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East African Breweries to make more cheap beer as taxes rise

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya’s East African Breweries Ltd (EABL) expects a hike in beer excise duty to hit demand in its home market in the coming months and will raise output of a lower-taxed cheap brand in an attempt to offset the impact, its CEO said on Friday.

Last month, Kenya lifted the excise tax by 43 percent to 100 shillings ($0.9785) per liter of beer, driving up retail prices by at least 20 shillings per bottle.

“Kenyan consumers are incredibly price sensitive so moving up by 20 shillings is a big deal,” said Charles Ireland, group CEO of EABL, which is controlled by Britain’s Diageo.

The hike in excise duty, designed to shore up government revenues, was the first one in four years.

“I would prefer that we saw a more regular increase which was smaller rather than an irregular increase, which is bigger, because I think the impact for consumers and the trade would be more manageable,” Ireland said.

EABL plans to boost the output of its cheaper Senator Keg beer, which is taxed at a rate of 10 shillings per litre, to offset the impact of the taxes on mainstream and premium beers.

Sales of Senator Keg, which is dispensed in mugs from barrels in bars, recovered during the company’s fiscal first half to December, after the government rowed back on a 2013 decision to tax it at the same rate as mainstream beers such as Tusker.

“We have got some additional capacity coming online so we will be able to sell more Senator into the market in the (fiscal) second half,” Ireland said.

Beer exports into South Sudan, which plummeted 74 percent in the first half due to civil conflict, were not expected to rebound soon, the chief executive said.

“The outlook is bleak. I don’t think that South Sudan will improve in the short-term,” he said.

EABL boosted its interim dividend by a third, as net debt fell and the company generated more cash, and Ireland said it would keep rewarding shareholders if profit growth was maintained.

First-half profit after tax from operations rose 16 percent as sales grew and net finance costs dropped by 38 percent.

“I hope it will continue, and if it does, we will be kind of looking to make sure our shareholders benefit from that performance,” Ireland said.

“We are getting into a decent shape from a balance sheet perspective.”

($1 = 102.2000 Kenyan shillings)

 

(By Duncan Miriri. Editing by Mark Potter)

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Kenya’s current account deficit to fall: central bank

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya’s current account deficit will fall in 2015 and 2016 and the country’s economy will be supported by macroeconomic stability and low oil prices, its central bank governor said on Thursday.

Patrick Njoroge said the current account deficit was forecast to fall to 8.5 percent of gross domestic product in 2015, from 10.4 percent the year before, and narrow further in 2016.

The currency of the East African country is expected to remain stable after losing 11 percent of its value against the dollar in 2015, he told a news conference.

“We are now closer to the fundamentals,” he said, citing the narrowing current account deficit.

The central bank kept its benchmark lending rate at 11.5 percent on Wednesday, saying its current stance was adequate to dampen inflation.

Njoroge said that high commercial bank lending rates, at above 17 percent in December, were “troubling” but that liquidity was now evenly distributed among banks after getting skewed following the collapse of one bank.

Njoroge said he was open to “real” dialogue with shareholders of Imperial Bank – under receivership since October – and reiterated the fate of the bank will be clearer in March.

 

(Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Writing by George Obulutsa; editing by Edith Honan and Toby Chopra)

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Kenya’s new car sales jump 12.86% in 2015:

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya’s new car sales increased by 12.86 percent last year to 19,524 units, the Kenya Motor Industry Association said on Monday.

Rita Kavashe, who chairs the association, told Reuters in November that growth was driven by demand for light trucks used to distribute goods and carry construction materials.

 

(Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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Kenya aims to cut external, fiscal deficits

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya’s economy is expected to grow 6.1 percent in 2016 and the government wants to trim ballooning budget and current account deficits to steady the economy, its finance minister said on Thursday.

Kenya, East Africa’s biggest economy, set a budget deficit target of 8.7 percent for the 2015/2016 fiscal year starting July, unnerving some investors who were also uneasy about Kenya’s current account deficit, which stood at above 8 percent.

The current account deficit was fuelled by a growth of imports like oil and consumer goods which was not matched by growth in exports. The budget deficit swelled due to increased spending on infrastructure projects and local government units created in 2013.

Officials and investors say the government has to deal with the deficits to boost investor confidence and stave off instability in the currency and borrowing rates. The shilling lost 11 percent against the dollar in 2015, but faired better than most African currencies.

Finance Minister Henry Rotich said the global slump in the price of crude oil had helped the country’s current account deficit to improve due to a lower import bill.

“With the measures we are taking to cut the fiscal deficit, the twin deficits will obviously go down,” he told Reuters by phone.

“We are aiming at around 6.5 percent (current account deficit) and also getting our fiscal deficit, including grants, coming down to about 4.5 percent.”

The Treasury wants to start attaining those targets from the next fiscal year and into the medium-term, Rotich added.

He said Kenya was reviewing all government ministries’ expenditure plans for this fiscal year with a view to cutting unnecessary items and reducing borrowing.

“By the end of this month we will have known what savings we are likely to achieve from the exercise,” he said, adding the measures will be contained in a supplementary budget to be taken to parliament for approval.

Growth was expected to be 6.1 percent this year, slightly up from last year’s projection of about 5.8 percent. Rotich said growth will be driven by public investments in infrastructure, a recovery in tourism and farming.

“We are still seeing infrastructure supporting the growth. Construction remains strong. We see recovery of tourism boosting that. With the favourable weather, we see agriculture will also be strong,” he said.

The government is investing in a Chinese-built 327 billion shilling ($3.2 billion) modern railway, tarmac roads and power plants. Tourists have started to return to the country’s beaches and game reserves after key Western markets like Britain lifted travel warnings.

The warnings had been put in place after a string of attacks by al Shabaab militants from neighbouring Somalia.

Rotich said the main risks to Kenya’s growth outlook were global developments including any slowdown in the Chinese economy, the direction of the oil price and U.S. interest rates.

“The risks continue to be external developments. It has become difficult to get a full feel of forecasts for global economic developments,” he said, adding the main risk at home was any adverse weather like poor rainfall.

 

(By Duncan Miriri. Editing by Drazen Jorgic)

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The central banker Kenyans trust with their cash

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya’s central bank governor has yet to complete six months in the job but he has done what few of his country’s officials ever achieve: he has made people feel their money is safe in his hands.

This is less because of Patrick Njoroge’s success in stabilising the plummeting shilling and more to do with his shunning the fleet of luxury cars and the plush villa that come with the post, the kind of perks widely seen as motivating most public servants.

In Africa, people are more used to “Big Men”, who are in office for personal gain. Kenyans use the term “eating” to describe how officials and their kin gorge from the trough of public funds, until they have to hand over to the next guy.

In a nation where many live in villages without mains electricity or proper roads, members of parliament are paid about $94,000 annually, dwarfing the average Kenyan’s $1,290 a year.

“The ‘Big Man’ syndrome – in which the only way to show who I am is by flaunting all the possessions that I have – is kind of dangerous,” said Njoroge, 54, a member of Opus Dei, a Catholic group that encourages those who join to live saintly lives in their everyday work.

For much of an interview with Reuters at the central bank on Tuesday, the Yale-educated banker who was appointed in June rattled off explanations of how monetary policy was anchoring inflation, steadying a currency that was “dropping like a stone” and laying the basis for sustained economic growth.

But he politely and carefully fielded questions about what he called his “simple life”, which has fascinated Kenyans more used to a daily diet of stories about corruption in high office.

“At least we can trust him because he is not there for personal gain,” said James Mwangi, 27, a car salesman, chatting over a beer in a Nairobi bar. “I believe our money is safe.”

When parliament grilled the former International Monetary Fund adviser for the job, questioners focused mostly on his celibacy – a commitment a fellow Opus Dei member says he made on joining the group – and other aspects of his lifestyle.

“The perception that he can’t be bought and, yes, turning down the perks was impressive to Kenyans,” said John Githongo, one of Kenya’s most prominent anti-corruption campaigners.

But Githongo said it was too early to judge his policies. “He’s ex-IMF, not an institution associated with success in Africa,” Githongo said, referring to the Washington-based body’s reputation among critics for pushing liberalising policies in Africa that they say hurt the poor the most.

 

PROMPT ACTION

Yet Njoroge has won praise from many in Kenya’s finance community. “The tone he has set has been remarkable,” said Aly Khan Satchu, a private investor and financial analyst.

As well as raising interest rates to curb inflation expectations and helping to stabilise the currency, he ordered the liquidation of a small bank and put another lender, mid-tier Imperial Bank, into receivership when massive fraud was uncovered. He did this less than four months into the job.

“Flexibility, being nimble is essential,” the governor said.

When tight monetary policies appeared to starve smaller banks of funds after the Imperial Bank case, the governor reversed course by providing the money markets with more funding, a move welcomed for its promptness.

“Policy makers here … tend not to adjust quickly enough,” said Satchu, alluding to Njoroge’s predecessor who was blamed in 2011 for failing to raise rates quickly enough as inflation rocketed to almost 20 percent and the shilling plunged.

Heavy rains sent food prices soaring and pushed Kenyan inflation to 7.32 percent in November, but it remains within the government’s preferred band. Njoroge said core inflation was slipping, which suggested the headline rate would fall.

“I wish I could say something about controlling the weather,” said the governor.

He joined thousands on a rainy day last month for Mass celebrated by Pope Francis on his first tour of Africa, which began in Nairobi. Njoroge enjoyed one privilege of office: he was in a tent with dignitaries, not under the open skies.

But he has shunned other benefits. Entitled to a Range Rover, Mercedes and VW Passat as governor, Njoroge turns up at events in the cheapest, the VW. “Why not stick to one car?” the governor said, without mentioning the model.

Instead of moving into the governor’s official residence in Nairobi’s smart Muthaiga district, he lives with other members of Opus Dei and donates a portion of his salary to charity, said Andrew Ritho, who works in Opus Dei’s communications office in Kenya.

“You live the way you want to live,” Njoroge said. “Whether the people see it or not, that is secondary.”

 

(By Edmund Blair and Duncan Miriri. Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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Kenya’s private sector activity picks up in November

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenyan business activity expanded at a faster rate in November than the previous month, driven by a rise in domestic demand, a survey showed on Thursday.

The Markit and CFC Stanbic Kenya Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) rose to 53.7 last month from 51.7 in October, climbing further above the 50-point line that denotes growth in business activity.

The PMI is one of the indicators watched by the central bank’s Monetary Policy Committee.

“After a tough couple of months of growth, the private sector rebounded quite impressively in November, buoyed by a recovery mainly from output and employment,” said Jibran Qureishi, regional economist for East Africa at CFC Stanbic.

A steady exchange rate for the shilling, which has stabilised at about 102 to the dollar after weakening to near a record low around 106 in September, reduced the cost pressures facing firms.

“The encouraging aspect of this month’s PMI report is the indication of growth being driven largely by domestic demand as suggested by the rise in new business orders despite new export orders stagnating,” Qureishi said in the statement.

The CFC Stanbic Kenya PMI was started in January 2014.

 

 

(Reporting by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Edmund Blair and Hugh Lawson)

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Most depositors in Kenya’s Imperial Bank to get cash back

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Latest Updates from Reuters

NAIROBI (Reuters) – Kenya’s central bank said on Wednesday that almost 90 percent of depositors in Imperial Bank, which was taken into receivership in October because of fraud, would receive their full deposits back.

Governor Patrick Njoroge told a news conference the private shareholders had said they were “interested in recapitalising” the bank but had not presented a plan till now to allow it to re-open, so liquidation was still an option.

 

(Reporting by Drazen Jorgic; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Duncan Miriri)

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Profiles of 5 Promising Kenyan Startups

Comments (0) Africa, Business, Featured

nairobi

Following up on our article about the blossoming startup scene in Nairobi, Kenya, we’ve compiled a list of 5 promising Kenyan startups with a quick description of what they do.

 

1. iCow

iCow is an Agricultural Information Service SMS mobile phone application designed to help enhance the productivity of small-scale dairy farmers in Kenya. Aiming to help rural communities and farmers by giving them knowledge to develop as both farmers and businessmen, each farmer enters personalized details about their cows – whether that may be five or 500 – before receiving text messages and voice prompts with tailored instructions about the breeding and production patterns of their livestock. It helps farmers manage their stock and tackle challenges by tracking the estrus stages of their cows, providing the cost per liter of milk produced by their animals, helping them find the nearest vet and AI providers, and by giving information on breeding, nutrition, milk production efficiency and gestation, fodder production, hygiene and animal diseases. Following the 365-day cow cycle, farmers are assisted year round in making informed decisions and reducing risk.

The app runs on even the most basic mobile phone, and each text message costs about 10 Kenyan shillings, or $0.10.

 

Zatiti

2. Zatiti 

Launched in 2013, Zatiti is a web platform which helps entrepreneurs create e-commerce websites (which are M-PESA compatible). 81% of sellers in Kenya are looking for a mobile e-commerce solution to reach the 98% of Kenyans who access the web through mobile devices, but coders and developers are hard to find. The Zatiti platform requires no technical expertise from customers, handling everything from set-up to the design of customized themes. And clients can easily update their platforms with the website builder’s simple content management system. Empowering entrepreneurs, users can also monitor revenue and sales orders, and receive messages through the service.

Zatiti charges a 2% transaction fee and a monthly subscription fee depending on type of plan, along with offering premium templates, increased storage space, and increased product variety.

soko

3. Soko

Soko is a mobile driven e-commerce platform that enables artisans to engage with the international marketplace, even if they lack access to the internet or a bank account. In a similar mold to Etsy, Soko works with artisans to create modern, ethical jewelry, handmade from sustainable materials, and then helps them to sell their products to a global audience of brands, retailers, and online customers around the world. Its niche: all that can be done via only SMS. An SMS entry form allows artisans to create online storefronts, profiles, and upload images. As they text the information is transcribed as metadata which is automatically uploaded to the Soko website. It uses a peer recruitment model whereby store owners recruit and mentor new sellers. Soko says: “With our tools, any talented artisan can participate in the global marketplace, becoming a driver of social and economic development in their community.”

Based in Nairobi, so far the company has 12 employees around the world, about 250 artisans currently featured on the site, and has raised close to $1 million in seed funding.

m-farm

4. M-Farm 

M-Farm is a SMS mobile phone application, compatible with even basic mobile phones, which aims to empower African farmers. M-Farm cuts out the middle man by connecting farmers directly with buyers. It provides them with real-time food pricing information, allowing them to sell their produce at much fairer prices. Making small farmers more visible, it offers a group selling tool where farmers can team up to bring their accumulated produce to drop off points and the SMS system then promotes what they have to sell. And it offers a group buying tool, allowing farmers to pool resources to get better prices for things like fertilizer. Kenyan CEO and founder Jamila Abass says she founded MFarm in 2010 after reading about how farmers have been “oppressed for decades and disconnected in terms of information”.

A SMS for a single crop is the cost of a text message. The company counts nearly 17,000 users in Kenya, and projects one million by the end of next year.

sokotext

5. SokoText

SokoText uses mobile phone text messages to aggregate demand for food in Kenyan slums and unlock wholesale prices for micro-entrepreneurs. The company says “Small-scale vegetable sellers and kiosk owners are the gatekeepers and key players of food accessibility in urban slums. Yet a lack of capital means that they cannot afford to buy in bulk and pay to travel long distances to markets every day to buy just enough stock that will help them get by. SokoText leverages the widespread and increasing use of mobile phones in slums to solve these problems. With SokoText, they can boost their business while becoming the key agents that empower people living in the slums to eat better and healthier.”

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Kenya’s Tech Renaissance: Nairobi Set to Become Africa’s Key Technology Hub

Comments (2) Africa, Business, Featured

nairobi

Mobile and internet penetration, a mobile economy, developing tech ecosystems, and government support are set to make Nairobi Africa’s key technology hub.

Over the last half-decade, Kenya has rapidly developed into a country of digital innovation, and its capital Nairobi, dubbed Silicon Savannah, looks set to become Africa’s key technology hub. With a fast-growing urban economy and a young and digitally savvy population, it is already easier to pay for a taxi by mobile phone in Nairobi than it is in London or New York. Since 2002 Kenya’s technology services sector has grown to more than £300 million (2013) up from just £11 million. And VC funding for African startups, which hit more than $400 million in 2014, is projected to grow to at least $1 billion by 2018. Google, Intel, Nokia, Vodafone, and Microsoft have already opened sites in Nairobi. And IBM has chosen the city for its first African research lab (a $100 million Innovation Centre).

A mobile economy 

At root, this technology renaissance has been spurred by mobile phone penetration. Back in 1999, Kenya, as with most of the Africa region, had a rudimentary telecommunications infrastructure and counted only 300,000 landline telephones. Over the last decade, it has proved easier and cheaper for the country to bypass the analogue age entirely and instead move directly to installing mobile phone networks. Mobile phones are also easily accessible, cheap, and practical, especially when compared with a computer. And unsurprisingly in just a few years mobile phone penetration in Kenya has grown from less than 20% to 85% (it’s 89% in the US).

At the same time, Kenya lacks a traditional banking infrastructure. Until recently, for example, the high proportion of Kenya’s urban population working to support family members in the countryside relied on hand delivery or sending cash through bus drivers. And the combination of these two elements has created the perfect setting for a mobile payments-based economy.

In 2007, state-owned telecoms company Safaricom launched M-PESA, the SMS-based money-transfer system (pesa is Swahili for “money”). Converting even the most basic phones into roaming banking devices, M-PESA spread at speed. And by 2012, more than 17 million Kenyans (70% of the adult population) were using mobile payments, the highest percentage of any country in the world. Now more than $320 million dollars are transferred via Kenyan mobile phones each month as huge swathes of previously unbanked customers join the digital economy. Safaricom also sells solar-powered charging equipment to expand the market.

mpesaGovernment support

With a 40% unemployment rate to solve, the Kenyan government is also supporting the country’s technology renaissance, determined to leverage the opportunity to create jobs and drive sustainable economic growth for the next generation.

In 2009, the East African Marine system, backed by the Kenyan government, laid a 5,000 km fiber-optic undersea cable linking the coastal town of Mombasa with the UAE. And since this time, internet penetration has grown to just under 67% of the population. This is a significant growth from 2010 when internet penetration was around just 14%.

It has created a fertile marketplace for e-commerce and tech businesses, in which the government continues to invest. In 2013 the government formed an Information Communication Technology (ICT) Authority. It laid out a policy roadmap, Vision 2030, focusing on digital infrastructure (e.g. a new fiber-optic network). And it is currently building a multi-billion dollar “techno city” called Konza with aims to create 200,000 jobs by 2030. Located 60 km south of Nairobi, a 2,000-hectare plot will offer office parks for science and technology firms, a university, retail outlets, and residential facilities. Tax breaks are also being offered to companies willing to move to the new city.

A tech ecosystem

A tech ecosystem is also starting to emerge. Where traditional ecosystems may be lacking, Silicon Savannah is filling the gap with innovation hubs and accelerators. The trend has been led in part by Ushahidi co-founder Erik Hersman who considers the future of tech in Kenya reliant on hubs to bring together technology entrepreneurs, young programmers, creative professionals, and investors, along with their ideas and innovation. “Hubs in major cities with a focus on young entrepreneurs… Part open community workspace (co-working), part investor and VC hub and part idea incubator. The nexus point for technologists, investors, [and] tech companies,” says Hersman. Ushahidi established the iHub innovation Centre in 2010, and since then it has been part of creating 152 startups and counts 15,000 members. iHub has also partnered with the ICT Authority on several initiatives, has hosted speakers including Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer, and has driven an upsurge in different types of innovation hubs across the continent.

Accelerators are also part of the emerging ecosystem. A particularly successful example is Nailab, which launched in 2011 to work with early stage globally scalable startups. So far it has incubated 30 companies, and in 2013 it partnered with the government to launch a $1.6 million technology program providing entrepreneurs with access to capital, education, and contacts within the industry. Tech competitions are also emerging. For example, the IPO48 startup competition brings together over 100 Kenyan entrepreneurs, programmers, designers, and project managers at a time, to build a new mobile or web service over the course of two days.

In Kenya, the stars of mobile and internet penetration, a mobile economy, developing infrastructure, and government support have aligned, and there are great opportunities ahead. And as its global reputation for innovation continues to grow, the country has the chance to future-proof itself both as an economic driver and Africa’s key technology hub.

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African Solutions to African Problems: Ushahidi is Taking the Internet to the Next Five Billion

Comments (1) Africa, Featured, Leaders

Ushahidi's BRCK

Representing a new frontier of innovation in Africa, non-profit technology collective Ushahidi is developing African solutions to African problems

“If it works in Africa, it will work anywhere,” is the motto of Ushahidi, a Kenyan non-profit technology collective which designs and builds open source software and digital tools to help people in the developing world.

Indeed, while in the West technological possibilities are being stretched to their bounds, across Africa something as seemingly straightforward as an Internet connection is unreliable. Figures from the East African Community (EAC) suggest 90% of schools and 30% of hospitals are still off-grid. Only 24% of the developing world is connected to the internet. And, as Ushahidi comments, “power spikes and outages are everyday occurrences in Nairobi and across Sub-Saharan Africa, no matter your income level”. But in a region lacking adequate roads and clean water, developing reliable Internet connectivity is simply not a priority for governments.

There are a number of Western companies working to solve the problem – and at the same time bringing their products to the world’s next five billion Internet users. For example Google has ProjectLink Uganda and LoonBalloon, and Microsoft is experimenting with the TV White Spaces spectrum. But Ushahidi has developed an African solution that really might solve the African problem.

The Internet back-up generator BRCK

Designed to be an “internet back-up generator”, Ushahidi has developed BRCK, a piece of hardware that offers rugged and reliable connectivity. Working like a phone, it can be used in any area that gets mobile signal, as it works by intelligently and seamlessly switching as per the need between the strongest network types in the vicinity (broadband, Ethernet cable, Wifi, CDMA, and 3G or 4G mobile phone networks). It supports up to 20 wireless connections at a time. And it also has up to 16 gigabytes of storage space and a BRCK Cloud connection so it can serve as a back-up server and sync with connected devices and cloud applications.

Designed to face Africa-specific environments, the portable hardware handles the heat and dust of even the most demanding environments. And while it connects to the mains, is also comes with about 8 hours of power back up, can be charged via a car battery, or plugged to a solar charger, combating the region’s lack of reliable energy sources.

“As the next 4.5 billion people (65% of the world) start coming online, the need for rugged, reliable, and simple connectivity becomes critical in places with poor infrastructure and limited resources. While existing technologies work well in modern cities, the demands of emerging markets necessitates a rethinking of how technology is engineered, packaged, delivered, and supported. BRCK was conceived in exactly this type of environment. In particular, our struggles in Africa with reliable connectivity inspired us to rethink the entire concept of rugged internet access device – designing the world’s first go-anywhere, connect-to-anything, always available internet device,” says Ushahidi.

Ushahidi driving innovation in Africa

Indeed, Ushahidi, which is part of the thriving Kenyan tech start-up scene – nicknamed the Silicon Savannah -, developed BRCK as a solution to its own problems. “As a company full of engineers working in places with poor infrastructure, we simply couldn’t get connected as reliably as our peers in the developed world”.

Ushahidi designed and developed BRCK with $172,000 raised on Kickstarter. And in doing so, pushed another frontier of innovation in Africa. Crowdfunding is a relatively new phenomenon in the region, but Ushahidi’s Kickstarter success has kick-started crowd-funded entrepreneurship and innovation.

UshahidiExpanding technology’s reach

Co-founder Ory Okolloh, previously Google’s policy manager for Africa and named by Forbes as “one of the most influential women in global technology”, is committed to bringing the benefits of technological innovation to Africa. The company’s first project, for example, was a location-based crowdsourcing crisis-tracker map developed in the wake of Kenya’s 2007 post-election violence. Empowering individuals to document and report incidents in real time, the software allows users to text, email, tweet, or photograph information which is then plotted on to a map. The idea is that media, governments, and relief organizations can see a live picture of what’s happening on the ground and can target responses in real-time. The map has since been used in India during the 2008 Mumbai attacks, during the Haiti earthquake in 2010, and in Japan during the tsunami in 2011. It has also been used to log medicine shortages across Africa and reports of violence in the Middle East.  The company takes its name from this piece of software; “Ushahidi” means “testimony” in Swahili.

And the company is currently expanding its reach with the launch of a digital classroom – the Kio Kit. Ushahidi explains: “You open a box and there are 40 tablets inside, there is a BRCK inside and on the BRCK there is a Linux [open-source] server — so we can locally cache educational content, and serve it up to the tablets.” Ever prepared for the African environment, the modem is in a watertight, hardened-plastic wheeled suitcase and acts as a wireless charging station.

African solutions to African problems has become a bit of a catchphrase, but the impact of socially motivated entrepreneurs could have huge implications for the technological development of the region.

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