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Posts tagged "technology"

Young South African Entrepreneur Designs Innovative Eco-Friendly Schoolbags.

21-year-old South African innovator and entrepreneur Thato Kgatlhanye is the founder of Repurpose Schoolbags, an incredible initiative and business venture that combines community awareness, environmentalism and women’s empowerment.

Encouraged my a university assignment, Kgatlhanye first set up a company called Rethaka with two friends, at the age of 18. Rethaka was aimed at exploring societal problems, uncovering opportunities and seeking sustainable solutions for them.

Focusing primarily on low-income communities, and in particular women and children, Rethaka’s first project is the highly creative and ingeniously designed Repurpose Schoolbags operation. Made from 100% recycled plastic bags, each schoolbag is equipped with a mini solar panel that charges when exposed to sunlight (during school walks, etc) allowing students to study without electricity for up to 12 hours. Not only does this lift a significant burden and strain off the children who use these bags and their families, the bags are enveloped with retro-reflective material that makes children more visible when walking - be it early in the morning or during the darker hours of the evening, making them much safer as they travel. 

Kgatlhanye’s commitment to community development is echoed throughout her business which employs seven full-time staff and has a management team of three - all women, with the exception of one.

Repurpose aims to continue to grow through the help of giving partnerships and future expansions. It’ll be incredible to see what more comes from Kgatlhanye and her team.

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All Africa, All the time.

Nigerian Architect Kunlé Adeyemi’s “Floating School” Highlighted in Al Jazeera Documentary.

Two years ago, this pioneering floating school in Lagos’s ‘floating’ slum of Makoko was labelled as ‘illegal’ by authorities who then threatened to demolish it. This year, the brainchild of Nigerian architect Kunlé Adeyemi has been nominated as Design of the Year by London’s Design Museum.

Adeyemi’s innovative design came about after he had had several discussions with Makoko residents about how to resolve the environmental issues that concerned the local community. His design also came about during a time where the Lagos government had been threatening to evict Makoko residents and demolish the slum.

“There are hundreds if not thousands of Makokos all over Africa,” Adeyemi says. “We cannot simply displace this population; it’s important to think about how to develop them, how to create enabling environments for them to thrive, to improve the sanitation conditions, to provide the infrastructure, schools and hospitals to make it a healthy place.

“My belief is that in developing Africa we need to find solutions that can be developed by the grassroots, through the grassroots, and achieve the same level of significance as we have on the high-end projects.”
Now, in a new documentary project by Al Jazeera that looks at unconventional pioneers in the architecture industry, Adeyemi’s floating school is brought to life in the episode Working On Water, directed by award-winning South African filmmaker Riaan Hendricks, as part of the network’s Rebel Architecture series. 
ETA: We’ll be uploaded the series after it airs on Al Jazeera so watch this space!

"Jomaa Meter" Set Up by Tunisian Group to Track Leader’s Performance.

In a similar fashion to Egypt’s “Morsi Meter" that tracked the performance of Mohammed Morsi’s short-lived presidency, the founders of the Morsi meter have helped Tunisian organization "I Watch set-up up a “Jomaa Meter" to evaluate the progress and promises of their leader Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa.

The founders of the Jomaa meter hope this initiative will help foster a greater sense and culture of accountability in Tunisian politics.

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All Africa, All the time.

In Photos: The Agbogbloshie Problem.

Waste management in many African countries is a major problem. From littering, to proper sewer disposal, many municipalities often ignore their residents needs in these areas. In fact, to blame everyday citizens as the source of these problems would not only be missing the true source of the issue, but you would also be ignoring just how useful many of the individuals and communities across Africa have become in countries were the authorities responsible have turned a blind eye to the side-effects of poor waste management. 

Ghana is one such country. Over the past several years, various images and documentaries have highlighted one particular area of the country where highly toxic waste, in the form of ill-disposed electronics from Europe, the US, India and China is dumped illegally in Ghana’s Tema Harbour and recycled, in what is also a lucrative business for some.

In what was once a wetland and recreation area, e-waste now mars the former picturesque landscape, causing mass-scale pollution in the process. Agbogbloshie is the world’s biggest e-waste site that the around 40, 000 settlers have nicknamed ‘Sodom and Gomorrah’. Most of the ‘workers’ here are young men aged between 7-25 who sift through the e-waste in search of resellable materials, such as copper, earning around $2.50. As a result of the intense and toxic labour they engage in, many of these young men succumb to a myriad of diseases such as untreated wounds, back and joint problems, damage to their lungs and other internal organs, eye issues, chronic nausea, anorexia, respiratory problems, insomnia, and worst of all, cancer.

The images above are from a photographic study carried out by Kevin McElvaney and featured on Al Jazeera’s website.

What I love most about these photos is that, whether intentionally or not, McElvaney features most of the single individual photos on a make-shift ‘podium’ (resourcefulness, once again) almost as if to say that these people are above the rubbish that surrounds them. Not only in a literal sense, but in a figurative sense, too. 

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All Africa, All the Time

Supermodel Iman Abdulmajid’s eponymous make up label IMAN Cosmetics has launched a free app to support its range of products.

Dedicated to helping women of colour find products for their skin tone, this app includes a feature that allows you to take a photograph of your face to find your perfect foundation.

Here, beauty blogger CharisseChristine23 demonstrates how to use the app for this purpose and the results seem pretty awesome.

Four African Apps I’m Loving!

Cape Town Love (FREE)
In just 24 hours, whilst on a visit to Cape Town, US-based designers Megan & Mike Gilger of The Fresh Exchange together with Over founder and designer Aaron Marshall joined forces on a collaborative effort to design a unique app that celebrates one of South Africa’s - and Africa’s - most visited cities - Cape Town.

A great way to both encourage more folks to take photos in the city, and create a unique collection of images and scenes taken all over Cape Town, whether for personal use or otherwise.

MyEdit (FREE)
Launched only last year, MyEdit was rated one of South Africa’ best mobile apps of 2013 by Bizcommunity and AllAfrica. The first of its kind in the country, this Media24 content-aggregating app brings together some of SA’s top publications all in one central place. So if you don’t have time to buy Grazia or FHM at the store, read through 9Lives or Between 10 and 5, it’s a great way to get some fresh new content weekly without worrying about getting your fave mag when it comes out.

Kalahari e-reader (FREE)
Books may be dying out in the tradition sense, but reading is for from a dying pastime. South Africa’s biggest online bookstore has now launched an e-reading app that helps you buy and instantly read your favourite local and foreign books at the push of a button.

Well, I can’t fully say that I love this app yet as it’s yet to be released on Apple devices, but I do love the idea of it. All your favourite Nollywood releases to take with you on the go in an easily accessible centralised platform. This clearly needs to happen sooner rather than later.

Cape Town-based artist Jade Paton recently launched an instagram video-centered project in which she invites folks to submit short clips of them taking moving self-portraits of themselves as a way to explore the dynamic of agency in the fast-growing wave of selfies on social media platforms.

‘In this project I hope to interrogate the idea of the selfie as the ultimate democratisation of the self portrait, where the subject has an unprecedented degree of authorship (agency) over his/her self representation. Theoretically this personalised authorship could render a previously unsurpassed degree of individuality in terms of representation, but somewhat ironically social media have resulted in an extremely homogenised approach when it comes to self-representation.

Through use of moving still images, authenticity of representation is examined. A moving still might draw in the viewer far more, making for a more immersive experience. I am interested in examining and subverting the usual relationship that viewers have with images online. My subjects will be found on the web and on the street, making this an interactive project and one that I will upload on to instagram and tumblr so that my exhibition is accessible to all of the participants.’ – Jade Paton

Submit your portraits to selfieportraiture@gmail.com.

In just 24 hours, whilst on a visit to Cape Town, US-based designers Megan & Mike Gilger of The Fresh Exchange together with Over founder and designer Aaron Marshall joined forces on a collaborative effort to design a unique app that celebrates one of South Africa’s - and Africa’s - most visited cities - Cape Town.

Recently downloaded the app (it’s free!), called ‘Cape Town Love’, on my iphone and what it does is allow you to add ‘handcrafted, city-inspired and city-specific artwork to your photographs of Cape Town’, and make it look something like the photos above.

A great way to both encourage more folks to take photos in the city, and create a unique collection of images and scenes taken all over Cape Town, whether for personal use or otherwise.

And in case you’re wondering whereabouts to go in Cape Town to get snapping, Miss Moss’ Cape Town City Guide is a great start.

Watch a short video by the creators about the story behind this app.

Discovered this neat piece of info via missmoss & we-are-awesome.

Martha Chumo, a 19-year-old self-taught programmer, was supposed to be in New York right now, honing her coding skills and mastering cutting-edge technologies in the company of fellow software enthusiasts.

Instead, she’s thousands of miles away, in her hometown of Nairobi, Kenya.

A few months ago, Chumo was accepted into the summer intake of Hacker School, a U.S.-based “retreat for hackers,” where budding programmers come together for three months to write code, learn new languages and share industry insights.

Whereas the programming boot camp was free to attend, Chumo still needed to find a way to cover her trip costs and buy a new laptop. Excited and determined, the young developer turned to online crowdsourcing platform Indiegogo for funds. She set a target of $4,200 and managed to raise nearly $5,800. All she needed then was a visa to travel to the United States.

Alas, this was not to be. As an unmarried adult who was not enrolled at university, Chumo was not eligible for a U.S. tourist visa because she couldn’t show sufficient “social ties” to Kenya to prove that she was planning to return home after attending Hacker School.*

But the U.S. consulate’s refusal only served to slightly alter the plans of this passionate coder.

"I thought if I can’t go to the hacker school, let me try to bring the school to me," says Chumo. "(Let me see) what can I do to start a school here."

Within minutes of her second visa request denial, on June 4, Chumo was calling her friends to announce that, “I’m starting a hacker school in Kenya!’

A few days later, she launched another Indiegogo campaign asking people to help her set up her own school for developers in Nairobi.

"I was so frustrated because I had applied to go to Hacker School; I got into it, I raised funds to go there, I had all these plans to read and learn for three months and then I’m not allowed to go — that’s how the idea for the school was born."

(cont. reading)

*For those who don’t know how hard the visa struggle for those of us with African passports is, this is just one of the ways that we are systematically denied opportunities. Meanwhile, tourists from many Western nations are free to visit many African countries without a visa and stay for up to 90 consecutive days in some of them.

But MAJOR props to Martha Chumo for taking up the initiative to create her own opportunities.

Feleg Tsegaye is an American-born Ethiopian who previously worked in IT at the US Federal Reserve. He recently moved to Addis to found ArifMobile, a phone and sim card rental service for tourists, and knows these challenges well.

"People aren’t always sure of the laws. They seem fluid and changing depending on who you talk to," he says of Ethiopia’s regulatory environment.

For example, only after multiple trips to the Ministry of Business to register his company did he discover business names cannot be adjectives.

Then, it took months to get an internet connection in his office thanks to notoriously slow state-owned Ethio Telecom.

In the World Economic Form’s Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013, Ethiopia ranks almost dead last.

Of 144 countries, it’s ranked below 130 in technological readiness, competitiveness, and access to financial services and loans.

Perhaps one of the reasons for such a dismal competitive environment is when it comes to technology, the government is often both the biggest competitor and biggest client.

Most large companies are either state-owned, or partially state-owned, and there is a certain degree of distrust between private and public sectors resulting in the government taking a very security-conscious approach, according to Mr Tsegaye.

"Government is the prime consumer for services in IT, but they are frustrated, in part because their policies are inhibiting private sector growth," he says.

The BBC reports on Ethiopia’s lagging technological advances, in comparison the rest of Africa, and the challenges that both citizens and businesses face in adapting to the red tape and lack of access to essential resources (Skype and other VoIP (voice over internet protocol) services are banned for business purposes) in a country where less than 1% of of Africa’s second most populous country’s 85m citizens are connected to the internet, and mobile penetration is at just 17%.

Read more.


@africatechie (Rebecca Enonchong) speaks to CNN about technology and innovation in West Africa

Africans in the technology industry on Twitter are quite familiar with @africatechie (Rebecca Enonchong) for her timely, insightful updates on technology happenings across Africa. She was recently interviewed by Robyn Curnow of CNN Marketplace Africa. Check out the interview below and share with your fellow African techies 

Cameroonian tech entrepreneur and businesswomen, Rebecca Enonchong discusses technology and innovation in West Africa.

Nigeria is running one of Africa’s biggest space programmes. The hope is the satellite-based project will help manage agricultural production, but not everyone is convinced of the benefits.

In 2003 Nigeria announced its space programme and within a few years it had launched its first satellite, which quickly lost power and disappeared from orbit.

Now Nigeria has three satellites in orbit including NigComSat-1R, built in China. It was launched in 2011 and has boosted internet and telecommunications services across the country.

Next, the Nigerians turned to Britain’s Surrey Satellite Technology, which has built two earth-observation satellites, including the top-of-the-range NigeriaSat-2, which at the time of its launch was producing the highest resolution images of any UK-built satellite.

The other part of the project involved a trained team of 26 Nigerian engineers putting together the second satellite, NigeriaSat-X.

Both satellites are now providing data to help government agencies with planning.

For example, the satellites are tracking crops and weather around the country in an effort to protect long-term food supply.

There is also closer monitoring of the oil-rich Niger Delta, where there has been massive crude oil theft and environmental damage from oil spills.

This vantage point could also be useful in the Nigerian government’s fight against militants in the north.

"We’ve just collected images over Mali, which we’ve handed over to the armed forces because we believe they will be helpful to them in the peacekeeping mission over there," says Seidu Mohammed, director-general of the National Space Research and Development Agency (NASRDA).

They attached an $8 (£5) ball lens to the handset camera lens, and used a cheap torch and double-sided tape to create an improvised microscope.

Pictures were then taken of stool samples placed on lab slides, wrapped in cellophane and taped to the phone.

They were studied for the presence of eggs, the main symptom of the parasites.

When the results were double-checked with a laboratory light microscope, the device had managed to pick up 70% of the samples with infections present - and 90% of the heavier infections.

The study has been published this week in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.

Researcher Dr Isaac Bogoch, who specialises in internal medicine and infectious diseases at Toronto General Hospital, told the BBC he had read about smartphone microscopes being trialled in a laboratory and decided to “recreate it in a real world setting”.

"Ultimately we’d like something like this to be a useful diagnostic test. We want to put it in the hands of someone who might be able to use it," he said.

"70% (accuracy) isn’t really good enough, we want to be above 80% and we’re not quite there yet," he added.

"The technology is out there. We want to use materials that are affordable and easy to procure."

Camera key

Dr Bogoch and his team, which included experts from Massachusetts General Hospital and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, said the only reason he used an Apple iPhone was because it was his own handset.

"You need the ball lens to help with the magnification - but any mobile phone with a decent camera and a zoom function will be sufficient," he explained.

The smallest eggs visible using the smartphone were 40-60 micrometres in diameter.

"From an egg standpoint that is not tiny but it’s not enormous either," said Dr Bogoch.

"The microscope was very good at diagnosing children with heavier infection intensities as there are more eggs, so they are easier to see."

Intestinal worms are estimated to affect up to two billion people around the world, mainly in poor areas.

"These parasitic infections cause malnutrition, stunted growth, and stunted mental development," added Dr Bogoch.

"It’s a big deal, a big problem."

The Western Cape is on track to establish itself as Africa’s Silicon Valley, which bodes well for the province’s drive to become a centre of business excellence, the Cape Chamber of Commerce said on Friday.

Silicon Valley is a region in California noted for its computing and IT industries. The Western Cape and Cape Town in particular are generally regarded as an attractive destination for IT companies and start-ups. This has been largely attributed to the provincial government’s support for entrepreneurial activity.

The provincial government and the City of Cape Town have invested heavily in broadband infrastructure in recent years, and analysts believe that this could further encourage start-ups and stimulate economic growth.

"The investment in broadband by the city and the provincial government will help to establish the Western Cape as a centre of business excellence and the Silicon valley of Africa," Cape Chamber of Commerce president Fred Jacobs said.

He said that in order to establish the province as Africa’s Silicon Valley, the government and the private sector had to work closely together.

The investment in broadband infrastructure by the city and the province would also encourage entrepreneurial activity, Mr Jacobs said.

He was speaking after finance MEC Alan Winde’s provincial budget speech last week. Mr Winde said the province’s broadband project would receive about R500m over the 2013 medium-term expenditure framework. This would be to deliver high-speed internet to government buildings, schools and public libraries. In the year ahead, the province would also roll out its pilot Wireless Mesh project in Khayelitsha, Mitchells Plain and Saldanha Bay.

By 2020, the plan is to have rolled out broadband to every citizen of the province — a project which will require large public investment, Mr Winde said.

The City of Cape Town has also invested R150m in broadband infrastructure and over the next seven to 10 years it is expected that the province-backed project will cost R1.3bn.

The authorities say that, in addition to improving the municipality’s high-speed data communications and making internet services widely accessible, the broadband infrastructure will be the key to driving economic growth and development. The city says affordable bandwidth is frequently cited as one of the main factors supporting investment and economic growth in developing countries. According to a study by the World Bank, 1.4% growth is recorded for every 10% increase in broadband penetration.

Technology expert and World Wide Worx MD Arthur Goldstuck said there was “no question” that the Western Cape, Cape Town and Stellenbosch in particular, were attractive destinations for young developers and entrepreneurs.

He said the investment made by the City of Cape Town and the province in broadband infrastructure would bring more skills and entrepreneurs to the Western Cape which would have positive economic spin-offs.

February 2013 will mark the first time Social Media Week takes place on the continent of Africa! Social Media Week Lagos brings together thought leaders, creatives, entrepreneurs and everyday citizens from Nigeria -and throughout the continent and the diaspora- to explore how people and organizations are connecting to share new ideas and information.
Get Involved today, Register now for social media week, Lagos http://socialmediaweek.org/

(via TechAfrica)

February 2013 will mark the first time Social Media Week takes place on the continent of Africa! Social Media Week Lagos brings together thought leaders, creatives, entrepreneurs and everyday citizens from Nigeria -and throughout the continent and the diaspora- to explore how people and organizations are connecting to share new ideas and information.

Get Involved today, Register now for social media week, Lagos http://socialmediaweek.org/

(via TechAfrica)