Featured
Category

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.”

Read more

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.

Read more

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”.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

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.

Read more

Brexit, the EU and Africa: The Ghost of the Future

Comments (0) Africa, Featured, Politics, UK

The news of the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union in June shocked the world, sending several currencies into turmoil, including some in Africa. Immediately following the announcement, the already tumultuous South African rand plummeted by 8% against the US dollar, the fastest drop since the 2008 financial meltdown. The decision, deemed the ‘Brexit’, is expected to have long term impacts upon Africa’s stance within the European Union: for decades, the UK has been Africa’s greatest ally, but with the imminent departure of the UK, Africans are worried they may be left stranded.

The relationship between the UK and Africa is complex and laden with colonial history: the legacy of the UK’s decades of imperialism is still felt in the deep racial tensions in Southern Africa, and in the education systems of West Africa. This is demonstrated through the Commonwealth, where member countries (states that were at one point occupied during British imperialism) enjoy fewer trade restrictions, trade preference and/or free trade. Without the UK negotiating and handling imports from these countries, many African countries stand to lose their beneficial relationship with the EU.

Broken Words: Trade Agreements between Africa and the EU

Of primary concern to many African leaders and business people is the future of existing contracts between their respective countries and the EU. Just one example of the potential impact of Brexit is the impending Economic Partnership Agreement between the East African Community and the EU set to take place later this month. The Kenya Flowers Association is concerned that the Economic Partnerships Agreement may not extend its current easy access to the UK, one of Kenya’s biggest flower export markets. The UK currently imports the majority of its flowers from Kenya thanks to a deal negotiate through the EU. This, and many other contracts, would have to be re-negotiated with the UK following the Brexit, which could result in less beneficial contracts for African industries.

Realistically, the EU is not Africa’s biggest trading partner– China is. Some critics say the weight being given to the potential impact of Brexit on African trade is unwarranted. Sangu Delle, a Ghanaian entrepreneur and pan-African macro-finance specialist, said that the United Kingdom has been a major supporter of Africa in EU and G8 negotiations, and has a history of pushing for deals that benefit the continent. “It was instrumental in supporting development aid being allocated to Africa,” he said, bringing up the other major concern regarding Brexit and Africa.

The End of Aid?

The UK is one of the biggest contributors to the European Development Fund, the EU’s international aid and development branch. Without the weight of the UK, many fears, the EU’s development funds may be re-directed to other African states where other members, such as the Dutch and French, have colonial-era obligations. Furthermore, without the contribution of the UK, the European Development Fund may be forced to scale-down its overall funding.

Not only would a Brexit diminish the European Development Fund’s coffers, but it would deplete Britain’s influence on global development. According to DevEx, the EU is the world’s single largest donor organization: the 28 (soon to be 27) member group provides more than half of the world’s international aid total, around 30 billion euros. Without the weight of the EU, the UK will have much less sway in terms of ‘pet projects’, or specific areas it wants to develop both in Africa and beyond.

Potential for a post-UK EU

Not all are pessimistic about what this means for the continent. Delle was quoted saying “Brexit, to me, is a warning to us all…it wasn’t about racism. A substantial segment of UK citizens feel disenfranchised– that they are not stakeholders in the new economic order. As we go about creating new African economies, we have to make sure that the economic systems we put in place don’t just create economic growth, but create shared economic prosperity.” This epitomizes the optimism that is needed to move the continent forward– both in terms of economic prosperity, and in building cohesive societies.

Delle is optimistic that whatever the outcome, African’s will prevail– they are, after all, best suited to find context-appropriate solutions. “I’ve now spent time in 43 countries across Africa. The one thing I’ve seen in every one is resiliency. No matter what the socio-economic situation, whatever hand they’re dealt, people move forward.” In a time when the world seems to be unraveling, this type of level-headed analysis and faith in one’s own people is vital. Because, no matter what the outcome of Brexit, humans will move forward as they have done for tens of thousands of years.

Read more

Water filtration device holds promise for Africa

Comments (0) Africa, Environment, Featured

A simple and inexpensive water filtration device soon will be produced in Tanzania and marketed across the continent, where tens of millions of people do not have access to drinking water.

The Waterfilter was designed for emerging nations by a group of students in India under the aegis of the nonprofit Enactus. The device is a small cistern made from clay mixed with organic materials such as coffee grounds. The cistern is heated with water inside and the organic material burns away, creating micropores that capture impurities while letting the water drip out.

According to Michael Simet, a program manager with the Germany-based Enactus, the cistern can clean about two to four liters of water per hour, removing 99.9 percent of impurities.

Enactus expects to start production of the Waterfilter soon in Kigoma, Tanzania. However, the nonprofit organization will not become the manufacturer. Instead Enactus plans to teach local residents how to make the device on their own, including an important process to achieve the right mix of the clay with other materials.

Designed by students in India

The device will sell for $28 and is expected to last about two years, meaning the average cost is just over $1 per month.

The filtration device was designed by a group of students at Delhi University’s Sri Ram College of Commerce in India, where potable water is also unavailable in many areas.

Under a project named Asbah, the student members of the Enactus SRCC Society in collaboration with the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (SRCC) set out to develop an inexpensive clay filter that could be made and sold locally. In India, potters mix readily available river sand or sawdust with clay to create the filter.

Enactus is an international nonprofit social enterprise organization of students at more than 1,600 universities in more than three dozen countries. It has about 67,000 active student members.

Millions lack access to water

Access to water is an urgent issue for many parts of the world, including much of Africa.

As the population of the continent has grown, the number of people who do not have access to safe drinking water has increased nearly 20 percent, from 265 million in 1990 to 316 million last year.

At the same time, access in sub-Saharan Africa has increased by 20 percent in the past 25 years.

African stakeholders want water supply and sanitation to be considered as part of the November Climate Change conference (COP22) in Morocco in November. They want water issues to be incorporated in climate talks.

‘’Water for Africa” launched

More than 20 foreign ministers, including 18 from Africa, issued a call for “Water for Africa” in July at climate change talks in Rabat to highlight the need to mobilize around pressing water issues on the continent.

Charafat Afailal, Morocco’s Minister in Charge of Water, said “40 percent of the African population lives under water stress and that the figure will increase to 64 percent by 2025 if nothing is done.”

Kate Bayliss, a research fellow at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London, said investment in water and sanitation infrastructure has lagged badly.

Bayliss estimated Africa would need to spend $15 billion annually to meet its development targets. Instead, she said, spending is about $3.6 billion.

Read more