African Tech News Tidbits – Week of August 12th 2012

Google Africa
Google Africa

As usual don’t forget to check out the podcast of the African Tech Weekly over at Coders4Africa Radio. We are now available on iTunes and soon in the Zune store. If you are doing something interesting in technology in Africa and you want the world to know about it, reach out!

That is all for the week!

The African Tech News Tidbits Week of June 7th

Polyvalent Wireless Communication System
Polyvalent Wireless Communication System

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:

Hope to count you as a reader again for next week’s edition and as a listener on my upcoming show at Coders4Africa Radio.

African Tech News Tidbits: Week of April 17th

dotAfricaA 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 African Renaissance is still 10 to 15 years away says Frost and Sullivan, still within my lifetime God willing!
  • 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.
  • Cameroon, listed as one of the countries with the least use of ICTs (in the latest release of the World Economic Forum ICT for Growth rankings) is launching a project to connect all 234 post offices in the country over the next 18 months through a high speed network connected to a data center. Huawei Technologies Co Ltd, a Chinese company has been awarded the job for a total cost of $60M. That same company has just been denied a $38 billion high speed network contract in Australia for “security reasons”. Huawei Technologies operates in Nigeria, Zimbabwe and South Africa, and last year the Netherlands’secret services reported that China was collecting economical and technological information using a network of surrogates. The company’s CEO Ren Zhengfei served in the Chinese Army and his second in command worked at the Interior Ministry. Just saying…
  • 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.
  • The Ipad 3 is launching officially in South Africa on April 27th. It’s not like folks waited.
  • Last but not least, a long but interesting article on the growth of the middle class in Africa and its impact on the economy and what it means in terms for ICT.

That should keep you busy for a week, enjoy and share. Until such time!

E-Book: App Design help for design-averse developers from Afriapps

Cover 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.

You can download the book here.


Have you heard about Konza City?

Konza City
Konza City

When it comes to ICTs, Kenya has demonstrated that it is deservedly one of the leaders in the new Africa. I was recently directed to learn about Konza City by Amadou Daffe of Coders4Africa, who came back impressed with the Kenya and its ICT community from a recent trip to Kenya for a conference. What is Konza City? First you need to head over and visit the site to see the blue prints, 3D rendering of the vision for this new technopolis the government of Kenya wants to create.

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…

Mobile: Comparative View Between Kenya and South Africa.

Comparison between Kenya and South Africa. Image by @mariskaza
Comparison between Kenya and South Africa. Image by @mariskaza

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).

A very interesting read indeed with good insight. Click here to read the full article.

Mariska also provided some good links on getting Internet stats for Africa

For African Internet Stats

For Mobile and Social Media Stats

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

An overview of the App and Mobile Market in Africa

African Apps BookTwo good reads for you about the mobile market in Africa today. First we start with “The Numbers That Lure Telecom Firms to Africa”, good nuggets in the stats cited there, let’s see:

  • 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.

Next an in-depth look at App development and markets in Africa in the “From Tunisia to SA, apps take Africa by storm” article. Highlights from the article include:

  • 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.
  • Many mobile related events and structures in place : Coders4Africa, Apps4Africa, MobileMondays, Appfrica Labs, AfriLabsM-Lab.