What is Google’s game plan in Africa? Google has ramped up its operations significantly in sub-Saharan Africa over the past few years and currently has offices in six countries across the region. Some of the services Google has rolled out in the region include: the Google Apps Supporting Programs (GASP), which facilitate online learning through Google; Wazi WiFi in Kenya that provides high-speed wireless internet at a low-cost; and a TV White Spaces pilot in South Africa, which covers large areas with broadband. In addition, YouTube is available in a number of African languages such as East Africa’s Swahili, Ethiopia’s Amharic and South Africa’s IsiZulu and Afrikaans. Google has even launched a virtual Amharic keyboard which allows Ethiopians to search for and upload videos containing Ethiopic text, eliminating a real barrier to broadcasting themselves.
A global start-up competition, Startup World that aims to find the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg and entrepreneurs building the next Facebook or Google is coming to Africa this year.This year, Startup World would be holding pitching competitions in 36 cities world-wide, including Cape Town in South Africa, Nairobi in Kenya, Dar Es Salam in Tanzania and Kigali in Rwanda.
Mobile Entertainment Africa 2012 is coming back to Cape Town August 29th/30th. Building on the success of the critically acclaimed and sold out inaugural event, MEA2012 will once again feature a superb format, top notch 5* venue and a best-in-class speaker faculty.
French mobile provider Orange is rattling feathers in Senegal. A new movement was created to protest its business practices in the region. This movement was born spontaneously on Facebook due to the many complains lodged agains the company whose phone and data contracts seem to be set up to fleece users by remaining vagues on contract details and providing minutes and data allowances with timed expiration dates. The Facebook group is called “Si toi aussi tu te sens arnaque par Orange” roughly translated to “If you too feel cheated out by Orange”. It currently has 12000 members and plan to reach 30000 in less than six weeks. Irate consumers include students, unemployed adults and workers. They are asking Orange to stop its “unjustified” billing practices, deceitful advertising, and billed customer service calls.
Yookos launches job portal for youth, targets 20 million users by year-end.The newly launched job portal is in line with the developer firm’s efforts to reach the whole population.
The jobs site, “Yookos Jobs” will connect the youth in Africa and across the world. Yookos Jobs is hosted on Yookos.com platform and features job opportunities and real time career guides focused on the youths in Africa and in the diaspora.
According to a February Opera State of the mobile web report, Egypt, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Ghana make up the top five countries with the largest mobile penetration per capita in Africa.
IT News Africa, an online news site focused on technology in Africa, has launched a quarterly ICT magazine brand named the African Innovator.The African Innovator magazine will focus on innovations in Africa and their contributions, the brains behind them and challenges facing the ICT sector and related businesses across the continent. Women influencing the sector will be listed in addition to ways of accelerating progress on achieving millennium development goals, MDG’s.
How are we all doing? Here are your ATN Tidbits for this week. By the way, I hope to count you as one of our listeners in my new weekly radio show at Coders4Africa Radio starting June 24th 2012. We will be discussing of course your weekly ATN Tidbits, discovering Coders4Africa and getting to know more of the African Developer and Geek community. It a serious but irreverent affair and audience participation is key. You can link us up on Skype at “Coders4AfricaRadio” to participate live. My prayers and thoughts are also with all the victims and their families of the plane crash in Nigeria. Now without further “Abou” here we go:
In the potentially revolutionary section: Polyvalent Wireless Communication System, a new wireless communication system patented by a Beninese researcher, Dr Victor Agbegnenou, a Togolese inventor living in France, that allows, from a satellite broadband connection, the simultaneous provisioning of telephony, internet and video (image) services without using any landline cable such as fiber optics. This invention has come through thanks to the Ka-Technologies laboratory based in Paris and headed by the inventor himself who spent ten years of research to conceive this cutting edge technology. Dr. Victor Kossikouma Agbegnenou is a veterinarian by training and graduated from the Moscow Academy and the Ecole Supérieure de Maisons-Alfort in France. He already holds four patents in the medical field, in addition to his latest patent in the telecoms field. The inventor is looking for about 10 million dollars to spread the benefits of his invention to the African continent. A Cameroonian company IdreamGroup is in charge of the commercialization of the technology and estimates that PWCS would allow African consumers to be able to afford Triple Play (High Speed Internet, Phone and Cable Television) services for about $30 US per month. Even cheaper than my own bill I would say so sign me up.Watch a report here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=751fyAvSTDc
Another worth invention, a piezo-electric sole to allow people to produce enough electricity while walking to be able to charge their cell phones or other electronics:
Senegal: Budding entrepreneurs should attend the GIST Startup Bootcamp, a two affair held on July 10th and 11th 2012 in the capital Dakar. The event is put together by CTIC Dakar(Senegalese incubator), Lions@frica, and the African Development Bank. The GIST Startup Boot Camp is an intense two day interactive training and mentoring event designed to spark innovative thinking and trigger the creation of new startup ideas among promising entrepreneurs in the ICT, energy, healthcare and agriculture sectors.
Check out DEMO Africa initiave in relation with the GIST Startup Bootcamp:Real startups are being created in Africa, developing real-world solutions, worthy of investment and global attention. In recognition of Africa’s economic emergence, the U.S. Department of State, in collaboration with Microsoft, DEMO, USAID, and Startup Weekend, is launching the Liberalizing Innovation Opportunity Nations (LIONS@FRICA) Partnership, a new public-private alliance to enhance and deepen the startup and innovation ecosystems of targeted fast- growing African economies.DEMO Africa is one of the flagship initiatives of LIONS@frica and aims to connect African startups to the global ecosystem. DEMO Africa will be the place where the most innovative companies from African countries come to launch their products and announce to Africa and the world what they have developed. The GIST Startup Boot Camp – Senegal (and potentially other African nations) will serve as an initial capacity-building effort to identify, vet, and train promising technology-based startups.
There is almost no online payment option in Senegal, little ATM card use so developing an online e-commerce platform like Ebay in Senegal (or most West African countries for that matter) is not for now. Enter Waxale, which comes from the Wolof term for “negotiate”. This startup aims to give customers the ability to set a maximum price to pay for an item they want, which will be relayed to a network of sellers by SMS and those willing to sell at that price will have the opportunity to contact the buyer to arrange for payment and delivery of the item. Ingenious and totally adapted to the Senegalese realities. Sellers will be screened by the company and rated on each transaction performed to ensure the integrity of the market place. The app is currently in private beta but I can’t wait for it to go live and see how the market reacts to it. http://vimeo.com/25668971
It’s Startup Weekend time in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire my people. It’s scheduled for July 20th – July 22nd 2012 and will feature the brightest in Ivorian entrepreneurial spirit I expect. Speakers will include Chams Diagne of Viadeo, Zohoré Lassina of Gbich, of my favorites satirical publications. I wish I was there to attend though. Maybe the 2013 edition.
The African Diaspora sends US $40bn back home every year. Some want a piece of that money. I would too. Kenyan bank Kenya Commercial Bank (operating in Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania, Rwanda and Uganda) has now launched a $475000 project called Diaspora Banking aiming to offer e-banking services to Africans in the Diaspora and East Africa.
An interesting perspective on the necessity for using Swahili to achieve commercial success in East Africa:Swahili is spoken by more than 60 million people across the entire eastern section of the African continent. It has official status in Kenya and Tanzania.“It is a very significant language for us in terms of the volumes of translation required by clients,” says Philip Zietsman, MD of the Folio Group translation consultancy. “Quite simply, if you want to tap into the thriving market of east Africa, your marketing material and packaging has to be translated into Swahili.”
A lot happening and since my schedule cleared up a bit, let’s do a quick round of what’s been happening in the world of AfricaTech.
First, this is a must read by Prof. Chukwuma Charles Soludo, titled “Will Europe Underdevelop Africa Again?“, on the inequities of the new Economic Partnership Agreements or EPAs being negotiated right now between between the EU and African Countries. The first two or three paragraphs are a summary of policy talk, it might discourage you but keep on because when Soludo comes around to his own thorough and “meticulate”(meticulous and articulate) analysis of why EPAs are a bad deal for African countries, you will most certainly find a lot of gems. It is my Pick of the Week.
An inside look at the emerging startup scene in Nairobi, by Bertil van Vugt who does a good job at summarizing the issues on the ground for entrepreneurs and investors in Kenya. It seems the whole technology industry in Kenya is undergoing a major transformation, or at least the beginning of it due to its growth.The questions I keep hearing now is “How do we make money of it?” which is different from the “How cool or useful is it that we can do this app!” from a few years ago. Signs of growth.
Kuzima, a useful app by a Ghanaian entrepreneur to hold companies accountable for the level of service by providing a public Praise or Shame feedback mechanism.
Investigative journalists from a few different West African countries(Bénin, Cameroun, Côte d’Ivoire, Gambie, Ghana, Libéria, Nigéria et Sénégal) are in Dakar, Senegal since Tuesday April 17th 2012 for a 3 day training on using the Web for Investigative Journalism put together by FAIR, the Forum for African Investigative Reporters. You can follow the updates from the conference here. Of note a presentation by Hamadou Tidiane Sy, founder of Ouestaf, a West African online news site, where he drove home the fact that credibility is the lifeblood of journalism and because of the speed of the news cycle brought about by he Web, journalists should ensure the credibility of the information they relay because once it is out, there is no going back even if clarifications or rectifications are appended later.
$1,000,000. One million dollars, that’s the amount of the monthly phone bill racked up by the now Ex-president of Senegal, Abdoulaye Wade. Again, good riddance. Like a friend of mine used to sarcastically say: “Third world? It’s the country that’s poor, the people? they are rich!”
Still in Senegal, the new president, Macky Sall, has nominated a former Senegalese expatriate in Germany, Abou Lo, as his Minister of ICT. Lo hopes to be able to perform well by using his experience in the fields, coupled with his respect for German pragmatism and the help from all of his team and the collaborators of his Ministry. Lo is a Master Degree graduate in Actuarial Science who worked in Germany as a development consultant in insurance software and is the topic of a mini-controversy right now, since it seems he renounced his Senegalese citizenship when he became German. Nevertheless and more pressing, a hot issue in Senegal that Lo even admits to being a victim of is a tax on incoming international calls imposed by the Wade government that had the population fuming. Senegal has a big diaspora community and incoming international calls dropped 15% on application of the tax. Lo said that he was too early for him to have an opinion on what would happen to the tax at this point.
Two hackers in Senegal, Pape Meissa Ndiaye and Woura Ba, risk 5 years in jail for the hacking of the Wari money transfer service and the theft of $27500.Wari has reported losing customers as a result of the incident and is asking for $40,000 in reparations.
The former prime minister of Ivory Coast and now Head of the National Assembly Guillaume Soro and 2o members of his team have completed a training on social media (Facebook, Twitter) in order to improve their outreach and communication capacities. I’ve personally seen him try his hand on Twitter. Good deal and hope he becomes as active as Alain Lobognon, who is the most socially active member of the current government.
Trend: Because of the very competitive mobile market in West Africa, the current trend for customers is to use double-SIM cell phones(French) (Nokia, Samsung and LG offers a number of these models) that effectively allow you to carry two numbers from two different carriers . This might seem foreign to US residents who are used to the 2-year long term contracts of the American market but in Africa, and the rest of the world, mobile markets are a lot more fluid. In West Africa, the mobile market is dominated by prepaid, and operators are always running promotions to entice customers to switch. Having a double-SIM cell effectively allows customers to save on their communications and all levels of society are cashing in on the deals. Chinese phone models are in hot demand because of their cheap prices, you can score a double-SIM card for as little as $30, with higher end phones with MP3 players, cameras and FM radio going for $60. Customers nevertheless complain of the short battery life these phones suffer from.
African domain names are still having a hard time taking off. Where France has 2 million registered .fr domain names, Mali counts 400, Burkina Faso 1000, Cote d’Ivoire 2000 and Senegal 4000. This is due in part to the registration process being more cumbersome and expensive for certain countries whereas generic names (.com and .net) are processed in a matter of seconds and are definitely cheaper.
Afriapps developer Andrew Mugoya is back at it again with a new book offering some designing help to app developers. Titled “Help! I am a developer with no clue about design”, the book aims to help developers integrate minimal design elements to make their apps acceptable not only to the Afriapps app store but also potentially the Android Market. Mugoya draws from his experience running Afriapps and having to reject badly design apps to offer tips that will ” will not turn developers into killer designers, but they will hopefully ensure users are not turned away from apps/sites due to woeful designs”. In combination with my previous post about website design tips for the African market, it’s a general consensus that in African software development, design if very often given the last place whereas it is a crucial element in making a product successful when well exploited. I would definitely encourage developers to read and learn from both sources in order to better their product and make them more competitive.
Konza City is a foray into the future, and the intention here is to create a 2000 hectare (~7.7 square miles for the metric system challegend readers), $7 billion technopolis 60KM from downtown Nairobi and 50KM from Jomo Kenyatta International airport on a clean sheet site based on successful new town projects around the world put together by an international team of experts, drawing on best practice from places such as the UK, China and Brazil to ensure global competitiveness. Konza City will provide the best ICT infrastructure in Kenya, and probably in Eastern Africa and will also function as a business center with excellent transport and communication links. The city layout will include a modern transport infrastructure, a BPO technological park, a business district, a science park, a university campus and overall, green and open spaces. The city will be developed in 4 phases to allow phased development permitting rapid growth whilst ensuring that the civic amenities and infrastructure grow with the population’s needs.
Konza City is at the center of the vision for the Silicon Savannah and if this vision comes to fruition, it will truly be an achievement to celebrate and to emulate, especially in Western Africa. We don’t lack blueprints, 3d renderings and visualizations for grand brand new projects from our “leadership” when they are campaigning or when they just take power, but more than often, they stay at that stage so I remain skeptical with a see it to believe it attitude but in ICT, Kenya as already proven its dedication to investing in this sector so with plans finalized this past summer and firms currently looking for projects to invest in, i am confident that Konza City will see the light of the day and not suffer the fate of a similar technopolis president Wade had presented in Senegal who last I heard, was morphed into a traditional wrestling mega-arena…
I’d like to direct you to this article by Mariska Du Preez titled “Mobile Technology: a comparative view between Kenya and South Africa“. Some hard numbers are given from research on the mobile market in both coutries, as well the state of the developer communities. With populations roughly equal (42 M Kenyans to 50M South Africans) mobile penetration is way ahead in SA (84 % to 56%), and what’s interesting was the labor force statisticsw which reveals that for all the advances and investment made in ICTs Kenya is still primarily an agriculture driven economy with a labour force composed of 75% of agricultural workers compared to 25 % of mixed Industry and Services. This highly contrasts with South Africa where only 9% of the labour force comes from agriculture while Industry by itself brings 26% of the force and services a whopping 65%. Interestingly both countries have about the same ratio of internet users (4.2M to 6.8M) and data is substantially cheaper in Kenya while smartphone penetration is still weak.
Du Preez makes some interesting parallels about the developer communities in both countries, for example:
Lots of young Kenyan obtain their degrees overseas and bring those skills back home
South Africans on the contrary obtain their degrees locally then go overseas to gain international experience
Kenyan developers are very “local solutions/socially” oriented while South Africans are more commercially and internationally driven. Erik Hersman founder of iHub in Nairobi dubs a globalized/regionalized focus amd gives Kenya an edge in mobile, not web innovation.
Kenya smartphone penetration is very weak, so most developers develop for feature phones. Telling statistics, Mocality, a business listing app with 67000 member accounts about 2% of combined Apple RIM and Android usage (150 000 member businesses and 21% Android traffic as of November 2011 thanks to a clarification from Stefan Magdalinski).
Update 12-13-2011: As Stefan Magdalinski remarked out in the comments, take the stats with a grain of salt as they date from 18 months ago as of December 2011 and Kenya is a rapidly changing market. He also pointed out that Mocality now has 150000 member businesses and sees 21% traffic from Android devices as of November 2011
620 million cell phone connections in Africa corresponding to six out of 10 of the continent’s inhabitants.
Africa is home to one billion consumers, over 60 per cent of who use mobile phones
Mobile penetration is unevenly distributed, Sudan hovers in 45% while Ethiopia(??!!) drags at 10%
Consumer spending in Africa has increased at a compounded annual rate of 16 per cent for the last few years, and within the next five years, around 220 million Africans will be joining the middle class.
By 2020, it is estimated that there will be 128 million households making $5,000 or more a year (Shopping by choice level), up from about 85 million now
Africa will have the world’s largest working age population by 2040, this means a large cohort of young that marketers covet.
According to the GSM Association, Africa is now second only to Asia in terms of mobile penetration, growing 20 per cent annually over the past five years.
90 per cent of Tunisians have a mobile phone, and the market is shared between three mobile operators, two of which operate a 3G network.
There is a high uptake of smartphones in various countries across the continent such as Egypt, Kenya and South Africa.
There is a trend in Social Benefit apps, examples include the “iCow” app, an SMS-based mobile phone application specially developed for small-scale dairy farmers; “Maisha,” a child health App for expectant and first-time mothers and “Get H2O,” a game that allows users to negotiate issues of chronic water shortage
At the same time, in countries like South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Tunisia and Egypt, apps exist as convenience tools and for entertainment value i.e “iWarrior” a game where you protect your village from wild animals; apps on African tribes and apps on African wildlife.
There are also apps that look to improve on the ease of business in Africa such as Google Trader, Soko, Kopo Kopo and many more. These apps act as classifieds, linking up potential business partners, assist in transactions or offer information. They boost development and promote business growth.
South Africa stands as the Sub Saharan leader in App Development because of its highly developed business sector, the diversity of its local market and its well-established IT sector.