Issue No.126 / October 2017

Nigerian start-up Devcenter wants to build largest developer community in Africa and get work for them

Until recently, Sub-Saharan Africa lacked developer communities of any scale. Nigerian start-up Devcenter (along with others like Andela) is seeking to change things. Russell Southwood spoke to Devcenter’s CEO and Founder Akinola Falomo about progress so far and what he’s got planned.

The latest video clip interviews from Smart Monkey TV can be found at the bottom of this e-letter

Developers don’t come from nowhere. They need to learn their trade and be able to practice it. They need to widen their experience by working on more projects and ideally, get international experience. Until recently there was a shortage of African developers in the key African start-up ecosystems. But with more and more start-ups being launched, things have begun to change.

Akinola Falomo’s start-up Devcenter came directly out of the experience of this shortage:”I worked in two start-ups (Giddimint and Frigidi, a music start-up). We tried to work with local developers to build products but ended up using Indian developers and it was a nightmare. Why were there no developers here in Africa? There was no hive or cluster to find developers”.

Out of this realization came the earliest version of Devcenter:”We built a community website and launched it in late 2014. It attracted 150 developers and there have been 340,000 conversations since it started. It evolved from what it used to be. We’ve moved it from being a website to being a Slack channel. There are different channels covering things like machine learning, PHP, design and Android”.

Knowing that the quality of the developers in the community will be key, Devcenter tests the developers in its community before they join:”We use the Codility test as a first filter system. We do video interviews by experts from the community. We ask them about how they work and the experts say yes or no to their application. We try to rate developers based on their work”.

The grading of developers is important because it seeks to attract those wanting developers for projects to its site. It matches developers in its network to software projects. It hold the hands of the developer from development to completion, using a Project Manager who mentors them to make sure things are going fine.

Half of the work it gets for its developers comes from within Africa and the rest is from international sources. The latter is often from seed stage start-up companies from places like Netherlands and Canada. It also has enterprise companies wanting to extend their products including companies in Fintech, the drinks industry and healthcare:”We often do consumer facing products. For example, we’ve done a visitor management platform for a start-up and we’ve also done productivity apps”.

Devcenter takes a commission on the contracts it obtains:”We have 20 developers working at any one time. Projects range in size from US$10,000-80,000. Getting money in and out of Nigeria at the moment is a nightmare (because of currency restrictions). So we registered our company in the USA and got a US bank account. This gives global clients a certain level of trust. We’re trying to make everything (about our work processes) automated.”

Where are the big developer communities? From his own experience, Falomo thinks the biggest developer communities are to be found in Johannesburg and Lagos and after that, some way further back, comes Nairobi. There are also smaller clusters in Accra and Addis Ababa.

What will help these communities to grow?:” Collaboration will do a lot for the community. There is a huge gap in skills between newbies and those who know their stuff. So 20% are experts and 80% less experienced”.

“It’s a difficult market to work with. Programming is hard and the best developers are self-taught. The programmer has to make more of an effort to learn. We’re working on a curriculum for newbies which will take them through different stages”.

So what money is being earned by developers?:”There is a six week cycle for projects and the individual developer will get US$3-4,000 per project. We want to give them freedom to make money doing work they love without being tied down”.

How does Devcenter acquire the work?:”We do a lot of partnerships with foreign partners in the USA. The Techstars Network has given us access to founders and that’s how they hear about us. We’ve partnered with accelerators in Canada and the USA. That’s how we build a pipeline”.

Falomo wants to make sure they can generate enough work to pay all of their developers and to build a network with 500+ start developers, up from the current 100+:”We want to build a talent platform that is bigger than just Lagos and plug developers into the global economy.”

Start-Ups and Investment+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Kenya's Little steps up battle with Uber as it launches in Nigeria

Online taxi-hailing app, Little, is set to begin operations in Lagos in October, taking abroad its battle for customers with rival firms Uber and Taxify that are also present in the West African nation. The e-hailing firm’s entry into Nigeria marks Little’s first foray outside Kenya.

Little’s Chief Executive Kamal Budhabatti on Wednesday said that the firm is also aiming to grow its network locally by launching the e-hailing app in Eldoret and Nakuru towns. Little is currently available in Nairobi, Mombasa and Kisumu.

“Our team is already in Nigeria ahead of the official launch set for October 8 and we are hoping to grow the business further in the continent. Locally, we are the first to venture into Kisumu city and we will be rolling out the service to other towns that our surveys suggest need the e-hailing service,” said Kamal.

The e-hailing app, developed by local Financial technology firm Craftsilicon, has so far registered about 2,000 drivers to its platform and makes 10,000 trips daily, according to Mr Budhabhatti.

Mr Budhabhatti said recent features added in the app, which include a panic button to boost security of riders and drivers and a facial recognition system, will also be introduced in the Nigerian market. The system improves security of its riders and cuts down cases of drivers sharing accounts or using unknown accounts.
Source: Business Daily

African female entrepreneurs can apply for Y-HER accelerator

African female entrepreneurs have been invited to apply for the Y-HER Accelerator Programme, with offers mentorship and a total of US$50,000 in prize funding. The Y-HER programme, which will take place in Johannesburg in November, is run by Spark and bills itself as an opportunity for passionate female impact entrepreneurs with early-stage startups.

A total of 15 successful applicants will be connected with a network of mentors from across the world throughout the accelerator week, offering a wealth of entrepreneurship experience to help with building a strategy for impact and growth.

The Y-HER accelerator will also offer female entrepreneurs the chance to network with investors, mentors and supporters, and pitch their venture as the week comes to a close at an exclusive, invite-only high-tea event.

A total of US$50,000 in prize funding is available for the winners, who will be chosen by peer review and audience votes, while startups also stand the chance to qualify for growth support, including ongoing tailored support and grant or investment funding of between US$10,000 and US$50,000.

Applications are open here: until September 22.

Ticket applications now open for Startup Battlefield Africa

Calling all startup fans in Sub-Saharan Africa: TechCrunch is heading your way. It will be in Nairobi on October 11 to host Startup Battlefield in partnership with Facebook.

The TechCrunch team has reviewed over 700 applications and is down to final review of the 15 companies that will compete in the Battlefield. At the same time, its editors have been diligently programming a spectacular agenda. Here are a sampling of the Africa tech luminaries who will be joining on stage as judges and/or speakers: Andreata Muforo, Tide Africa Fund; Leo Stiegeler, Ringier Africa; Helen Jennings, Naatal; Eghosa Omoigui, EchoVC; Wale Ayeni, IFC; Bosun Tijani, CEO at CcHub; Bob Collymore, CEO of Safaricom; and Sacha Poignonnec, CEO of Jumia

To apply for a free ticket to the Startup Battlefield, follow this link  to its application page.
Source: TechCrunch Blog

IFC negotiating Sh619m investment in mobile tech firm Africa’s Talking

The International Finance Corporation is investing up to Sh619 million ($6 million) in mobile tech firm Africa’s Talking, with the funds earmarked for the company’s expansion in Africa.

“What we are looking for is to continue expansion into Africa and to expand our product offering,” Africa’s Talking chief operating officer, Bilha Ndirangu, told the Business Daily.

Ms Ndirangu did not reveal the stake that IFC would acquire in Africa’s Talking, saying that this was still under negotiation.

The company, which is headquartered in Nairobi, also operates in Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi, Nigeria and Ethiopia.

Africa’s Talking’s other shareholders include Samuel Gikandi, Eston Kimani,  Bilha Ndirangu, and the California-based seed investor Better Ventures.

Founded in 2010, Africa’s Talking provides platform for businesses and developers who want to integrate mobile communication and payment services to their applications.

A business that wants to send bulk SMS to customers, provide services via USSD or set up a mobile payment system for clients can use Africa’s Talking platform. The company also provides Voice over Internet Protocol (VOIP) and cloud-based call conferencing services.
Source: Business Daily

Safaricom invests in agritech startup iProcure

Safaricom’s Spark Venture Fund has announced that it will once again be investing in iProcure, a supply chain platform in Kenya. iProcure offers farmers discounts of between 10 and 20 percent every time they purchase farming products. The online supply chain platform links farmers and farmer cooperatives to manufacturers of agricultural inputs.

According to Safaricom, the Spark Venture Fund was started with an aim of supporting emerging startups that use technology to transform lives.

iProcure is expected to become instrumental in harnessing the power of technology to improve agri-business processes in Kenya through the help of Spark Fund investees. The company currently covers several counties, mainly in Central and Rift Valley, and has plans to scale to Western and Eastern Kenya in 2017. The startup seeks to increase agricultural output in Kenya.

“To access iProcure, farmers should dial *283# and then select which input they would like to purchase. The farmer then receives a voucher which allows them to claim the inputs from an iProcure farm depot or collection point,” said Chief Executive Officer, Bob Collymore.

The Sh.100 million Safaricom Spark Venture Fund seeks to make late-seed to early-growth stage investments in startups that use mobile technology as an enabler.

In Brief

Venture capital firm Knife Capital has expanded into London after introducing UK-based Draper-Gain Investments as a strategic investor. The firm’s team recently effected a management buyout from JSE-listed African Dawn Capital. The London office will accelerate the international growth of companies within Knife Capital’s investment portfolio. Draper-Gain is a family office with significant global resources including existing investments in South Africa. The transaction was facilitated by entrepreneur and angel investor Bob Skinstad who is Knife Capital’s partner in SARS section 12J venture capital company KNF Ventures. South African 12J schemes were created to promote early stage capital formation. They offer significant tax incentives for SA investors.

Kenya: Branch, a Facebook-linked mobile phone lending app, has raised Sh200 million by issuing a commercial paper.

The 3rd annual Seedstars Africa Summit is set to take place in Maputo, Mozambique from 11 to 14 December 2017. The event will bring to an end a year in which Seedstars World organized startup competitions in 25 African countries to throughout 2017 to identify the most promising startups. The event will be hosted by Mozambique's UX Information Technologies and supported by Enel, Merck, Orange, Microsoft, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Embassy of Switzerland and Standard Bank among others.

iHub and the World Bank Group will host a one-week intensive boot camp in Nairobi, a part of a business acceleration program to help East African tech start-ups commercialize and scale innovative digital products.  The Traction Camp accelerator launched six months ago by iHub and the World Bank Group’s infoDev program will connect 20 high-growth start-ups with the knowledge, capital, and access to markets they need to grow. Participating start-ups from Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda will convene in Nairobi for the one week face-to-face boot camp on Sept. 18-23, 2017.  The boot camp will culminate in a demo day event on Sept. 22, organized at iHub from 4-8 p.m. For more information, please visit

VC4A Startup Academy is offering direct access to expertise proven to work for successful entrepreneurs and investors operating across Africa. Founders can take their business to the next level by learning about the latest insights, download tools and get advice from 35 experts active in the emerging African startup ecosystem, see the overview below. Go to the VC4A Startup Academy and log in now to access the learning materials for free.:

The 5th Angel Fair Africa from the 24th to 25th November 2017 would be in Abidjan, Ivory Coast - our first francophone country and the last of the KINGS - please save the dates for what would be an amazing experience with our first keynote Esther Dyson of EDventure Holdings and others.  Angel Fair Africa (AfA) is an event that brings curated entrepreneurs to pitch to investors with the intent of doing deals. It has hosted the event in Joburg 2013,  Lagos 2014,  Accra 2015,  Nairobi 2016 resulting in about $21M worth of deals. The event has also resulted in partnerships, franchises, mentorship and catalyzed a lot of other events and networks in the early stage investing ecosystem around the continent.

Jumia is working on and testing an all-in-one app with deals from its subsidiary companies and other services. The Jumia One app is being created to boost Jumia's sales by providing a one-stop-shop for most of Jumia's e-commerce offerings as well as other day-to-day products such as airtime. According to an internal Jumia message, which iAfrikan has seen, a senior executive within Jumia explained that the current version is nowhere near finished and that it "will only be tested internally and with small sets of customers,". The app is said to be in its "very preliminary version" with an official launch planned for next week. Given that the Jumia One app will be using Jumia Pay for processing payments, Jumia will also be looking to provide micro-lending services, "giving the ability to get 100 euros for one month in a few clicks" to quote the Jumia executive.

Aaron Fu has been announced as Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology's(MEST) new Managing Director. Prior to joining MEST, Fu was the Managing Partner for Afrika at MEST has indicated that with the appointment of Fu, they are looking to intensify their efforts to strengthen their presence across Afrika.

TMT Finance has announced the launch of the inaugural TMT Finance Africa in Cape Town (, South Africa conference on March 15, 2018.

BitPesa, the much talked-about bitcoin payment startup closed a top up round to its Series A last week, garnering fresh funds from most of its existing investors, including Greycroft Partners, who led the round. This latest round of funding brings the cumulative amount of capital raised by BitPesa to $10 million, some $4 million more than the cumulative total that the startup had raised by the time it closed its $2.5 million Series A earlier in the year.

Google's Launchpad Accelerator has been extended to seven more African countries. When the accelerator was launched in March 2017 it was only accepting Afrikan startups from Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa. Startups from Algeria, Egypt, Ghana, Morocco, Tanzania, Tunisia, and Uganda can now apply to the accelerator. The Google Launchpad Accelerator programme is a six-month programme that provides participating startups with access to "mentoring, support, and Google’s engineers and resources". The application process for the programme will end on 2 October 2017.


Mobile Money Technology Bringing Electricity to Remote Areas in East Africa

Rural households and businesses in East Africa are now able to buy electricity remotely courtesy of the advancing mobile money technology.

People in the region no longer have to travel long distances to the city to pay their utility bills because they can do so on their mobile phones using the various mobile money transfer platforms available, including M-Pesa in Kenya and Tigo Pesa in Tanzania.

This technology has also enabled electricity companies in the region to develop smart prepaid meters that allow customers to purchase electricity in the form of units through their mobile phones.

Additionally, it has eliminated fraud and corruption in the distribution of electricity because customers are required to pay directly to their providers without having to deal with fraudsters masquerading as company employees.

Previously, people had to stand in long queues for hours just to buy electricity coupons at the company offices that are mainly found in major cities and towns.

Those who have already adopted the digital payment method say it’s fast, easy to use, efficient, and saves them a lot time and money.

Property owners are also having an easy time dealing with electricity providers since each tenant has their own prepaid power meter that they top up using their preferred mobile money transfer platform.

Studies have shown that African countries are slowly embracing new technologies such as digital payments, which have created new business opportunities, transparency and improved cash flow for utilities and off-grid operators.

The new technology has enabled new players, especially those dealing in renewable energy, to succeed in the lucrative industry by targeting customers in areas that are not connected to the national grid.

In East Africa, pay-as-you-go solar operators have so far financed the sale of more than 800,000 units of solar home systems. Experts have estimated that more than 75 million people in rural Africa will be using digital payment-enabled solar units by 2020.

In Kenya, M-Kopa Solar,  a solar power company, has connected more than half a million homes to affordable solar power since its inception six years ago. The company connects 500 homes every day, allowing rural households to save millions of shillings on electricity every year.

More growth in the energy sector is highly anticipated in the coming years as Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda join hands to launch an ambitious project that includes the development of mini-grids across the region to power rural communities away from the main national grids.
Source: Face2Face Africa

Unlocking Solar Capital Africa conference features first Solar Power Incubator to Unlock Potential of Energy in the Region

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast, September 7, 2017/ -- Solaplaza’s ‘Unlocking Solar Capital Africa’ conference, an event focused on connecting solar project development and finance & investment, will be the first African event featuring a Solar Incubator program, aimed at identifying PV projects of potential in sub-Saharan Africa by providing access to funding, and commercial and technical knowledge.

The initiative, ‘The PV Solar Incubator, Your Project, Our Expertise, For a Sustainable Future,’ will be launched by Phanes Group in partnership with Solarplaza, Hogan Lovells, responsAbility, and Proparco, and invites PV developers to submit proposals for projects that are based in sub-Saharan Africa, and have a clear CSR component.

Candidates are asked to submit their proposals before October 1, 2017, via Phanes Group’s website or through the conference website. Shortlistees will be invited to pitch their projects to an expert panel at Solarplaza’s ‘Unlocking Solar Capital Africa’ conference in Ivory Coast, October 25 - 26, where the industry’s biggest players will hold extensive discussions about solutions for Africa’s solar energy funding gap.

It comes as part Unlocking Solar Capital Africa’s goal to solve Africa’s solar energy funding gap and Phanes Group's core strategy to collaborate with Africa-focused counterparties, such as local project owners, governments, and developers on projects that seek to create a sustainable future for urban and rural communities across the sub-Saharan region.

This initiative aims to support developers not just in the funding phase, but throughout the project development and delivery phases, to ensure important, CSR-focused projects are brought to financial close. Phanes Group, along with its partners, will provide PV developers with access to a reliable partner that will support them in reaching bankability. Through an initial incubator phase, extensive mentorship, and access to the right network, this year’s candidate will have an opportunity to roll-out a sustainable energy solution in their community, as well as develop a lasting relationship with an end-to-end, integrated solar expert.

After the winning project has been announced at the ‘Unlocking Solar Capital Africa’ event, the developers will be invited to join Phanes Group for an intensive 4-day workshop at its headquarters in Dubai, UAE. This will help lay the foundations for delivering a bankable and sustainable project.
Source: Press Release

Mobile Payments, Smart Meters Bring Power to Tanzanian Homes

When Asteria Lymo saw her prepaid electricity meter was short of units, she grabbed her smartphone and bought some using Tigo Pesa, a local application that allows customers to pay their utility bills on their mobile phones.

“I simply transferred the money from my bank account into my phone to buy electricity,” said the 35-year-old mother of three. “It’s fast, easy to use, efficient and saves a lot of time and money.”

With 10,000 Tanzanian shillings (about $4.50), Lymo bought 28 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of energy, enough to power her home for one week. Previously, that would have meant standing in a line for an hour to buy electricity coupons at a vending kiosk.

Lymo, who lives in the Kimara neighborhood of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania’s largest city, is among the many customers of state power supplier TANESCO who now use digital platforms to pay their bills.

A new study suggests that digital payment, whereby users shift to smart, prepaid metering systems and purchase a set amount of power electronically, not only helps customers but benefits utility companies and mini-grid providers too by reducing the costs of metering and credit operations.

As a result, digital payments are helping make off-grid power sources like solar and wind more economically viable.

The study, published in July by the Better Than Cash Alliance, a partnership of governments and international organizations, also suggests that digital payments can create new business opportunities, increase transparency, and improve cash flow for utilities and off-grid operators.

While most African countries are embracing modern technologies like mobile money transfers, utility bill payments across the continent are still overwhelmingly made in cash, according to the report.

And it points out that traditional electricity meters, which have to be read manually, can easily be tampered with. Of 76,000 households audited by TANESCO in 2012, 5 percent were found to be stealing energy.

TANESCO spokesperson Leila Muhaji said most of its domestic customers now use prepaid plans.

Honest Prosper Ngowi, an economics professor at Mzumbe University in Dar es Salaam, said the shift from cash to digital payments has helped utility firms boost revenues significantly and cut transaction costs, while delivering “social benefits” to their customers, such as eliminating time spent in lines.

In rural Uganda, customers of Fenix International can access lighting and phone-charging through a solar system that costs just 380 shillings ($0.11) a day, but only if they can pay digitally, the report says.

In Kenya’s western Kakamega region, Edna Joroge has recently installed an M-Kopa solar system in her new three-bedroom home. The farmer had been waiting for a connection to the grid, but because her house is far from the nearest transformer, she decided to go solar.

“I paid $217 in one year and got a solar panel, lithium battery, three light bulbs, a mobile phone charger, a torch and a radio,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “This cost is much less than what I had been incurring buying kerosene.”

With an ambitious target of achieving universal access to electricity by 2030, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda are now exploring mini-grids to power rural communities away from the main grid.

In Kenya, U.S.-based technology venture Powerhive operates a micro-grid network for rural homes and businesses, using smart meters linked to a cloud-based server.

This integrated system enables customers to pre-pay for electricity using M-Pesa, a widely used mobile phone-based money transfer service, while allowing Powerhive to remotely monitor performance, consumption and cash flows.

Shashank Verma of Energy 4 Impact, a nonprofit group working with local businesses to broaden energy access across Africa, said digital payments give customers the flexibility to pay in small installments from as little as 50 Kenyan shillings (about $0.50) per day.

As most customers for pay-as-you-go solar live in off-grid rural places, they also save time and money, Verma said.

“Digital payments avoid all the transactions costs of cash collection and customers can easily be reached and served,” he added.

Ray Naluyaga, managing director of the Eleanor Foundation, a Tanzanian charity promoting clean energy technologies, said digital payments help prevent deaths from respiratory diseases by allowing rural people to access the financing they need for alternatives to smoky fuels like kerosene and wood.

The foundation provides solar home systems on loan and accepts mobile payments in weekly installments over a minimum 20-week period. This eliminates the need for a down payment of around $100, which most villagers cannot afford, Naluyaga said.
Source: Voice of America News

In Brief

The Rwanda Energy Group (REG) along with its subsidiaries, have recently signed performance contracts, committing to improving access to electricity nationwide.

Amidst the erratic power supply in the west African country, the first off-grid solar powered house was unveiled in Lagos last weekend. The five-bedroom bungalow located in Ejigbo, was built and managed by Concept Technologies, the Guardian reported. According to the company’s managing director, Tokunbo Tonade, the idea of the house was initiated from the need to use renewable energy to solve the country's erratic power supply.

3D Printing and Makers++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Could 3D scanners replace CT and MRI? Study demos in situ bone repair?

In case studies all around the world, 3D printing is growing as an effective method of making patient-specific medical implants. Typically, these implants are made based on data gathered from CT/MRI scans and x-rays.

However, CT/MRI/x-ray image data is not ideal for direct-import into CAD modeling software.

A new report from researchers in Jiangsu Sheng, China, demonstrates a 3D printing bone treatment that uses handheld 3D scanner data to make models.

An effective treatment for humerus issues

In the study, researchers examine three common bone/cartilage defects:

- “large segmental defects of long bones” i.e. In which a large portion of a bone has to be cut/or is absent in e.g. the shinbones or the forearm.
- “free-form fracture of femoral condyle”, A shattering of the ball joint at the end of the femur.
-  And a “chondral lesion,” which is damage to cartilage found in the ankle.

The Einscan Pro 3D scanner from Shining 3D, visited by 3D Printing Industry April 2017, is used in the experiment to create digital models of each of the sample defects. For accuracy, each bone is also placed on an accompanying turntable, allowing the Einscan to remain stationary as it collects data.

With the Einscan, a point-cloud is created which can be directly imported into CAD software, and stitched together to make a digital 3D model. This model is then used to create subsequent fillers to fit the voids in each bone.

To prove efficacy of the designs, the bones complete with 3D printed hydrogel content, are scanned a second time and compared to healthy models imported into Geomagic Studio 12.

Comparisons found that “the defects of bone and cartilage were restored perfectly in situ using 3D bioprinting.” Though this method would be significantly more complicated to perform with fractured bones still inside the body, the study demonstrates promise for “the development of correlative technology,” i.e. 3D printing plus scanning.

Additionally, the authors conclude “this method provided a novel approach to treat open injuries in the skeletal system and might be more effective in some special cases.” The study was completed by a multidisciplinary team of researchers from Southeast University, Nanjing Medical University, Nanjing University and Nanjing Normal University. Full details are available open-access in the journal Scientific Reports.
Source: 3D Printing Industry News

In Brief

Wipro, an Indian IT services corporation has successfully collaborated with German additive manufacturing giant EOS to produce a 3D printed functional metal satellite component.


Hundreds of Zambian teachers trained for Africa Code Week

JOHANNESBURG, (CAJ News) – More than 350 Zambian teachers have undergone training through a globally-renowned programme aiming to bridge the digital skills gap across the African continent.

SAP and Africa Code Week partners arranged the Train-the-Trainer sessions at Lusaka International Community School (LICS) in the capital city.

Volunteers from SAP’s Europe, Middle East and Africa Corporate Social Responsibility (EMEA CSR) trained the teacher ahead of the Africa Code Week set for October.

Spearheaded by SAP in 2015 with over 500 000 young Africans introduced to coding so far, it officially returns to the continent from the 18th-25th of that month with a goal to empower another 500 000 youths across 35 countries.

Last year more than 5 600 adults were trained as part of the 25+ Train-the-Trainer sessions organised all over Africa.

“There is no transformation of education through ICT without proper training of teachers first, hence the importance of the Train-the-Trainer sessions organized every year in most participating countries,” explained Claire Gillissen-Duval, Director of EMEA CSR and at SAP and Africa Code Week Global Lead.

“This is where the transfer of skills and knowledge takes place as SAP skilled volunteers equip teachers with the teaching materials they need to make coding a daily reality in the classroom,” Gillissen-Duval continued.

She said Zambian teachers showcased sheer determination and commitment in supporting SAP’s efforts to bridge the digital divide and empower younger generations with job-relevant coding skills.

Charles Mwanza, Chief Executive Officer of Hackers Guild and Africa Code Week implementing partner in Zambia, said Africa Code Week encouraged young people to think like coders, which was handy as more coders would be needed to overcome society’s most pressing, increasingly complex challenges.

“Africa Code Week is a fantastic opportunity for Zambia’s youth to learn the skills they need to thrive in the global knowledge economy,” Mwanza said.

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, YouthMobile, Cape Town Science Centre, Galway Education Centre, Google, 15 African governments and over 100 public and private partners support Africa Code Week.

In Zambia, it takes place from October 9 to 15, ten 10 days earlier than most countries, in order to accommodate the local school calendar.
Source CAJ News 

Tree Identification App Becomes Available In South Africa

A new app that enables users to search for specific trees, or to get an idea of what trees are growing in the region has been launched in South Africa. TheTreeApp can be used on any smartphone or tablet under three years old. The app was created by project leader Val Thomas and a team of skilled professionals.

The app is available for download from 01 September from both the Apple iStore and the Google Play Store. Robbie (Ernest) Robinson, senior botanical advisor for TheTreeApp and Honorary Conservation Fellow, Zoological Society of London Scientific advisor, says it is almost impossible to overstate the importance of correctly identifying indigenous trees in natural environments, and this app provides a unique tool to achieve this. Because there is such a rich diversity of tree species in South Africa, multi-species forests provide habitats and niches for many kinds of animal, bird, plant, and micro-organism.

The correct identification of the trees is a prerequisite for understanding the functioning and therefore the conservation and management of those ecosystems. Thomas says that one of the reasons that trees have been difficult to identify, for ‘ordinary’ people without a botanical background, is that with most wild animals, individuals of any species will look similar.
Source: Techunzipped 

Red Cross to start testing drones in disaster relief efforts

The American Red has teamed up with the UPS Foundation and drone manufacturer CyPhy Works to bring drones to sites of natural disasters. The goal is to use drones tethered to the ground to assess damages through constant aerial observations. This is where CyPhy Works comes in.

The pilot program utilizes CyPhy Works’ Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance and Communications (PARC) platform. In this test the platform will provide constant power to a drone flying stationary at 400ft through the use of a tether. Since the drone is tied to the ground, constant power can be provided from a ground-based generator thus providing uninterrupted surveillance for days or weeks at a time. A 30X zoom camera will then be used to surveil tens of miles around the drone and would be able to assess the impact of a disaster to best direct relief efforts and later to accelerate insurance payout.

The parties involved agreed to launch a one week, onsite trial in an area heavily flooded by Hurricane Harvey. If successful, it could be used again following Hurricane Irma.

The Boston-based CyPhy Works has been testing this tethered platform in different scenarios. During Forth of July fireworks and the Boston Marathon, CyPhy works provided hours of aerial surveillance to the Boston Police Department. The test with the Red Cross takes CyPhy Works out of Boston and potentially in locations without a power grid or general utilities.
Source: Tech Crunch

GSMA Announces Launch of Disaster Response Innovation Fund

LONDON--(BUSINESS WIRE/AETOS Wire)-- The GSMA today announced the launch of its Disaster Response Innovation Fund to spur development of mobile technology solutions to assist and empower people and communities affected by humanitarian emergencies, and to strengthen disaster prevention, preparedness and response. The Fund is backed by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and supported by the GSMA and its members.

“Mobile technology is a vital tool to help those impacted by natural disasters and other humanitarian emergencies,” said John Giusti, the GSMA’s Chief Regulatory Officer, GSMA. “In support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the GSMA has launched the Disaster Response Innovation Fund to extend the impact of mobile in helping build resilient infrastructure and making communities inclusive, safe, and sustainable.”

In times of crisis and disaster, mobile networks facilitate critical communication between humanitarian agencies, affected populations and the international community. This has been evidenced in the aftermath of the 2015 Nepal earthquake, the ongoing displacement crisis in the Middle East and Europe, and many other recent events. The Disaster Response Innovation Fund will stimulate the development of mobile-based solutions that deliver a positive impact on people affected by disasters and crises, helping to reduce risk, save lives, ease suffering and promote recovery.

The Fund is open to applicants delivering impact in Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia Pacific, Latin America, the Middle East and/or North Africa. Applications must represent a collaboration consisting of two or more mobile network operators, NGOs, humanitarian agencies, emergency/environmental bodies and/or private sector companies. For instance, potential applications could include an Internet of Things solution for triggering early warning system alerts or an open-source mobile-based platform for sharing humanitarian information.

Funding of up to £300,000 per project is available and applicants should be either seed projects to test new products or services, or market validation projects to replicate proven products or services. Applications will be assessed through a two-stage application process: concept notes should be submitted between 7 September and 13 October 2017 and then selected applicants will be asked to submit a full proposal by 1 December 2017. The selection of projects to be funded will be finalised in late March 2018.  For detailed information and requirements please visit:

Gates Foundation and PATH wire up health data in Africa using a novel approach

A mother and her infant wait for immunization services at Usa River Health Center in Tanzania. (PATH/Trevor Snapp Photo)

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the global health nonprofit PATH are working on a groundbreaking initiative in Africa that takes an unexpected approach.

The project is all about digital health, but doesn’t employ flashy new technology. And despite the essential roles being played by the two prominent Seattle-area organizations, they aren’t being publicly praised for the effort — in fact, they often get no recognition for it at all.

Yet this no-frills, behind-the-scenes project — the blandly named Data Use Partnership — has the potential for radically improving public health in the East African country of Tanzania and beyond.

The partnership is digitizing and connecting Tanzania’s healthcare system, linking a fragmented array of databases and information sources. A unified system could dramatically improve efficiency, accountability and cost savings for a country of 45 million people that struggles with infectious diseases including HIV/AIDS.

By helping health-care workers share crucial data in real time, the partnership could better target the dispersal of limited medicines where they’re most-needed, provide coordinated care for people with HIV/AIDS, and ensure that children are vaccinated in a timely manner, said those involved.
Henry Mwanyika, PATH’s Tanzania Country Director for the Data Use Partnership, discusses how the electronic immunization registry is improving health service delivery with Raz Stevenson of USAID. (PATH/Trevor Snapp Photo)

“This is something that has never been done before,” said Henry Mwanyika, PATH’s Tanzania Country Director for the project.

One of the novel features that has been key to the project’s success was the decision to put the Tanzanian government squarely in the driver’s seat. Government officials have been the ones deciding what they want the system to look like and setting priorities for technology investments. It’s a very different model from past approaches in which foreign donors and partners routinely took a prominent lead.

“What really makes me proud is when I see the government take total and full ownership of whatever we’ve done together,” Mwanyika said. “If it’s theirs, they will make sure it succeeds and succeeds beyond the lifetime of the project. That is critical when it comes to sustainability.”
Dykki Settle, PATH’s Digital Health Director.

The partnership is also a standout for working with the country’s existing technology, rather than foisting new platform into the system. It’s also unusual for its holistic approach, trying to stitch together an entire system.

Dykki Settle, PATH’s Digital Health Director, recalls the “wild west” days of tech-based global health investments. Outside organizations were foisting all manner of technologies on developing countries. At the peak in 2012, Settle said that Uganda alone had some 80 pilot projects underway, many duplicative and without the knowledge or consent of the government.

“People were saying, ‘I want to figure this out and I’m going to start experimenting’ and do this pilot and getting people excited, Settle said. “But then there were no real resources to make it sustainable and leave a lasting value in the country.”

The Data Use Partnership takes a wholly different approach. The partnership builds on a smaller project between the Gates Foundation, PATH and the Tanzanian and Zambian governments. The Better Immunization Data Initiative created digital registries in the countries that let health-care providers track the immunizations of babies and children, and ensure that vaccines are available when and where they’re needed.

Following the success of that effort and the trust that it built, the Gates Foundation decided to pursue the more ambitious partnership, creating a road map for building a widespread digital health system. Over a little more than a year, Tanzania and its American partners developed the road map.

“We can get lost in the lofty world of data, but this is truly about how do health systems perform better and improve human health,” said Marty Gross, a senior program officer for the Gates Foundation and lead for this project.

This summer the partners celebrated the announcement of a $15 million, 5-year catalytic grant from the Gates Foundation to fund the transition into the second phase of the project. The trio is looking for additional partners to help support the execution of the road map.

Path’s Settle said that an epiphany came to him a short way into the project. He was traveling to Tanzania as a tech leader and to help facilitate meetings there. But the collaboration was often awkward and less productive. He realized that his presence meant participants had to speak English, rather than Swahili, slowing the conversation. He came up with a simple solution.

“The best way to have success in the country is to stop going,” Settle said. On their own, the Tanzanian participants made great progress.

And that decision supports another tenet of the effort, that Tanzanians need to build their tech literacy and skills so they will have the IT expertise and capacity to run the system on their own.

“They should have their support down the street and not around the world,” Settle said. The broader hope is that the effort can be replicated in other countries.

“The players are ready, the technology is ready, the infrastructure is ready — not everywhere, but increasingly — to allow us to move into this new space,” said Hallie Goertz, a digital health communications manager for PATH.

What’s also exciting, said project supporters, is the opportunity to put a connected system in place before too many incompatible technologies become set in stone — which could avoid some of the problems experienced in the U.S. where health-care providers struggle to share information smoothly between systems.

“I think it is a very replicable strategy and a lot of governments are starting to put up their hands for support and move in this type of direction,” Gross said.

But despite the progress made in the Tanzanian partnership, success is far from guaranteed wherever you attempt this sort of initiative. Because while government ownership is essential, it can also be the project’s undoing.

“For this vision to be realized, it really requires a strong capability of government to play a role of mediator and coordinator across a very diverse range of inputs. Not all countries and all governments are ready for that and to be that,” Gross said. “And we all know that governments change.”
Source: GeekWire

In Brief

Balaclava Beach in Mauritius will be an even more impressive destination this September 27 – 29, as it hosts this year’s eLearning Africa conference. Ahead of the big event, we bring you the eLearning Africa newsletter with the latest information about Africa’s leading conference on technology assisted learning.

Innovation in Africa+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

African game developers can enter $200k Microsoft challenge

African game developers have been invited to enter Microsoft’s Dream.Build.Play challenge, which is giving away US$200,000 in prize money across four categories.

The Dream.Build.Play challenge is asking game makers to maximise their creativity and create experiences that engage gamers from across the world.

The competition is open to all creators, working solo or in teams of up to seven, with total prize money of US$200,000 available to winning developers.

In the cloud-powered game category, the grand prize is US$100,000, with developers challenged to build a game that uses Azure Cloud Services on the backend. Judges will give the highest scores to games that use multiple services in creative ways.

The winner of the PC game category will walk away with US$50,000, with Microsoft asking developers to create a Windows 10 game using whatever technology they prefer. In the mixed reality game category, US$50,000 is available to the creator of the best immersive mixed reality experience that lets players interact with 3D volumetric content in a virtual space.

Meanwhile, in the console game category, US$25,000 is on offer to developers who can build a UWP game for the Xbox One console family and incorporate the Xbox Live Creators Programme with at least Xbox Live presence. Extra consideration will be given to games that incorporate Xbox Live services like leaderboards and statistics.

Interested participants can register here, with the game submission period ending on December 31.  The winners will be announced in March 2018.
Source: Disrupt Africa

RippleNami, Inc. Announces Partnership to Accelerate the Use of Blockchain in the Digitization of West Africa

SAN DIEGO-- (BUSINESS WIRE/ AETOS Wire)-- RippleNami, Inc., provider of the only blockchain map-based data visualization platform, announces a partnership with Data Edge Revenue, a Freetown, Sierra Leone-based systems integration company focused on advancing digitization in West Africa. The partnership provides blockchain-based solutions to help public and private players deliver economic opportunities, critical services and resources to improve the lives of the people of West Africa.

“Data now serves as a key currency in today’s economy,” said Jaye Connolly-LaBelle, president and chief executive officer of RippleNami. “This partnership accelerates the local and global benefits that this new currency delivers, while sparing West African countries the inefficiencies and costs of legacy data silos.”

“Our partnership comes at the right time. Today, West African countries lack physical records, much less the digital data needed to connect their citizens to social services and economic opportunities,” said Malador Sowe, president and chief executive officer of Data Edge Revenue. “Fortunately, blockchain and cloud computing advancements, as well as the embracement of mobile lifestyles, enable West African countries to leapfrog legacy systems to quickly make essential services affordable and accessible on a large scale. RippleNami’s unique visualization technology makes complex data relevant and intuitive, a prerequisite to widespread adoption of these services in emerging economies.”
Source: Press Release

In Brief

Social media giant, Facebook, announced on September 6, 2017, that the company has begun the roll-out of Developer Circles in South African cities; Durban, Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria. The project, which was launched at Facebooks Developer Conference (F8) in April 2017, now comprises of over 70 initiatives around the world, the four South African circles join other African countries in Cairo, Casablanca, Dakar, Harare, Lagos, Nairobi and Tunis.

YUP is a mobile money solution for accessing a full range of transactional and financial services even without a bank account. Based on an Agency Banking model, i.e. a network of third-party agents with whom the bank has formed partnerships (service stations, distribution trade, etc.), YUP is accessible via an expanded network of distributors equipped with adapted terminals and, of course, via the mobile banking app of Societe Generale's ( different banks throughout Africa. With YUP, Societe Generale is widely available, local, and easy to use, to meet the needs of customers who have, until now, not been offered or have access to many banking solutions.

Bitcoin Events Pty Ltd will be hosting its 4th annual Blockchain Africa Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa on 8-9 March 2018. The Blockchain Africa Conference attracts local and international speakers who come together to discuss blockchain and cryptocurrency trends, use cases, regulations, technology hurdles, and innovative and disruptive opportunities.

Nairobi will soon be using drones to monitor parking in the city. The service will be used to determine how many cars are in specific parking slots and this information will be checked against the money collected each day to determine which motorists didn't pay. “The drones will fly across the parking areas in the city twice a day, capturing and relaying the data to our servers. Each of the drones will cost us Sh4 million and another Sh2 million will be used to set up a software to run it,” said Danson Muchemi, CEO at Web Tribe.

As part of its Integrated Public Transport Network (IPTN) plan, South Africa's City of Cape Town is proposing a ride-hailing app for minibus taxis in the city. The IPTN's main aim is to address traffic congestion in the city. The proposed ride hailing app will work in a similar manner to how Uber and Taxify work by allowing customers to request a minibus taxi on-demand. “We foresee that by formalizing and modernizing the minibus-taxi industry, the operators will become our partners in transforming the method and ease of commuting in Cape Town,” said Brett Herron, Mayoral Committee Member for Transport and Urban Development at City of Cape Town. It remains to be seen if and how the minibus taxi industry will cooperate with this proposal.

The Electronic and Video Game Festival of Abidjan (FEJA) ( will take place on November 11th and 12th at Palais de la Culture. Organized by Paradise Game, this unique festival will welcome more than 50 000 video game lovers. The 2017 edition will feature eSports tournaments. The qualifications will start on September 23rd at Playce Marcory in Abidjan and lead to the selection of 256 gamers coming from various African countries who will compete during the FEJA. More than 10000 € will be given in cash prizes to the winners. Sidick Bakayoko, managing director of Paradise Game, the event producer stated: «We wanted to gather in one place all the players of this untapped industry in Africa. From the developer to the end user, including the manufacturers and distributors, FEJA is a true platform for exchange, allowing people to share their passion and promote video-gaming in Africa».

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Russell Southwood
Smart Monkey TV

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Jim Teicher on CyberSmart’s all-in-one edtech device trialing in Senegalese schools

Jim Teicher, Founder and Director,  CyberSmart Africa talks about: the failure of many edtech projects in Africa and the reasons why; the things built into CyberSmart’s device to avoid these issues; what the device can deliver and how; the cost of the device; its trial in Senegalese schools; and CyberSmart’s fundraising round.

Abdulai Awudu on Ghana’s No 1 broadcaster’s VoD partnership with local start-up 2C TV

Abdulai Awudu, Programmes Director, Multimedia Group talks about: why as a broadcaster it went into Video on Demand and streaming; the importance of getting revenue from it; its partnership with 2C TV; the reach of the platform it runs; and the type of content that is successful.

Keke Lebaka on how African food giant Promasidor uses social media to talk to its consumers

Keke Lebaka, Group Social Media Strategist and Content Manager, Promasidor talks about: what Promasidor does and where it operates; why it started shifting to using social media; its different strategies for different countries; what social media is most effective; and what proportion of its budget it spends on social media.

Keni Ogunlola on his TV comedy series Lodgers, writing an AY film and working with Mo Abudu

British-Nigerian film-maker Keni Ogunlola talks about: how his pilot for the TV series Lodgers won prizes as a short film; the storyline in the Lodgers series, writing a film for Nigerian comedian AY and working on a film with Mo Abudu.

Paul Mugambi on edtech start-up Kytabu’s change in direction to help it scale better

Paul Mugambi, , CEO, Kytabu talks about: what Kytabu does; how students access it and how they pay for it; its use of video; changing the focus to address teachers and parents; the investment in it so far and the prizes it has won.

Willie Currie: His comic novel Blue Eland Foxtrot on apartheid & eerie present day parallels

Author Willie Currie talks about: his novel Blue Eland Foxtrot; the story in the novel and its autobiographical aspects; the impact of the UDF; whether Afrikaans nationalism was a cousin of Nazism; and the eerie parallels between apartheid and the present day Government.

Alpesh Patel on Africa’s original start-up Mi-Fone, the hip-hop telecoms brand and why it failed

Mi-Founder Alpesh Patel talks about: the founding of Mi-Fone and what it set out to do; its early success and later, its failure; the reasons for its failure; his book about his experiences, Tested; and what he’s currently doing to help start-ups.

Kunle Afolayan on the 3 films he made in the last 12 months: Omugwo. Roti and Tribunal

Nollywood actor and director Kunle Afolayan talks about: how he came to make 3 films in 12 months; how easy it was to do it; the genres and stories in the three different films; and the next film that he’s working on.

Michelle Andrade on how Lagos’ Workstation helps entrepreneurs turn ideas into reality

Michelle Andrade, Head of Business Development, Workstation talks about: the type of co-working spaces it offers; the additional support services for members; its programme to help start-ups and its expansion plans.

Christopher Baker-Brian, BBOX on how start-up BBOXX is providing off-grid solutions to Africa

Christopher Baker-Brian, CTO, BBOXX talks about: the idea for the company; how its off-grid service is supplied; the number of people using the service; controlling its off-grid boxes using mobile connections and its future expansion plans.

Izu Ojukwu on his current film 76 and his forthcoming film about warrior Queen Amina of Zazzau

Nigerian film-maker Izu Ojukwu talks about: the story in 76; Nigeria’s “decision-making” decade; the importance of understanding history; and his latest film that is in post production about Queen Amina of Zazzau.