Africans in rural areas because they saw little profit potential. Instead, they focused on wealthier clients with larger transactions, which had a better chance of surpassing the cost of the bank infrastructure and staff.
“Current operating models are very much focused on serving other clients who are richer and have larger transactions on average, and thereby it’s very much heavy on brick and mortar infrastructure and personal attention,” said Benedikt Wahler, a manager at Roland Berger Strategy Consultants GmbH in Nigeria.
“Those two things contribute to high transaction costs that would not be feasible for the kinds of transactions volumes that you see from low-income households.”
But now, the potential for billions of dollars in deposits from people earning less than $10 per day has spurred many financial institutions to reconsider the way they do business. Now, they hope to lure the 95 percent of the estimated 498 million adults in Sub-Saharan Africa who earn less than $10 a day. This group could account for a potential $59 billion in deposits, according to Roland Berger.
Bigger banks now collaborate with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to reach those most in need.
For example, Barclay’s Bank has been working with humanitarian organizations CARE International UK and Plan UK in an attempt to provide facilities to “unbanked” people in Sub-Saharan Africa with the initiative Banking on Change – helping to establish Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLA) in poor communities and to promote saving in small amounts.
These VSLAs encourage groups in rural communities to start saving in small amounts while accumulating funds that can then be borrowed at a low rate of interest.
And other organizations such as the Savings Banks Foundation for International Cooperation (SBFIC), have worked to teach poorer people how to increase their savings and to manage risk better.
Analysts said that while it is important to provide the facilities for people to be able to save, it is also essential to increase financial literacy — so people realize that in spite of the fact they earn little, it is possible for them to save.
“People do not understand the concept of savings, so you would ask them if they ever saved and they would say they never have any extra money to put aside,” Sandra Sequeira, a lecturer in development economics at the London School of Economics.
Low education and literacy levels make bank products appear complicated, added Moses Ochieng, a regional representative for east and southern Africa for CGAP, an independent policy and research center, in Nairobi, Kenya.
But one of the biggest challenges remains geographical. In some far-flung rural areas, people must walk for hours to get to their closest bank branch. Another problem is the high costs involved in building banks in rural communities.
Telecommunications technology has proved an effective way of enabling banks to overcome these issues over recent years. Some providers allow users to transfer money and even pay bills or buy groceries with their phones. According to research conducted by the World Bank, in Sub-Saharan Africa this type of banking has expanded to become 16 percent of the market.
“It is a technology that can easily reach anyone in the country, with the coverage rates of cell phones in most developing countries being incredibly high,” said Sequeira.
But while analysts said the use of mobile phones to carry out transactions has been a successful method of getting to more of the world’s unbanked, banks can still do more.
Banks such as Equity Bank in Kenya have led the way using methods such as offering youth savings accounts at schools and a “banks on wheels” scheme, which used modified jeeps to visit villages deemed too small for a bank branch. The bank is now East Africa’s largest, with 50 percent of all bank accounts in Kenya and 4.9 million clients. It is now working to expand further into Uganda, South Sudan and Rwanda using initiatives such as agent banking, which allows banks to appoint non-banking businesses such as supermarkets, gas stations and pharmacies to provide basic banking services.
“Agent banking also now allows those with lower incomes to access financial services from commercial banks in some markets in Africa,” said Ochieng.
Analysts stressed that to improve national economies, it is important for people to be able to access financial services.
“If you can get commercial banks operating in poor areas you get a financial deepening of those areas and development,” said William Shaw, a visiting scholar specializing in emerging markets on the International Economics Program at the think-tank Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.
“Banks are really important to economic development because they serve an important intermediary function and they provide an expertise to evaluate projects so they can lend efficiently,” he added. “And they give people confidence that they can place their money [there] and get it back when they want.”
Herakles Farms Announces Update on Its Cameroon Palm Oil Subsidiary SGSOC
June 13, 2012 | 0 Comments
Company to Proceed with Phased Development Approach to Ensure Sustainable, Environmental and Socially Sensitive Growth
– Herakles Farms, a New York-based agriculture company operating in Ghana and Cameroon, today announced new details for its Cameroon palm oil subsidiary, SG Sustainable Oils Cameroon (SGSOC), and its decision to pursue a phased development approach to allow its many stakeholders to better understand the social and environmental benefits and impacts and to be responsive to the concerns of all stakeholders that may arise.
To date, SGSOC has cultivated less than 30 hectares in the Nguti, Mundemba and Toko Sub-Divisions of South West Cameroon. Specifically, this development entails three nurseries near the villages of Talangaye, Lipenja I, (Batanga) and Fabe, with 70,000 mature trees currently ready for transfer to the field. SGSOC recently conducted pre-clearing studies on the initial 2,000 hectares of land under evaluation for field-planting development. These studies included a detailed examination of the flora, fauna, and habitat of the land adjacent to the Talangaye nursery in order to ensure the maintenance and protection of all environmental and social high conservation value areas.
SGSOC committed to development in Cameroon in September 2009, when the Company and the Government of Cameroon signed an agreement to develop approximately 70,000 hectares of oil palm in an area classified by the Government as secondary forest in the South West Region. The area had suffered economically in large part because of its isolation from services and market opportunities. Since the land in the region had been logged and farmed repeatedly in the past, the Government of Cameroon responded to the communities’ needs by designating the land for commercial, agricultural and economic development.
SGSOC conducted an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) for the area and submitted it to the Government of Cameroon in August 2011. The Government thereafter issued its approval through a Certificate of Environmental Conformity in September 2011. In an April 2012 ruling, the Mundemba High Court affirmed that SGSOC had complied with these environmental and land-related Government regulations and that the Company has been in order with such requirements for legal operation in Cameroon.
While SGSOC expects that approximately 60,000 hectares may ultimately be suitable for planting, before it proceeds with transferring its trees from the nursery to the field, it has committed to performing additional pre-planting studies designed to ensure that the Company has thoroughly mapped all high conservation value sites, important lands for village use, buffer zones and fulfilled other obligations to key stakeholders.
In parallel to this phased approach, SGSOC is also helping to support rural employment and development, upgrading infrastructure including roads and enhancing critical services such as healthcare and schooling. For instance, together with the local organization of medical doctors, WecCare Foundation, a program was recently completed in the villages of Talangaye and Ayong near Nguti, and Lipenja I, Batanga and Meangwe near Toko. Consultations, informational booklets, medication and a range of selected surgeries with appropriate follow-up were included in the program. In terms of education, the Company donated textbooks to 35 secondary schools in all nine subdivisions in the Ndian Division. SGSOC continues to develop its longer-term medical and educational programs for the local villages in the area.
“Herakles Farms is committed to listening to the concerns of all stakeholders and modifying our practices where necessary. We want to be a responsible leader in developing sustainable agriculture that prioritizes community development,” stated Bruce Wrobel, CEO of Herakles Farms. “We are focused on balancing our commitments to the Government regarding job creation and economic development with the specific and important interests of the local communities, as well as NGOs and other stakeholders. We are proceeding in systematic phases in order to be responsive to all concerned. Going forward, we want to foster greater openness, transparency and collaboration in our activities.”
About Herakles Farms Established in 2009, Herakles Farms is focused on identifying and implementing solutions to important food security issues in Africa. The management team has a track record of developing environmentally and socially sustainable projects that result in economic development in some of the least-developed African countries, and has received numerous awards for its work. Previously known as SG Sustainable Oils (SGSO), the Company has been an active member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) since 2008.
Contact Information: Ms. Delilah Rothenberg Herakles Farms 277 Park Avenue, 40th Floor New York, NY 10167 (212) 351-0176 Rothenberg@heraklescapital.com
SOURCE Herakles Farms
Time For An African Valley? — Sub-Saharan Accelerators Start To Emerge
June 13, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Mike Butcher*
The news that i/o Ventures had launched the Savannah Fund in Africa is clearly welcome news for an emerging continent. It’s $10m fund size will be a shot in the arm for the eco-system there. But I was surprised to see that it was being described in some quarters as the “first ever” Sub-Saharan African incubator and accelerator. Because it patently is not.
“I think MEST would actually be the first model in this space,” said African tech watcher Ben White of vc4africa.biz when I asked him about this. MEST has a fund size of $20m, although it’s invested via a non-profit.
So to start getting into this, it may be that we are well over-due for a run-down of accelerators in Africa. Here’s what we’ve found so far.
There’s clearly been a proliferation of coworking spaces and tech incubators around Sub-Saharan Africa over the last 3-5 years. Accelerators linked with funds are a more recent phenomenon:
1. MEST: Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology (MEST) provides training and mentoring in Accra, Ghana. Started in 2008, MEST is a not-for-profit NGO that is funded by the Meltwater Group through its non-profit Meltwater Foundation. Invests in 3-5 startups per annual programme. Fund size: $20m spread over 10 years.
2. HumanIPO (Nairobi, Kenya). Launched 2011. 88mph is their seed fund. Takes a minimum 10-15 investments per year. Has room for 25 startups in its space. Fund size: Uknown.
3. Umbono (Cape Town, South Africa). Launched 2011. This is Google’s accelerator & fund. Puts in $25k to $50k seed capital. Fund size: Unknown.
5. Mara Launchpad (Kampala, Uganda). Launched 2012. Backed by Mara Foundation. Fund size: Unknown.
6. Lastly there is the co-working space iHub (Nairobi, Kenya) launched 2010 and is now the base for the Savannah Fund as mentioned above. Fund Size: $5m, but is aiming to be $10m eventually.
The Savannah Fund is coming out of i/o co-founder Paul Bragiel and i/o entrepreneur-in-residence Mbwana Alliy along with Erik Hersman a cofounder the Ushahidi crowd sourcing platform and a cofounder of Nairobi’s iHub. Five early stage $25,000 for 15% equity and three to six months to prove themselves. Follow-on funding for the successful ones will be in the region of $100,000 to $200,000.
Savannah Fund has backing from Tim Draper, Dave McClure of 500 Startups, Yelp co-founder Russ Simmons, and Dali Kilani and Roger Dickey of Zynga, as well as local Kenyan entrepreneurs, including Karanja Macharia of Mobile Planet.
Savannah will also run an incubator like i/o in San Francisco for ten companies a year, but it appears the companies will be sourced in Nairobi with the ones showing promise being shipped over from East Africa to the US to scale up.
The consensus on the ground amongst seasoned AfricaTech watchers is that while Nigeria has the fastest growing economy it’s also pretty dangerous at the moment. Kenya also has its issues but is widely regarded as a strong hub for tech companies in Africa, and Tansania has potential, but Ghana is quickly gaining a reputation because of its relatively stable business and political environment and the English language is widespread. It’s also becoming a big airline hub because airlines prefer not to drop their staff into potentially dangerous countries.
Expect more Africa coverage from TechCrunch in due course…
*Culled from http://techcrunch.com
Economic growth stirs hope in Africa
June 13, 2012 | 0 Comments
Over the next five years, the continent will expand faster than any other
By Emily Dugan *
While ministers in Europe try to hold together crumbling economies, a success story has been quietly emerging to the south. Africa is experiencing its longest income boom for 30 years, with gross domestic product growth rates averaging about 5 per cent annually over the past decade. Even this year, as markets elsewhere collapse, the continent’s income is projected to increase by around 4.5 per cent.
Africa will have the world’s fastest-growing economy during the next five years of any continent, according to the International Monetary Fund. Its forecasts also show that seven of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies will be African, with Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Congo, Ghana, Zambia and Nigeria expected to expand by more than 6 per cent a year until 2015.
The world is starting to take notice: trade between Africa and the rest of the globe increased by 200 per cent between 2000 and 2011. As well as the usual exports of oil, natural gas and minerals, the sale of African-manufactured goods is also increasing. Over the past ten years, African manufactured output has doubled.
Zambia is one of the continent’s most promising economies, growing at 7.6 per cent in 2010 and 6.6 per cent in 2011. Thanks to the technology boom, its supply of copper, which now accounts for almost half its exports, is highly sought after. Though it is still among the poorest in the world – it is ranked 164 out of the 187 countries on the UN Human Development Index – there are signs that its economic success is starting to translate into better lives for its citizens. By 2009, the country had full primary school enrolment, up from 80 per cent in 1990, and the latest figures show a decline in the infant mortality rate to 86 per 1,000 live births in 2009 from 88 in 2008.
Marcelo Giugale, the director of the World Bank’s poverty reduction programme for Africa, has been watching how the continent’s economic successes impact on its poorest people and is cautiously optimistic. “Sustained growth is necessary but not sufficient on its own to have an impact on poverty”, he said. “You can have growth for a long time and it will help only a few people. We have been lucky that growth has been accompanied by poverty reduction. Not as much as you’d hope, but still. We don’t have continental numbers, but we do have individual countries that show a reduction in poverty, especially extreme poverty.
“In Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda and Mozambique, infant mortality, health indicators and educational attainment have all improved.”
Mr Giugale believes the mineral-rich continent could see even greater leaps. “If Europe holds together, I think this growth in Africa will continue,” he said. “We are only at the tip of the iceberg in terms of the commodities that Africa has that we know about. I would estimate we still know only about 10 per cent of what’s there. There is so much still to discover.”
Technology has helped speed up growth. In Kenya, for example, mobile phone bank transfers have revolutionised rural access to cash. Just two years after the mobile banking system M-Pesa was introduced in 2007, 40 per cent of Kenya’s adult population had become customers.
There are also early signs of a growth in the continent’s middle class. An African Development Bank report has projected that by 2030 much of the continent will have a middle-class majority and that consumer spending will soar from $680bn in 2008 to $2.2trn.
Joel Kibazo, a consultant working with Oxford’s Centre for the Study of African Economies, says the signs of an emerging middle class are encouraging: “If you look at my country, Uganda: when I was growing up, there was one university, now there are about 30. All these people who are educated are coming out wanting a middle-class lifestyle. They don’t want to go back to villages and mud huts, they want to buy microwaves and laptops.”
But he fears the current European crisis could chip away at the successes. “In 2008, when the rest of the world fell off a cliff, Africa continued moving up”, he said, “but this time, I don’t think it’s going to escape the turmoil in Europe in the same way.”
Emerging economies, such as India and China, do not seem put off, however, and are snatching up opportunities in mineral-rich countries. In 2008, the Democratic Republic of Congo took $6bn of Chinese money for infrastructure – some 2,400 miles of road, 2,000 miles of railway, two universities, 32 hospitals and 145 health stations. In return, China got a slice of the country’s natural resources to feed its own industry – 10 million tons of copper and 400,000 tons of cobalt.
In contrast, Britain has not seized chances on the same scale. Razia Khan, a senior researcher for Standard Chartered Bank, said: “Africa is trading that much more with the emerging powers, so the UK’s share of trade with Africa is not as dominant.”
Over the next 40 years, Africa’s population is set to double, from one billion to two billion, a massive increase in the number of young people of working age. The median age on the continent is currently 20 – half that in Europe, where the economy is faltering.
Yet the continent’s recent swift expansion has largely passed by northern Africa. In Egypt, growth fell by 3.3 percentage points to below 2 per cent in 2011, and in Tunisia a fall of 4.2 percentage points produced contraction of around 1 per cent, according to analysts at the African Economic Outlook. In Libya, the civil war brought oil production to a standstill and GDP shrank by more than 40 per cent. The more mature economy of South Africa also bucked the trend for economic expansion, expanding its output by only 3.1 per cent in 2011.
Despite the economic gains, there are some who find the regimes unpalatable. Tom Cargill, the assistant director of the Africa programme at the foreign policy think tank Chatham House, said: “If you’re interested in states becoming more economically successful, then what is coming out of Africa is good news. But if you are interested in an Africa where human rights are respected and governments take on the attributes of Western democratic countries, including fair elections and freedom of speech, then it isn’t good.
“African states are finding their own ways to economic growth which don’t conform to those liberal human rights criteria. Part of that is because Europe is declining, so European prescriptions of how to behave, in terms of governance, is becoming less attractive to African states.”
Though some may be uncomfortable about how it got there, it seems Africa can no longer be dubbed “the hopeless continent”.
*Culled from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/
BBC announces major new focus on Africa*
June 13, 2012 | 0 Comments
The BBC has today announced its first-ever dedicated daily TV news programme in English for African audiences. The new programme, BBC Focus On Africa, brings together the expertise of the BBC World Service’s African Service and BBC World News on television. It is the first in a range of new programming for Africa to be launched by the BBC this summer, including a major expansion of its TV offer.
BBC Focus on Africa will be aired by the BBC’s broadcast partners in Africa and will be shown globally on BBC World News. It forms just one part of an expansion of the BBC’s offer on TV, radio and online.
The BBC today named Komla Dumor and Sophie Ikenye as the main presenters of the daily 30-minute news programme.
BBC Focus On Africa will be launched on prime-time TV across the continent from 18 June 2012 at 17.30 GMT. The programme will draw on the pool of BBC African talent on the continent and in London to report on Africa’s rising economies, entrepreneurs, innovators, culture, entertainment and sport.
Focus on Africa will be covering the major news from the continent and asking: is there a way out of the Sudan crisis? What impact will Europe’s economic problems have on Africa’s booming economies? How does Africa deal with its growth in natural resources?
The programme will also challenge African leaders and politicians on tough issues. Focus On Africa will report on the latest developments in business, technology and science and speak to those driving change. It will also look at how Africa is becoming an information technology hotspot. The programme will report, for example, on Kenyan scientists who are at the forefront in discovering cheaper, locally produced medicines to combat malaria.
Focus On Africa reporters across Africa will be giving us a snapshot of the innovation, lifestyle and culture of the country they live in. The programme will feature Africa Beats, looking at the people behind Africa’s varied music scenes. Every step of the way viewers will have their say through social media.
Focus on Africa presenter Komla Dumor says: “After decades of turmoil and uncertainty, a new Africa is emerging. The old stereotypes are being challenged and a new, compelling narrative is being written. I am incredibly excited to be part of a new BBC programme that will provide solid coverage and analysis of Africa’s challenges and prospects.”
Solomon Mugera, the BBC’s Africa Editor, says: “Africa is now one of the fastest developing news markets in the world – this new investment will expand our services for African audiences.
“While radio remains popular in Africa, TV is growing – and our partnerships with leading African broadcasters play a key part in these future plans. Mobile phone ownership is racing towards a billion, internet connectivity is rising and social media is empowering audiences. It’s essential that the kind of independent journalism the BBC does that isn’t slanted to one political or commercial viewpoint remains central to the new media landscape.
“With correspondents in 48 African countries, production centres in Nairobi, Abuja, Johannesburg and Dakar and a weekly audience of 77 million, the BBC already has deep roots in the continent. Our journalists are from the African countries they report on – in English, Swahili, Hausa, Somali, Kinyarwanda/Kirundi and French – living and breathing the big stories and issues facing Africa.”
The BBC also announced that six special episodes from Africa of current affairs interview programme Rendezvous, hosted by Zeinab Badawi, will be broadcast on BBC World News from mid-June with guests including President Kikwete of Tanzania.
The BBC newsgathering resources in Africa are part of a global network of 70 bureaux. The BBC made its first broadcast to Africa more than 80 years ago. The combined audience on radio and television makes the BBC the largest international broadcaster in Africa.
*Courtesy of http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/worldnews/
Nigeria celebrates first home-made warship
June 8, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Will Ross *
After nearly five years in the making, the Nigerian navy ship or NNS Andoni was launched with a colourful event.
At 31m (100ft) long, this is no giant of the seas, but the fact that it was designed and built in Nigeria, by Nigerian engineers, is a great source of pride.
“We are all happy and elated,” said Commodore SI Alade, one of Nigeria’s senior naval officers.
“This is the first time this kind of thing is happening in Nigeria and even in the sub region.”
Moments after stepping on board NNS Andoni, sailor FL Badmus said: “I feel on top of the world.
“I’m proud to have been picked by the naval authorities to serve on this ship.
“We hope this is the beginning of very good things to come and we thank God for it.”
The warship was named after the Andoni people of south-eastern Nigeria – and several chiefs travelled to Lagos to witness the launch – including his Royal Highness NL Ayuwu Iraron Ede-Obolo II, wearing a top hat, a sequin-adorned velvet gown and a brightly coloured necklace.
The ceremony also featured multi-faith prayers, with an imam asking God to “protect and preserve this ship from the dangers of the day and the violence of the enemy”, and a Christian praying: “May she sail with success like the Ark of Noah.”
The event had an interesting twist of symbolism for the guest of honour, Nigeria’s leader, Goodluck Jonathan.
He is from a family of canoe makers – and that he is now the president launching a warship is a sign of how far he has risen.
“This is the beginning of the transformation… and I believe in another 10 to 15 years, we can be thinking about starting a project to take Nigerians into the air,” President Jonathan said.
The NNS Andoni could be key in the fight against militants operating near Nigeria’s oil fields as well as the growing threat of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.
Piracy in Nigerian waters is on the increase and incidents are happening over a wider area, according to the International Maritime Bureau.
There were 10 piracy attacks off the 780km (485 miles) of Nigeria’s coastline during the first quarter this year – the same number reported for the whole of 2011.
“While the number of reported incidents in Nigeria is still less than Somalia… the level of violence against crew is dangerously high,” according to a recent IMB report.
The NNS Andoni is equipped with an advanced radar system and firepower.
“With a speed of up to 25 knots (46km/h), this can quickly go to intercept the pirates,” said Commanding Officer Adepegba standing on the bridge pointing out the ship’s three machine guns and the automatic grenade launcher.
The Nigerian navy reportedly wants to acquire 49 more vessels over the next 10 years. But how many will be home built?
Orders are already in – for three from a French shipbuilder, and six from Singapore.
President Jonathan recently approved the acquisition of two large patrol vessels from China Shipbuilding and Offshore International, a mainly state-owned company.
In an effort to boost local industry, one of the Chinese vessels is meant to be 70% built in Nigeria.
NNS Andoni was dwarfed when a 105m-long frigate steamed past during the ceremony – with all the officers cheering on deck.
NNS Thunder, a veteran of the Vietnam War, arrived at the beginning of the year, a gift from the US.
Eyebrows were raised when it was announced that the monthly fuel bill of the 45-year-old ship would be $1m (£650,000).
When this year’s navy’s $450m budget was discussed at the House of Assembly in January, one senator described the donated ships as hand-outs that could become liabilities rather than assets.
There were also calls for corruption to be plugged.
“Corruption has sucked the blood out of our system. So we have to depend on hand-outs,” one senator lamented.
NSS Andoni’s fuel bill will certainly be lower than NNS Thunder.
‘No indigenous touch’
After parading on the deck, the naval officers took photos of each other with mobile phones – clearly delighted with the new ship.
“It’s a great day. It’s taken over five years but it’s worth it,” said a smiling Kelechi, one of the engineers.
“We came up with the design, the expertise and about 60% of the materials were locally sourced. The engines, generators and navigation equipment came from outside.”
Nigeria is one of Africa’s biggest oil producers, but this has not so much helped as hampered the development of local industries because the country has relied so heavily on imported goods. As he launched NNS Andoni, President Jonathan lamented the decline of industries that had been strong not long after independence in 1960.
“We had Nigerian Airways, the Nigerian shipping line and a number of investments that were doing well. But because there was no indigenous touch, all these died,” the president said.
“We are told that some countries that were on par with us are now building aircraft, choppers and other things,” he said, adding that Nigeria had for a long time not embraced technology.
The president suggested sending the brightest students of engineering to the best universities in the world.
“Then let them come back and work in Nigeria because we cannot continue to be importing. We have a very large market and even what we consume alone is enough to support an industry.”
“We have this market, we must use it,” President Jonathan said – before laying the keel to mark the start of work on the second “Made in Nigeria” warship.
*Courtesy of BBC Africa
How some western entrepreneurs are abandoning Silicon Valley for Africa
June 3, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Dinfin Mulupi*
East Africa’s growing opportunities in the technology sector have proved too good to ignore for some entrepreneurs from western countries. While many people in Africa have for a long time viewed the US and Europe as the lands of opportunity, young entrepreneurs from western countries are abandoning Silicon Valley to participate in east Africa’s technology sector.
Jeremy Gordon (27) came to Kenya two years ago to work as a volunteer with a microfinance institution in Nairobi for four months.
“I just wanted to come and see how mobile money was being applied in microfinance. I had read a lot about M-Pesa. I was planning to go back to graduate school, but I decided to stay and explore opportunities here,” says Gordon.
Today Gordon is involved in a number of technology startups. He co-founded Niko Hapa Ventures, a loyalty programme that enables businesses to reward loyal customers, get feedback and generate buzz on social media.
Though he grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area – home of Silicon Valley – Gordon says he finds the ICT opportunities in Kenya more interesting than those in the US.
“It is significantly easier to raise money in Silicon Valley, but both the problems being addressed by ICT and the solutions people are working on [in Silicon Valley] aren’t as exciting to me,” says Gordon.
Michael Benedict moved to Uganda to work for an NGO, but when his contract expired he opted to stay and founded Carbon Keeper, a mobile phone and web based software for collecting customer information on rural energy projects.
“I worked on rural energy for four years in Washington D.C. Moving to east Africa was an opportunity to come out and actually be involved in a project on the ground and work on technology that people in D.C. are promoting. I am able to do it in a better way than I would at my desk in D.C.,” says Benedict.
“East Africa is at the cusp of a technology-driven inflection point. We saw an opportunity to help redefine commerce and be a part of something meaningful,” says Ben Lyon (26), a US expat who co-founded Kopo Kopo, a web based mobile payment gateway that helps businesses process mobile payments in real time.
Having witnessed the internet revolution in Denmark in the early 1990s, Michael Pedersen sees the technology revolution in east Africa as a second chance to grab opportunities missed earlier.
“East Africa is a place I have been following since 2006. I worked with a digital agency in Kenya and later moved back to Denmark. When the fibre optic cables landed I moved back because it presents new and exciting opportunities,” says Pedersen, developer of Uhasibu, a web and mobile cloud based accounting system developed for SMEs.
Sandra Zhao (23) cooked at a restaurant and ran a tech startup on the side in New York. She moved to Kenya and is today working with a technology focused social enterprise; One Degree Solar, a solar energy company that uses a mobile platform for communication with its customers.
“My friend who was here (in Kenya) kept talking about the iHub (a co-working space and business incubator in Nairobi) and all the cool things happening here. The more she talked about it the more I wanted to come. It is a unique place to be,’ says Zhao.
Bas Hoefman (35), a Dutch national, explains that he established Text to Change, an organisation that uses SMS to challenge people on their knowledge of personal health, in Uganda primarily because of the wide penetration of mobile technology in the region.
Hoefman explains that mobile phone technology is the most effective and affordable medium of communication and has and will continue having a huge impact on rural communities in east Africa.
“With the promising growth of cheap Android phones it will also be Africa’s laptop as most people will not need to own one to access communication. The mobile phone landscape in Africa has rapidly evolved over the past decade with 500 million mobile subscribers and 1 million added every week due to liberalisation and increased competition,” says Hoefman.
Being in east Africa comes at heavy price as these entrepreneurs have found out. Pedersen reckons that for every month he is in Kenya he losses Ksh. 1 million (US$12,000) that he would have made elsewhere.
“Before I came here I was making more than what I do now. When I think about opportunity cost it is not just about finances. Considering the chance to build interesting, potentially high-impact products and services here in Kenya, I would say the opportunity cost of being in the US is much higher for me,” says Gordon.
Toni Maraviglia (28), a teacher from the US, moved to Kenya to work for an education focused NGO in rural Nyanza, Kenya. Maraviglia worked with teachers to create MPrep, an assessment-based system that quizzes students on topics learned in class via SMS. Though she was later admitted to the Haas School of Business in Berkley, one of the top business schools in the world, she opted to stay in Kenya and build MPrep.
“I don’t feel I have given up that much to be here. I don’t see this as a loss. I am in love with this place. It is really hard being away from your family. I have to miss four weddings this year. However, besides that, there is a great opportunity to do something good here,” says Maraviglia.
A different market
Even as foreign entrepreneurs flock to the region, concerns have been raised about how effective they will be in a market that is very different from western countries.
“The most effective way to build products is to build them in markets you are familiar with. Foreign entrepreneurs working in east Africa cannot compare themselves with locals. I am aware that there are certain things that will take a while for me to understand. It is very easy to make false assumptions,” says Jeremy Gordon.
Sandra Zhao reckons that how people in the US interact with technology is very different from how people in east Africa do.
“Working with Kenyan staff and partnering with Kenyans is the way to do it. We have to understand how mobile technology works here. Even though smartphones have done so well in the region, most people still don’t have smartphones,” says Zhao.
What does the future hold?
Although most of these young expatriates are uncertain about whether they will be staying in east Africa permanently, they are optimistic about the region’s future.
“By having worked in east Africa for over five years I have learnt that it has enormous potential. The region has shown a vast economic growth and there is a rapid growing middle class. I believe, despite its challenges, east Africa has enormous business potential and not only in the ICT sector, but also in other industries,” says Bas Hoefman.
Ben Lyon adds: “There is a possibility I could stay here permanently. Kenya has an exciting future ahead of it and I feel obliged to contribute to that future. I am also interested to see how the IT space in South Sudan and Somalia develops in the next five to ten years.”
*Culled From How We Made It In Africa http://www.howwemadeitinafrica.com/
Is Africa’s negative image justified? Eleven viewpoints
June 2, 2012 | 0 Comments
By Femi Adewunmi*
The international media is often criticised for only reporting on the negatives of Africa, with stories focusing on poverty, famine, war and corruption. Is the media biased? Or is
the way that Africa is being portrayed a true reflection of what is happening on the ground? During a recent BBC debate, Africa’s global image: Justified or prejudiced?, held in Uganda’s capital Kampala, various government officials, business leaders, journalists and bloggers, shared their thoughts on this matter. Here are eleven of the most thought-provoking opinions that emerged:
1. A journalist and analyst based in Kampala said that in order for African governments to receive foreign aid, the continent needs to be seen as a place of hardship. “Bad governments essentially need a bad image to go begging in the west. And the west essentially promotes that relationship.”
2. Thebe Ikalafeng is managing director of the Brand Leadership Group. “Last year, Jay Naidoo [a former minister in Nelson Mandela’s cabinet] spoke at the Brand Africa Forum. He said: ‘China has got an agenda in Africa. America has got an agenda in Africa. All of Europe has got an agenda in Africa. Only Africa doesn’t have an agenda for Africa.’ The big issue that we are actually facing here is that Africans themselves are not driving their own agenda … What we need to do [is] we need to stop blaming, we need to stop begging, and we need to stop borrowing. We need to be self-resourceful because we’ve got the wealth of the continent in our hands and under our control,” he said.
“You are beginning to see the citizens of Africa becoming very vocal. They are no longer willing to be held ransom, not only by their own governments, but also by nobody else in the world,” Ikalafeng added.
3. One participant said that “the image of Africa as it is, is correct … It is true that there is famine. It is true that there is poverty, there is war. All those are true. But let’s talk about Brazil, for example. Brazil is poor. There is prostitution. There is horror. There are drugs. But what is the image of Brazil in the world? The image of Brazil in the world is the image of a country that is successful, that is progressive, that is exciting … The Brazilians themselves have taken the agenda in their own hands to promote it. In Africa … we have abdicated our responsibility to drive our own image …”
4. “The only way [Africa’s negative image] is going to change is if we bring in a revisionist history … For example, there is Prof Ivan Van Sertima who asserts that Africans went to the south America’s thousands of years before Christopher Columbus … If this kind of information is made available in schools [and] in universities, then it will stop this slave mentality that we were brought up with that we have to go and beg because we are somewhat less, deficient and lacking. And then, once we project that ourselves, then the outside … will actually come to look at us with respect,” said another participant.
5. The presenter asked a foreign journalist how difficult it is to pitch a good news story about Africa to editors and producers in Europe and the US?
“This might surprise people, but my experience so far is that it is not too difficult. The paradox is because a lot people have this image of Africa being ridden by disease, poverty, corruption … when you say, ‘listen there is a story about huge supermarkets, there is a story about M-Pesa, there is a story about Forbes magazine Africa coming out’. They all say, ‘Hey, that is new to us. We didn’t know that, so we are actually interested’,” he responded.
6. “China, India, Malaysia [and] Korea do not see Africa as a basket case. They see it as an investment opportunity,” said a British journalist.
7. Robert Kabushenga, CEO of Uganda’s Vision media group, said “there is an increasing decline of the so-called western media and their influence in Africa. A lot of local media houses are emerging that can tell the narrative of the African situation far more effectively than the international media will ever do … In about five to seven years the international media will become completely irrelevant. And that is why you got that reaction to Kony 2012, because it was in complete contrast to the situation on the ground. And the people who went against it were not even the traditional ones – it wasn’t the army, it wasn’t the government. It was the bloggers who said, ‘This is not correct’. Finally there is a process in the media in Africa that is beginning to reverse these perceptions. Very soon we will have our own infrastructure that tells the story differently.”
8. “We need to ask ourselves, is there anywhere in south-east Asia where they are sitting down debating as to what the western world thinks of them? No, they are busy making money and doing things. So maybe we should just get out of here and go out and work hard and stop talking about ourselves, and our image will improve,” commented David Mpanga, a lawyer for Ugandan opposition leader Kizza Besigye.
9. A Kampala-based advocate noted that “the African elite are the ones misrepresenting the image of Africa … It is only in Africa where you have military dictators teaching democracy. It is only in Africa where you have law enforcers ignorant of the law. It is only in Africa where you have poachers appointed as game rangers … Africa’s problem is the leadership. The leadership question needs to be answered in Africa, and the correct image of Africa will be projected.”
10. [Africa] is changing, but it is not starting from this ground zero that people seem to think. There is this very recurrent theme in the western media of ‘Africa rising’, ‘Africa the new frontier’. That headline seems to recur every year. In a way that marginalises Africa even more, because it is not actually looking at what is happening all the time on the ground … It is always: ‘Africa the new place’ …” noted an Uganda-based investment advisor.
11. “The trend of stereotyping Africa as one homogeneous nation has damaged the reputation of countries that are really doing well,” said a representative of multinational drinks company Diageo.
*Culled From How We Made It In Africa http://www.howwemadeitinafrica.com/