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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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Mark Shuttleworth: Africa’s first dot com millionaire

Comments (0) Africa, Leaders

With a net worth of $500 million, a trip to space, three successful businesses and a not-for-profit under his belt, it is not surprising that South Africa’s Mark Shuttleworth is an inspiration to many in a country still emerging from apartheid, and still plagued by rampant poverty and corruption.

The Emergence of Thawte

Shuttleworth’s success story stared in 1995, whilst still a student at the University of Cape Town, Shuttleworth created Thawte, a consulting firm that became a world provider of digital certification, a trusted third party that could be used to create secure connections to a server via the internet. According to AFKInsider, it was the first ever full-security encrypted ecommerce web server commercially available outside of the United States. Shuttleworth sold the firm in 1999 to US based company VeriSign, who at that point owned 50 percent of the market, the other 50 percent belonging to Thawte. VeriSign bought the company for $575 million when Shuttleworth was only 26 years old.

With the profits from the sale of Thawte, Shuttleworth could easily have retired. Instead he used his capital to help other South African’s find their potential. In the year 2000, Shuttleworth created HBD Venture Capital, a company which invests in local South African businesses with international potential and in 2001, The Shuttleworth Foundation, a non-for-profit that aims to improve access to, and quality of, South African education. Shuttleworth was still looking for new challenges, however, and began to embark on the long journey that would lead him to being a space tourist.

Shuttleworth Becomes the First African in Space

In 2002 Shuttleworth became the first African ever to travel to space and the second private citizen ever to self-fund a trip to space. At a personal cost of $20 million, Shuttleworth bought a seat on a Russian spacecraft and began training. He trained for nearly a year, seven months of which were spent at Russia’s Star City, at the Yuri A Gagarin State Scientific Research and Testing Cosmonaut Training Center. He became part of the Russian Soyuz TM-34 crew and visited the International Space Station (ISS). Shuttleworth spent eight days aboard the ISS where he conducted scientific experiments for South Africa. He returned to Earth on May 5th, 2002, but his incredible feats don’t stop there.

After returning from space, Shuttleworth founded yet another company, the Ubuntu project, a computer operating system that would be completely free. Based on a version of the Linux computer operating system that is open source, Ubuntu, roughly translates to ‘human-ness’ in the South African Nguni Bantu language. It also means ‘I am what I am because of who we all are,’ which works with Shuttleworth’s idea that the software could be edited and improved upon and shared for free. Without heavy licensing fees, Ubuntu could reach a wider audience and be shared by people who could not afford other operating systems. However not every move Shuttleworth has made has been supported by the people of South Africa.

Shuttleworth in Court over Exit Charge Levy

In 2009 Shuttleworth decided to leave his home in South Africa and move to the Isle of Man. In doing so, he also decided to move approximately $177 million in capital from South Africa with him. The South African Reserve Bank, however, charged him a $17.7 million exit fee that would need to be paid in order to release the businessman’s assets. He paid the exit charge, but then sought to recoup the levy. Shuttleworth argued the government’s position around foreign exchange controls constrained small business and sought to have the exit fee returned, with interest.

According to ITWeb, the legal battle was taken to the Supreme Court, which initially Shuttleworth won and the Reserve Bank was ordered to repay the levy amount with interest. However, the Constitutional Court, the highest in South Africa, overturned the Supreme Court as they found the exit charge was in place to regulate conduct, not to raise revenue and the ruling was overturned.

The Reserve Bank did not have to repay Shuttleworth the exit charge with interest and he was repaid nothing.

Although the move out of South Africa may have soured his relationship with his country a little, Shuttleworth continues to be an inspiration for young South African entrepreneurs. He now has dual citizenship with the UK and South Africa and continues to run Ubuntu and Canonical. Never resting for long, it will be with great interest to see what the future holds for Africa’s first dot com millionaire.

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Military Base Expansion: an End to Japan Peace State

Comments (0) Africa, Featured

A Japanese military base in Djibouti, on the East African coast, is being expanded as part of a new militarized movement happening in Japan and as three Japanese government sources have revealed, to counter Chinese influence on the continent.

Since 2011, a Japanese Self Defense Force contingent has occupied a 12 hectare site in Djibouti and operated a maritime patrol aircraft from the base. Originally described as a ‘facility’ rather than a military base, United Press International (UPI) reports the area houses air, land and sea-based forces as part of an active, ongoing anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden. According to UPI this offers Japan increased cooperation with allied partners and further projects military power.

A Japanese Defense Ministry spokesman said that in addition to the land Japan had borrowed, it was considering leasing additional land to the east. Although Japan relies heavily on imports of oil and gas from the Middle East, the UPI article claims Japan’s expansion represents an agenda beyond solely protecting its economic security. According to Reuters, a Japanese government source told the agency that China’s increasing presence was the reason for Japan’s rising involvement.

Chinese Economic Presence in Africa

Chinese investment in African Nation’s development is increasing exponentially. In December of 2015, China pledged $60 billion as part of a loan and aid package to Africa to help with development projects, to improve agriculture and reduce poverty. According to the Wharton Africa Business Forum held in late 2015, Chinese economic presence on the continent has continued to skyrocket, from $7 billion in 2008 to $26 billion in 2013.

According to Reuters, China is seeking ties with Africa to gain access to natural resources and find new markets. However, Japan has also pledged to increase its support with $30 billion towards infrastructure, healthcare and education in Africa. China is putting money into new infrastructure and raising its presence in Djibouti, said the Reuters source. “It is necessary for Japan gain more influence.”

Expansion of Japan’s Djibouti Base

Strategically located by the Red Sea, and cornered by Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia, Djibouti also hosts US, and French Bases. China started construction on a military base in the country at the beginning of 2016. The base is the first overseas military facility and coastal logistics base that will provide supplies to naval vessels taking part in peacekeeping and humanitarian missions, reports Reauters.

Japan’s expansion of their base would include C-130 transport aircraft, Bushmaster armored vehicles and extra personnel, Reuters source claimed. The extra leased land would be smaller than the existing base and would cost roughly $1 million per year. The source claimed Tokyo would justify the expansion by pointing to the need to have an aircraft in the area to evacuate Japanese citizens from troubled areas. According to UPI, however they point to an increasing militarization of Japan.

Militarization of Japan

Long been described as a ‘peace state’ after a constitution imposed on the country by the United States after World War II, Japan may be leaning once again towards an era of military action.

As part of the WWII constitution, Japan’s constitution stated the country would forever ‘renounce… the threat or use of force to settle international disputes’ and that ‘land, sea, and air forces, as well as other war potential, will never be maintained’.

However, a controversial new legislation backed by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government announced in March of last year, stated Japanese forces could engage in collective self-defense and come to the aid of an ally under attack. The legislation was passed against the wishes of the majority of polled Japanese citizens who opposed it and in direct violation of the constitution.

Stepping back from seven decades of state pacifism, Prime Minister Abe is seeking to give Japan’s SDF a greater role in regional and global affairs. Djibouti’s military base may be just the beginning of Japan’s military operations.

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Africa looks set to for a revolution in technological innovation

Comments (0) Africa, Economy, Featured, Technology

Africa is changing, and technology is the catalyst for the unprecedented changes that are occurring continent wide. Although there are still large areas of the continent that lag behind, the levels of tech access found in, Europe and the USA, change is happening at an incredible rate. These changes are fueled by Africa’s innovators, who are helping alter how the rest of the world sees the globe’s second largest continent.

The rapid growth of technology

The growth of cellphones and the internet in Africa has happened so rapidly that access to personally owned technology has often happened before nations have built more routine infrastructure. Before many nations have even constructed reliable, national electricity supplies, individuals have access to cellphones that are fueling innovation, and changing people’s outlooks.

The cellphone company Ericsson, says that by 2019 there will be 930 million cellphones in Africa. The majority of Africa’s population is under 30, and the lack of infrastructure in many countries has proved to be a spur for creative solutions to everyday problems. Cellphone money transfer systems are one of Africa’s most popular technological services, in part fueled by the lack of access to banks that many people experience. This technology has now moved to the west, showing an intriguing reversal of the flow of new inventions. The developed world is now importing some of the developing world’s ideas and creations.

As broadband penetration expands, the opportunity for further innovation will become even greater. Access to regular cellphones is gradually moving towards access to smartphones. Around 20% of the continent currently has access to the internet, but this is expected to treble over the next 5 years. According to The Guardian, cellphone technology will account for 8% of Africa’s GDP by 2020, a figure that is more than double what it is anywhere else in the world.

African created apps now cover a broad range of areas, from providing question and answer services with registered doctors, to allowing farmers market figures to ensure they maximize their profits. A young generation of Africans across the continent have bypassed traditional technologies, such as landline phones and branch banking, and simply moved straight into a world of conducting everything via their cellphone.

Confronting the obstacles

Despite the swift growth in personal technology in Africa, there are still clearly issues around more routine forms of modernity that need to be overcome. For instance, in sub-Saharan Africa only around a third of people have access to grid electricity.

Cellphones are one thing, but for technology to become a genuine driving force – against poverty – there does need to be a minimum level of infrastructure.

Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, said, “If you can’t have electricity you can’t drive any industrial development… electricity drives everything, so until we fix that problem Africa faces huge challenges.”

This is an issue that organizations like the African Development Bank are addressing, with the ADB investing $150 billion over the next 10 years in order to try and provide connectivity to a further 130 million people.

Several nations have invested heavily in technology, in order to draw investment from major, foreign corporations, and also to provide openings for domestic talent to shine. Kenya in particular has looked to announce itself as a global leader in nurturing tech innovation, including the construction of an entire tech city (Konza) to create jobs, support start-ups and attract foreign investment.

Continuing to adapt

There are areas in which Africa has incorporated new technology very quickly, with e-commerce being one of the most notable success stories. Nigeria’s Jumia Group is Africa’s first tech “unicorn”, meaning that the company is valued at $1 billion.

For other companies to have such success, and for Africa’s tech entrepreneurs to feel empowered, there needs to be cross continental support from governments. There are signs that several governments intend to help support tech innovation, and the hope has to be that as this brings increased prosperity to individual nations, so their neighbors will follow suit.

Mteto Nyati, chief executive of MTN (South Africa’s second largest telecommunications company), says that the continent needs “partnerships between governments and mobile operators” in order to ensure that future technology, such as 5G, is widely available.

Aside from the money that Kenya’s government has invested in technological infrastructure; there are other governments showing determined efforts to embrace the opportunities that technology offers. Rwanda aims to become Africa’s first “cashless society” in terms of the public sector, and it has spent 15 years working to digitize much of society.

What is most exciting in such a fast changing continent is that this leap forward in tech innovation can help solve long term difficulties faced by normal people. Technology commentator, Ory Okolloh, states that many African startups now are “thinking about innovative ways to solve real problems in the market.” The next generation of African entrepreneurs looks set to benefit from a continent that has truly embraced technology.

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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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Andrew Mupuya is an award winning entrepreneur, and he’s not yet 25

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Leaders

When Forbes magazine lists you as one of the 30 most promising young entrepreneurs in Africa then you must be doing something right. In the case of Andrew Mupuya, he was named one of Forbes’ “30 under 30” in both 2013 and 2016. The list highlights entrepreneurs under the age of 30 who are on the way to achieving great things within their chosen industries. Remarkably, Mupuya has been in business for 8 years, and yet is still only 24 years old!

From humble beginnings

Andrew Mupuya was born, in the Manafwa district of eastern Uganda, to a large, extended family with very little income. Mupuya’s family struggled to buy clothes for him and his siblings, and he was only able to get an early education due to the help of government grants.

Such a background does not provide the greatest opportunity for entering the business world, but the struggles that Mupuya experienced helped foster a work ethic and determination that has held him in good stead.

In 2008, everything changed, and it was a combination of bad luck in his family and new government legislation that paved the way for Mupuya’s business. Both of Mupuya’s parents lost their jobs, making their financial situation precarious once more, and at only 16, Andrew realized that he needed to help ease their burden. At the same time, the Ugandan government banned the use of plastic bags due to environmental damage that they were causing, and within this moment the young entrepreneur saw an opening.

Remembering the initial process, Mupuya says, “”I conducted a feasibility study, market research around retail shops, kiosks, supermarkets around Kampala and discovered there is need and potential market for paper bags.”

Mupuya worked out that he needed around $14 to start a small enterprise, producing paper bags, so he collected 70 kilos of plastic bottles which he sold to a recycling plant for $11, and he then borrowed the remaining $3 from his school teacher. His company was named, YELI (Youth Entrepreneurial Link Investments) Paper Bags, and it has gone from strength to strength.

Award-winning success

Not only was the company successful in a short period of time, but it was the first registered company in Uganda for the production of paper bags. By 2012, and still only 21 years old, Mupuya had been put forward for the prestigious Anzisha prize for young entrepreneurs in Africa. Against stiff competition, Mupuya won the award, and with it, $30,000 that he immediately put into developing the company.

Although he is still only 24, Mupuya has twice made Forbes magazine’s list of 30 African entrepreneurs below the age of 30 to watch out for. YELI paper bags currently produces around 20,000 paper bags per week, and employs 16 people in Uganda. Since he began his business, Mupuya has overseen production that exceeds 5.6 million bags, which have been sold both locally, to neighboring nations like Kenya, and as far afield as the U.S and Norway.

Andrew Mupuya is clearly buoyed by the recognition he has had saying, “The awards I have won give me courage to push on with my business.”

What should please Ugandans is that not only does this young man want to create more opportunities within his home country, but he is looking to do so with a company that can benefit the whole continent.

Mupuya explains that he has much grander plans for YELI, stating, “My vision is to have a cleaner Africa by eradicating use of plastic bags…I dream of having a big plant where I am able to supply paper bags all over Africa…so I believe this is just the start.”

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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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Kenya’s ride hail market shows African businesses adapting to global trends

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured, Technology

When Uber took its taxi app to Kenya in 2015, the response was mixed as it has been in most markets. While many people embraced the service, others felt it undermined local taxi cab operators, and there were protests against the US Company.

However, over the course of its time in Africa, Uber has actually led to African businesses adapting to what it offers, and in Kenya a domestic rival app is already proving highly successful.

A Kenyan response to globalization

When globalization brings a new product to an emerging market, the response from locals is always likely to be mixed. Just as some will be delighted to share in a popular aspect from a developed nation, others will be concerned about the impact upon local culture and businesses. With a service like Uber there is clearly no concern over an erosion of local culture, but there are serious issues around how it affects local businesses. The same worries around exploitation of drivers that have captured headlines in the US and Europe have been replicated in Kenya, along with a worry that local taxi firms will be driven out of business.

In fact, earlier this year, the United Kenya Taxi Organization demanded that Kenya’s government banned Uber from the East African nation. While this did not happen Kenyan business has spawned a domestic rival. The upshot of this rivalry is that Uber has had to diversify what it offers to customers in an attempt to stay ahead of the game.

The local rival is called Little Cab, and it was launched in July this year by the Kenyan telecommunications giant Safaricom in conjunction with software firm, Craft Silicon. Evidently this is not a story of a small startup fighting a global brand, but nevertheless it is an African company ensuring market competition. Little Cab immediately set out to quell concerns over driver wages by announcing that it would only take 15% of drivers’ earnings, compared with Uber’s standard rate of 25%.

Little Cab did not end its points of differentiation there though; it also ensured that it provided free Wi-Fi in its cars, cheaper prices, and the option for female customers to request a female driver. Not only has Little Cab proved popular with consumers, it has forced Uber to alter its standard model and try to offer more to the Kenyan public. Within months of Little Cab’s launch, Uber slashed its Kenyan prices by 35%, a move that obviously benefits the taxi using people of the country.

Little Cab also allows users to pay in cash, and due to the scope of Safaricom’s telecommunications network, the service can also be used by people without a smartphone. A simple SMS can order a taxi with Little Cab, opening up the market – to an even wider number of potential users – as around 50% of Kenyan cellphone owners do not have a smartphone yet.

Moving Forward

As Little Cab continues to grow, it is likely to fuel even greater innovation from its rival, which should mean a better service for the customers. The former national minister of technology and information, and a professor of entrepreneurship at the University of Nairobi, Bitange Ndemo, highlighted the appeal of Wi-Fi in Little Cab’s cars and spoke of the rivalry with Uber saying,

“Both of them will have to look at what they are offering with bundled services in their vehicle.”

Uber claims that since its launch in Kenya, over 1 million trips have been taken by Kenyans, and that in Nairobi the service gets more than 100,000 hits a month. This is a figure that Little Cab strongly believes it will match, as Craft Silicon CEO, Kamal Budhabhatti, said that, “Little Cab aims to achieve one million rides in the next six months by entrenching and differentiating ourselves as a homegrown taxi app.”

In August of this year, drivers formed the Kenyan Digitial Taxi Association to lobby for worker rights and better pay deals. Drivers now have more leverage as they are able to simply move to a rival company if they feel the benefits are greater.

As competition for ride hailing services in Kenya steps up, if Uber want to avoid being overtaken by African innovation, they will have to work to the famous idea of “Think globally, act locally”.

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Why Forbes thinks Isaac Oboth is one of Africa’s finest young entrepreneurs

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Leaders

It seems that these days Africa is bursting at the seams with young innovators. 26-year- old Ugandan Isaac Oboth is a fantastic example of one such individual. The young man is the founder and CEO of Media 256 Ltd, one of East Africa’s fastest emerging film and television production companies. Oboth has scooped coveted awards and been recognized as one of Africa’s hottest emerging entrepreneurs. It is peculiar that many highly successful individuals have often suffered tragedy during their childhoods. Perhaps by enduring such hardships they develop uncommon tenacity and fortitude. In Oboths case, by the time he was seven years old, both of his parents had passed away. The young orphan was taken into care by his older brother Ivan, who worked hard to provide for him.

An entrepreneurial spirit

When Isaac was 16 and still attending school, his brother lost his job. Isaac said “It was a pivotal point for me, Ivan was my sole provider," Ivan could no longer afford to send Isaac to school, and asked his younger brother to start earning money. However, Isaac wasn’t going to let his education slip away easily. In his first foray into entrepreneurialism, he started making rock cakes, a fruity snack which he sold to finance his schooling. Isaac quickly devised other methods of making money. He sold photo DVD albums as well as and drinks at rugby games.

The genesis of a media master

The seeds of his current business were born because of his high school prom. He wanted a way to commemorate the special event, so he decided to produce an alumni album. However, cost was a major concern, as printing costs were astronomically expensive so Isaac decided to produce a digital album which was much more affordable. At the time, Isaac didn’t have the skills to produce the album by himself, so he hired a contractor to film photograph and edit.

Isaac was disappointed with the final product. He felt the editing was shoddy and that the photography was second rate. Despite the lack of quality, the album was popular and sold out. He realized that if poor quality media products still sold, that top quality work would be highly sought after. That’s when he resolved to go into the multimedia business. He spent countless hours learning about filming and editing by watching videos at a local internet café. He rented equipment, and after tirelessly promoting his material and searching for work, he managed to land a contract to produce a short film for the Ethiopian Commodities Exchange. The film was a success, and Isaac earned enough money to buy his own equipment.

Heavyweight clients and serious recognition

His business then grew in leaps and bounds. He offered his services for free to Coca Cola who were so impressed with his work that they signed him up for future productions. Isaac has since gone on to produce great work for the likes of the African Leadership Academy, USAID, the UNDP and the Mara Foundation. One of the companies most recognized project’s is a ten part series called Discover Uganda which aired in multiple African countries before its success saw it picked up by The Africa Channel, a US cable outlet. Today, Media 256 is a profitable fully fledged business. The team currently consists of 7 full-time videographers and editors as well as support staff, and Isaac intends to keep on growing. Forbes magazine has recognized Isaac’s significant achievements, listing him as one of Africa’s 30 most promising young entrepreneurs. He was also the recipient of the much coveted Anzisha Prize, which also awards the best young talent on the continent.

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