Google is attempting to make cell phones affordable for people living in six African countries. Google announced the “Hot 2″ phone, which will cost only $88, would be sold in stores in Nigeria and offered by online retailer Jumia in five other countries: Egypt, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, and Morocco.
Although the phones being released in Africa will be ‘bare minimum’ when it comes to technology in them, the company hopes that it will be a start pointing for getting more people online.
Google, Facebook and other Internet companies are trying to get more people online in places like Africa so they can expand their audiences and eventually sell more digital advertising.
As part of that effort, Google already has built a fiber-optic network to provide faster Internet access in Kampala, the capital of Uganda.
A field of triangular roofs pokes up above the horizon on the outskirts of Dakar, like a forest of wigwams that have been baked to stone under the scorching sub-Saharan sun. They sit on a triangular concrete plinth, from which bigger triangular pavilions protrude, accessed by flights of triangular steps from the dusty streets, along which triangular gutters jut out. It could be Toblerone Town, a city-sized hymn to the three-sided prism.
This mysterious complex, which looks like what might have happened if the Mayans had discovered reinforced concrete, is the Foire Internationale de Dakar, or FIDAK for short. It is a sprawling exhibition centre built in the capital of Senegal in 1975 to host the country’s biennial international trade fair – and trumpet the new nationstate’s presence on the global stage. Designed by little-known French architects Jean-François Lamoureux and Jean-Louis Marin, it is a project of obsessive and extraordinary detail. There are facades decorated with coloured pebbles and tiled mosaics, psychedelic sand art murals that evoke the rocky African coastline and its azure seas. Yet outside Senegal, this building is almost entirely unknown.
It is just one of the astounding projects documented by Swiss architect Manuel Herz, who has spent the last few years researching the architecture of African independence with his team at ETH University in Zurich. A period of bold structures and strident new forms, it is strangely absent from the recorded history of modern architecture. “There was an intense flowering of experimental and futuristic architecture in the 1960s and 70s, which the young African countries used to express their national identities,” says Herz, who has curated an exhibition of more than 80 buildings from sub-Saharan Africa, showing at the Vitra Design Museum in Weil am Rhein, Germany, until May. “But we simply don’t know about it. When people think of Africa, they think of poverty, misery and violence, while architects fetishise informality and focus on slum-upgrading. But we wanted to show this incredible cultural wealth that also exists.”
The buildings, a number of which have been beautifully shot by Dutch photographer Iwan Baan, portray a period of extreme confidence and political ambition. They are mostly the products of big, state-sponsored initiatives, from heroic parliament buildings and imposing central banks to daring universities and vast stadiums, many the pet projects of Africa’s “big man” leaders, built for propaganda purposes as much as anything else.
The Kenyatta International Conference Centre, whose pink cylindrical shaft towers above Nairobi, was initiated by the country’s first president, Jomo Kenyatta, as a lavish new HQ for his ruling Kanu party. At 32 stories, it was by far the tallest structure in east Africa until the 1990s, a big column for Kenya’s big-man chieftain. Yet its great size can be credited to an accident of international intervention. In the midst of its design, the World Bank decided it would host its 1973 annual meeting in Nairobi, and the building was chosen as the venue, forcing a growth spurt. The tower almost tripled in height, while a magnificent auditorium shaped like a closed lily-bud was also added, and mirrored by an open flower form at the top of the tower containing a revolving restaurant.
Singer Akon has launched an ambitious endeavor that aims to improve the lives of over one million people in Africa. His new initiative, “Akon Lighting Africa”, hopes to bring electricity to one million households by the end of 2014 to help promote energy sustainability and sufficiency throughout the continent. “The lack of electricity is currently a major problem in Africa,” reads the website for the campaign. “A significant number of households in rural areas and even urban cities do not have access to electricity. This is a real obstacle to Africa’s Sustainable Development.”
Akon, who is Senegalese-American, has partnered with local charities and corporations to aid in the efforts of the campaign by addressing Africa’s energy issue and installing solar equipment in households. The “Right Now” singer will travel and meet with leaders in nine countries in nine days to discuss the project including Senegal, Mali, Guinea Conakry, Gambia, Burkina Faso, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo and the Ivory Coast.
Ghana’s Grace Amey-Obeng, one of West Africa’s most successful businesswomen, made her fortune promoting products which emphasised the beauty of the black skin, at a time when many of her competitors were selling dangerous skin-bleaching formulas.
The business empire she started a quarter of a century ago with around $100 (£63) now has an annual turnover of between $8m and $10m. Her FC Group of Companies – which includes a beauty clinic, a firm that supplies salon equipment and cosmetics, and a college – has eight branches in Ghana and exports to Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Togo, Ivory Coast, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Mrs Amey-Obeng has won dozens of accolades and industry awards for her skincare beauty products and marketing. But one of the things that make her especially proud is her FC Beauty College which, since its opening in 1999, has trained more than 5,000 young people, mostly women.