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Posts tagged "technology"

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)

African technology innovations are not mere gadgets.  They are life enhancing tools that contribute to a more productive economy and improvements in quality of African people.  African entrepreneurs who are leading the charge in the technological revolution are also creating  jobs and new income streams.

Here are just six examples of quality, life changing innovations from among the scores of African technology innovations that have been introduced in the past couple of years.  They come from the important economic segments of finance, healthcare, and agriculture.


Pesa Pata by Paddy Micro Investment

Pesa Pata means “get money” in Swahili.  Joyce Wangui, head of Paddy Micro oversees this big, mobile money application out of Kenya.  In a recent visit to Kenya, I sign billboards and placards on shops advertising the availability of this micro-loan facility.

Here is how it works.  A vender, normally a small shop or kiosk owner, gives a trusted client a scratch card worth between Ksh 250 ($3 USD) and Ksh 5,000 ($63).  The client scratches the card to reveal a secrete number that they then load onto their mobile phone and are credited a short-term loan in their Safaricom M-Pesa account.  They must repay the loan principle, plus a five to ten percent interest, in less than thirty days.  The kiosk owner derives income from the interest.

Such short term loans, procured in a matter of minutes, was impossible in the past.  With these short term loans borrowers buy new inventory for their roadside stand, purchase produce for resale, or pay for a prescription at the chemist – opening a whole new realm of possibilities for improving life.


The healthcare sector is getting more attention by innovative entrepreneurs.  Here are three of the most interesting African technology innovations in that space.

Teleradiology by Medisoft East Africa Ltd

Dr. Emmanuel Mukoya, Dr. Ndii Kanake and  Ruth Wangari are the brains behind Medisoft’s Teleradiology, a set of technologies that allow radiologists to remotely read medical images.  In many parts of Africa, when an x-ray or other medical image has been taken there is no guarantee that the image will be looked at by a technician or physician who is qualified to correctly read it and make a diagnosis.

Teleradiology erases the boundaries between image acquisition, reporting and referring doctors.  It speeds up the process of getting the images before the knowledgeable eyes of licensed radiologists, who live and work in the major cities of Africa.  The technicians can then provide reports and consultation services for many doctors and hospitals in rural areas or small towns.  The remote doctors can then read these reports that are forwarded to their computers in their clinical office or homes.

This application gives medical imaging centers and hospitals all over the continent the freedom to outsource interpretation services to offsite radiologists around the clock, with ease.  Patients’ lives have been saved by Teleradiology by truncating the time from scan to diagnosis.

MedAfrica by Shimba Technologies

MedAfrica is a vast, virtual library of medical information available on a smart phone.   One data set allows hospitals and clinics, even patients for that matter, to validate a doctors credentials.  Patients or rural clinicians can employ another data set to locate hospitals or physicians who provide care for specific ailments.  Doctors and other practitioners can list symptoms they have observed and a menu of possible diagnoses will be returned on the smart phone screen.

MedAfrica also contains collections of diet and drug related material.  Shimba Technologies is adding data sets regularly.

Cardiopad by Himore Medical

Marc Arthur Zang Adzaba is the Cameroonian entrepreneur who invented Cardiopad, a computer tablet that enables heart examinations like electrocardiograms (ECG) to be conducted at remote, rural locations that have never before been able to offer such crucial diagnostic tests.

CardioPad utilizes electrodes, fitted with bluetooth, that are placed on the patient’s chest sending a signal to the touch screen tablet that can then wirelessly transfers the readings to one of the few cardiologists who is normally located in the capital city.   The heart specialist then interprets the ECG and renders a diagnosis and forwards it to the nurse or examining physician who saw the patient.

Cardiopad is presently only available in Cameroon, but Himore Medical will soon market it in other African countries.  With less than a score of cardiologists in many African countries, this innovation will allow many heart patients to receive a prompt diagnosis that was a luxury that they could not receive, at any price, if they were unable to travel to an urban center.


Agriculture is the largest and most important sector of the economy in the majority of African countries.  Yet, African technology innovation in this sector remains wide open.  Here are just two innovations that are assisting product producers and marketers in Kenya.

AgriManagr by Virtual City Group

John Waibochi, CEO and founder of Kenya’s Virtual City Group, developed AgriManagr a mobile app and associated programs that assist farmers and middlemen by automating produce purchasing transactions.

AgriManagr facilitates the weighing, grading and receipting of produce gathered from farmers at rural or urban collection centers throughout the country. The app goes beyond mere record keeping to  allowing purchasing agents to pay the farmers via cashless transactions through M-Pesa accounts on their phones. The app is complete with the ability to automatically reward frequent and favored suppliers with bonuses and premium services.

Produce purchasing agents who combine AgriManagr with an electronic weighing scale can send the weight information directly to the AgriManagr app via Bluetooth technology. A complete report of the transaction, including quantity, quality of the produce, the farmer’s details, collection point, and the payment due, is sent to the purchasing agent’s headquarters which can then make payment.

Having real-time information about purchases in the field gives the headquarters an accurate understanding of how much total produce, by type, they will have available to supply to their retailers in the next day or two.

Kilimo Salama

Kilimo Salama is n example of the marriage of two essential components of modern development in Africa – technology and partnership.   This African technology innovation is a crop insurance scheme put together by UAP Insurance Company of Kenya, Safaricom Ltd. (a telecommunications company), and two crop input providers (MEA Fertilizers and seed company Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture). It scheme currently covers farmers who grow maize, wheat, beans, sorghum and potatoes.

Here is how the Kilimo Salama pay-as-you-plant system works.  A shop owner is supplied a cell phone.  When a farmer buys seed or fertilizer and wishes to purchase insurance, the shop owner scans the bar code on the products, collects an additional 5 percent of the retail purchase.  The seed and/or fertilizer company chips in another 5 percent. The combined payment is sent to the insurance company via the phone.

Farmers do not have to file individual claims.  The weather situation is monitored by 40 small weather stations that Kilimo Salama has installed throughout the country where the insurance is currently being offered. If the rains fail, or are too great, payments are automatically made to accounts that the farmers have installed on their cell phones.

In June 2012, Kilimo Salama won the Financial Times/IFC award for Technology in Sustainable Finance.

These are just a few of the many African technology innovations that are already enhancing the lives of people on the continent.  Others are being developed while you read this post.  Some of the innovations still in the development stage or ready to expand are in need of investors and expert partners.  Africa Mentor can assist parties who are interested in participating and profiting from the technology boom that is rapidly growing on the continent.