Issue No.132 / December 2017

Innovation in Africa’s Best 25 Interviews on Smart Monkey TV in 2017 – Start-ups, investment, ICT4D, 3D Printing and Innovation

In 2017, Smart Monkey TV has talked to and uploaded 88 interview clips with African innovators. In this issue, I’ve chosen what I think are the best 20 interviews and have given you the viewers the verdict on the other 5, which received the most views over the last 12 months. The other top lists are as follows: Start-Ups, Incubators and Tech Investors; ICT4D People Making Things Happen; and 5 Special Mentions for things I’ve found particularly interesting.

Most Viewed in 2015

1. Joshua Mwaniki and Mbithe Nzomo on how Andela will create 100,000 African developers

Andfela’s four founders have set out to create a professional developers community in Sub-Saharan Africa. In doing so, they have attracted funding from among others, the Chan Zuckerbeg Initiative and Pule Taukubong’s CRE Capital. The thing that marks Andela out is that it gets trainees (once they have completed a foundation training) to work on real life projects. If Africa’s potential developers need international experience, then this is certainly one route for them to get it.

2. Grant Brooke, Twiga Foods on a Kenyan start-up revolutionizing food delivery

For years the ICT4D community were selling the idea that a farmer who got market prices on his or her phone might change what they earned. Somehow this basic insight never seemed to overcome the more messy realities of the distribution supply chain. By contrast, Twiga Foods offers a double whammy: better prices for farmers and direct delivery to retail outlets of the produce plus the bonus of refrigeration capacity to lower wastage.

3. Start-up founder Jessica Colaco, Brave Ventures on Big Data in Africa and need for data scientists

A co-founder of iHub, Jessica Colaco’s latest venture is either highly inspired or way too far ahead of its time. Sub-Saharan African countries – both in the private and public sector – are pretty rubbish at using Little Data, let alone Big Data. Jessica’s pitch is that the Big Data moment has come and her start-up will both train and find talent to fill the growing need.

4. Namibia's Pitch Night winner Kaveto Tjatjara - creating a waterless loo for price of a mobile

Just as I was leaving interviewing Kirsten Wiedow of Windhoek’s Fab Lab I bumped into the winner of Namibia’s first Pitch Night, Kaveto Tjatjara. His prize? He got to go to Helsinki’s global start-up event Slush. His idea? A waterless loo for the price of a mobile phone. If he can actually pull that off, then there will be no end of eager buyers across the continent.

5. Claire Munene on market research start-up mSurvey that has investment from Safaricom's Spark

As I was saying above African countries lack Little Data and so it’s always pleasing to find a start-up setting out to fill that gap using the mobile phone. Claire Munene’s start-up mSurvey has attracted investment from Safaricom’s investment fund Spark, more of which below.

Top 5 Start-Ups and Investment

1.  How Cairo Angels makes its investments and the start-up sector in Egypt

Angel investing in Africa has come on by leaps and bounds in the last five years but still struggles hard to find its place against simply putting money into land or real estate. This interview describes how Cairo Angels has gone about the task and I found it inspiring.

2.  Start-up founder Nicole Kayode, Medixus on a peer-to-peer advice app for African doctors

Nicole Kayode’s Medixus start-up wants to be able to connect African doctors so that they can answer queries for each other. It will be tough to operationalize the idea but the starting point has a beautiful clarity about it, often not found in early African start-ups.

3. Domestly Co-Founders Berno Potgieter and Thatoyaone Marumo on being the Uber for cleaners in SA

There are no end of African start-ups claiming to be the Uber of this or the Uber of that. Domestly is one that is trying to bring together domestic cleaners with householders in South Africa. It’s not alone in the market…Its competitor Sweet South already claims 22,000 homes cleaned a month. But judging by the level of complaints about cleaners on my social media, it’s a bread and butter service that clearly has wide potential.

4.  Mary Mwangi on creating an automated system for collecting cash from Kenya's matatus

Mary Mwangi’s Data Integrated is on the front line of the Kenyan transition to digital services. The Government’s attempts to create the equivalent of a mobile wallet ticket service for matatus may have come to nothing but Mwangi is working on how cash is collected from the guys collecting the money on the matatus.

5. Namibia's 1st Pitch Night: Five entrepreneurs pitch their start-ups

I happened to be in Windhoek for completely unrelated reasons and someone tipped me off that Namibia’s first Pitch Night was happening. So I sat close to the front and filmed some of the pitches with my iPhone. The best of them are contained in this clip.

Top 5 ICT4D People Making Things Happen

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

There are now a number of solar, off-grid solutions that are beginning to reach “critical mass” across several countries. BBOX is one of them and both its solution (combining a mobile connection for billing with a solar panel) and its approach to growth are interesting parts of its story.

2. Missy Mwendwa and Roselyn Awili on how edtech start-up Eneza reaches 1.8 million students

Again on the “critical mass” front, Kenyan edtech start-up is also beginning (with support from Safaricom) to begin to reach some impressive user numbers. Its next challenge is to replicate what it’s already done in other African countries.

3. Jehiel Oliver, Hello Tractor on how his start-up pivoted from manufacturing to data collection

Jehiel Oliver’s Hullo Tractor started out by wanting to build mini-tractors that would fit the African agricultural market more effectively than existing, larger global tractors. But as Jehiel told me, the cost and complications of building the African version of John Deere were just too much financially. So he’s pivoted the company to collect information from tractor owners that they can use in running their businesses.

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

Kenyan start-up Kytabu is another story of a pivot: it has changed how it delivers its curriculum materials to students to find better ways of scaling-up. Paul Mugambi talked me through what it’s trying to achieve.

5. Andy Jarvis, CIAT on the 4 things making Big Data in agriculture possible in Africa

So often ICT4D start-ups or initiatives pick up a small part of some massive ecosystem or value chain and pick away unsuccessfully at trying to change larger circumstances. This time the largest publicly funded agricultural research network CGIAR has set out to find ways of bringing together its research with those working in agriculture. Yes, it’s Big Data but maybe something at this scale will actually work out how to make it work in Africa.

Top 5 Innovation in Africa

1. Toby Kurien, IBM Research on a cheap, wearable sensor to track the spread of tuberculosis in SA

Toby Kurien is one of those people who’s always doing something interesting. Now he’s printing sensors that can allow people (with their consent) to be tracked. The initial use case is about trying to track how tuberculosis is spreading in South African communities. The sensors are embedded in attractive jewelry and clip-on items for both men and women. This is innovation of a global order coming out of Africa.

2. Kirstin Wiedow, FABLab on creating Smart City solutions and start-ups in Namibia

Bjorn and Kirstin Wiedow are the dynamic duo behind Windhoek’s Fab Lab and the country’s first Pitch Night. They have bought together work around design, product innovation and start-ups in one space.

3. Veronica Ogeto-Tchoketch on how Safaricom is investing in the Kenyan start-up ecosystem

Mobile operators investing in the emerging African digital ecosystem is becoming a familiar story but here Veronica Ogeto-Tchoketch talks about who it has invested in and why. Joining her in running Safaricom’s own innovation space is Kamal Bhattacharya who I interviewed several years ago when he was heading up IBM Research’s facility in Nairobi.

4. Tosh Juma, Nairobi Design Institute on the setting up of a human-centred design course for companies

Tosh Juma is building a programme through Nairobi Design Institute that he hopes will bring user-centred design to the many start-ups and developers who lack these skills. Even as I write this, there are still apps and platforms out there with over a half a dozen steps needed to carry out a transaction. Things can only get better.

5. Ghana: Emmanuel Noah on start-up BenBen's roll-out of its Blockchain land registry

I feel conflicted about bitcoin and blockchain. I can understand the value of the ideas but the anxious part of my mind keeps wondering whether bitcoin is simply some kind of elaborate Ponzi scheme. And that’s why BenBen’s use of blockchain for real estate transactions has a real life, boring quality that might make it succeed. It deals with making difficult, behind-the-scenes transaction much easier. And again over a boringly long period of time, it will lay a trail of ownership that should see off the fraudulent claimants who seem to spring up when you do transactions of this kind in some West African countries.

Top 5 Special Mentions

1. Shola Adekoya, Konga on what's changed over the last 4 years and launching Konga Daily

Disrupt Africa’s latest report on e-commerce in Africa ( ) has identified that only 30% of e-commerce start-ups are profitable and that the capital invested in them has largely been in only five countries. Konga is one of the leading pioneers in Nigeria and Shola Adekoya is an articulate exponent who reflects on what’s happened since the company launched. One moral of the story: e-commerce start-ups cannot live by smartphone sales alone.

2. Bamba Lo on Senegalese start-up Paps that offers 1 hr delivery in Dakar for food and other services

Bamba Lo’s delivery start-up in Senegal is at the other end of the street from Konga both in terms of size of operation and market. Nevertheless he makes a compelling case for the several different ways in which the company is looking for ways of making itself useful to customers.

3. Michelle Andrade on how Lagos' Workstation helps entrepreneurs turn ideas into reality

iROKO’s ex co-founder Bastian Gotter introduced to Lagos’s Workstation, a stylish co-working space on Lagos’ Victoria Island. In this clip, Workstation’s Michelle Andrade explains what they do and they provide services for.

4. Chika Uwazie on Nigerian HR and payroll start-up TalentBase that is raising US$2 million to expand

Chika Uwazie’s TalentBase is another start-up making the boring stuff easier by digitalizing processes for SMEs. There’s enough SMEs in Nigeria and elsewhere in West Africa to mean that something like this should succeed.

5. Standard Bank's fashion accelerator Threads - Judges tell start-ups what they're looking for

South Africa’s Standard Bank has supported a fashion incubator called Threads. This clip is from their selection day and the judges are telling applicants what they will be looking for.

If you’d like to see someone interviewed on Smart Monkey TV in 2017, just send me their name on .

Seasons Greetings and all the best for 2018
Russell Southwood
Smart Monkey TV

PPS To subscribe to our web TV channel Smart Monkey TV, click on the link below and press the red Subscribe button below panel of faces on the right hand side: