10 African “Tech for Good” Startups to Watch in 2017

(Photograph — AB2020 via venturesafrica.com)

article by Vicki Hearn via venturesafrica.com

Innovators across Africa are harnessing digital technology to develop new ways of tackling social and economic challenges. From the rise of Silicon Savannah to the launch of M-PESA, the continent has a burgeoning tech sector that is driving a social tech movement that puts people before profits. These inspirational projects are making a positive difference to people’s lives in their own communities and creating social change at a national level.

For the last four years, Nominet Trust has identified and celebrated 100 different socially-motivated startups from across the globe. In our 2016 NT100, we feature some extraordinary examples of how pioneers from across Africa are using tech for good to promote education equality, economic empowerment and access to medical care.

Education equality

1.  OneUni

In Kenya, a lack of physical space at universities and the prohibitive costs of attending can be barriers to often capable students pursuing degree programmes. Daystar University in Nairobi and California startup, OneUni, partnered up to tackle this and make university education accessible to more Kenyans. Together they created Africa’s first smartphone degree programme, Daystar Mobile, where all course materials are made available through an app. They now have plans to expand the model to other African countries to reach thousands of more students, aiming to make university education more accessible across the continent.

2. Tunapanda Institute

Another venture bolstering education in Kenya is Tunapanda Institute. Approximately one-third of Kenyan children do not enrol into a high school because of financial constraints, so brothers Jay and Mick Larson created a free, open source online training programme to help bridge this digital divide. Tunapanda Institute currently delivers three-month intensive learning courses in technology, design and business, giving students access to vital skills that can act as an alternative to traditional high school diplomas. At the institute’s HQ in Nairobi, specific workshops are also held to provide girls with skills in the STEM subjects, helping address the gender gap in these fields. To date, 100 people have graduated from the programme, of whom 85 percent are in meaningful employment as a result.

3. Well Told Story

After the disputed elections in Kenya in 2007, over 800 people were killed, leaving a generation of youths feeling disenfranchised. To help get to the heart of what young Kenyan’s wanted to talk about, Rob Burnet established Well Told Story, a research consultancy which is famous for creating Shujaaz, meaning ‘heroes’ in Sheng. Shujaaz is a free, international Emmy-winning comic book that now has a monthly circulation of 500,000 and a readership that Burnet estimates to be five million Kenyans aged between 10 and 25. The content is lovingly crafted by young people based in Well Told Story’s Nairobi office and offers readers tips on everything from planting maize to contraception, information about upcoming elections and careers.Enhancing daily living

4. Lumkani

In Cape Town, communities living in deprived areas are threatened by the devastation caused by house fires which can sweep through the neighbourhood. Lumkani, which means ‘beware’ in Xhosa, was created by a group of students horrified by the danger faced by less advantaged citizens in their city, to help save lives in the event of these fires. Lumkani transmits a signal to devices within a 20-metre radius so that neighbours are aware of potential danger and can mobilise help or evacuate. Since launching in 2014, Lumkani has been installed in 7,000 homes in Cape Town, and co-founders Francois Petousis and Samuel Ginsburg say that the device has already prevented the spread of what could have been five major fires.

5. Digital Matatus

Although 70 percent of Nairobi’s population rely on the matatus – 20,000 private vans which transport people around the capital – there’s very little information available on how to navigate this seemingly chaotic system. In 2011, researchers at MIT, Columbia University and the University of Nairobi, together with design agency Upshot, began a collaborative mapping project to make sense of the matatus system to support those travelling on it. By recruiting Kenyan students to ride the matatus and log journeys using mobile and GPS, by 2015 Digital Matatus had recorded almost 3,000 stops on more than 130 routes. Since its release, the city of Nairobi has adopted the map as the capital’s official transit guide and more than 5,000 people have downloaded it online.

Economic empowerment

6. Illuminum Greenhouse

Childhood friends Brian Bett and Taita Ng’etich, whose families are farmers, set out to explore better solutions to farming after their young tomato crop was destroyed by flooding. They developed a system using low-cost materials and advanced sensor technologies to monitor their crops to prevent this happening again. When neighbours started asking them to build their own greenhouses, they founded a new business: Illuminum Greenhouses. Each greenhouse is fitted with sensors that monitor temperature, humidity and soil moisture, alerting farmers to change the settings via text messages. To date, more than 750 Kenyan farmers are using Illuminum’s technology and the pair aspires to scale the innovation so it can be deployed all over Africa and Latin America.

To read full article, go to: 10 African ‘tech for good’ startups to watch in 2017 – Ventures Africa

Colin Kaepernick Secures Cargo Plane and $1 Million in Aid via GoFundMe for Somalia

Colin Kaepernick (photo via essence.com)

article by Paula Rogo via essence.com

Kaepernick is putting his money, and power, where his mouth is

Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick continues to make philanthropic waves after securing a way to provide relief to the people of Somalia. After joining a Twitter campaign beseeching Turkish Airlines to send a cargo plane with aid, the former quarterback announced on Twitter Friday that he had secured one from the airline to bring supplies to the East African nation.

Turkish Airlines is one of the few that travel to Somalia, and the flight is expected to take place March 27.

The GoFundMe page’s goal is $1 million, a number it quickly surpassed in 24 hours.

“This is a victory for the people, this is a victory for the people of Somalia,” said Kaepernick. “It was done out of love, out of respect for these people. We wanted to bring structure to this so we’re going to use the name Love Army for Somalia. So use the #LoveArmyforSomalia. This is amazing, let’s keep building, let’s keep going.”

To see full article, go to: Colin Kaepernick Secures A Plane and $1 Million In Aid For Somalia | Essence.com

TECH: Rachel Sibande Founds M-Hub, Malawi’s 1st Technology Incubator

Rachel Sibande (photo via africa.com)

article via africa.com

Rachel Sibande is the founder of M-Hub, Malawi’s first technology hub. It is an incubator for technology startups with a special focus on building young tech entrepreneurs  by offering them training, skills development and mentorship. “M-Hub champions the development of technology solutions as its main lifeline. The hub invests its profits in social good programs that build capacities of children, girls and youth in developing technology applications. Ultimately, M-Hub wants to be the prime software solution provider in the nation and beyond, employing skills of young Malawians.”

Rachel’s interest in technology started in her school days when she found herself playing with different gadgets, radios and anything tech she could find. Later on, she studied computer science at Malawi’s Chancellors College and then sparked off her career as a programmer before diverting into lecturing and teaching. “Growing up I had a passion for gadgets. I was just curious on anything techy. I actually thought I would be a lab scientist. But I guess with time, my passion moved to computers.”

Still filled with a passion to use technology to change lives, Sibande then found herself working with development agencies like USAID, FICA and GIZ. It was around this time when Rachel got involved in rolling out Malawi’s first web-to-SMS service for the Malawi’s smallholder farmer industry. After seeing the impact technology was making in Malawi’s agricultural industry, Rachel then developed a conviction to grow this impact to other sectors.

M-Hub (photo via africa.com)

In 2012, While on a fellowship under Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Programme in the United States, Rachel was introduced to the concept of technology hubs. It was then that the conviction birthed a new vision, an incubator and cutting edge space that would be customized to suit the Malawian context.

“I wanted to see that there was a space where young technology enthusiasts were nurtured with technical and business skills through mentoring and facilitation of the hub and its members,” she recalls in one interview. “Youth are the future change makers and this is why special focus is put on training and mentoring youth entrepreneurs and tech enthusiasts. ICT skills can equip young entrepreneurs to become job creators to decrease unemployment. More ICT projects should be coordinated and implemented to improve infrastructure development and I believe once youth are equipped with these skills, they’ll see the vision and they’ll be the driving force behind change and development. It is very important that youth know their potential and are empowered to ensure that the future prosperity of their nation and continent is secured.”

To read more, go to: Meet Rachel Sibande, Malawi’s Innovation Champion – Africa.com

PBS and Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Team Up for 6-Hour Documentary Series “Africa’s Great Civilizations”

PBS

(Image via ShadowAndAct.com)

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (follow @lakinhutcherson)

According to ShadowAndAct.com, during the Television Critics Association (TCA) winter tour, PBS unveiled that it has teamed up with African-American scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. for a 3-part/6-hour documentary series titled “Africa’s Great Civilizations” which premieres on February 27, promising to bring “little-known yet epic stories to life, detailing African kingdoms and cultures.”

The official summary is as follows: “Henry Louis Gates, Jr. provides a new look from an African perspective at African history, traversing the dawn of mankind to the dawn of the 20th century. The series is a breathtaking and personal journey through history that includes evidence of the earliest human culture and art, arguably the world’s greatest ever civilizations and kingdoms, and some of the world’s earliest writing. Gates travels throughout the vast continent of Africa to discover the true majesty of its greatest civilizations and kingdoms.”

The series will air over 3 nights, Monday-Wednesday, February 27-March 1, from 9-11 p.m. ET each airing.  To see the trailer, click below:

 

Oando Foundation and Theirworld Charities Partner to Empower Young Nigerian Women and Girls Through Tech

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Mrs Adekanla Adegoke, Head, Oando Foundation with pupils of Olisa Primary School at the launch of Oando Foundation and Theirworld Code Clubs for Girls at Olisa Primary School, Papa Ajao Mushin (photo via venturesafrica.com)

article by Fumnanya Agbugah via venturesafrica.com

Global children’s charity Theirworld and Oando Foundation, an independent charity organization, have partnered to empower Nigerian girls and young women. This initiative is geared towards providing them with a unique opportunity to learn important technology skills in a safe environment through an innovative pilot project known as Code Clubs.

“With a safe space to learn and play, a mentor to inspire, and access to technology to be able to explore, create, and code we can increase learning opportunities and empower girls to fulfill their potential,” said Sarah Brown, President of Theirworld.

Despite thousands of jobs being created in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) industries across Africa, gender discrimination, lack of access to education and technology have often kept girls out of the work force. This has also made it impossible to break the cycle of poverty.

As a result of the several issues affecting the development of women in Africa, Code Club Nigeria is set to be launched ahead of Africa Code Week in collaboration with the Oando Foundation.

What is the code club?

The Code Club’s are low-cost, sustainable and scalable safe spaces where girls can be empowered by learning to code, foster creative thinking and increase knowledge and skill-set for the future.

Over 600 girls aged six to twenty-five in Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania will join the Code Clubs in its pilot phase with the aim of reaching thousands more with its self-sustaining model – where girls who have completed the course will return to mentor the next cohort of girls, with community support to augment the scalability of the project.

To read full article, go to: http://venturesafrica.com/oando-foundation-and-theirworld-partner-to-empower-nigerian-girls-and-young-women-through-ict/amp/

Godwin Gabriel Launches Moovn, a Ride-Sharing App to Compete with Uber, Lyft in U.S. and Abroad

Moovn creator and CEO Godwin Gabriel (photo via urbvangeekz.com)

article by Wilfred Ainsworth via urbangeekz.com

Ride-sharing technology has boomed into a multi-billion dollar industry within the past decade with the biggest names being Uber and Lyft.  Now a new platform, led by an innovative chief executive, looks to stake a claim in the global marketplace.  Moovn is a ride-hailing app that is currently operating in 7 U.S. cities and has plans to rapidly expand in both western and emerging markets.

Founded by Tanzanian-born Godwin Gabriel, the mobile application also operates in 3 cities in Africa: Johannesburg, South Africa; Nairobi, Kenya; and Gabriel’s home city, Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania.  In an interview with UrbanGeekz, Gabriel talks about teaching himself to code and developing the software to launch the platform. Still, he admits his beta launch was “amateurish at best” and states, “It wasn’t until we received investor backing that I was able to hire and collaborate with a team of seasoned developers to transform the platform into what we have today.”

When asked what his biggest challenges are, he says, “The market, for the most part, is currently being dominated by Uber and Lyft with these companies enjoying the benefits of having first mover advantage with the transportation technology space. However, we’re confident that the global market remains sizable enough for all of us to fit in and play.”

In fact, operating in Africa has been a smart business strategy, particularly with the rise smartphone usage across the continent. It is also a chance to do business in markets that hadn’t been explored by big name brands. “I believe Moovn is changing lives – particularly in Africa and developing markets,” he says. “For instance, drivers earn more on our platform, are reducing idle time and are able to provide and build their communities.”

Gabriel has an impressive track record climbing the ranks of corporate America. He also has an MBA from the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business. Stepping out in faith as a tech entrepreneur, he quickly realized that he had to differentiate his brand to create a competitive transportation technology platform.

Moovn sets itself apart from most ride-sharing applications because it allows the rider to pre-schedule trips up to a month in advance, instead of only being able to request one for immediate service. It also allows different vehicle options depending upon local modes of transportation, such as motorcycles and tricycles in developing economies. Other unique features include the movement of products and services from the marketplace to the consumer and the ability to enable businesses to keep track of their transport logistics.

To read full article, go to: African-American Launches Ride-Sharing App to Compete with Uber, Lyft – UrbanGeekz

Simon Petrus, a Teen from Namibia, Invents “Sim-less” and “Free-to-Call” Phone

Simon Petrus (middle) with his radio frequency phone invention (photo via venturesafrica.com)

article by Hadassah Egdebi via venturesafrica.com

The invention of a secondary school student has gotten Namibia’s social media abuzz for the right reasons. Simon Petrus has created a mobile phone that works with radio frequencies, no sim card nor airtime credit required. Calls can be made to anyone, anywhere, without interruptions, as long as they are done in an area with radio frequency.

The invention, which took two years for him to complete, was put together using scraps of old television and mobile phones, and required over $2,000 funding from his unemployed parents who sacrificed a lot to ensure their son’s project was successful.

Other than the sim-less phone, Petrus’ invention is a whole unit comprising of a working radio, television, a light bulb, a fan, and a socket. According to reports, the phone is not Petrus’ first invention, just his latest.

Last year, the young man won first place at a competition for young innovators in Namibia for creating a machine that doubles as a seed drier and a cooler. Going by the looks of things, this young man is set to clinch another gold medal in the forthcoming competition, having already won first place at the regional level for his “free-to-call” phone last Friday. “When he won last year, some judges were of the opinion that there was an engineer at home who was helping him. But the only help he has is from us the teachers here at school. He came up with his own project,” Taimi Vatileni, Petrus’s science teacher told New Era.

To read more, go to: A teenager from Namibia invents a “sim-less” and “airtime-free” phone – Ventures Africa