Eight-year-old boy bitten by dog. Two-year-old child with severe anemia. Mother, age 24, bleeding severely at childbirth.
Entries like these popped up as Keller Rinaudo browsed a database of health emergencies during a 2014 visit to Tanzania. It was “a lightbulb moment,” says the CEO and co-founder of the California drone startup Zipline.
Rinaudo was visiting a scientist at Ifakara Health Institute who had created the database to track nationwide medical emergencies. Using cell phones, health workers would send a text message whenever a patient needed blood or other critical supplies. Trouble is, while the system collected real-time information about dying patients, the east African country’s rough terrain and poor supply chain often kept them from getting timely help. “We were essentially looking at a database of death,” Rinaudo says.
That Tanzania trip motivated his company to spend the next three years building what they envisioned as “the other half of that system — where you know a patient is having a medical emergency and can immediately send the product needed to save that person’s life,” Rinaudo says.
Today the story comes full circle as Tanzania’s government makes a special announcement: In early 2018 the nation will start using Zipline drones for on-demand delivery of blood, vaccines, medications and other supplies such as sutures and IV tubes.
Last fall, Zipline deployed 15 drones serving 21 clinics from a single base in a smaller neighboring country, Rwanda. The delivery operation planned for Tanzania would be the world’s largest — 120 drones at four bases serving more than 10 million people at 1,000 clinics across the country. Zipline’s 30-pound electric drones fly 68 mph to health centers up to 50 miles away. The drone service costs about the same amount as delivery using traditional road vehicles, says Rinaudo, a Harvard graduate who built DNA computers inside human cells and constructed a rock-climbing wall in a dorm basement before setting his focus on drones.
Tanzania’s drone delivery service, in partnership with the country’s ministry of health, is set to launch in its capital city, Dodoma, in January. Three more distribution centers will be added in the country’s northwestern corner and Southern Highlands later in the year.
Other countries, even the U.S., are taking note. In addition to its Africa initiatives, Zipline is trying to bring drone delivery service to rural U.S. communities and Native American reservations.
“Most people think of new, advanced technology starting in the U.S. and trickling down to Africa,” he says. “This is a total overturning of that paradigm.”
The Minister for Development Co-operation, Ulla Tornaes, said Copenhagen would contribute 91m kroner (£11m; $14m) for the program.
She said unwanted pregnancies had “enormous” human and social costs in the world’s poorest nations.
But she added that limiting Africa’s population growth was also important.
Speaking at a conference in London on Tuesday, Ms Tornaes said 225 million women in the world’s poorest countries do not currently have access to family planning.
“Unwanted pregnancies have enormous human costs in developing countries – from very young women who must give up their basic education, maternal mortality.”
The minister said this “also has large social costs, where many countries’ development step is limited by high population growth”.
She then referred specifically to Africa, saying that curtailing the continent’s population growth by increasing access to contraception and family planning was an important foreign and security policy priority for the Danish government.
“If the population growth in Africa continues as now, the African population will double from 1.2 billion people to 2.5 billion people by 2050,” Ms Tornaes said.
“Part of the solution to reducing migratory pressures on Europe is to reduce the very high population growth in many African countries.”
Denmark, like a number of other EU nations, has in recent years been under pressure to deal with a rising number of asylum seekers and immigrants arriving in Europe.
However, asylum applications dropped dramatically in the country in 2016, compared with 2015.
The government said October that 5,500 applications were received until 30 October, compared with 21,000 in 2015.
In January 2016, the Danish parliament backed a controversial proposal to confiscate asylum seekers’ valuables to pay for their upkeep – a move criticized by the UN.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the world population will reach 9.1 billion by 2050, and to feed that number of people, global food production will need to grow by 70%. For Africa, which is projected to be home to about 2 billion people by then, farm productivity must accelerate at a faster rate than the global average to avoid continued mass hunger.
The food challenges in Africa are multipronged: The population is growing, but it is threatened by low farm productivity exacerbated by weather changes, shorter fallow periods, and rural-urban migration that deprives farming communities of young people. In Northern Nigeria, herdsmen are moving south looking for pasture as their ancestral lands face severe deforestation. In Somalia, the Shebelle River, which supports many farmers, is drying up, causing additional pains in the war-torn country. The combination of higher food demand, stunted yield potential, and increasingly worse farmland must stimulate a redesigned agro-sector for assured food security. Agriculture accounts for more than 30% of the continent’s GDP and employs more than 60% of its working population.
For decades, African governments have used many policy instruments to improve farm productivity. But most farmers are still only marginally improving yields. Some continue to use traditional processes that depend heavily on historical norms, or use tools like hoes and cutlasses that have not evolved for centuries. In some Igbo communities in Nigeria, where I live, it’s common for farmers to plant according to the phases of the moon and attribute variability in their harvests to gods rather than to their own methods.
Those that do look to leverage new technologies run into financial issues. Foreign-made farm technologies remain unappealing to farmers in Africa because they are cumbersome for those who control, on average, 1.6 hectares of farmland. What’s more, less than 1% of commercial lending goes into agriculture (usually to the few large-scale farmers), so smaller farms cannot acquire such expensive tools.
But this is about to change. African entrepreneurs are now interested in how farmers work and how they can help improve yields. The barrier of entry into farming technology has dropped, as cloud computing, computing systems, connectivity, open-source software, and other digital tools have become increasingly affordable and accessible. Entrepreneurs can now deliver solutions to small-size African farms at cost models that farmers can afford.
For example, aerial images from satellites or drones, weather forecasts, and soil sensors are making it possible to manage crop growth in real time. Automated systems provide early warnings if there are deviations from normal growth or other factors. Zenvus, a Nigerian precision farming startup (which I own), measures and analyzes soil data like temperature, nutrients, and vegetative health to help farmers apply the right fertilizer and optimally irrigate their farms. The process improves farm productivity and reduces input waste by using analytics to facilitate data-driven farming practices for small-scale farmers. UjuziKilimo, a Kenyan startup, uses big data and analytic capabilities to transform farmers into a knowledge-based community, with the goal of improving productivity through precision insights. This helps to adjust irrigation and determine the needs of individual plants. And SunCulture, which sells drip irrigation kits that use solar energy to pump water from any source, has made irrigation affordable.
Beyond precision farming, financial solutions designed for farmers are blossoming. FarmDrive, a Kenyan enterprise, connects unbanked and underserved smallholder farmers to credit, while helping financial institutions cost-effectively increase their agricultural loan portfolios. Kenyan startup M-Farm and Cameroon’s AgroSpaces provide pricing data to remove price asymmetry between farmers and buyers, making it possible for farmers to earn more.
Ghana-based Farmerline and AgroCenta deploy mobile and web technologies that bring farming advice, weather forecasts, market information, and financial tips to farmers, who are traditionally out of reach, due to barriers in connectivity, literacy, or language. Sokopepe uses SMS and web tools to offer market information and farm record management services to farmers.
The World Bank president, Jim Yong Kim, on Thursday in Washington, said developing countries, including Nigeria, faced the risk of losing two-thirds of all jobs that currently exist to automation.
He also counseled developing countries to look beyond aids to foreign direct investment which he said has stronger impact than aids just as he called for the mobilization of idle trillions of dollars “sitting on the sidelines…to help meet the exploding aspirations of people all over the world.”
Kim Yong said these in his opening remarks at the ongoing World Bank/International Monetary Fund Spring Meetings in Washington.
According to him, “We estimate that two-thirds of all jobs that currently exist in developing countries will be wiped out by automation.”
He added that this is not something that would happen in the future as it had already started happening.
He said “Let me just give you one example. Two, three years ago we were arguing about whether 3D printing would ever be capable of taking over garment assembly because garment manufacturing, has been sort of the classic light industry that goes from country to country based on wages.
“Two years ago, I was told, ‘no way, garment manufacturing still requires human hands. This will always be the way it is. It’s going to be this way for at least another decade’. But I just met a woman who told me an exciting story about how she is making couture cotton T-shirts and other clothing in Haiti with 3D printers. And she said, ‘you know, it’s exciting in the sense that we know that Haitians now can run 3D printers,’ but the downside is that there are far fewer jobs.”
He continued, “So something we were arguing about two or three years ago of whether it was possible, is already happening right now in Haiti. And so for every country in the world, we have to think very seriously about what investments we need to make right now in order to prepare ourselves for the economy of the future. And for developing countries it’s definitely one of the most important things is more investment in human capital.”
On what The World Bank Group is doing to mitigate the effects of this, he said, “We have to find new and innovative ways to reach the poor, and make the world more secure and stable. We have to start by asking whether the private sector can finance a project. If the conditions aren’t right, we will work with our partners to de-risk that project or, if needed, de-risk entire countries or sectors.”
He added, “There’s never been a better time to find those win-win solutions. There are trillions of dollars sitting on the sidelines, earning little interest, and investors are looking for better returns. That capital should be mobilised to help us meet the exploding aspirations of people all over the world. And with the crises we face, our task is much more urgent than we ever thought.”
While responding to a question on aid effectiveness, Yong Kim said, “One of the things that we found is that foreign direct investment often has a much higher impact, much stronger impact on improving institutions and government than aid by itself.
“This is why we’re trying to bring together the financing we provide to governments and also the financing that comes from the private sector to create better institutions, more investment, more jobs, more economic growth, in a much more synergistic way.
“I think that’s the one thing we need to do much more effectively than we have in the past, because even inside the World Bank Group, the public sector side of the organization and the private sector side of the organization, for the most part, worked almost independently.
“Now, what we’re going to do is try to help both institutions evolve so that we can talk about de-risking entire countries with policy reform, improving the business environment, and at the same time facilitate the movement of private capital in a way that will lead to, we hope, more economic growth throughout the developing world.”
The World Bank president said his group was taking the issue of corruption concerning its interventions in countries seriously.
He said, “We at the World Bank Group have all kinds of measures, and we audit every single project. We follow the possibility of corruption very, very closely. So, on corruption and misuse of loans and grants that don’t give any outcomes, we have been following that for a long time, but I think the big question now for us in terms of aid effectiveness is we have got to stop fighting each other for the low hanging fruit projects.”
Yong Kim urged countries to take education seriously as it is the bulwark against the impending employment crisis.
“You’ve got to reduce childhood stunting. You’ve got to improve your educational system, improve health outcomes. And part of the reason that we’re focusing so much on private sector investments for infrastructure is so that we can try to free up resources to invest more in human beings so that more developing countries can be ready for the great complexity that’s about to come.”
The Cape Verde Islands, the exotic volcanic archipelago on the northwest coast of Africa, has seen a significant tourism boost. According to the National Statistics Institute in Cape Verde, foreign visits to the archipelago have increased by 13.6% during last year, with the islands of Sal and Boa Vista being especially popular tourist spots.
This stunning island chain offers an intriguing combination of mountains, beaches and peaceful seaside villages. The destination is warm, with sunny skies year-round and temperatures varying between the mid-70s in January and mid-80s in September.
The island of Sal is primarily a beach resort with long stretches of white sand and azure waters. It is the most developed of all the Cape Verde Islands in terms of tourism, and the island offers spectacular marine life with countless species, including flamboyant tropical fish, dolphins and turtles. Besides snorkeling and scuba diving, Sal is considered to be among the world’s top windsurfing locations.
The Resort Group recently opened the luxurious Llana Beach Resort in Sal. However, one of the quainter places to stay is the small, locally owned hotel Odjo D’agua. The hotel features a spectacular open-air restaurant-bar jutting out into the sea. Be sure to try the freshly caught fish in the restaurant.
Boa Vista, the second most popular island in Cape Verde, offers vast stretches of untouched golden sand; rich, turquoise seas; and a unique atmosphere. The entire island is completely covered in sand. On Praia de Chaves, for example, an old ceramic factory covered in sand yet still perfectly intact.
Depending on the time of year, travelers can spot turtles on Boa Vista’s southern beaches, which are recognized as one of the most signficant loggerhead nesting sites in the world. For the greatest chance to see turtles, visit Boa Vista between June and and September.
Although Boa Vista has a few affordable hotel options, the island also features palaces of pure luxury. The Hotel Riu Touareg looks like a sandcastle, whereas ClubHotel Riu Karamboa has a desert oasis feel reminiscent of a sultan’s palace.
Cape Verde has more to offer than its beaches; the islands have fascinating cultural and natural offerings, as well.
Avid hikers will love the mountainous peaks of Santiago. The island offers many unique and diverse landscapes ranging from volcanic rocks to green valleys and barren regions.
On Fogo Island, travelers can climb an active volcano, which is one of the highlights of a Cape Verde holiday. The restaurant at the top of the volcano offers a beautiful view of the impressive scenery of Fogo with its dark rocks and black sands, giving an impression of a lunar landscape. Coffee is grown on the outside slopes while the vines used to produce the famous Fogo wine are grown inside the crater. Both are definitely worth a try.
You can drive up a hairpin, cobbled road into the crater, where hundreds of locals make their home. For a memorable stay in Fogo’s crater, try the basic but tasteful, lava-brick guesthouse of Pedra Brabo or spend a night with a local family.
Ornithologists will be able to spot a great number species endemic to Cape Verde. The Raso lark, which is entirely confined to a single island with a total population of 45 pairs, is one of the world’s rarest birds. The Cape Verde swift, Cape Verde warbler and Iago sparrow are the other endemic species.
History buffs will love a daytrip to the old capital of Cidade Velha, a Unesco world heritage site, and Forte Real de Sao Filipe, the main slave-trading point between Europe, Africa and America, provides an interesting insight into the island’s troubled past. This is where the history of Cape Verde began, and the town has had many famous visitors over the years, including Sir Francis Drake and Charles Darwin.
For culture lovers, Sao Vicente is the place to be. Mindelo, the island’s capital, is proud of its rich tradition of music and art and has a vibrant nightlife with a lively buzz of music throughout the pubs, restaurants and nightclubs.
Music-making is everywhere, and a visit to the Cape Verde Islands would not be complete without experiencing the Cape Verdean morna music in Mindelo, a combination of guitar and violin music often put to lyrics about love.
Cape Verde fast facts:
TACV is the national carrier of Cap Verde. TACV has three weekly flights to Lisbon from Praia and one weekly from Sal and So Vicente. TACV flies once a week to Providence, R.I. TAP has daily flights from Lisbon to Praia in peak season. Royal Air Maroc offers regular flights to Cape Verde.
Travelers can get around the islands on minibus, which pick up people at unmarked points around town and drop passengers off anywhere on the way, on request. Taxis are also plentiful on the islands. For island hopping, there are several ferries available connecting the islands as well as local flights.
All visitors to Cape Verde (except holders of some African passports) require a visa. A tourist visa can be obtained without any problems on arrival.
How to pay?
The currency of Cape Verde is the escudo de cabo verde (ECV). Coins come in denominations from 1 to 200 escudos and bills from 200 to 5,000; $1 U.S. is worth approximately 102 ECV.
Exchange counters are located at international airports but not at domestic airports. Credit cards issued by MasterCard or Visa are accepted at major hotels and banks.
The official language of the islands is Portuguese, which is used in most written communication, including newspapers; however Creole tends to be used in conversation.
With a little help, dreams can come true. For designer Breanna Moore, a successful Kickstarter campaign provided the necessary and invaluable resources to help launch her fashion business idea into reality. The LaBré fashion line has grown into LaBré Bazaar, an e-commerce platform which provides African and diasporic artisans with increased access and exposure to the international market, alongside her Fashion Made in Africa Initiative. One of the Initiative’s pillars is to generate global visibility of African-inspired fashion designers and harness the fashion industry to create economic opportunities for young and talented African designers.
The young designer has used the LaBré fashion collection to educate the public on the history of “African prints” with “The Threads of Africa” on display currently at the Art Sanctuary. The exhibit explores “threads” or fabrics that are traditional to the continent and the origin of those that have been imported and adapted into West and Central African culture. Before the 1960s every fabric sold in West and Central Africa was manufactured in Europe. According to Moore, the African print market is overwhelmingly void of African ownership. LaBré aims to complicate the narrative surrounding what is known as African prints.
“The descriptions on the walls discuss literally the ‘Thread of Africa’ and goes over the history of a lot of the fabric [being manufactured] by the Chinese, British and Dutch,” said Moore. “It is imported and hardly owned by Africans themselves in Africa. I thought that was a point to bring up so people could know how to best contribute to the economy when they do buy the fabrics.”
Through the LaBré Threads of Africa Gown Spring 2017 Collection, Moore wants to ensure that young women who can’t afford a prom dress have the opportunity to enjoy their high school proms without having to pay hundreds of dollars on a beautiful gown. For every seven gowns sold, LaBré will donate a free dress to an in-need Philadelphia high school student who cannot afford a prom dress.
The giveaway has roots in the tough times of the designer’s own high school years.
“I just look back to my experience. My senior year of high school was during the end of the recession,” recalled Moore. “Both of my parents were unemployed at the time and we really couldn’t afford a dress. I was able to do so by working a side job at the time, after school and weekends. That definitely helped me to provide this for the high school seniors because I know how hard it is when you can’t really afford a dress. And also, it would be a great cultural [merger] to help have confidence in your culture and where you come from when you have a dress made of African fabric, especially young ladies from the Continent who might be from a country that may particularly trying to be banned by Trump’s immigration policy.
“This will help them feel comfortable and beautiful in their country or native land’s choice of fabric, textiles, et cetera. I can see that African and African-inspired gowns are really becoming popular. There have been a few cases highlighted where girls have gowns made out of African fabric. I wanted to shine more light on that and let people see that African fashion is versatile, luxurious and elegant — just as European-style fashion,” Moore said.
Moore says she is also offering sponsorship opportunities for people who want to provide these unique gowns to needy high schoolers.
The LaBré “Threads of Africa” Gown Spring 2017 Collection exhibit is at the Art Sanctuary gallery, 628 S. 16th St., until Saturday. The deadline to apply for the LaBré Prom Dress Giveaway is April 30. for more information, visit shoplabre.com.
An increasing number of designers on the continent are morphing from small tailor businesses into recognized and respected fashion houses, thanks to the internet.
In 2014, when Beyoncé was spotted wearing a skirt and jacket from South African brand Kisua, it sold out in days. The musician’s stylist had come across the brand online.
“The internet is a great leveler,” says Kisua’s Ghanaian founder Samuel Mensah. “The speed with which you can access markets and can generate awareness about your brand is unprecedented in the history of fashion.”
The e-commerce platform sells its own clothes and collaborates with other designers to create collections for its label. It was born out of Mensah’s travels around the continent as an economist.
South Africa’s Chulaap, and Senegal’s Selly Raby Kane make up 25 African brands fronted by online platform OXOSI.
When overseas, friends would create wish lists for him. “Next time you are in Senegal or Nigeria or Kenya please buy me this, that I saw so-so wearing,” he explains.
“It always intrigued me why the [African] fashion was so inaccessible. I couldn’t understand why nobody was doing this because consumers obviously wanted the products.”
E-commerce seemed the logical solution.
The country has the largest online apparel market in Africa, expected to grow from an estimated $104m in 2014 to nearly $1.1bn in 2019 according to research by Euromonitor International.
The sheer size of Nigeria’s population of 180m mean its consumers spent $400 billion in 2014, McKinsey estimates.
Currently 75% of people in Africa are still offline. But internet access increasingly via mobile phone subscription is growing and predicted to reach 41 percent of Africa’s population by 2020.
A further survey by Ipsos Mori and PayPal reveals 89 percent of Nigeria’s internet users shop online or expect to do so in the future.
Last year saw the launch of New York based ONYCHEK, an e-commerce site selling luxury apparel from Africa to customers in the US, Canada and UK.
“We are trying to make fashion made in Africa available to everybody,” says founder Chekwas Okafor.
Okafor’s father historically exported textiles from China into Nigeria, and by naming the brand after his dad’s company he aims to do “the reverse”.
“African Americans are excited about supporting African brands and then there are those consumers who are just excited about ethical and sustainable fashion. Those are our customer base,” he adds.
It’s a logic shared by the creators of fellow New York based OXOSI, also launched in 2016. Nigerian founders Akin Adebowale and Kolade Adeyemo aim to connect emerging brands from the continent with global consumers especially those who value the heritage behind designs.
“The internet is a great leveler,” says Kisua’s founder Samuel Mensah. The South African e-commerce platform launched in 2013.
Initial capital for its launch came from private equity firm Kupanda Capital known to seed fund companies with a pan-African interest. It also recruited market guidance from Zara Okpara, brand consultant for Lagos Fashion and Design Week (LFDW).
Currently 25 African based designers make up the site’s roster with Amaka Osakwe’s Maki Oh line its biggest. The Nigerian designer has been worn by former first lady Michelle Obama and is a known favorite of celebrities like Solange Knowles.
Rapidly growing outlets
Nigerian Olatorera Oniru left a corporate career in banking and tech to set up Dress Me Outlet. The online shopping site based in Lagos sells around 85 to 95 percent of its products to Nigerians.
Nigeria is recovering from a recession, after a steep drop in oil prices but for some this represents an opportunity, as imported goods become less affordable.
“Last year we led a very aggressive campaign in Nigeria,” she says. “We offered free shipping and competitive rates on our site.”
Dress Me Outlet launched last year with just five full-time staff but now employs 30. It believes smart promotion has allowed it to build quickly, despite facing stiff competition from Jumia and Konga, major online marketplace retailers operating within Nigeria and other countries in the continent.
Nigerian-born designer Bridget Awosika’s showcases a collection at Lagos Fashion and Design Week in 2016.
Breanna Moore, a businesswoman and designer who was recently featured in Teen Vogue, will showcase the latest collection from her fashion label LaBré at a new exhibit titled “Threads of Africa.” A free opening reception will take place on Thursday, March 9, at Art Sanctuary.
“LaBré is transforming the way we think about African fashion,” according to Moore.
The designer, who graduated from Penn, has a big mission for her work. Since the fashion line launched in 2016, it has worked to increase economic growth in Ghana by employing women from the West African nation.
“All of our products are handmade by Ghanaian designers, seamstresses and tailors,” states the LaBré site.
Moore didn’t stop there, however. She also provides African artisans with increased access and exposure to the international market through her Fashion Made in Africa Initiative and LaBré Bazaar.
As part of the Fashion Made in Africa Initiative, the upcoming exhibit will include other designers besides Moore.
Attendees will view designs by several Ghanaian and Nigerian designers.
Expect to see gowns in modern styles created from traditional African fabrics. Accompanying the fashion will be photographs, art and live music.
Attendees are invited to shop the collection, too. For every seven LaBré “Threads of Africa” Spring 2017 gowns sold, the company will donate a dress to a high school Philadelphian-in-need who cannot afford a prom dress.
Those who attend the free opening reception will be treated to wine and hors d’oeuvres while exploring the exhibit.
There’s more than one date to view the fashion, however. It will be on display from Tuesday, March 7, through Saturday, April 15.
Kenyan communications hardware company BRCK unveiled its SupaBRCK this week — a waterproof, solar-powered Wi-Fi box that operates as a 3G hotspot and off-grid server.
SupaBRCK is the sequel to BRCK’s eponymous debut product, launched in 2013 to tackle two common African IT challenges: reliable power and viable internet options.
BRCK version 1 delivered connectivity and USB charging for up to 20 devices. The new SupaBRCK — with its dual core processor and a 5 terabyte hard drive — can be plopped down in just about any environment to provide up to 100 internet connections, streaming video for 50 devices and enough server capacity to run a Linux stack.
Accompanying BRCK’s hardware product is the startup’s new Moja service, which will provide ad-supported free public internet access and a content delivery network (CDN) service through SupaBRCK devices.
“We are moving from just being a hardware company to becoming a platform company, as we connect SupaBRCK to Moja and start having a network that covers entire countries,” BRCK chief executive Erik Hersman told TechCrunch.
As a startup, BRCK’s central focus has been delivering internet to Africa’s masses. Despite progress on mobile phone ownership and ICT infrastructure over the last decade, the continent remains one of the world’s most digitally disconnected. Though some countries, such as Kenya and South Africa, have attained high usage, internet penetration for the continent lingers at less than one- third of Africa’s estimated 1.2 billion people.
Improving those numbers, according to Hersman, is as much about cost as actual internet availability. “The demand on internet in Africa is largely driven by the 10 to 15 percent who can afford it. The real massive opportunity is trying to connect the 70 to 80 percent of the people who can’t. That’s where the internet race really is,” Hersman said.
BRCK’s revenue strategy, according to Hersman, includes not just generating sales from hardware, but “figuring out a business model that allows internet to work for those who can’t pay for it, while still generating a profit.”
Achieving this is a work in progress, he explained. Hersman noted possibilities to connect BRCK’s CDN network to greater advertising partners. There are also opportunities for partnerships with blue chip tech firms moving into Africa. “Most of the big companies — Google, satellite companies — are all doing transmission, they are not doing distribution,” said Hersman. “That’s where BRCK has a real competitive advantage and it makes us good partners with those companies. They provide the transmission end and we provide the transition out — that last meter between your phone and the Wi-Fi.”
Improving internet availability and affordability in Africa had become central to the continent’s burgeoning IT ecosystem. Pan-African e-commerce startups like Jumia need it to create a customer base. For global tech companies such as Facebook, Google, and Netflix — all of which increased their presence in Africa in 2016 — viable net access underpins growth possibilities on the continent.
BRCK, which is an outgrowth of Kenya’s iHub and Ushahidi crowdsourcing company, has been developing a suite of products to meet public and private internet needs.
MAMENDA, CAMEROON — A teenager in northwestern Cameroon has become the first African to win Google’s global youth coding challenge, despite an ongoing internet blackout in his hometown.
Nji Patrick Gbah’s tailor shop in Bamenda is buzzing with business and pride. His son, Collins, was recently named one of 34 grand-prize winners in this year’s Google Code-In, a global challenge for young programmers.
He used to punish his son for “joking” with the computer.
“I was feeling that he is just spending his time without doing house chores. At times I used to seize my computer and lock it in the house and I tell him not to use it anymore because I was believing that he is just spending time on that computer for nothing,” said the teen’s father.
Nji Collins Gbah has won a trip to Google headquarters in California this June with the other top finishers.
The competition was open to students between the ages of 13 and 17. More than 1,300 young people from 62 countries participated this year.
“The only thing I want to say is focus on studies,” Collins said. “Get to know more about the opportunities that are around you and go to sites which have real information about opportunities like this.”
But that may be hard at the moment for his fellow students in Bamenda. In mid-January, the internet was cut to English-speaking parts of Cameroon, amid ongoing unrest.
Collins had to plead with his uncle for travel money so he could go to to Mbouda, a French-speaking town 30 kilometers away, to get online and compete. He had just a few days to complete 842 programming tasks.
Many believe the government ordered the internet blackout, though there has been no official confirmation.
Teachers and lawyers have been on strike in the English-speaking regions since November. They have been joined by activists calling for secession. Some demonstrations have turned violent and dozens of people have been arrested.
Officials say activists have been using social media to spread anti-government messages.
Cameroon’s minister of post and telecommunication, Libom Li Likeng, told VOA there has to be a responsible use of technology. She says although social networks provide lots of opportunities, they have noticed that many people use them for unhealthy purposes.
African countries have been increasingly responding to unrest by cutting internet access. Uganda, Congo and Mali are just a few other examples.
Last week, a U.N. rights expert called the internet blackout in parts of Cameroon “an appalling violation” of freedom of expression.
Residents in affected areas say it is impacting the economy as money transfer services and ATM’s are not working.
Globetrotting can be hard, but Google is here to make it easier — not when it comes to flight and hotel accommodations, but rather with an ever-expanding repository of the most incredible sights from around the world. Google has added some of the highlights from the majestic continent of Africa to its Google Street View knowledge base and starting today, you’ll be able to take virtual tours of “some of the most iconic landmarks and monuments in Ghana, Senegal, and Uganda.”
You can now explore a total of 81 countries without ever leaving your home by way of Google Street View, seven of which are located in Africa. There’s the UNESCO World Heritage-classified village of Nzulezo in Ghana, built over Lake Tadane, whose stilt-supported structures are integrated with the water-centric landscape of the area.
You can also pay a virtual visit to the National Theatre of Ghana, which houses the National Dance Company, the National Symphony Orchestra, and the National Theatre Players. For a different kind of art, you can head over to Senegal’s African Renaissance monument, a bronze statue that rises 49 meters into the air. Or you can look at natural landmarks like the pink-watered Lake Retba.
“We are excited that what began with a few South African cities in 2009, has now expanded to many other cities in 7 countries across the continent,” Google concluded, “From Cape Town to Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania and now Ghana, Uganda and Senegal, we are glad that more people from around the world are turning to Street View to to get a glimpse of this beautiful continent. We wouldn’t be surprised if you’ll be tempted to pack your own cameras to explore in person as well!”