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Africa Trends Roundup: Internet-Anywhere, Smart cities, & Jobs creation

September 8th, 2014 | No Comments | Posted in Business, Editor's Note, Technology

Getting insights from the noisy coverage of Africa can be very hard. We’ve sifted through all the news and views and identified these recent stories which more accurately indicate what Africa’s cultural, and business ecosystems might look like in the near future. Read on and continue to stay one step ahead.

  • Made In Kenya, Assembled In America: This Internet-Anywhere Company Innovates From Silicon Savannah – Fast Company: (BRCK) is essentially a mobile Internet router. It connects to the web in three ways: by plugging in a standard ethernet cable, by bridging with other Wi-Fi networks, or by accessing 3G or 4G data via a basic SIM card…While designed in Kenya, BRCK is manufactured and assembled deep in the heart of Texas, by a company called Silicon Hills. Located outside of Austin, the company has the key ability to iterate and do small runs. According to its CEO, BRCK couldn’t also be manufactured in Kenya because of the considerable import taxes and time delays when bringing components into the country.

  • Infrastructure & connectivity key to Africa’s smart cities – IT News Africa: For a continent driven by mobility, Wi-Fi presents a significant opportunity to aid in the socio-economic development of people – particularly as it provides a cost-effective access solution to high-density areas such as those found in cities.
    Fletcher cites the example of Kenya and Ghana that are heavily investing in building pre-planned technology hubs that have the capacity to be involved in the smart cities of the future.

  • The Previously Untold Story Of Africa’s Mobile Revolution – Forbes: Africa’s mobile revolution has been called a phenomenon that “changed African nations more significantly than any development since their independence from colonial powers.” Today, Africa is even more reliant on mobile technology than the West. But one important story has remained untold. It’s the saga of how one person, imbued with entrepreneurial passion and surrounded by a supportive ecosystem of colleagues, helped launch an SMS text messaging service for real-time market pricing that eventually transformed the continent.

  • Africa at work: Job creation and inclusive growth – McKinsey: Despite the creation of 37 million new and stable wage-paying jobs over the past decade, only 28 percent of Africa’s labor force holds such positions. If the trends of the past decade continue, Africa will create 54 million new, stable wage-paying jobs over the next ten years—but this will not be enough to absorb the 122 million new entrants into the labor force expected over the same period. However, by implementing a five-part strategy to accelerate the pace of job creation, we estimate that Africa could add as many as 72 million new wage-paying jobs over the next decade, raising the wage-earning share of the labor force to 36 percent…If Africa accelerates job creation, it could add 72 million additional wage-paying jobs by 2020.

  • Africa’s testing ground – The Economist: Nigeria’s promise has made it a test-bed for the Africa strategies of consumer-goods firms. This is not only because of its size. It is also because of the spread of Nigerian culture—its music and movies—around Africa, says Yaw Nsarkoh of Unilever. The Anglo-Dutch company has been trading in Nigeria for nearly a century and is expanding its operations.Procter & Gamble, another global consumer giant, has just completed a factory near Lagos, its second in Nigeria..Just as Nigeria is used as shorthand for the business opportunity in Africa it is also a summary of the continent’s shortcomings.

  • Report reveals sub-Saharan Africa’s 10 most competitive economies – How We Made it in Africa: More than half of the 20 lowest-ranked countries in the report are sub-Saharan, and many markets have insufficient infrastructure and poor levels of health and basic education…The region’s challenge is to turn high growth into inclusive growth and make the transition from agriculture-based economies to higher value-added activities.

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Using Twitter for Nigeria election reform

April 12th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted in Events, Politics, Technology

At the center of grass roots efforts to keep Nigeria’s notorious election process clean is a small, indistinguishable man armed with a cell phone…Amara, wearing a t-shirt with the phrase “Light Up Nigeria” and with his mobile phone always close by, is perhaps Nigeria’s best-known Twitter activist….But as Amara tours polling stations across Lagos, he is leaving nothing to chance. He uses the internet as a platform to encourage as many people to get involved in the voting process as possible….Nigeria has 43 million Internet users — the largest in Africa — and they are increasingly using Twitter, Facebook and blogs, such as Nigeria’s Saharareporters.com, to access information and make their views heard.

Read more at CNN.com

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Trailer: When China met Africa (documentary)

April 6th, 2011 | No Comments | Posted in Business, Film/Television, General, Politics, Travel

When China met Africa‘, a new documentary film produced by Marc Francis & Nick Francis and Miriana Bojic Walter, tells the story of China’s entrance into Zambia and the cultural and business relationships surrounding:

A historic gathering of over 50 African heads of state in Beijing reverberates in Zambia where the lives of three characters unfold. Mr Liu is one of thousands of Chinese entrepreneurs who have settled across the continent in search of new opportunities. He has just bought his fourth farm and business is booming.

In northern Zambia, Mr Li, a project manager for a multinational Chinese company is upgrading Zambia’s longest road. Pressure to complete the road on time intensifies when funds from the Zambian government start running out.

Meanwhile Zambia’s Trade Minister is on route to China to secure millions of dollars of investment.

Through the intimate portrayal of these characters, the expanding footprint of a rising global power is laid bare – pointing to a radically different future, not just for Africa, but also for the world.

Watch the trailer below:

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Microsoft chairman plots Africa’s tech revolution (video)

January 18th, 2011 | 3 Comments | Posted in Business, General, Technology

In the video featurette below, CNN’s African Voices highlights Cheick Diarra, the Microsoft chairman for Africa who has been trying to make technology more accessible on the continent. In the video Mr. Diarra talks about tech affordability, connectivity, and training in Africa, and also comments on combatting software piracy by developing the local software development community, Before joining Microsoft in 2006, Cheick Diarra spent 10 years working for NASA as its first African astrophysicist.

The latest chapter in his career has seen him return to Africa, where he has been heading Microsoft’s operations since 2006, trying to make technology more accessible on the continent…’This is a unique opportunity because somebody like me, who is known for his scientific achievement, being able to have the opportunity to use, to leverage a company like Microsoft to really put the technology-access issue at the middle of the table,” he says….However, Diarra is quick to point out that access to technology will do little to accelerate Africa’s economic and social development if it is not accompanied by investment in the continent’s most important resource — its people. – CNN African Voices
More in the video below.
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Africa’s wealth and consumerism draws big brands

January 14th, 2011 | 4 Comments | Posted in Business, General

The Wall Street Journal is currently running an in-depth interactive series on the rapid development and potential of the African consumer market. The first installment of the series includes a wealth timeline of foreign investment in Africa, consumer profiles, an insightful article on multinational brand perspective and more. It’s a must read. I’m looking forward to reading more in this series.

There’s a new gold rush under way for the African consumer, a campaign that spans the continent and aims to reach an emerging middle class. These are the people who have begun to embrace cellphone messages, restaurant meals and trips down supermarket aisles.
In Kenya, a battle between units of Britain’s Vodafone Group PLC, and India’s Bharti Airtel Ltd. has driven down the consumer’s cost of a text message to a penny. Yum Brands Inc. of the U.S. recently said it wants to double its KFC outlets in the next few years to 1,200.
And Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has agreed to pay nearly $2.5 billion to buy 51% of South Africa’s Massmart Holdings Ltd., with plans to use the discount retailer as a foothold for continental expansion. Andy Bond, Wal-Mart’s regional executive vice-president, describes the potential as a “10- to 20-year play.”
Some analysts believe a billion-person continental market already has arrived. Consultancy McKinsey & Co. says the number of middle-income consumers—those who can spend for more than just the necessities—in Africa has exceeded the figure for India. The firm predicts consumer spending will reach $1.4 trillion in 2020, from about $860 billion in 2008. – Read more on WSJ.com
click image to enlarge
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Insights on mobile banking & advertising in Africa (videos)

January 5th, 2011 | 1 Comment | Posted in Business, General, Technology

If you’ve been following this website or been engaged in any recent conversation about Africa’s future, you can’t have missed a mention about mobile technology innovation and it’s impact in Africa. For the curious or uninitiated, here are a couple of videos which focus on the trend and give some insight particularly in the banking and advertising industries.

Banking revolution saving lives in Africa (CNN)

According to the Bureau of International Information Programs at the U.S. State Department, around one million of Tanzania’s 41 million inhabitants use mobile phone technology to carry out financial transactions and save money.
At the same time, only 12% of the population have a formal bank account, while almost half of them own a cell phone.

M-Pesa: Kenya teaches the developed world about the mobile wallet (BBC)

In developing world countries like Kenya, the technology to do this has been around for several years – and you do not need a bank account to use it. M-Pesa launched in 2007, and there are now nearly 100 services like it around the world, mainly in developing countries. Can the developed world learn from Kenya’s experience with the mobile wallet?

Mobile Advertising in Africa (A talk by Ankit Rawal of InMobi)

Ankit Rawal, Head of Advertising, Africa, InMobi speaks about the state of mobile advertising in Africa at iHub in Kenya.

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Growth and spending of African consumers (video)

December 8th, 2010 | 2 Comments | Posted in Business, Fashion, Film/Television, General

Here’s a very  informative video interview on African consumer growth, spending and attitudes. Courtesy of ABN Digital.

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Top 100 global thinkers of 2010

December 2nd, 2010 | No Comments | Posted in Books/Magazines, Business, Charity, Featured, General, Politics

Foreign Policy Magazine has named their top 100 global thinkers of 2010. The list, which I’ve outlined below, is a mix of policy makers, advocates, and media professionals among other global influencers. A special congratulations goes out to Rosa Whitaker (#53), Ory Okolloh (#59), and Ethan Zuckerman (#81), all of whom  I’ve had the pleasure of connecting and sharing ideas with. View the full list below, and read the full story on the Foreign Policy website:

Beginning with Warren Buffett and Bill Gates (1), who teamed up to prove that even in tough times great new ideas can emerge, to forecasting economist Nouriel Roubini (12) to political leaders Barack Obama (3) and Angela Merkel (10), FP presents more than just their big ideas. Once again we took a unique survey of this very smart crowd. Nearly two-thirds participated to give you insight into their thinking on everything from how Obama’s doing to their preference in new-age reading device (iPad, by a lot). But don’t take our word for it — take the same questionnaire we sent to our FP 100 and see how your answers match up against theirs. – Foreign Policy Mag.

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‘Fela!’ musical lands 11 Tony Noms; Chiwetel Ejiofor cast as Fela in biopic

May 5th, 2010 | 1 Comment | Posted in Art, Business, Events, Film/Television, Music

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A BIG congratulations to the cast and crew of ‘FELA!’ The musical as they have just received 11 Tony Award nominations including Best Musical. The Tony Awards is the leading awards which honor Broadway productions that opened during the 2009-10 season. Along with the musical ‘La Cage aux Folles’, ‘Fela!’ has received the most nominations. ‘Fela! is nominated in all major categories including Best direction, Best performance by a leading actor, Best performance by a featured actress, and Best choreography. The 2010 Tony Awards show will air June 13 on CBS.

In related news Golden Globe nominated actor Chiwetel Ejiofor (Kinky Boots, American Gangster, Inside Man) has been cast to play Fela in the feature film biopic about the iconic Nigerian musician/activist. Deadline New York reveals:

(The) Focus Features movie about the African musician and activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti now officially has its leading man. Chiwetel Ejiofor is formally attached to play Fela in the film that will be directed by Steve McQueen, the British artist who made his helming debut on Hunger, the drama about the Irish hunger strike that starred Michael Fassbender.

When I revealed the project last year, Ejiofor seemed the obvious choice, but Focus Features wouldn’t confirm. Ejiofor sure has been taking it seriously on his end. In between his work on the upcoming Angelina Jolie-starrer Salt, he has been learning to play piano and saxophone to prepare for the role. I’m told he’s gotten quite good.

When I first heard about the biopic some months ago many people on Twitter, including myself, put in their vote for Ejiofor in the lead role. It seems the producers were thinking as we did. Though the two projects are unrelated, I can’t help but think the musical helped solidify production plans for the film. I, for one, am excited for both projects. Go see Fela! The Musical.

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Africa in vibrant technicolor, Paul Sika talks to CNN

One of  the most dynamic, engaging young creative talents coming out of the African continent recently is Ivorian photographer/creative director Paul Sika. After being introduced about a year ago by a mutual friend, I was impressed by his creative vision and passion. Paul’s use of color and juxtaposition of characters in his photo and video creations expose a new way of looking at contemporary African life, culture, and style. A true entrepreneur, Paul has put together an upcoming book titled “At The Heart Of Me …” featuring his intricate work and concepts. As I mentioned in my earlier post “Top 6 African business and culture trends to watch in 2010“, Paul Sika is one of the African creative class making an impact this year. For more about Paul Sika and his upcoming book, visit PaulSika.com

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Trailer for the book “At The Heart Of Me …” by Paul Sika

CNN Inside Africa’s Isha Sesay talks to Ivorian photographer Paul Sika about his vibrant images, filled with eye-catching colors.

If you can’t see the videos above, go here to view

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