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Insight: African tech startups aim to power growing economies
November 17, 2013 | 0 Comments

BY BATE FELIX AND MATTHEW MPOKE BIGG*

An employee registers a customer for a mobile money transfer inside the Safaricom mobile phone care centre in the central business district of Kenya's capital NairobiWhen Abasiama Idaresit started a digital marketing firm in Nigeria’s bustling economic capital three years ago, he quickly learned how brutal life can be in a market where tech startups are in their infancy.

No-one would lend him money to hire staff or pay for office space, so Idaresit spent eight months hustling the streets of Lagos, trying to convince clients his plan to help them develop online campaigns was a winner.

“During those first eight months, I didn’t make a dime … I was demoralized. At some point I wondered if it was worth it,” Idaresit told Reuters by telephone from his Lagos office.

It took a money-back guarantee before a baby products retailer gave Idaresit a break with a $250 contract to develop the shop’s online presence. Within two months, the retailer’s revenue began growing by $1,000 per month. Then it hit $100,000.

Idaresit’s firm, Wild Fusions, is now a Google Adwords partner valued at $20 million, with revenues doubling year-on-year. It helps brands like Samsung, Unilever, and Ecobank develop online marketing strategies for African audiences.

Wild Fusion’s struggles are typical for startups in Africa, as the world’s poorest continent wakes up slowly to the opportunities of technology.

In other emerging markets like Asia and Latin America, a tech startup with a smart idea in a booming economy might expect to attract investor interest, especially if competition is slim.

Business leaders and investors said the sector in Africa is held back by lower internet penetration as well as scarcity of early stage capital and a lack of management expertise.

Many startups in the region are caught in a Catch 22 situation, said Churchill Mambe Nanje, who launched an online job search engine in Cameroon called Njorku.

“To hire the best talent to develop a startup, you need capital. Finding capital is hard because you need to have a track record and a viable product but to get those, you need capital,” said Nanje, whose company has been profiled by Forbes Magazine as one of Africa’s best startups.

INTERNET USE LOW

Part of the problem for African tech startups is that internet use, despite mushrooming in the past decade, is low. Only 16 percent of Africa’s 1 billion people use the Internet, half the rate in Asia Pacific and below a global average of 36 percent, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) says.

The information and community technology sector contributed just 7 percent to the continent’s GDP last year, according to an African Development Bank report.

Economic gains from rising internet usage are likely to be strong. For every 10-percentage point rise in broadband internet penetration, economic growth increases by 1.4 percentage points, according to the World Bank.

Experts say information and communication technology could help Africa overcome infrastructure inadequacies, satisfy rising consumer demand, boost regional trade and diversify economies, ending reliance on raw materials.

But the problem is affordability. In its 2013 report, the ITU said that, though Africa has one the highest mobile broadband growth rates, services cost between a fifth and half of average income compared to just two to five percent in other developing countries.

In South Africa, the strength of the tech sector reflects the country’s relative affluence. It has produced several billion-dollar companies, some of which have been snapped up by international tech giants.

In East Africa, Kenyan tech has also seen rapid growth. One highlight is mobile money transfer system M-Pesa, launched by the country’s largest telecoms operator Safaricom.

M-Pesa has enabled 67 percent of Kenyan adults to access banking. Its transactions total about $1 billion per month. Revenue from M-pesa rose 20 percent to 12.50 Billion Kenyan shillings ($145.99 million) in the first half of 2013.

West Africa’s tech sector lags in terms of prominence and investment, experts say. It needs better and cheaper internet access and broader adoption of smartphones.

In Ghana, a booming regional economy, the number of mobile phone subscriptions roughly equals the population but only 3.5 percent of the population is online, according to Kwaku Sakyi-Addo, CEO of the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications.

DEVELOPMENT FINANCE

The scarcity and costliness of finance also impedes success. Banks in Ghana can charge up to 28 percent interest for a business loan.

Venture capital firms like Intel Capital, JPMorgan, Summit Partners and Rocket Internet have occasionally financed African ICT firms but business leaders said the sector needs much broader sources of finance.

A customer conducts a mobile money transfer inside the Safaricom mobile phone care centre in the central business district of Kenya's capital NairobiIn Silicon Valley, startups can receive up to $2 million from a range of funders including venture capital firms, ‘angel’ investors and private equity houses, according to Marcin Hejka, a regional managing director for Intel Capital. Such a financial ecosystem does not yet exist in Africa, he says.

Ghana’s Rancard, which distributes Gmail SMS services on 55 mobile networks in Africa and beyond, received funding from Adlevo Capital and Intel Capital but its CEO recognizes it was one of the lucky few.

“There are not enough early-stage tech venture capital funds available for Africa,” Kofi Dadzie said.

One reason for the lack of funding is the risks investors face, said Maurizio Caio, founder of UK venture capital firm TLcom Capital.

Few tech entrepreneurs in Africa have a long track record to attract investors, said Caio. Crucially, there are hardly any examples of investors successfully exiting via an IPO or a sale, partly due to underdeveloped capital markets across the region.

One exception is Fundamo, a mobile financial services provider in Cape Town bought by Visa in 2011 for $110 million.

Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria have companies that could be ready for investment, Caio said: “It’s earlier stage. It’s smaller stuff, which means riskier, which means even less capital for these guys and even more of a gamble.”

INCUBATORS

Experts say it is too soon to tell if African tech will rival other emerging markets but a concerted effort is being made to build an infrastructure to facilitate expansion.

Kenya’s iHub started in 2010 with backing from Hivos, Google and Omidyar Network as a meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors. It has spawned around 50 companies.

Another East African example is the Savannah Fund which offers $25,000-$500,000 to startups in exchange for equity.

In Ghana, the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology gives students one year of training by professionals from around the world who volunteer to teach software development and entrepreneurship. The best graduates get an extra year at a tech incubator in a house linked to the main campus by a rope bridge.

“The vision of the institution is to create jobs and wealth locally here in Africa,” said its CEO Jorn Lyseggen.

When the right idea with the right backing meets a hungry market, a start-up can grow fast, as the experience of Nigerian online retailers Jumia shows.

Founded by two Nigerian Harvard Business School graduates, the business has benefited from Internet penetration in Nigeria of nearly 30 percent and a dearth of middle class retail outlets in the continent’s most populous nation.

Jumia is growing at 20 percent per month, orders have jumped from $50-$100 per day to millions of dollars per month and it plans to expand beyond Nigeria, said Sacha Poignonnec, Co-CEO of Africa Internet Holding, one of Jumia’s backer.

“The same way the mobile companies came in to leapfrog landlines, the same way mobile banking in East Africa is leapfrogging traditional banking, we see e-commerce as a way to leapfrog traditional brick and mortar retail here,” said Tunde Kehinde, one of Jumia’s founders.

*Source Reuters (Additional reporting by Chijioke Ohuocha in Lagos and Kevin Mwanza in Nairobi; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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AfDB to co-host ‘Africa Day’ in Washington
November 17, 2013 | 0 Comments

african-development-bank-2WASHINGTON, November 15, 2013/ — The African Development Bank Group (AfDB) (http://www.afdb.org) in collaboration with the World Bank Group will host the first ever ‘Africa Day’ during the Law, Justice and Development (LJD) Week 2013, on November 20th, at the World Bank Group Headquarters in Washington DC. Every year, the LJD Week is organized to provide a forum for legal and development practitioners, scholars, governments and civil society to discuss the critical role the law and judicial mechanisms can play in furthering development outcomes.

The aim of “Africa Day” is to bolster knowledge on key and emerging legal issues on the African continent. Participants of Africa Day will explore how law and justice can help translate voice, social contract, and accountability into development impacts in Africa.

For decades, a number of African countries have grappled with developing and implementing effective legal regimes so as to promote sustainable economic development.  The results have been mixed. Because law is an essential tool for promoting economic growth and development, the Bank’s legal experts will be joining a panel of fellow specialists, judicial officers, and senior government officials in key relevant ministries, local and international institutions, to offer a global perspective on Africa and the key development and legal challenges it faces.

This year’s “Africa Day” would be opened with an address by the AfDB President, Dr. Donald Kaberuka, setting the tone for an in-depth focus on critical legal issues in Africa’s development process.

The themes for the day are in three main areas namely:

(a)       Economic opportunities in extractive industries (mainly in the oil and gas sectors) and meaningful engagement with BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and South/South cooperation;

 

(b)       Emerging issues with a focus on the Africa 50 Fund which seeks to unlock private financing sources and to accelerate the speed of infrastructure delivery in Africa, thereby creating a new platform for Africa’s growth and prosperity; and

 

(c)       Emerging issues relating to illicit financial flows and the recent constitutional developments in a number of countries.

Distributed by APO (African Press Organization) on behalf of the African Development Bank (AfDB).

Contacts:

Muriel Kei-Boguinard: m.kei-boguinard@afdb.org

Yvonne Fiadjoe: y.fiadjoe@afdb.org

 

 

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Lighting up Africa: Can DR Congo’s Inga dam project power Africa?
November 15, 2013 | 1 Comments

By Maud Jullien*

 Some campaigners say it would be enough just to renovate the current Inga damsThe roaring waters of the Congo River have the power to light up much of Africa – such is its huge hydroelectric potential.

It has been a long-held continental dream to harness this renewable energy, but given the Democratic Republic of Congo’s chequered past, it seemed likely to remain just that.

However, thanks to a recent deal signed by South Africa promising to buy electricity from a planned hydroelectric project, in eight years’ time it may start to become a reality.

The Bundi valley, which lies parallel to the Congo River and where some 30,000 villagers live, will be flooded with water and dammed to become a giant lake.

The whole project is known as Grand Inga – and when fully completed will be the world’s largest hydroelectric plant with more than twice the power generation of the Three Gorges Dam in China.

The site for the project is in Bas Congo, a province at the extreme south-west of DR Congo, about 50km (30 miles) from the mouth of the river where there are powerful rapids and waterfalls.

“There will only be one dam wall,” Bruno Kapandji, DR Congo’s minister of hydraulic resources and electricity, told the BBC.

“But there will be six different hydroelectric power stations around it to produce up to 40,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity.”

Each of these power stations will represent a separate phase in the project, but the electricity is supposed to come online by 2020 when the first, Inga 3, is due to be completed.

It will produce 4,800MW of electricity, 2,500MW of which will go to South Africa and 1,300MW to Katanga, where it will be used in the region’s rich mines.

Ambitious

Mr Kapandji says there are such huge needs across the continent that DR Congo is guaranteed to find customers when the other sections of the dam are built.

“We already have a deficit of more than 300MW today in Katanga,” he says.

“In 2020 we’ll have a deficit of more than 2,000MW in the main mining province, if we stay in this situation, but there is also the deficit in South Africa, the deficit in Nigeria.

As well as building the dam wall and Inga 3 hydropower plant by 2020, two new power lines will also be laid.

One will go to South Africa and another to the capital, Kinshasa, as existing cables do not have sufficient capacity to carry the huge volumes of power expected.

The construction works for the first phase of the project will be funded by the World Bank, the African Development Bank and private investors yet to be found.

“Now that we have a credible customer, South Africa, finding investors to build the dam won’t be a problem,” says Mr Kapandji.

The total cost of about $11bn (£6.8bn) for the first phase is under DR Congo’s annual revenue of $17bn.

As for the following phases of Grand Inga, there are no confirmed customers yet, but the minister says Nigeria has already expressed interest in buying 3,000MW.

The 145m (475 ft) tall dam will be adjustable, and as the project reaches its next phases, the wall will be adjusted to let more water flow in.

Preliminary feasibility studies done by Canadian firm AECOM and France’s EDF have been positive.

But trying to provide for the whole continent seems ambitious for a country where barely 10% of the population have access to electricity.

Candles

In the capital only wealthy families have power generators at home, and for the vast majority of people, electricity is a luxury.

“We have power a few hours a week, never in the evenings,” says Armel, a student who lives in one of the poorest areas of the capital.

His neighbourhood, Camp Muganga, looks like a huge village.

There are small stands with noisy generators where you can charge your mobile phone battery for a few hours at the cost of a few hundred Congolese francs, the equivalent of a few cents.

“You organise your life around the power shortages,” says Armel.

“We do as much as we can during the day and in the evening we use flashlights and candles.”

Following President Jacob Zuma’s visit to Kinshasa last month when he signed the electricity deal, many of the city’s residents have been questioning why electricity produced by the Congo River will go south when there are such huge needs at home.

The Congolese government says it aims to avoid repeating past mistakes – it wants to make sure the Inga project can be a viable business.

In the 1970s and 1980s, when former President Mobutu Sese Seko oversaw the construction of the Inga 1 and 2 dams, most of the electricity produced was for domestic consumption.

But 10 years after they were built, both dams were dilapidated because of a lack of funding.

"People are waiting for Inga's energy all the way up to Egypt.''

“People are waiting for Inga’s energy all the way up to Egypt.”

“If things didn’t work out the way we wanted them to, it’s because we didn’t have money,” Daniel Yengo, the former head of the public electricity company, Snel, told the BBC.

“Our only source of income was electricity sales, and our biggest customer was the state, which consumed about 40%,” he said.

“But the state never paid its bills. So I knew what needed to be done to ensure a proper maintenance of the dams, but I just couldn’t do it because we didn’t have the necessary means.”

Even today, Mr Yengo says the government only pays about two thirds of its bills to Snel.

During Mobutu’s time in power, corruption was endemic and inflation was so high that prices in shops could change several times a day.

Inga was only one of several of the former president’s ambitious projects to fall prey to mismanagement.

Today the country is still estimated to be one of the most corrupt in the world, but the economy has stabilised.

Sceptics

Mr Kapandji says the new venture will be completely different.

“Grand Inga will be privately managed and privately funded, it won’t be a public company with all the risks that that would comprise,” he said.

But several local non-governmental organisations are sceptical about the government’s intentions.

“All they would have to do is renovate Inga One and Two. That would be enough to provide electricity for the whole country,” says Jean Marie Muanda from the rights association Action for Development and Life.

“Why start this project when there are already so many management problems with the existing ones?”

He is also worried about the social impact such a project could have on the people who live near the dam.

When construction begins in two years’ time, a transfer canal will be built from the river to the valley which will be flooded.

The village of Mvuzi Three is one of the closest to the future site of Inga Three.

“I remember when they told us Inga One and Two would be built,” recalls the village chief, Joseph Mvuzi.

“They promised us jobs, and we thought things would get better – but we got nothing. We don’t even have electricity and running water.”

Now he does not expect anything positive from the new project and he worries for the future.

The villagers have not yet been told where their new home will be, although the government says it has identified a site for them and they will be financially compensated.

“How will we live? Will we have farmlands, will our children be able to go to school?” Mr Mvuzi said.

Mr Kapandji says he is aware of the scepticism, but he is adamant that this time President Joseph Kabila’s political leadership will make the difference.

For Mr Yengo, failing to take advantage of this opportunity would be a mistake for all of Africa.

“Inga is an exceptional site and it has to be used,” he says.

“The electricity demands are always growing in the country and in the region.

“The country’s development and the continent’s development depend on it.

“I think if everyone pays their bills, if the maintenance is properly done and the machines are not overused, there’s no reason it shouldn’t work.”

*Source BBC

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Orange announces winners of the Orange African Social Venture Prize
November 15, 2013 | 0 Comments
  • §         Orange (http://www.orange.com) announced the three winners of the Orange African Social Venture Prize during the AfricaCom Awards ceremony held in Cape Town last night

 

  • §         The three winners will receive financial assistance along with management and technical support from Orange specialists. The first prize winner will also benefit from a patent application.

 

orange-logoPARIS, France, November 14, 2013/ — This prize, which has enjoyed considerable success since its launch in 2011, aims to support the development of entrepreneurs and start-ups offering solutions that use information and communication technologies (ICT) to meet the needs of people living in Africa.

Over 450 candidates responded to the call for projects, which ran from May to September 2013, clearly demonstrating the underlying entrepreneurial vitality that exists on the African continent. Proposed projects spanned a variety of fields such as healthcare, agriculture, education, energy, industry and commerce illustrating the high potential of telecommunications for development in Africa.

The panel of judges, consisting of Orange specialists, the media and institutions that promote development, chose three prizewinners from among 12 nominated projects that were presented on Orange’s pan-African web portal,www.starafrica.com.

The awards ceremony was held yesterday in Cape Town, South Africa, during the AfricaCom Awards, an annual event that recognizes the most significant innovations and achievements of the telecommunications industry in Africa.

The winning projects are:

  • The first prize was awarded to QuickDo, a startup founded in 2011 by a French–Cameroonian entrepreneur. The company provides readers in Cameroon with affordable access to books in digital format, providing them with a complete ecosystem developed by QuickDo and its partners (including the distribution server, the e-book readers and the network). Based on a responsible and sustainable approach, it provides an all-in-one solution for local publishers, readers and institutions such as universities, libraries and cultural centers.
  • The Ivoire Job project was awarded second prize. This project aims to facilitate access to employment opportunities in Côte d’Ivoire through an online platform that is also compatible with mobile devices through an SMS-based system. The portal provides a forum that facilitates discussion and sharing of experiences between young job seekers, workers and recruitment agencies.
  • The third prize was awarded to the Tunisian company Chifco, which offers a system for saving energy when using high-consumption devices both at home or in a workplace environment. The system aims to reduce spending on energy by remotely monitoring and controlling the use of such devices in real time. By tracking data such as production rates or the weather, users can reduce energy consumption.

 

In addition to funding of up to 25,000 euros, Orange will provide support to the three projects for six months through its local subsidiaries as well as expert advice from business and telecoms professionals. This year, for the first time, Orange will also provide a patent application for the first prize winner in the country of deployment.

Finally, a “favourite project” was also selected by visitors of the Group’s web portal StarAfrica. Over 24,000 visitors voted for the Kenyan project “Dukalangu”. This online shop offers customers a wide range of products at competitive prices. The site also provides Kenyan entrepreneurs and designers with an excellent development opportunity by enabling them to market and sell their products online.

“Entrepreneurs in Africa have always shown an ability to harness technology for the development of lasting, socially-responsible innovations that stimulate growth. Through this prize, Orange is proud to be able to contribute to this dynamic, particularly by providing active support to the prize-winners,” said Marc Rennard, Orange’s Senior Executive Vice President for Africa, the Middle East and Asia. “This year’s jury was impressed by the overall quality of the projects submitted. We can clearly see that technology is a relevant tool for driving social development, and this gives us an added stimulus in our commitment to Africa.”

Orange operates in 20 countries in Africa and the Middle East and has a total of over 84 million customers. To contribute to the social and economic development of these countries, the Group has put together the “Orange for Development” programme, which is based on three central themes:

–          the development of its networks to maximize the number of people who are able to benefit from digital services;

–          innovation to meet the needs of populations through value-added services in essential fields such as healthcare, education, agriculture and banking services; and

–          contributing to the local development of ICT markets and innovation ecosystems.

It is to meet this last goal, which is aligned with both its innovation strategy as well as its Corporate Social Responsibility policy, that the Group decided to launch the Orange African Social Venture Prize in 2011.

See the presentation of the competition on www.starafrica.com.

about StarAfrica

StarAfrica.com is Orange’s pan-African web portal, which combines content from all sub-Saharan countries in its six channels – news, soccer, more sports, music, education and jobs – with a special focus on young talent. The portal is also the online store that provides expatriate communities with access to innovative communications services that allows them to stay in touch with their contacts.

about Orange

Orange (http://www.orange.com) is one of the world’s leading telecommunications operators with sales of 43.5 billion euros in 2012 and has 166,000 employees worldwide at 30 September 2013, including 102,000 employees in France. Present in 32 countries, the Group has a total customer base of more than 232 million customers at 30 September 2013, including 175 million mobile customers and 15 million fixed broadband customers worldwide. Orange is also a leading provider of global IT and telecommunication services to multinational companies, under the brand Orange Business Services.

Orange is listed on the NYSE Euronext Paris (symbol ORA) and on the New York Stock Exchange (symbol ORAN).

For more information on the internet and on your mobile: www.orange.comwww.orange-business.comwww.orange-innovation.tv or to follow us on Twitter: @orangegrouppr.

Orange and any other Orange product or service names included in this material are trade marks of Orange or Orange Brand Services Limited.

Press contacts: +33 1 44 44 93 93

Tom Wright, tom.wright@orange.com

Mylène Blin, mylene.blin@orange.com

 

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Pioneering energy project to bring relief to Mano River Union countries
November 14, 2013 | 0 Comments

Tunis, November 7, 2013 – The Board of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) approved on Wednesday, November 6 in Tunis the Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea (CLSG) electricity networks interconnection project. The total financing by the African Development Bank Group (African Development Fund, Fragile States Facility and Nigeria Trust Fund) amounts to EUR 145 million, representing roughly 40 per cent of the total project cost. The project will secure power supply for the four Mano River Union member countries, and will be implemented between 2014 and 2017.

The CLSG project involves the construction of about 1,400-kilometres of high voltage (225 kV) line to connect the national networks of the four countries. It will see the building of 11 sub-stations and two regional control centres. It is a structuring project, which, in its first phase, will enable Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea to import electricity from Côte d’Ivoire.

“The Bank is happy to have played such a pivotal role in the generation of this ground-breaking project. The AfDB leveraged its deep knowledge of the electricity sector in West Africa and rich experience in the definition and implementation of regional projects. Thanks to our involvement right from the feasibility study stage, we were able to guide the technical choices and consider all aspects of the project, especially environmental and social. Our intervention also facilitated the mobilization of huge resources from other donors,” explained Alex Rugamba, Director of the AfDB’s Energy, Environment and Climate Change Department.

The electricity sector in the Mano River Union countries faces major constraints, namely: (i) low access to electricity, (ii) a structural deficit in the supply of electricity, (iii) a preponderance of thermal generation in the energy mix, and (iv) low financial and institutional capacities of national electricity companies. The CLSG project will increase the average rate of access to electricity in the four countries from 28 per cent to 33 per cent, electrifying 125 locations along the transmission line as well as 70 schools, 30 health centres and nearly 1,500 small commercial and industrial craft enterprises, of which 25 per cent are held by women. Directly benefiting from the project are the 24 million inhabitants of its impact area who will enjoy reliable electric power at a competitive cost.

The construction of this line will form the backbone of the Mano River Union countries and is one of the priority projects of the West African Power Pool (WAPP) Master Plan, a cooperation initiative linking national electricity companies in Western Africa. CLSG is the first actual project included in the Mano River Union initiative. As an early project, it has been very instrumental to the design of the initiative itself. The idea of a power “backbone” has been replicated with the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA) Trans-African Highway. As well, the CLSG project introduced the concept of a booster fund to compensate fragile states’ weak capacities to prepare projects in a reasonable time.

The CLSG project will include a capacity-building component to ensure the transfer of knowledge to national structures so as to improve the management of future interconnections in West Africa. It also involves various planning and feasibility studies on hydropower plants that could enhance energy exchange.

The Mano River Union countries are fragile and emerging from long sociopolitical crises. Owing to the low levels of investment in the sector in recent years, power infrastructure has become obsolete with the attendant outcome of extremely poor service. The cost of electric power production per kWh remains very high in these countries where the electricity access rate is among the lowest in the world (two per cent in Liberia and Sierra Leone; 10 per cent in Guinea). The construction of the power line will foster the development of the huge hydroelectric potential of the sub-region by offering the possibility of electric power trade between the countries within the larger West African market, thus contributing to regional integration.

Contacts:   Technical contact: Elise Akitani, Senior Power Engineer, e.akitani@afdb.org

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“Africa has big opportunities for small and medium size US companies.”
November 14, 2013 | 9 Comments

–Jordan Garcia Honorary Consul of Guinea in California

By Ajong Mbapndah L

Jordan Garcia

Jordan Garcia

It is a mistake to think of USA investments in Africa only in terms of mega million projects says Jordan Garcia the Honorary Consul of Guinea in California. Making the case for investments in Guinea, Garcia says US small and medium size companies will be amazed at the business opportunities available to them. Appointed in 2012 by the Government of Guinea, Jordan Garcia offers talks about the investment climate in Guinea, his functions, the Alicante Group he heads and more in an in an interview with Ajong Mbapndah L

May we know how you became honorary consul of Guinea Conakry and what your functions entail?

The Government of the Republic of Guinea Conakry in February 2012 appointed me. I have good relationship with many governments in West and Central Africa. I am the official representative of the Republic of Guinea to California, I assist the Guinean citizens, I facilitate trade and friendship between the peoples of the US and Guinea Conakry.

As Honorary Consul what is it you can tell people about Guinea as it stands today?

Guinea is back to the international scene after decades of silence. We have very good relationship with the US Government. We have a young democracy and the entire country wants to move forward. We are ready for business. There are more opportunities in Guinea Conakry and Africa now than in Europe and in the US.

In terms of achievements are there any that standout since you started your functions?

People talk again about Guinea in Los Angeles and California, one of my main goals was to promote Guinea here in the State and to tell officials and business people we are ready for business.

The First Lady of Guinea her Excellency Mrs. Djene Kaba Conde came to Los Angeles in April, it was a great moment for our two countries.

More delegations and high officials will come to California and we are working on developing some partnerships. I have regular meetings with officials and business leaders in California. We went with the Ambassador of Guinea to Washington DC Blaise Cherif to promote Guinea Conakry through cultural events in the US, we are talking about expo and cultural fairs but like you know we need to get help and sponsors.

You are also head of the Alicante Group; can you tell us more about the Group?

Alicante group is a consulting company specializes in Sub-Sahara Africa, we help companies who want to do business in Africa and we promote some countries here in the US.

The difference with our group and others is that we have an African background and vision.

We are probably one of the few consulting companies in the US which have direct access to Presidents and Ministers around Africa. Our contacts are in Africa.

With your corporate or business background, what are some of the most lucrative sectors that you may recommend for companies both in the U.S and Africa to invest in?

Jordan with Guineans at a official event

Jordan with Guineans at a official event

I will say energy, agriculture, infrastructure and new technology. Africa is also a place where we can find “real” organic product. It is a good time to partner with some local farmers. We now have  a middle class looking for new products, better restaurants and luxury items like cars,Porsche for example is looking to develop is business in West Africa.

Each time we talk in the US about opportunities in Africa we always talk about mega million projects, I think it is a mistake; there are also big opportunities for small and medium size US companies.

And the investment climate in Guinea how is it, what are some challenges interested investors should expect to face?

Like you know Americans don’t know Africa very well, I think for American investors the first challenge is to know how to do business in Africa, to understand the culture to know its history, to know its people. You need to love this continent first.

One of the major challenges in Guinea Conakry it is a lack of infrastructure, poor roads, bad access to Internet, everything take much more time there than here. It is a different way to do business but things are changing.

The investment climate in Guinea Conakry is getting much better, we just open our first 5 Stars Hotel in Conakry the Hotel Palm Camayenne, Emirate Airlines just open an office in the Capital. Many investors from Asian and the Middle East are coming every month and are interested in Guinean business opportunities.

To those in the USA who are still nervous about Africa what can you tell them based on your experiences about Guinea and the rest of the continent?

I will tell them opportunities are now in Africa, China, India, Brazil and Turkey understand this. If you wait here for business you are going to wait a long time. In Africa business is face to face. It is like everywhere you need to find good partners and it is not via Internet you will find them.

I think the US now needs Africa to keep growing. Africa is a huge market and the US for many years completely ignore it, we are just slowly waking up, it is new for US companies and most of the companies don’t know how to approach it.

The only way for US firm to compete in Africa is to establish win-win partnership. The times when firms only thought of Africa in terms of raw materials are over.

There is no reason to be nervous we all come from Africa (joke).

 

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Burkina Faso receives $11.5 million to increase forest carbon sequestration and reduce rural poverty
November 14, 2013 | 0 Comments

Washington, DC, November 13, 2013 – With African Development Bank (AfDB) support, Burkina Faso has received an $11.5 million grant from the Climate Investment Funds’ (CIF) Forest Investment Program (FIP) to undertake the Gazetted Forests Participatory Management Project for REDD+* to create critically needed transformation of 12 of its gazetted forests.

With 48.8 per cent of its land mass covered by forest, Burkina Faso is a country heavily dependent on its forest sector for socio-economic development; but today, with growing deforestation, the country is suffering from increased biodiversity loss and degraded soil production. The FIP- and AfDB-supported project is designed to contribute to a triple-win transformation: building carbon sequestration capacity in the forests, improving local people’s resilience to climate change, and reducing their poverty by diversifying their income sources, developing gazetted forest wood and non-wood products such as almond and shea processing and beekeeping.

The main outcomes expected from the project are development of an MRV (measurable, reportable, verifiable) system for REDD+, improvement of forest governance, securitization and management of 284,000 hectares (ha) of gazette forests, and establishment of a socio-economic support infrastructure for neighbouring municipal councils. The project is designed to directly benefit 5,400 producers including 2,700 women, and indirectly benefit nearly 850,000 people – half of them women – in council areas adjacent to the project sites.

“The project is in direct support of the country’s strategic priorities for its vast forest sector, which include improved governance, environment-friendly socio-economic development, and sustainable management of forest resources and wooded areas,” stated Laouali Garba, AfDB’s Task Manager of the project. “We are pleased to have the chance to support Burkina Faso in this ambitious undertaking and to help ensure a combined transformation of poverty reduction, climate resilience, and low-carbon development.”

Project components include:

 

  • Reinforcement of forest governance, including the REDD+ legal framework and administrative capacity building through training and scholarships and standards revision;
  • Participatory development and management of gazetted forests, including forest securitization and development through demarcation, boundary marking and development of 12 gazetted forests totally 284,000 ha, building stakeholders’ operational capacity, support for neighbouring communities through construction of five community facilities nearby;
  • Project coordination and management, including procurement and financial management, monitoring and evaluation, and auditing.

 

With this project, the approval process for projects in AfDB’s FIP portfolio is complete, and the Bank will work with its partner countries and the FIP to begin full-fledged implementation and a growing improvement in sustainable management and climate-friendly development of African forests.

About the Climate Investment Funds (CIF)

Established in 2008 as one of the largest fast-tracked climate financing instruments in the world, the $7.6 billion CIF provides developing countries with grants, concessional loans, risk mitigation instruments, and equity that leverage significant financing from the private sector, MDBs and other sources. Five MDBs – the African Development Bank (AfDB), Asian Development Bank (ADB), European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and World Bank Group (WBG) – implement CIF-funded projects and programs.

 

Contact: Mafalda Duarte, Chief Climate Change Specialist and CIF Coordinator, ONEC m.duarte@afdb.org

For further information on the CIF projects supported by the AfDB, visit our January 2013 semi-annual report “Financing Change: the AfDB and CIF for a Climate-Smart Africa” and our October 2013 brochure “Growing Green: the AfDB and CIF for a Climate-Smart Africa.”

 

*REDD+ is an internationally supported approach to Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) combined with sustainable forest management and supporting carbon sequestration (REDD+).

 

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ERHC Energy Inc. Releases Shareholder Update, Seeks Government Consent for Farm-Out Agreement for Kenya Block 11A
November 13, 2013 | 0 Comments

HOUSTON, November 13, 2013 – ERHC Energy Inc. (OTCBB: ERHE), a publicly traded American company with oil and gas assets in Sub-Saharan Africa, today issued an update on the Company’s progress.

ERHC Shareholders:

ERHC is pleased to present highlights of the Company’s recent progress.

Republic of Kenya Block 11A

• ERHC has concluded a farm-out agreement with a renowned integrated oil and gas company.

• The farm-out agreement is subject to the consent of the government of the Republic of Kenya.

• Under terms of the agreement, ERHC would transfer of a portion of its interest in Kenya Block 11A as well as operatorship.

• The proposed farm-out agreement includes a carry and other considerations.

• As required under the farm-out agreement, until government consent is granted, details regarding the partner and terms will remain confidential.

• Pending government consent to the farm-out agreement, ERHC continues to operate Block 11A.

• Work is ready to commence on the airborne Full Tensor Gravity Gradiometry (FTG) survey of Block 11A following the subcontractor’s completion of work on a neighboring block.

“This is an excellent time for the entry of a technically and financially capable operating partner,” said ERHC President and CEO Peter Ntephe. “We have negotiated a mutually beneficial agreement that advances ongoing exploration in Block 11A and enhances shareholder value.”

Republic of Chad Block BDS 2008

• A comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) of ERHC’s approved work program on Block BDS 2008 is nearing completion.

• The EIA is being conducted by ERHC’s subcontractor ASAT (Archeologie et Socio-Antropologie au Tchad) and is the necessary first step in exploration.

• ERHC is currently accepting bids for an airborne FTG of its BDS-2008 block which is the next step in the approved work program.

• BDS 2008 overlies the Doseo Basin, which hosts much of Chad’s current oil production.

“We are pleased to be making progress with our exploration work program in Chad,” said Mr. Ntephe. “These are all necessary steps toward eventual drilling.”

São Tomé and Príncipe Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) Blocks 4 and 11

• Both ERHC and the National Petroleum Agency of São Tomé and Príncipe (ANP-STP) are conducting legal reviews of the draft Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs) for EEZ Blocks 4 and 11, the significant terms of which have been finalized by the parties.

• ERHC’s and the ANP-STP’s efforts to generate interest in the EEZ as a whole have increased interest in ERHC’s EEZ Blocks among International Operating Companies (IOCs).

• ERHC is in discussions with several IOCs about possible partnerships following the signing of the PSCs in Blocks 4 and 11.

“We are very happy that after many years of work, there is now palpable momentum building toward exploration of the Zone – both in our Blocks and in neighboring Blocks,” said Mr. Ntephe.

Nigeria – São Tomé and Príncipe Joint Development Zone (JDZ) Blocks 2, 3 and 4

• The Joint Development Authority (JDA), ERHC and other contracting parties are continuing to review possible next steps.

• One of the possibilities that the parties are collectively examining is to bring in exploration companies to spread risk and to reinterpret existing data with a fresh perspective and possibly a fresh exploration strategy.

“Despite the unexpected outcomes of the initial drilling campaign, we remain enthusiastic about the JDZ and believe that taking a new mindset to the exploration effort would be a very positive development for all involved,” said Mr. Ntephe.

If you have questions, please reference the Company’s SEC filings, which are available at http://erhc.com/secfilings/ or contact Daniel Keeney, ERHC’s investor relations representative, at dan@dpkpr.com.

About ERHC Energy

ERHC Energy Inc. is a Houston-based independent oil and gas company focused on growth through high impact exploration in Africa and the development of undeveloped and marginal oil and gas fields. ERHC is committed to creating and delivering significant value for its stockholders, investors and employees, and to sustainable and profitable growth through risk balanced smart exploration, cost efficient development and high margin production. For more information, visit www.erhc.com.

Cautionary Statement

This press release contains statements concerning ERHC Energy Inc.’s future operating milestones, future drilling operations, the planned exploration and appraisal program, future prospects, future investment opportunities and financing plans, future stockholders’ meetings as well as other matters that are not historical facts or information. Such statements are inherently subject to a variety of risks, assumptions and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those anticipated, projected, expressed or implied. A discussion of the risk factors that could impact these areas and the Company’s overall business and financial performance can be found in the Company’s reports and other filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. These factors include, among others, those relating to the Company’s ability to exploit its commercial interests in Kenya, Chad, the JDZ and the Exclusive Economic Zone of São Tomé and Príncipe, general economic and business conditions, changes in foreign and domestic oil and gas exploration and production activity, competition, changes in foreign, political, social and economic conditions, regulatory initiatives and compliance with governmental regulations and various other matters, many of which are beyond the Company’s control. Given these concerns, investors and analysts should not place undue reliance on these statements. Each of the above statements speaks only as of the date of this press release. The Company expressly disclaims any obligation or undertaking to release publicly any updates or revisions to any forward-looking statement to reflect any change in the Company’s expectations with regard thereto or any change in events, conditions or circumstances on which any of the above statements is based.

Contact: Dan Keeney, APR
DPK Public Relations
832-467-2904
dan@dpkpr.com

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US-based Rwandans start online airtime top–up firm
November 12, 2013 | 0 Comments
Iragena and Munyaneza are some of the brains behind the company. The New Times , Courtesy

Iragena and Munyaneza are some of the brains behind the company. The New Times , Courtesy

Enterprising Rwandans in the Diaspora have started a mobile phone top up service, IStayConnected LLC, that will operate in over 100 countries, with Rwanda as the main target.

The company started by US-based Rwandans in their early twenties, will serve the rest of the world through easing transfer of airtime and recharging mobile phones.

“This will allow Rwandans in the diaspora to top up their loved ones’ mobile phones online. It is easy to use. You just go on our website, www. Istayconnected.net, follow simple instructions and airtime is sent to your loved one in a matter of seconds,” pointed out Diogene Ishimwe, the chief technology officer at IStayConnected LLC.

Rwandans abroad have had many options of transferring money and other things to their loved ones, but they never had a chance to transfer small amount of money, like airtime in a direct way, he added. “The service is convenient and will help Rwandans stay in touch with their country no matter where they are,” noted Alex Rugema, the IStayConnected chief executive officer.

He added that the firm offers cheap and easy services to other members of the Diaspora and works with 250 mobile operators around the globe. One can top up from your computer or any device you use that has access to the Internet.

The new company is expected to increase the flow of money from abroad, thus boosting the economy of Rwanda. “Rwandans abroad usually do not send small amounts of money home, but we have made this possible through the airtime top up facility. Imagine if 40,000 Rwandans living in Belgium today would send just Rwf500 to their friends and family back home only once in a year? That is an extra Rwf20m to the country’s Gross Domestic Product,” Jean Leon Iragena, the chief financial officer notes.

IStayConnected also helps people to top up their respective phones in their countries of residence.

*Source New Times Rwanda

 

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Amina Omusementi: The Somali woman building an empire in Kampala
November 12, 2013 | 0 Comments

By Eriasa Mukiibi Sserunjogi*

Ms Hersi gives the President a token of appreciation for his assistance in making Laburnam Courts a reality. She has managed to grow her business footprint in Kampala by making smart connections. PHOTO | FILE.

Ms Hersi gives the President a token of appreciation for his assistance in making Laburnam Courts a reality. She has managed to grow her business footprint in Kampala by making smart connections. PHOTO | FILE.

The President of the foreign country Amina Hersi Moghe now calls home speaks highly of her and he openly vows to offer all the assistance she requires and protect her from any roadblocks.

She has a rising real estate empire – having built Oasis Mall which houses Nakumatt Supermarket and the posh Laburnam Courts Apartments. And she has built alliances with the biggest politicians, businesspeople and banks in Uganda and beyond.

This cannot be bad for a daughter of a migrant Somali cattle keeper. Her father’s search for better fortunes took him from Somaliland to western Kenya in the second half of the 20th century.

Hersi thus grew up in the border town of Bungoma in western Kenya, from where she moved to Nairobi, before following in her father’s migrant footsteps when she relocated to Kampala in 1998.

She is a woman of average height and weight, not exactly as light as your usual Somali. Ms Hersi adheres to the Muslim dress code, complete with a head scarf and speaks English – not perfect English – with a heavy Somali accent.

An encounter with her may therefore not immediately suggest that she is a very successful businesswoman in Kampala, playing in the biggest league.

But she must fondly look back to the day she set off for Kampala, although it was forced by a heavy dose of sadness.

She had suffered a most gruesome incident, she says, when her two little daughters were killed in a motor accident. She took advice that she needed a change of address to start a new life.

In Kampala, Ms Hersi set up a cement dealership, first as an agent of Bamburi Cement in Kenya and later established relations with the nascent cement factories in Uganda.

“In fact most people know me as Hersi Omusementi,” she says.

 Building alliances

Hersi’s stamp of authority on the real estate sector in Kampala grew stronger when on October 3 her Laburnam Courts Apartments was launched with President Museveni as chief guest.

Also in attendance were prominent businesspeople – representatives of banks, cement factories and others. There were also politicians from Uganda and Kenya, including DP president Norbert Mao.

The High Commissioner of Kenya to Uganda, Maj Gen Geoffrey Okanga, presented Amina with an award – The Moran of the Burning Spear – from the government of Kenya, in recognition of her contribution to the Kenyan economy.

Hersi is the managing director of the Oasis Group of Companies, which owns Oasis Mall and Laburnam Courts in Uganda and is said to have interests in real estate in Kenya.

Hersi’s mother, Sarah Hersi Ali, and her siblings stayed back in Kenya to take care of the business that side when she moved to Kampala. Her mother, she says, laid the foundation for the family’s real estate empire from a modest restaurant and food store. Ms Hersi built on that foundation to ally with powerful people in Uganda, and it didn’t take her long to get to the core of Ugandan business.

Shortly after arriving in Kampala, she teamed up with Sudhir Ruparelia, who had embarked on building a business empire of his own.

She pitched camp in Ruparelia’s office at the then Crane Forex Bureau on Kampala Road, in the process benefitting from her association with quality business company. She had arrived driving a Mercedes Benz with Kenya registration plates, which she says led many of the people she dealt with believe she had a lot of money and this gave them ideas to rip her off. Sudhir solved her immediate problem by giving her a less sophisticated BMW car.

Her business relationship with Sudhir, perhaps now the richest person in Uganda, would only grow and when Hersi later embarked on bigger projects, Sudhir’s Crane Bank became one of her financiers.

 Enter Museveni

It is not clear how Hersi got in contact with Museveni and other powerful people in the government. But the President makes clear his admiration of her qualities, which he says is a far-cry from what most Ugandans exhibit.

“I have a problem with Africans,” the President started out at the launch of the apartments, “Africa is so rich but many of the Africans are not serious. That’s why I am always very happy when I see some Africans who wake up.”

Museveni said Hersi approached him asking for a then vacant piece of land just below All-Saints Cathedral in Nakasero to build apartments.

“If you saw this land, it was just a valley where those who go to church would park their cars and also come to relax; but see what she has done here.” Museveni said.

The Laburnam Courts Apartments comprise a triangle of lime green flats – 154 two-bedroom and three-bedroom serviced apartment units in all – with a swimming pool in the middle. The place also has health facilities, a children’s playing area, business centre and gym.

The proprietor says the apartments have attracted clients from oil and telecom companies. At the time of the launch, it was said that 95 per cent of the apartments were already occupied.

Museveni said Hersi was able to build these apartments, in addition to the Oasis Mall, because she is different from most Ugandans.

“If you go to Kabalagala now,” Museveni said, “they (Ugandans) are all in bars, every time drinking. How much money are you squandering? Lack of discipline, lack of initiative and lack of imagination, that’s the problem Africans must fight.”

Apart from offering the land on which Hersi built the Laburnam Courts and the Oasis Mall, Mr Museveni also ensured that she benefitted from other incentives, like importing building materials without paying taxes. Museveni said at the launch that he protected Hersi from officials of the Uganda Revenue Authority who were demanding taxes from her.

He said that Hersi had planned her project expecting tax exemptions on imported construction materials and that even if her project was a bit late, removing the exemptions would derail her project.

The President aimed a swipe at bureaucrats, who he said just sit in offices and “frustrate” investments.

“There is another project of hers they are trying to fight; we may now have to fight that war,” Museveni said to Hersi’s delight.

Hersi had earlier said that she is looking to embark on another project; one “in which so many women will be involved,” but she did not say exactly what she intends to do.

Museveni looks at women as a key constituency and the mention of a project that could further the women’s cause is likely to warm him up. Hersi was in 2008 named Best Woman Entrepreneur by the Uganda Investment Authority.

At the launch was a Somali choir which sang Museveni’s praises. A translation from one of the songs went: “You are the most educated among the people in the world. You are the wise of the times. You are the father of Africa. The Somali people are grateful to you. Museveni, you should know.”

 Tenacious Hersi

But whereas there can be no denying that Hersi has benefitted immensely from her association with politicians and big businesspeople, there must be something special about her.

Admassu Tadesse, the president of the PTA Bank, said at the launch of the apartments that Hersi “has a rare tenacity” which the bank looked to tap into by investing $16m in the $50m apartments project.

One of the synonyms of the word “tenacity” that pops up on my computer screen is “persistence”. And Tadesse is right if this is what he meant. Hersi refuses to give up when she is convinced that she is doing the right thing.

For example, she said at the launch of the apartments, she hopped from bank to bank seeking financing for two grand projects – the mall and the apartments – at the same time without substantial collateral.

Most banks advised her to pursue one project at a time, she said, but she rejected the advice. “I knew the two projects were different and they were both viable,” she said. She would move on to another bank until she got a positive response.

She was in bullish mood as she thanked the banks which “stood with me when I didn’t have anything,” all in the knowledge that she will find it easier to get financing for future projects now that she has seen grand projects through.

And she has guidelines in her dealings with banks: “Banks which have a lot of excuses; I don’t deal with them.” And, going by Hersi’s new profile, it is very likely that the banks won’t give her many excuses when she approaches them for future financing. If this prediction is true, then the story of the Somali woman who is taking Uganda’s real estate landscape by storm is just beginning to unfold.

*Source African Review

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IBM Opens Doors of First African Research Lab – Continent’s Grand Challenges in its Sights
November 11, 2013 | 0 Comments

Develops solutions in Africa for Africa and the World

H.E. the President of Kenya, Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta (left) and Dr. Kamal Bhattacharya, Director IBM Research - Africa (right) at the opening of IBM's First Africa Research Laboratory

H.E. the President of Kenya, Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta (left) and Dr. Kamal Bhattacharya, Director IBM Research – Africa (right) at the opening of IBM’s First Africa Research Laboratory

Yorktown Heights, N.Y. and Nairobi, Kenya – 08 Nov 2013: IBM (NYSE: IBM) and His Excellency, the President of Kenya, Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta, officially opened the first commercial technology research facility in Africa at an inauguration ceremony in Nairobi today.

IBM’s 12th global research lab – supported by the Kenyan ICT Authority – and located at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Nairobi, will conduct applied and far-reaching exploratory research into the grand challenges of the African continent by delivering commercially-viable innovations that impact people’s lives.

The 2000mfacility features one of Africa’s most powerful, cloud-enabled computing hubs giving IBM researchers the ability to analyse and draw insight from vast amounts of data in the search for solutions to Africa’s most pressing challenges such as energy, water, transportation, agriculture, healthcare, financial inclusion and public safety.

The lab’s research agenda will include the development of cognitive computing technologies which integrate learning and reasoning capabilities enabling experts to make better decisions in areas such as healthcare delivery and financial services. In the new era of computing, IBM believes that Africa has a strategic opportunity to become an early adopter of cognitive systems.

“The establishment of this research laboratory underpins the government’s commitment to innovation ecosystems that are already available in Kenya,”  said His Excellency, the President of Kenya, Hon. Uhuru Kenyatta. “Using innovation to drive homegrown solutions, Kenya continues to lead the continent in ICT. My government is proud that Kenya, and indeed Africa, will benefit from the presence of one of the most advanced research facilities, with some of the world’s most talented people, using some of the most powerful technologies to develop solutions for some of

Africa’s most intractable problems.”

The lab brings together some of the best technology talent globally driven by a passion for Africa and almost 70 years of experience in running a world-class research organization. Over the past year, the IBM Research – Africa team has been conducting research projects while the laboratory was under construction. It now comprises seasoned IBM scientists and new recruits, starting with 20 PhDs  and growing in line with the lab’s development.

“We are currently experiencing the emergence of a new Africa – one where science and technology are enabling a pivotal ‘leap frog’ moment allowing governments and businesses to drive economic growth, raise the standard of living and compete with their global counterparts,” said Dr. Kamal Bhattacharya, Director, IBM Research – Africa.

“The launch of  Africa’s first full-scale, technology research facility signifies a new era in African innovation – one where commercially-viable solutions to Africa’s grand challenges are developed in Africa for Africa, helping to lay the foundations for the continent’s future scientific and economic independence.”

IBM Research – Africa will be deeply embedded into Africa’s innovation ecosystem and will forge partnerships with businesses, research organizations and universities across Africa and around the world. Already operational, IBM Research – Africa has a number of important projects underway based on collaborations that include:

 Twende Twende (Let’s Go)

Urbanization is a global trend but one with unique urgency in Africa with some cities expected to grow by as much as 85 percent in the next 15 years. As the pressure on city systems increases, IBM is researching solutions which address interconnected urban issues such as public safety and human mobility.

According to government estimates, traffic costs Nairobi US $600,000 a day. In an effort to tackle this growing problem, IBM has  partnered with Kenyan internet service provider Access Kenya to develop a pilot solution to enable Nairobi commuters to use their mobile phones to get advice on driving routes through the city depending on estimates of traffic congestion.

Using deep analytics and specialized algorithms to interpret visual data received from CCTV cameras positioned around Nairobi, citizens can use their mobile phones to receive updates on road conditions and suggestions for alternative routes. With only 36 cameras currently installed around Nairobi, IBM researchers have augmented the available data using mathematical network analytics to predict traffic in parts of town where no data feeds are available.

Dubbed Twende Twende – meaning ‘Let’s Go’ in Swahili – the system works on basic phones via a SMS-based query system and on smart phones via an app through which users can view a map of the city showing route options and potential traffic hotspots. IBM’s researchers are currently working to extend the capabilities of the solution to include data on public safety, weather conditions and road works to create a Nairobi-specific view of human mobility.

IBM has launched a public trial of the service to Nairobi commuters and is available on the major mobile phone networks Safaricom and Airtel.

 Mattangazo (Digital Advertising)

Many African cities rely on complex networks of public buses and smaller private minibuses to get people to and from work each day. Nairobi is well known for its 60,000 matatu minibuses which race around carrying a third of the city’s 830,000 public transport users. In recent months there has been an initiative to bring the city’s matatus into the digital age by introducing free onboard wifi.

In partnership with local firms Flashcast and Kuza Biashara, IBM has developed a solution that enables micro entrepreneurs to target commuters with location-based advertisements.  The solution relies on GPS enabled display units with a 3G connection which are installed on buses and matatus and display simple advertisements about local small businesses such as restaurants, hairdressers and computer repair shops.

IBM researchers developed the app with which small businesses can upload slogans and messages for their advertisements and are now looking at how to use analytics to create spin off business opportunities such as business registries.

“We want to learn from Africa and tap into the continent’s appetite for innovation,” said Nik Nesbitt, Country General Manager, East Africa. “The work of IBM Research – Africa is not just about science and technology, it is also about innovating new business models and partnering with local enterprises to ensure that our new solutions have the maximum impact on business and society.”

IBM Research – Africa joins existing labs in Australia, Brazil, China, India, Ireland, Israel, Japan, Switzerland and the United States. IBM Research laboratories are credited with the creation of many of the foundations of information technology, including the invention of the relational database, disk storage, DRAM memory and more recently the Watson computing system which used cognitive technologies to compete alongside humans in a major television quiz show. Watson is today being used by healthcare and financial service providers around the world to augment human knowledge and deliver better quality services. IBM Research has been recognized with five Nobel Prize Laureates, and many leading scientific and technical medals and awards. 

 About IBM in Africa

IBM is making a significant investment in Africa, the world’s fastest growing region, ramping up its profile on the continent as part of its focus on emerging markets. The expansion program is part of a major business plan to increase IBM’s presence in growth markets and support global strategy. The company is present in more than 20 African countries and recognizes the huge potential of research and smarter systems in transforming business, government and society across the continent.

 Virtual Recruiting Event

Scientists from IBM Research – Africa will be hosting a live virtual job fair in the IBM SmartCloud and Google+ on 05 December to talk about several open positions.

For more details, visit http://bit.ly/ibmjobfair

 

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Ghana Gas production to start May 2014
November 11, 2013 | 0 Comments

By  Musah Yahaya Jafaru*

Dr Ben Asante, Technical Director of the project, briefing President Mahama and his entourage on the progress of work at the project site. Picture EBOW HANSON

Dr Ben Asante, Technical Director of the project, briefing President Mahama and his entourage on the progress of work at the project site. Picture EBOW HANSON

Ghana is expected to start producing its own gas from the Ghana Gas Infrastructure Project at Atuabo in the Western Region in May, 2014.

The project, which is to process 150 million standard cubic feet of raw gas per day from the Jubilee Oilfield, is billed to be completed by the end of April, 2014, four months beyond the original completion period of December, 2013.

The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ghana Gas Company, Dr George Sipa Yankey, told President John Dramani Mahama yesterday during an inspection of the project at Atuabo that the delay in the completion of the project was due to some technical challenges.

He told the President that the engineers had overcome the challenges and were working hard to finish the project by the end of April, 2014.

State of project

The overall Ghana Gas Infrastructure Project is 75 per cent complete. The gas processing plant component is 60 per cent complete, while the onshore and the offshore pipelines are 94 per cent and 95 per cent,  complete respectively.

Aside from the processing of gas, the plant will separate raw gas into various components such as lean gas, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), as well as other mineral residues such as propane and bitumen.

The lean gas will then be transmitted through the pipelines to the Aboadze Power Plant for power generation.

Sinopec of China is the lead contractor for the gas project.

Other petroleum companies working on the project are Aecom from the United States, Thermo Design Engineering from Canada, Yokogawa from Japan, Technip from France and Worley Parson from the United Kingdom.

Dr Yankey assured sceptics that the Ghana Gas Company and the government were committed to the execution of the gas project.

He said the completion of the project would reduce the cost of power generation and ensure reliable power supply in the country.

The Chairman of the Ghana Gas Company, Dr Kwesi Botchwey, said the company had resolved to deliver the gas project according to specification and with good quality.

 

President Mahama

In his remarks, President Mahama said the gas infrastructure project was critical for the country in terms of the numerous petrochemical products that the people would derive from it.

“I am convinced that by the middle of next year we should start producing our own gas,” he said.

The President commended the engineers and the management of the project for bringing it thus far.

“Do not rest on your laurels but rather work diligently to deliver the gas at the time that we have scheduled,” he requested of them.

*Source Graphic Online

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