12 Jun

Ethiopia’s tech startups are confident change is coming

Word that Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmed is looking to loosen his country’s tight grip on strategic assets like its fast-growing airline and its long-term telecom monopoly has sparked interest from international investors and regional corporations.

It’s easy to see why: Ethiopia, with a population of 100 million, has had one of the world’s fastest-growing economies for the past decade. It’s also had a successful top-down implementation of various infrastructure initiatives in transportation and construction.

Still, Ethiopia’s also been called a “sleeping giant” because of its closed markets. Decades after last socialist government, it still has a heavily regulated business environment. Things were changing even before Abiy’s appointment and as the country’s tense politics led to a state of emergency after ethnic-led protests and fatal clashes with security forces.

At the Afrobytes tech conference in Paris, an Ethiopian delegation of 12 local startups attended to show off some the not-often-seen initiatives. Zekarias Amsalu, founder of investment advisory firm Ibex Frontier, who led the startup group, says he coined the moniker “Sheba Valley” to describe one of Addis Ababa main startup hubs.

Amsalu has long been a champion for Ethiopia’s potential, saying it’s not about “emotion, but logic.” The accountant, who splits his time between London, Washington DC and Addis, explains: “We just want our story to be told.

We have 250,000 university graduates every year, about 70% of them are in STEM subjects, there’s so much potential.” Sheba Valley is now recognized as a leading hub for AI technology on the continent led by Icog Labs, the Addis research team.

“You have to be smarter than the machines than you’re using,” says Betelhem Dessie, who at 18 is already a project manager for Icog, while still a student at the University of Addis Ababa.

There are several other hubs, including Ice Addis and Bluemoon and more established tech-led ventures including Gebeya, an online marketplace for talent.

To read the full article, click here.

19 Sep

Nigerian Tech Entrepreneur Is Building An African Digital Powerhouse

Over the last 15 years, Africa has seen significant mobile telecoms growth and now data is being viewed as the ‘new oil’ on the continent.

Founder of the Terragon Group, Elo Umeh, a 35-year-old Nigerian with a knack for mobile, digital innovation and creative solutions, has made overcoming data access and reach on Africa’s most pervasive device the mission of the company he founded 8 years ago. With a vast amount of experience in the mobile telecommunications industry having worked in different countries in Africa – Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire – Umeh has consulted widely for various organisations in the telecommunications and banking sectors, including the International Finance Corporation (IFC) on management of rural telephony initiatives, mobile payments in West Africa and the deployment of new products.

A keynote speaker at TMT Finance Africa which recently took place in London, Elo Umeh is the current co-chair of the Mobile Marketing Association in Nigeria. He talks to me about being a significant player in a fast-growing market.

What has fuelled your entrepreneurial drive?

My love for digital has come from the iPhone. As an undergraduate in Lagos people couldn’t communicate unless they queued along with 30 or 40 people for hours to use a public phone. The government held a monopoly on phone lines and provided relatively substandard service, so not much was happening from a commercial standpoint. The development of mobile communications was a real gamechanger and from the beginning it began to make a significant impact across the continent. I realized it was going to change everything.

Why create a technology business?

I saw the potential of reaching an untapped market, that struggled due to the lack of basic infrastructure, therefore, development of communications, transportation, power and could be bridged through the innovation that potentially was being heralded by the launch of the smartphone in 2007.

Read more: How Nigerian Tech Entrepreneur Elo Umeh Of Terragon Group Is Building An African Digital Powerhouse

08 Aug

Earthport partners with Access Bank in Africa

Cross-border payment network Earthport partners with Access Bank

Cross-border payment network Earthport announced on Monday that it partnered with Access Bank, one of Africa’s foremost financial institutions, to provide delivery of cross-border payment services into Nigeria.

The AIM-traded firm described Access Bank as one of Nigeria’s ‘leading financial institutions’, and had a strong focus on servicing the Nigerian diaspora.

“It is with great pleasure that Access Bank is partnering with Earthport, a reputable global payment network, to meet the needs of our customers who require a sound and reliable international payment platform,” said Access Bank Nigeria executive director Victor Etuokwu.

“As a top player in the remittance industry in Nigeria, our wide branch network and large customer base will be invaluable to this partnership and we are confident that this relationship will be a mutually beneficial one to both parties.

“This alliance also supports the bank’s vision of being ‘the world’s most respected African bank’ and our mantra of speed, service and services.”

Earthport said the new payment channel had been created in direct response to the need for more effective servicing of remittances and low-value payments sourced from outside the country, which now totalled an estimated $19bn per year, representing 4.7% of the country’s GDP.

The partnership was part of Earthport’s longer term strategy of expansion into the African continent.

“We are delighted to be partnering with Access Bank to extend our global payment network into Nigeria, which is undergoing a rapid transformation,” said Earthport CEO Hank Uberoi.

“With this comes a growing demand for efficient cross-border payment services, which Earthport will deliver to this important market, together with innovative solutions for financial inclusion.

“This is also a significant step in the expansion of Earthport’s global footprint.”

via digitallook

08 Aug

Senegal start-up trains young coders

Senegal starts training young coders
Senegal’s tech scene has been slow to get off the ground due to a lack of qualified coders. But a locally-run company is trying to change that, while also helping young people find jobs.
Local tech start-ups are tackling day-to-day conveniences in the capital, Dakar. Firefly, a digital advertising company, places TV screens in public buses, but has struggled to find qualified web and mobile app developers in Senegal.

“They are trained in technologies we do not work with,” explains Mafal Lo, the co-founder of Firefly. “For example, all engineering schools in Dakar work in Java. We work mostly with PHP and Python, with new front-end technologies like Bootstrap. These are not things they learn in school.”

Until recently, that is.

At Volkeno, students learn web development, digital marketing or graphic design. At the end of the one-month training programme, they will spend two months interning with a local company.

The classes are free. Volkeno is supported by companies like Firefly in exchange for hiring interns. At least 15 of those interns have landed full-time contracts.

CEO Abdoul Khadre Diallo initially set up Volkeno to provide tech services to local entrepreneurs. The training programme was launched later when he realised none of his interns were sufficiently qualified.

“Here, young people are not encouraged to be interested in these skills. Most schools remain too classical. The training is too classical. You see schools where in five years, there is no decent practical training, in my opinion,” says IT professor Babacar Fall who taught the workshop in St. Louis.

There are efforts to change that. At a coding workshop in the northern city of St. Louis, high school students are introduced to coding and web development.

The Next Einstein Forum’s Africa Science Week is held in 13 African countries to promote interest in STEM fields, science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“For me, the problem lies in the content of university courses,” Fall says. “Because you can start by teaching HTML, but then you evolve and teach HTML5. For me, we must simply update everything.”

Volkeno has registered more than 40 functioning start-ups in Dakar, all of which operate through websites and mobile applications.

“If you are trained in technology, you can find work after you graduate,” explains Fatim Sarah Kaita, a digital marketing trainee at Volkeno. “Because it is very difficult to find internships and everything here, and your relations play a big role. But for example, if you learn programming you can set up your own project, create an application. If you know digital marketing, you can do all the promotion yourself, so it is important to get training.”

The founder of Senegal’s next big start-up may be sitting right here in this room. – VOA

Source from HowWeMadeItInAfrica

08 Aug

Safaricom Sees Amazon as Model for Kenya E-Commerce Platform

Safaricom Ltd. of Kenya plans to introduce an e-commerce platform

Safaricom Ltd. of Kenya plans to introduce an e-commerce platform within eight months targeting formal retail and informal online trading in East Africa’s biggest economy, directors at the company said.

Known as Masoko, Swahili for markets, it will offer products ranging from electronics to beverages and cosmetics, and provide a tool for people currently buying and selling goods on social-media platforms such as Facebook, Director of Enterprise Business Rita Okuthe said in an interview. The portal is currently undergoing in-house testing, Safaricom Chief Executive Officer Bob Collymore said.

“This offering will not be holding inventory and neither will it be an anyone-can-sell arena,” Collymore said in an interview in the capital, Nairobi. “Safaricom is carefully screening all the merchants before giving them access to the platform.” Okuthe said the goal was to become “a little bit more” than an African equivalent of Amazon.com Inc.’sMarketplace.

Safaricom is looking for ways to build on the success of M-Pesa, its mobile-phone money transfer service that dominates the Kenyan economy and is used by subscribers to pay for everything from utility bills to groceries and gasoline. The company accounts for 75 percent of the country’s 40.6 million Internet users, while M-Pesa handled 432.5 billion shillings ($4.2 billion) of mobile commerce transactions in the first quarter, more than half the total 627.5 billion shillings ($6.04 billion), according to data published by the industry regulator.

Logistics Hurdles

Safaricom, based in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, is mulling partnerships with logistics companies and could use global positioning systems to make deliveries in the absence of a national addressing system, Okuthe said. It’s aiming to cut delivery times from the current 72-96 hours, she said.

The platform could potentially be used by services including Africa Internet Group’s Jumia, Kilimall International and OLX, a unit of Johannesburg-listed Naspers Ltd. in the first phase of operations, according to Okuthe.

“If you look at Facebook and Instagram, there’s a lot of online/offline selling that happens and one of the reasons why they’re popular in Kenya is because small-scale, middle-scale merchants use it as a sales tool,” Okuthe said. “What we are going to be doing is formalizing that. At least five in 10 Kenyans have bought something they first saw online.”

The company will work with manufacturers and farmers looking for direct market access and reduce supply-chain inefficiencies including transportation costs and poor infrastructure, Okuthe said.

M-Pesa will be among a number of payment methods including other online wallet services and cards by Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc. Safaricom plans to roll out Masoko by the end of March, and later expand the platform beyond Kenya, Okuthe said, without specifying what other markets the company is considering.

“We have some very big ambitions in terms of how big we want to scale and wherever we want to go,” Okuthe said.

Via Bloomberg

28 Jun

The future of tech is in ‘cities across Africa,’ says this start-up CEO

Silicon Valley’s days leading the tech revolution may be coming to an end, according to one optimistic observer who believes the future of technology lies much further abroad than San Francisco.

The future of tech “will be written in Lagos, Nairobi, Kampala and cities across Africa,” Jeremy Johnson the CEO and founder of Andela told CNBC. “We believe that Africa is going to emerge as a very significant player in the global tech scene,” he said.

Andela connects Africa’s top 2 percent of developers with jobs at companies globally. “We created a platform that enables the best and brightest to basically scale their abilities as technologists, and in the process … also solve the problem that many companies around the world are facing, and that’s just a shortage of technical talent,” said Johnson

Read more: The future of tech is in ‘cities across Africa,’ says this start-up CEO