Tida Jallow: Giving Gambians a Reason to Stay Home

Comments (0) Africa, Featured

Many of Gambia’s young people are leaving. Packing their things with what little they have, and making a perilous journey across the Sahara Desert to Libya and from there, across the Mediterranean Sea to Europe. Tida Jallow, a Gambian seamstress and fashion designer is part of an initiative to curb the mass exodus before Gambia loses all its young people.

Dreams of Europe

Nicknamed the ‘Back Way’ this popular route to Europe is tried by many Africans who have no chance of obtaining a visa and leaving through official means. According to the BBC, Gambia, with a population of less than two million, by percentage of population, accounts for more people heading to Europe than any other nation. With Europe, worried about over-migration, in Gambia it is the opposite that worries people. With so many young able bodied people leaving for greener pastures, there is no one to help out on the farms and bring in the harvests in the villages.

Where an average daily income is $1.25, it is not surprising that people dream of a better life. In a country where the cell phone network is better than any local infrastructure, almost everyone can surf the web via their phone. Social media photos of friends and relatives in Europe decked out in designer brands only add to the incentives to leave. Families whose relatives send back money, have corrugated roofs and satellite dishes on their new houses.

No to the ‘Back Way’

In an effort to give people a reason to stay in Gambia, Jallow trains villagers the art of tailoring in her boutique in western Gambia. Even so, four of her apprentices have already left for the ‘Back Way,’ including her half-brother. Even in Jallow’s tiny village, around 50 people have taken the ‘Back Way. People understand the risks, says Jallow. They have all heard stories about dying in the Sahara or drowning at sea, yet they continue to leave. There is also a risk of being kidnapped, trafficked raped and murdered. Jallow’s brother, who she trained as a salesman, died recently in Libya.

Chief Executive Officer of the Anti-Back Way Campaign, Mustapha Manneh trains youth people to gain agriculture and farming skills. “People always think life will be better in Europe,” he says. “Speaking personally though, I wouldn’t want to be an illegal migrant anywhere.” Mr Mannah points out that many youth people leaving the country dramatically lack skills. His organisation will pay a visit to schools in order to make them aware of the many dangers of taking the ‘Back Way’. Young people are vital to the development of Gambia, but more job opportunities are needed to keep them from leaving the country.

A New Leader

Ruled for more than two decades by President Yahyah Jammeh, a man accused of killing and jailing his critics, many Gambians claimed political asylum upon reaching Europe. Although it is understood that many genuinely left for economic reasons. With the arrival of a new president however, Gambia’s economy may take a turn for the better. Adama Barrow won the election in December 2016, by 50,000 votes. After some back-peddling by former President Jammeh, Barrow was sworn in and promises to revive the economy.

Barrow himself, left for Europe as a young man, and understands the pull for young people to leave Gambia. “You hear the name Europe, you think it’s heaven. It’s never like that,” he said. After working as a security guard for three years in London, Barrow returned to Gambia in 2006. He then set up a successful real-estate agency before being elected President of Gambia. A story that shows there may be some more hope for Gambians willing to stay after all.

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Alabbar’s plan to conquer e-commerce

Comments (0) Featured, Middle East

A new online shopping platform created in the United Arab Emirates is set to dominate the industry in the Middle East and possibly the world., which was announced early November, is an online retailer boasting over 20 million products and same-day delivery. Created by Emirati billionaire and businessman Mohamed Alabbar, the site will be launched worldwide in January, 2017.

Stocking millions of products ranging from fashion to electronics, food to cars, the site will be ten times bigger than the region’s current ecommerce site, and will stock over 5 million more products than Dubai’s biggest malls. Starting with 20 million products, the plan is to get to 100 million, Alabbar explained in an interview with Arabian Business. Initially the site will sell popular consumer items, he explained, but will eventually expand to sell niche items too.

The region is ripe for an ecommerce revolution: Alabbar

With $1 billion in financial backing, half from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and half from Alabbar himself and a group of Gulf Cooperation Council investors, the ecommerce site will operate from and focus on the UAE and Saudi Arabia before branching out. Noon’s head office will be located in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

As a region with 50 percent of people under the age of 25, the UAE and Saudi Arabia have extremely high internet and smartphone usage as well as high per capita income Alabbar explained. However, ecommerce accounts for only 2 percent of total retail sales in the region, a total of $3 billion a year.

People in the Gulf nations are still buying online from Amazon US and Amazon UK even though they have to wait a long time for delivery, Alabbar said. Countries like the USA, China and the UK have an ecommerce penetration of 15 to 18 percent of retail, but it is negligible in the Middle East. “The region is all but ripe for an e-commerce revolution,” Alibbar said. “Local giants have emerged in ecommerce around the world, like Alibaba in China. Why should it be any different in the Middle East?”

Ecommerce market to be worth $70 billion by 2025

By 2025 the ecommerce market is expected to be worth a whopping $70 billion a year, and Alabbar aims to take a sizeable chunk of it. Noon is being built with an eventual goal of an initial public offering in five to seven years Alabbar said. Immediate goals, however, include growing online sales in the region from 2 percent to 15 percent. A financial goal from $3 billion to $70 billion within a decade, taking up much of the ecommerce market.

“Any vision to change the world necessarily has to be big. A quantum leap cannot be small,” Alabbar said. An obvious comparison to Noon is Alibaba. When Alibaba was launched, Amazon was already a large public company, Alabbar explained. But that didn’t stop CEO Jack Ma from dreaming big. Today they are the largest ecommerce company in the world, and Amazon is almost non-existent in China, Alabbar said.

End to End Ecommerce Retailer

Noon plans on being an all-encompassing retail experience. From its website to an app, to delivery system and pay platform, it is all the same company from start to finish. Noon’s CEO and former country manager for Souq, Fodhil Benturquia said Noon’s edge over competition lay in its technological advances. “Our customer experience will be driven by state-of-the-art technology that will power everything from product discovery to purchase and delivery,” Benturquia said.

As well as creating its very own paying platform, Noon Pay, the company is also currently building the world’s largest warehouse adjacent to Dubai’s Al Maktoum International airport to store its products. The warehouse, which will be the size of 60 football fields will be one of many similar centers across Saudi Arabia and later across the entire region. Large storage centers mean same-day delivery is possible and this will be achieved via an in-house system called Noon Transportation and part-owned delivery service, Aramex. Noon is going to change the online shopping landscape for the Middle East customer, Benturquia said.

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The IMF predicts considerably growth in the Ivory Coast’s economy

Comments (0) Economy, Featured

The Ivory Coast is West Africa’s largest, French-speaking economy, and its growth looks set to continue, as the IMF predicts a 7.4% increase in the nation’s GDP over the next 3 years. The nation’s government is even more confident, predicting greater growth over the next two years than IMF figures, but either way it shows the increase in stability within the nation since President Alassane Ouattara came to power in 2011.

Greater stability, greater growth

Since Alassane Ouattara officially took office in 2011, the Ivory Coast has been in a period of sustained political stability that has led to marked economic growth. Ouattara has invested heavily in Ivorian infrastructure, and targeted outside investment to help the country continue its economic development. A reduction in red tape has allowed businesses to flourish, and staple crops such as cocoa have yielded even greater returns, with the Ivory Coast now responsible for around 45% of the world’s cocoa supply.

The IMF said that the West African nation’s GDP expanded by 8.6% in 2015, and 8.5% this year. The continued growth in 2016 comes in spite of poor weather that limited the nation’s cocoa crops, after a record haul of 1.8 million tons in the 2014-2015 season.

With this continued economic expansion, the IMF has predicted that between 2017 and 2020, the Ivory Coast will average 7.4% growth. However, Ouattara’s government is even more optimistic as they state that growth for 2016 will actually be 9%, and not the 8.5% predicted as an end of year figure by the IMF. Similarly, the Ivorian government claim that there will be 9% expansion in GDP in 2017; a figure that is 1% higher than IMF projections.

The construction of new roads and dams has also helped bolster the economy, and a new constitution aims to ensure that the armed conflicts of the past do not return to unsettle this new political and economic stability.

Investment for the future

While investment in infrastructure has been a key part to increasing crops and the ability of domestic businesses to flourish, attracting outside investment is also integral to prolonged growth. The Ivory Coast is looking to maintain its traditionally strong areas of production, such as its cocoa exports, while creating new sources of revenue and development.

As such, President Ouattara has targeted foreign investors to help fund his 5 year plan for growth within the country. In May of this year, the Ivory Coast’s government secured more than $15 billion in support from external investors and donors. With the new constitution passed into law, the government hopes that foreign direct investment (FDI) flows will increase, as concerns of security will continue to diminish.

The amount of pledges announced in May will offer great encouragement to both the government and the people of the Ivory Coast. When targets were set for a Paris meeting that aimed to attract FDI’s, the government said it hoped to raise $8.8 billion, so with over $15 billion actually achieved, it indicates a huge step forward for the economy. Ouattara’s plan was to put around $60 billion, in total, into projects that would run from 2016 to 2020. After receiving almost double its target from foreign investors, Ivory Coast’s government said that this success showed the “full support of the international community”.

In September of this year, Ouattara went to New York to make a speech at the U.S. Africa Business Forum, as he looked to continue his drive for foreign finances. During the speech, the President stated that the Ivory Coast has no preference over whether investment comes from public or private sources.

In addition, he made it clear that all areas of the world were valued equally in terms of how attractive their investment was to the Ivorian government, and added that, “We just want the maximum amount of investment possible.”

As foreign investors continue to show interest, Ouattara’s government will hope that they can maintain the growth that the country has shown, since the post 2010 election conflicts ended. Moreover, if the government’s figures are accurate, then the Ivory Coast will look to outperform the, already positive, predictions of growth that the IMF has announced. Potential investors will be watching with interest as the 2016-2020 plans develop.

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The MIT graduate who is building Africa’s first STEM school

Comments (0) Africa, Education, Featured

Obinna Ukwuani was given a great advantage in life, when his parents moved from Nigeria to the USA, and thus gave him access to an excellent education. Ukwuani made the most of his opportunities, and recently graduated from Boston’s prestigious MIT. However, rather than take a comfortable job in the US, he is looking to create a STEM school in Nigeria that will offer others the chances that he had.

From STEM school to STEM school

Obinna Ukwuani grew up in Washington D.C., where his parents had moved in order to give their son access to as good an education as they could find. Although the family lived in the USA, his parents were determined that a young Obinna would not lose touch with his heritage, and as such they sent him back to Nigeria for his 8th and 9th grade years of school. A successful education and a passion for technology saw Ukwuani gain a place at the prestigious MIT in Boston.

However, his previous visits to Nigeria were not something he wished to forget, so he returned there during his freshman year at college. It was on this trip that Ukwuani saw how little opportunity within STEM fields there was for most Nigerian students.

Recalling his trip, he said, “It was shocking to see how far behind me they were…I knew I wanted to improve things in Nigeria.”

Ukwuani took immediate action, and in 2012 he launched a robotics summer school in Lagos, Nigeria that ran for 3 years. The school taught 113 students from 17 Nigerian states, how to code and construct robots, over the course of 5 weeks in the summer. The school hired MIT students to provide guidance and had funding from Shell. Ukwuani saw an immediate impact on the students who attended, explaining, “In 3 days, kids who’d never seen a computer were writing code.”

Makers Academy

The success of his summer school inspired Ukwuani to move into STEM education fulltime, once he graduated. While it would have been easy to take a well-paid job in the U.S, Ukwuani is clearly passionate about creating change within his parents’ homeland. After creating a business plan, the MIT graduate spent 5 months finding investors who would back his dream of creating a fulltime STEM school in Nigeria. His search was successful, and with backing in place, he is now in the process of creating his school, Makers Academy, in Ubuja, Nigeria.

Ukwuani expects the school to open in 2018 or 2019, and it will play host to 600 students who have shown an aptitude and interest in STEM fields. While some schools in Nigeria teach these subjects, no school will contain the cutting edge technology, such as 3D printers, that Makers Academy will have.

As a recession hits Nigeria, Ukwuani feels that changing education could be a long-term benefit for the whole country, saying, “Now more than ever we need more options…and we don’t have them.”

It may well be that Makers Academy is the start to ensuring that those options, are something that Nigeria’s future generations will not have.

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The African school girls who are coding their way to new opportunities

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Technology

In the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), women are widely underrepresented in both further education and professional roles. This issue is even more pronounced in developing nations, where an increase in female representation, within these areas, could help break cycles of poverty, and offer the next generation role models that help foster long-term change.

However, there are projects that are already addressing this, and in several African countries high-school girls are learning coding skills that could help change both their futures and those of women across developing nations.

Coding for a new tomorrow

In a world in which social media and smartphone apps are ubiquitous aspects of the developed world, coding has become a huge area of employment and invention. In the developing world, cellphone technology is widespread, and the proliferation of smartphone technology is spreading.

However, for girls and women in countries like Kenya, long standing ideas around gender combine with widespread poverty to make the internet age inaccessible for many of them. In the slums of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, only 20% of women have internet access, compared with 57% of men.

This situation not only holds back women, but the country at large, as STEM employment opportunities spread best when there is a large base of potential talent. The current imbalance may well begin to change, as several organizations are now helping to provide tech education to girls in Kenya, Uganda and Senegal.

The charity, Theirworld, is running “Code clubs” across these three nations, in which schoolgirls can learn a variety of skills within STEM fields, something that can help alter ideas about education, while providing the girls in question with new skillsets.

Theirworld launched the first code club in conjunction with Kano Code Academy and Africa Gathering, and they had funding from Facebook. Theirworld President, Sarah Brown, explained, “With a safe space to learn and play, a mentor to inspire, and access to technology…we can increase learning opportunities, and empower girls to fulfill their potential.”

Before International Women’s Day, Theirworld launched a social media campaign with the title #RewritingTheCode, which aimed to raise awareness about the problems facing girls around the world within STEM fields and education at large.

Even more promisingly, this is not the only organization that has looked to provide females with educational support within Africa, and there are already success stories that show how beneficial such provisions could become.

From Kenya to beyond

In Kenya, one group of schoolgirls took advantage of another program supporting girls in STEM fields, and found themselves as finalists in a global competition for schoolgirls in technology. Kenyan cellphone company, Safaricom, operates a scheme that provides technology education to girls, along with access to mentors who help them build upon their new skills.

Harriet Karanja is only 16 years old, but with support from Safaricom’s scheme, she created an app with friends called M-Safiri, which means “traveler” in Swahili. The app allows users to buy bus tickets remotely, and then get GPS guidance to the bus-stop of your choice, without having to wait on the street.

Karanja and her friends made the finals of a global competition, held in San-Francisco, a huge achievement for them, but also a glowing endorsement of the project.

While it is admirable that charities such as Theirworld are helping females access the STEM world in Africa, it is even more encouraging that domestic tech giants like Safaricom are recognizing the need for change, and the wealth of talent that they can help foster. The American company, Intel, has also funded mentor schemes in Kenya, and Kenya’s already blossoming tech scene looks set to finally make use of all of its young talents, rather than losing 50% of its potential due to gender discrimination.

If Kenya can lead the way, then the projects in Uganda and Senegal can surely follow in their success, and bodies like Theirworld already plan on expanding into another 3 African nations by the end of the year. Marieme Jamme, Co-Founder of Africa Gathering, said “Africa is crying out for young women with STEM skills and knowledge.” Hopefully the changes occurring will ensure that what Africa is crying out for, will soon be something that Africa gets.

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Ecobank commits to continue battling disease in Africa

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Health

The Pan-African bank, Ecobank, recently committed a further 3 years of funding for its work with the organization the Global Fund, in the battle to fight AIDS, Malaria and Tuberculosis (TB) in Africa. Ecobank first partnered with the Global Fund in 2013, and at a signing ceremony in Montreal, Canada, the bank confirmed its additional funding for the various projects that target 3 of Africa’s most deadly diseases.

Changing Africa

 The Global Fund is an organization committed to ending the epidemics of AIDS, Malaria and TB, and it works closely with governments and the private sector to help fund initiatives to combat these diseases in over 100 nations. Although the body is committed to its cause on a global scale, it is Africa that suffers the most from AIDS and Malaria in particular, and as an African enterprise, Ecobank has shown that it views the battle as part of its responsibilities.

The Ecobank Foundation is the branch of the bank responsible for funding social programs across Africa, and Ecobank CEO, Ade Ayeyemi, pledged that a further $3 million of funding would be made available to the work that the Global Fund is carrying out within the continent. Funding from the Global Fund has provided 659 million mosquito nets to families, given TB treatment to 15.1 million people, and provided antiretrovirals to 9.2 million HIV sufferers.

Ecobank operates across 35 African countries, and its goal of bringing greater prosperity to African people is one that clearly involves the support of health initiatives. Philip Chikwuedo Asiodu, Chairman of the Ecobank Foundation, says, “Access to quality health care for all is vital to the growth and prosperity of Africa…we are proud to be partnering with the Global Fund in combating these three diseases throughout Africa.”

Financing the Future

It is evidently essential to reduce the number of people suffering and dying from treatable diseases, in order to create an environment that allows people to improve their economic situations. While some of the tools needed for fighting 3 of Africa’s biggest killers are obvious purchases, such as mosquito nets, it is also necessary to help nations organize their use of funds. The Ecobank Foundation joined with the Global Fund to help countries not only receive greater funding for health schemes, but to manage their funds more effectively.

Support was provided to grant recipients in Nigeria, South Sudan and Senegal over the past 3 years, and it is great news for ongoing projects that Ecobank has committed itself to at least 3 more years of backing.

The Ecobank Foundation CEO, Julie Essiam, signed the extension to their partnership with Global Fund with the Executive Director of Global Fund, Mark Dybul.

Essiam expressed excitement about the continued collaboration, calling it “a historic moment with the Global Fund” and explaining their shared goal “to create a ‘thriving Africa’, and a prosperous continent.”

It is to be hoped that such partnerships encourage further investors to help support changes that the whole of Africa, and the wider world, will benefit from.

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Stephen Saad : Entrepreneur of the Year at the All Africa Business Leaders Awards

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Leaders

Stephen Saad was announced as the latest winner of the Entrepreneur of the Year Award at the annual All Africa Business Leaders Awards ceremony, which was held this year in Johannesburg. Saad’s success within the pharmaceutical industry is long-standing, but the massive growth he has achieved with his company, Aspen, in the past year saw his success recognized by one of Africa’s most prestigious business awards.

Over 2 decades of success and no slowing down

Saad turned 52 this year, and the Durban born businessman could have been content with a highly successful career well before he made the moves that established him as one of Africa’s top 20 richest people. After graduating from the University of Natal with a BA in Commerce, Saad began working within pharmaceuticals for Quickmed. Quickmed stand out within South Africa’s recent history for being a company that offered prescription medicines within black townships during the nation’s appalling apartheid regime.

Saad quickly moved upward, and by the age of 29 he had sold a share in another company, Covan Zurich, for $3 million making of him a millionaire. However despite this success nothing has dampened his enthusiasm for innovation within the industry, and in 1997 Saad set up his company Aspen Pharmacare (changed to Aspen in 1999) with co-founder Gus Attridge.

Back in 1999, Saad told an interviewer that he planned to utilize local skillsets to grow his company and enter first world markets, saying “I’m talking about people, contacts, research, development, manufacturing processes etc, which we have in South Africa… we’re going to be manufacturing from South Africa for First World markets offshore.”

As good as his word, Saad kept Aspen’s manufacturing hub within South Africa, and aside from creating jobs for his home country, he has turned Aspen into the world’s 6th largest producer of generic pharmaceuticals. Aspen now provides medicines in 150 different countries, and Saad has an estimated personal fortune of $1.27 billion. Accepting his entrepreneurial award, Mr. Saad gave a speech that reflected exactly the ethos he had laid out 17 years ago, enthusing “We are a company with roots in South Africa and manufacturing in South Africa. We’ve grown our local talent to become a world player and Aspen is just a wonderful South African story.”

Only the beginning

Despite the huge success that Saad and Aspen have achieved within their market, predictions for the future suggest that even more growth is likely. Over the past 3 years, Aspen has established extensive distribution and technolgy networks within Europe, and forged numerous new partnerships, which Saad has said would support a company “twice the size we are now”.

This year alone, Aspen has purchased the $341 million GlaxoSmithKline anesthetics portfolio and AstraZeneca’s, $770 million, anesthetics range too. These acquisitions will expand Aspen’s share of the anesthetic’s market outside of the US to 20%, and analysts predict that Aspen’s earnings will grow by 121% for the next 2 years.

Stephen Saad was clearly proud of his Entrepreneur of the Year Award, but it evidently won’t see him resting on his laurels.

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Claver Gatete named African Finance Minister of the Year

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Leaders, Politics

Prominent Rwandan politician Claver Gatete was recently named African Finance Minister of the Year by Global Capital, a leading financial news and data provider.

The award recognizes Gatete’s recent success in successfully keeping Rwanda’s economy on course amidst difficult regional economic conditions.

A master economic strategist

Gatete, Rwanda’s Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, was particularly gracious when accepting the prestigious accolade. He said: “The resilience of our economy, despite the global economic shocks that affected our commodities, was mainly due to good leadership and strategic guidance of our President and the hard work of our economic team at the Ministry of Finance and central bank”

However, despite his humility, it’s clear that Gatete has been instrumental to Rwanda’s continued fiscal success. Global Capital explained their decision to bestow him with the award saying that he has demonstrated “impressive commitment to prudent and proactive fiscal management.” He was also praised for his talent in crafting bilateral agreements with international institutions and neighboring countries, which have been key components of Rwanda’s resilience.

Early life and career

Gatete was born in 1962, in Mbarara, Uganda. He spent the majority of his school years in Mbarara, due to his father’s line of work. Gatete proved himself to be an adept student with an aptitude for numbers. He attended University at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada, where he obtained both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Agricultural Economics, finishing his studies in 1993.

Gatete stayed in Canada working as an economist until 1997. However, in the wake of Rwanda’s terrible genocide he felt the desire to return home and help in the efforts to rebuild his home country. He managed to obtain a post with the United Nations Development Program working as a Development Economist in Kigali.

During his time working with the UN, Gatete became embedded in the political and financial landscape of Rwanda. No doubt this expertise is what set him for a string of senior government positions.

 In 2001, he was invited to join the Office of the President as the president’s personal representative to the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). He excelled in this position, and in 2003 he was promoted to the Ministry of Finance, where he served as Secretary General and Secretary to the Treasury. In 2005, he became Rwanda’s Ambassador to the U.K, Ireland, and Iceland. Returning to a domestic position, Gatete served as both Deputy Governor and Governor for The National Bank of Rwanda until his appointment as Minister of Finance and Economic planning in 2013.

A sure hand at the helm

Gatete has formulated and implemented the policies that have kept Rwanda’s economy performing over the past few years. Commentators have pointed to Gatete’s action with regard to the slump in global commodities, which severely hampered Rwanda’s mining sector, at a time when production was already falling. Global capital said “For a small country with limited export opportunities this could have proved a severe setback. The impact on the wider economy, however, has been largely mitigated by prompt action by policymakers,”

Gatete has also made great strides in improving efficiencies in Rwanda’s agricultural sector. He has implemented innovative new measures to educate, prepare and supply Rwanda’s farmers more effectively. Additionally, he has directed investment towards irrigation which has greatly increased food security and helped eliminate the risks from erratic rainfall.

Commentators have attributed Rwanda’s strong growth projections to Gatete’s overall ability, and the confidence financial institutions have in his ability to deliver on his commitments. Gatete embodies the new ideal of African leadership; shrewdly intelligent, talented and progressive.

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Bio pesticides boost Kenya’s mango exports

Comments (0) Africa, Agriculture, Featured

Kenya’s mango exports have jumped by 400 percent in the past five years, thanks in large part to a switch from chemical to bio pesticides to control fruit flies.

In the past, the troublesome insects forced mango farmers to leave a significant share of their crop on the ground or to use chemical pesticides that meant the fruit was not acceptable in many foreign import markets.

But the introduction of new methods of controlling pests using naturally occurring substances is giving mango farmers a boost.

Louis Matheka, sales manager for the exporter Mangos from Kenya, said mango production increased by 27 percent during the season that ended in April compared to a year earlier. At the same time, exports were up 30 percent. In the latest season, Kenya exported 26,000 metric tons of mangos, mostly to the Middle East.

Fruit fly spoils crops

Most of Kenya’s growers are small farmers who have struggled to make their mango crops pay because fruit fly infestations often resulted in more than half the fruit being wasted.

Erratic yields in turn made it difficult to enter and meet the requirements of formal contracts with exporters.

Meanwhile, fears of spreading fruit flies to importing countries along with high use of chemical pesticides meant the harvests were off-limits to many foreign import markets. Instead, farmers sold their fruit for lower prices at local markets.

But in recent years, companies have developed promising bio pesticide alternatives to help an estimated 60,000 Kenyan growers control fruit flies.

Project pioneers bio pesticide

One Kenyan company, Real IPM, has pioneered fruit fly control that uses a common insect-killing fungus, Metarhizium (Met) 69, that occurs naturally in the soil. Real IPM developed the system with funding from USAID and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Real IPM equips farmers with the powdered substance, which is used in traps. Flies that enter the traps are contaminated and exit the trap. They are able to contaminate other flies by grooming or mating before they die.

The system requires at least 20 traps per hectare. The fungus, which does not leave a residue because it is naturally occurring, can also be sprayed onto trees to infect larger adults or onto the soil to kill pupae.

One farmer, Henry Ngari, told Reuters he is now able to sell 90 to 95 percent of his crop. “That’s a big improvement for farmers. We were losing around half of the crop because it was infected by fruit fly,” Ngari said.

Costs reduced

The system is initially more costly than chemical pesticides. But the traps only have to bought once, compared to many applications of pesticides. The system also greatly reduces manpower necessary to control fruit flies.

Ngari said he used to employ six men per day to spray chemicals. “Now it’s just one person to put a trap in place. That could be me or my wife,” Ngari said.

According to Sunday Ekesi, head of plant health at Kenya’s International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), the use of bio pesticides is on the rise in Kenya. Companies including Dudutech, Kenya Biologics and Farmtrack Consulting also offer environmentally friendly tools to fight pests and plant diseases.

Growth in exports forecast

Experts believe bio pesticides will help Kenya’s growers further boost production and expand their export markets from the Middle East to Europe.

The United Arab Emirates imports more than 55 percent of the African nation’s mangos followed by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Qatar.

Jonathan Bamber, whose Burton and Bamber buys from around 100 small farmers and produces dried mangos, said Kenya could become one of the world’s top producers. “It could be a huge revenue stream for small-scale farmers, if we can develop the market and demand, as well as the quality on the supply side,” Bamber said.

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Forbes Magazine names Mosunmola Abudu Africa’s most successful woman.

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Leaders

Mosunmola Abudu, or Mo Abudu as she is more commonly known, is one of Africa’s most vibrant personalities. She is a jack, and a master, of many trades. Abudu is a renowned entrepreneur, talk show star, media personality, human resources guru and philanthropist. Forbes magazine has even gone so far as to name her “Africa’s most successful woman” and others have dubbed her “Africa’s Oprah”.

Early life in the UK and Nigeria

Born in the United Kingdom to Nigerian parents, Abudu spent her early years in Hammersmith, London. When she was aged seven, her family decided to return to Nigeria. She was sent to stay on her grandparent’s farm in Ondo State, and it was here that Abudu really connected to her African roots. When she was just 12 years old, her father tragically passed away, and not long after, Abudu returned to the UK. She moved to Kent, to stay with a family friend and guardian before enrolling in The Ridgeway School, in Tunbridge wells.

Abudu has recounted that she was one of the few black children in the school and that 1970’s Britain wasn’t the most multicultural or tolerant place. She often felt the need to prove herself in the face of ignorant remarks and hurtful questions. She said: “I think somewhere deeply buried in my subconscious was a need to tell Africa's story.”

A remarkable career and an outlandish dream

Abudu obtained a Master’s degree in Human Resources Development at the University of Westminster. She started her HR career in 1987, joining recruitment giant Atlas Group. She swiftly maneuvered herself into senior corporate positions. In 1992, she moved back to Nigeria after being headhunted by ExxonMobil to head up their HR and training unit. In 2000, she set up her own specialist HR consultancy, Vic Lawrence & Associates, which she still owns today. Despite her success, an unfulfilled ambition gnawed at her. She left her HR career in 2006, to pursue her dream, television. Abudu felt that Africa was ready for its own TV talk show and that she was the star to host it. In 2008 she pitched her pilot episodes to executives at DStv. Convinced by her tenacity and passion; they decided to commission the program.

An African television sensation

“Moments with Mo” has gone on to become a pan-African Success. Abudu has hosted distinguished guests such as Hilary Clinton and President Goodluck Jonathon. Today it airs in over 50 African countries, and Abudu is a veritable household name across the continent. However, the popularity of Moments with Mo was not enough for Abudu. She was convinced that Africa needed a bigger platform to promote African culture in a more positive way. In 2013 she launched Ebony Life TV. This award winning network is now established across the continent, and offers a range of high quality, exclusively African content across television, mobile and internet platforms. Through Ebony Life TV, Abudu hopes to particularly engage with Africa’s growing young demographic, as she sees them as the “custodians of the future.” She hopes to use her network’s content to galvanize this generation, and foster a new-age African identity for the future.

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