Archives For Apps4Africa

2014-06-11 13.46.08I was invited by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to be a panelist during the 2 day UN Global Compact Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The UN Global Compact Conference, held on June 9 + 10, 2014,  convened 300 public and private sector players from across the continent to facilitate knowledge sharing for local, regional and continental planning.  The organizers did a great job in accomplishing something that is no small feat, bringing together U.N. agencies, NGOs and various companies from the private sector  (such as consulting firms, BoP technical assistants and regional financial institutions) to discuss ways to come together to discuss the problems facing small and medium size enterprises (SMEs) in Africa.

The setting was the rather impressive: The UN Economic Council on Africa building is housed just minutes away from the Palace. The building, like much of the city of Addis, was partly under renovation, but that did nothing to take away from the feeling I had once we stepped onto the grounds: the people who worked there meant business. In fact, Addis Ababa is home to other convening bodies in Africa like The African Development Bank and the African Union.  The city’s air of power, influence and rebirth is evident by the people who live and work there.  And for the first time, The UN Global Compact decided to have their conference in the very place where it mattered the most: on the continent.

It was great to see so many different players committed to exploring how we can strengthen public-private partnerships.  As I see it, there are two distinct challenges that have to be overcome to deepen the impact of these discussions.

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The Main Challenges 

First, we need to be clear about the specific ways our organizations want to support economic development, whether a company or organization has specific country, regional, or Pan-African goal they are trying to accomplish. The goals of a company like Coca-Cola has around investing in a local business will look very different than a local UNDP office trying to bring more services to local entrepreneurs.  The question then to ask ourselves and our colleagues is:  exactly how do we want to impact the communities we serve?  Where are we lacking?  How can we partner with an organization that has had success to close our gap?  How can we pool resources together to accomplish a single mission?

Second, we need to have the mindset of open and inclusive knowledge sharing with local experts. To accomplish this we need to find more robust ways of working together to create environments to which foster economic growth and equitable opportunities.

Supporting Technology Hubs, Long Term

There were two panels I spoke on.  The first was about strengthening public-private partnerships to support SMEs. One of my big points, was that we need a coalition of public and private supporters to pool resources to support entrepreneurship and training hubs.  I am convinced this is one of the most overlooked ways to drive economic growth AND job development for youth.

What could this look like?

Think of what could be done if, similar to the Virgin Entrepreneur labs, multinationals committed $20 million USD to fund technology hubs that provide skills and training for youth?  With $100,000 committed to each hub, say, in the AfriLabs Network, this could mean 3 years of organizational support for over 60 similar hubs across the continent, with $2 million to spare for a yearly convening event and small M+E team.

There are nearly 100 innovation hubs in Africa most of which are struggling to survive.  I’ve spoken with many their managers who share the same concerns and struggles, lack of finance opportunities and their inability to come up with sustainable models. Their fears are often the same: “How many more months can we keep our doors open and provide consistent programming for our communities?”

If a public-private consortium came together with a larger operational grant, similar to but on a larger scale as Hivos and Indigo Trust’s recent TECH HUB INITIATIVE, we could scale up opportunities for youth to have consistent access to vibrant innovation hubs where staff salaries, internet connectivity, and space is stable.

Tech Hub sustainability will rely on committed partners, mentors and managers to determine what services they can provide their market that will add value to local businesses.  This doesn’t mean renting desks or holding events.  It means harnessing the power of the tech developers and organizers within the hub to provide expertise that companies are lacking.  Until those gaps are filled, tech hubs will have a difficult time staying alive.

 

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Strengthen Intellectual Property (IP) resources across the continent

For the second panel discussion, WIPO hosted a trip outside the city to the rather impressive Oromia Coffee Cooperative, where the Ethiopian organization has successfully licensed the use of coffee for the world market. As most of you may know, Ethiopia is the birthplace of coffee.  The Oromia team welcomed us with a facilities tour, special coffee ceremony and presentation about the growth of the cooperative and how their model has helped increased economic growth for the region as well as health and training services for the workers (most of those in the factory were women).

 

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The market for coffee globally is massive and it’s Ethiopia’s primary export.  Ron’s team assisted the Ethiopian government in receiving a fair share of that profit, and getting fair trade coffee retailers such as Green Mountain Coffee and Starbucks to agree to paying Ethiopian exporters for these licenses.  My other panelist, Ilmari Soininen from Sanaa Consulting, spoke on the importance of these type of IP initiatives in strengthening trade relations on the continent.

From a technology perspective, I spoke about registering and protecting the IP of young African entrepreneurs- something that WIPO is keen to work on in the coming years.  The point here is, if technologists can’t protect their IP, then they cannot reap the type of success and growth that their American and European counterparts have.

As we concluded the conference, there was a strong feeling of commitment to work together to create the type of equitable and stable environment for economic development that other regions have enjoyed.

It’s up to us keep working to make this happen.

-Bahiyah

 

 

The Appfrica Fund

After five years of funding companies through partnerships like the Apps4Africa initiative (2009-2013) and our own team’s angel investing, we’ve decided to change course.  While there are are more competitive funding events like A4A planned, the focus of our funding efforts has shifted over the past five years. We are still very committed to discovering, mentoring, virtually accelerating, and investing in the founders and upcoming entrepreneurs of Africa and we’ll be doing so through our fund.

Why the name change? Partly to reduce confusion. Since we launched, newer brands like Microsoft’s 4Afrika initiative and others playing on the ‘4Africa’ meme have popped up which creates a lot of confusion. This isn’t a bad thing and rarely is this kind of brand confusion intentional, but it is less than ideal.

Primarily, though, it’s because of how our fund will grow moving forward. We will continue to offer seed capital up to $25,000 for companies and grants for social ventures and non-profits. Currently we have about 19 companies in our portfolio across 16 African countries. While we won’t rule out future future competitions and hack-a-thons, they will come under a different moniker.

All our past companies are already members of this fund, so nothing changes for them. Internally, we’ve always done our deals as Appfrica, since that’s our company’s legal name in both the U.S. and Uganda. In fact, we’ve been doing deals quietly since 2008 when we made our first investments in companies coming out of Kampala at the time.

As the fund grows, we aim to do more early stage deals across more diverse countries in Arica, particularly in countries with less interest from early-stage investors. We also have plans to do follow-on financing for our existing portfolio as they grow their respective businesses.

You can now visit us on the web at http://fund.appfrica.com or on Twitter at @appfrica_fund or you can email us at fund@appfrica.com.

VentureOut 2013

Thirteen international startups have been selected by the VentureOut Challenge, an initiative of infoDev and CRDF Global, to compete before a live audience and a panel of mobile experts in Chisinau, Moldova on November 1, 2013. The winners included Apps4Africa 2012 Challenge winner ProWork.

Top mobile app entrepreneurs from 33 countries competed in the VentureOut Challenge. The goal: Internationalization of their mobile applications — entering new countries, continents, or going global with their amazing apps. Stakes are high: $10,000 seed funding; Mentorship with international and regional mobile experts; Dragon’s Den exposition in Chisinau, Moldova; and TechCrunch Disrupt Europe Scholarship to Berlin.

The VentureOut initiative was launched to help mobile app entrepreneurs to expand internationally. The finalists include ventures from Africa, the Caribbean, and Europe and Central Asia and represent mobile applications ranging from mobile health focusing on patient-centric health applications to location-based services and different sorts of entertainment including music, gaming and television.

The 2013 VentureOut Mobile App Competition Finalists

  • GoMetro is a transit app for emerging markets that combines trains, buses, rapid transit and taxis into one app using multiple data sources. Alicia Ernstzen, South Africa, gometroapp.com
  • Grikly is a business networking application that allows users to share contact details easily. Dwayne Samuels Jamaica, grik.ly
  • Idram Mobile Wallet empowers users to make payments and transfer money using only their phone. Narek Vardanyan, Armenia, mobile.idram.am
  • M.A.D.E. is a disaster and emergency focused native mobile app providing users with information about what to do before, during, and after natural disasters and national emergencies faced by the Caribbean. Ade Inniss-King, Trinidad & Tobago
  • Manifesto instantly records video or audio with one tap and shares it seamlessly. Dorian Postevca, Moldova, seemanifesto.com
  • Marodi.tv is a replay TV platform for mobile and web playing TV programs from channels in Senegal and Cameroon. Jimmy KUMAKO, Senegal, marodi.tv
  • Nearest Locator helps you easily find the nearest ATMs, banks, eateries, hospitals, pharmacies and more. Ayoola ajebeku, Nigeria, getnearest.com
  • Prowork empowers businesses by bringing project management and collaboration together on one platform. Francis Onwumere, Nigeria, prowork.me
  • SweetSOA offers web services to businesses. Jerome Campbell, Jamaica, sweetandsoa.com
  • Teddy the Guardian is a teddy that uses state-of-the-art medical sensors to capture, report on and share a child’s vital signs like heart rate, body temperature and oxygen saturation. Ana Burica, Croatia, teddytheguardian.com
  • Tuning Fork is karaoke with real-time pitch verification. Dilara Rustam-Zadeh, Azerbaijan, tuningfork.az
  • Waabeh is Africa’s audio market place helping with discovery and distribution of audio content from the continent. King’ori Maina, Kenya, waabeh.com
  • X-Rift is a location-based augmented reality game for mobile devices. Daniel Tonkopiy, Ukraine, x-rift.com

All finalists will receive ongoing mentoring from exceptional entrepreneurs and investors from around the globe who have experience building companies and taking them global.

Beyond mentoring the finalists, infoDev and CRDF Global will offer resources for any growing mobile startup to learn necessary skills, make connections, and find inspiration to go global. The conference in Moldova will also include hands-on training sessions to help entrepreneurs identify and develop their customer base and learn other critical aspects of business modeling.

About infoDev

infoDev is a global partnership program within The World Bank Group. Its Mobile Innovation Program supports growth-oriented mobile app businesses by enabling entrepreneurship, building mobile innovation communities, and researching the app economy of emerging and frontier markets. www.infodev.org

About CRDF Global

Founded in 1995, CRDF Global is an independent nonprofit organization that promotes international scientific and technical collaboration through grants, technical resources, training and services. www.crdfglobal.org

Congrats to Apps4Africa 2011 Challenge winner Farmerline and the other teams from Kenya and Senegal who have been named winners in InfoDev’s mAgri Challenge. Winners will receive a spot at InfoDev’s Mobile Startup Camp as well as other resources aimed at helping them grow their businesses.

The four winners, along with fourteen of the best startups from infoDev’s business incubator network, will be invited to November’s Mobile Startup Camp. The Camp is designed to accelerate the growth of early-stage entrepreneurs. A five-day program of lectures and hands on workshops will provide participants with an opportunity to refine their product strategies, business models and marketing pitches, sharpen their negotiating skills and network with investors and peers.

It will also include a Demo Day – a pitching competition before a panel of industry experts and angel investors.

“We were looking for prototype-stage startups in a niche market, and were surprised to receive so many applications of high quality,” says Maja Andjelkovic, Mobile Innovation Specialist at infoDev. “These entrepreneurs are showing not only the potential impact mobile agri applications can have in Africa and around the world, but also the considerable talent behind innovation driven startups on the continent.”

Members of the jury representing leading private sector players in the mobile industry were also impressed by the entries.

Ernest Akinola, West Africa Government Relations for Blackberry said “The winners demonstrated robust and well thought through concepts, but many more entries showed niche applications for specific needs within the agri sector. I wish the best of luck to all of the founders who entered.”

Echoing Akinola’s remarks, Arjun Thomas, Global Product Manager for Nokia Life said, “The competition unearthed very interesting applications. As these startups grow, adapting the business case to ensure steady and versatile revenue generation streams will be critical to their success.”

We would like to congratulate all of the applicants, including the four winners and six runners-up below.

mAgri Challenge 2013 Winners

  • Farmerline, Ghana: uses voice and SMS to collect data, share new farming techniques, and better link smallholder farmers to other actors along the agricultural value chain. Its survey tool allows agricultural workers and NGOs to conduct immediate surveys with thousands of farmers at a fraction of the cost of traditional techniques.
  • Intellect Tech, Kenya: helps farmers and insurance firms track compensation claims in real-time. The platform improves transparency and facilitates faster processing of farmers’ insurance claims.
  • mLouma, Senegal: connects farmers to food purchasers by displaying real-time market prices and localizations. The service will improve the efficiency of the agriculture supply chain, helping farmers to get a better price for their produce.
  • Price Calculate, Kenya: aids agricultural producers to calculate the competitive price at which they can offer their products. The app educates producers on the market structures between them and their final consumer (local or international), helping them make more informed price decisions.

In a very short period of time, Francis Onwumere has lead Prowork to become one of Africa’s hottest startups. With offers coming from investors in Silicon Valley as well as Africa and being named one of the Top 50 Global Entrepreneurs by Global Forum, one might wonder what makes them such a prize. In an interview recorded late last year, Francis shares a bit of the ProWork story!

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Su Kahumbu and the team behind Apps4Africa 2010 Winner iCow announced a new partnership with Kenya’s largest mobile telecom provider, Safaricom. The partnership will help iCow distribute its app to the 19 million people Safaricom’s network reaches everyday in Kenya. As part of the deal iCow is also being supported by a locally renown advertising firm and business consultants.

Su and iCow were winners of the inaugural Apps4Africa competition in 2010, the Civic Challenge, and have set the high standard of success that many other winners like Farmerline (2011 Winners) and SliceBiz (2012 Winners) have followed. iCow recently won the Vision 2030 ICT Innovation Award, was selected as a finalist in the Innovation Prize for Africa, and was named Best African Mobile App by Forbes Magazine. Founder, Su recently also gave this TEDTalk about her work:

Safaricom CEO Bob Collymore had this to say of the partnership, “Safaricom supports innovation across all sectors…and agriculture is one of the most important sectors in Kenya. This innovation will definitely move agriculture forward and Safaricom is happy to be involved in the development of this sector.”

iCow Kenya

Eric Mutta Raises $328,000

Apps4Africa 2011 Winner Eric Mutta, founder of Minishop (formerly ‘The Grainy Bunch’), has just closed a $328,000 financing round from Financial Services Deepening Trust [FSDT – http://www.fsdt.or.tz. The deal was part of a competitive SME Finance Innovation Challenge Fund, in which Eric’s company defeated 13 companies to emerge the victor.

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The objective of Minishop is improve the way small & medium sized enterprises (SMEs) keep financial records by providing them with an affordable and user-friendly accounting package called Minishop. Better financial records make it easier to apply for loans that can be used to grow the business, increase employment and contribute to government revenues. In Tanzania, of the 130,000 SMEs that should keep electronic financial records, only 900 currently do so (i.e. less than one percent). Eric will use the funds to close this gap, by hiring 7 employees and purchasing 500 laptops to be bundled and sold with Minishop and other supporting systems for mobile payment collection. This ratio is surprisingly consistent throughout most other African countries so there’s a lot of opportunity for Eric’s solution to grow.

“Apps4Africa will forever remain the event that got the ball rolling,” Eric Mutta exclaimed earlier today.

For more information visit TZAccounting.com and direct enquires to me via eric@tzaccounting.com and to FSDT via info@fsdt.or.tz.

Eric Mutta took home $15,000 in 2012 competition alongside Farmerline, who coincidentally announced funding from IndigoTrust last December.

What do Richard Branson, David Cameron, and Apps4Africa 2012 winner William Senyo have in common? Aside, from all being dashing gentleman, they all played a role in the 2013 G8 Innovation Conference last week in London!

william senyo g8

William was one of 130 brilliant minds selected by IDEO and British Airways to participate in the world’s first ‘innovation lab in the Sky’, UnGrounded. UnGrounded was made possible by a chartered 747 provided by British Airways which took these 130 individuals from San Francisco to London for events surrounding the 2013 G8 Summit. The UnGrounded flight culminated in a private tour of Britain’s House of Lords and a trip to The Siemen’s Crystal for the G8 Innovation Conference (where Mr. Branson and Cameron spoke) which was followed by the DNA Summit.

Private tour of the House of Lords

Baroness Scotland prepares to address her audience.

William Senyo and Jon Gosier

William Senyo (Co-Founder of SliceBiz) and Jon Gosier (Apps4Africa Team)

Brainstorming at 40,000 feet

Working together on the UnGrounded flight!

The Crystal in London

Arriving at the Summit

Kimberly Bryant of BlackGirlsCode

William and Kimberly Bryant of BlackGirlsCode.org

Brilliant female technologists and innovators speak at DNA Summit 2013

It was an exciting weekend and we’re glad SliceBiz was selected to participate. For more on the British Airways/IDEO UnGrounded initiative, visit http://ungroundedthinking.com


Loren Treisman is the Executive of Indigo Trust, a grant-making foundation based in London that funds and supports technology-driven projects that bring about social change in Africa. She supports a wide range of programmes that focus mainly on innovation, transparency and citizen empowerment. Her portfolio also includes innovative projects that utilise information technologies to support development outcomes in any sector including the health, education, human rights and agriculture spheres. The Trust also supports technology innovation hubs across the continent.

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Only two years ago, when we started funding in the tech for social change space in Africa, it was hard for people to imagine the tremendous potential for this sector to stimulate change on the continent.  Mobile phone penetration was growing exponentially and submarine cables on both coasts were beginning to make high speed broadband internet a reality.  Still, the power of these technologies to increase transparency, improve governance and impact upon social change across a range of sectors including health, education, agriculture and human rights was yet to be realised.

At Indigo Trust, we believe that the best solutions to Africa’s challenges will be devised by those affected by them.  Technology makes this possible.  As technology becomes more widely available and people are able to utilise this tool to access, share and create information, citizens are able to stimulate the change they wish to see in their own lives and communities.  Young people are often early adapters of new technologies and crucially, they often have the drive and passion it takes to turn a good idea into a viable enterprise or product.  Now, the young people of Africa can be the change makers in their societies.

This sector is still in its infancy, but it’s an exciting time to be involved.  There’s a tangible energy across Africa.  Technology innovation hubs are springing up across the continent-from KINU in Tanzania and Hive Colab in Uganda to Co-creation Hub in Nigeria and Activ Spaces in Cameroon.  These hubs are places where techies and social activists can access high speed internet, training and mentorship opportunities.  Most importantly they can share, collaborate and innovate.

These hubs are a crucial part of the local technology ecosystem which will stimulate local innovation and entrepreneurship and ensure that world class applications are developed in-country.  This will both stimulate Africa’s economic development and ensure that social projects most effectively address the needs of beneficiaries as the teams creating them will have a better understanding of local context and culture.

We’re delighted to be supporting Apps4Africa and thank them for inviting me to sit on the judge panel.  Beyond the competition, we recognise that entrepreneurs need support to transform their prototypes into viable products.  We’d be keen to support some of the best projects coming out of the competition.  We’ve been supporting iCow, last year’s winner of Apps4Africa for almost 2 years and we’re inspired by the team and the product.  It’s incredible to see the impact it’s making on the ground, increasing their incomes through higher milk yields and better sale prices for livestock.

The opportunity is here and now.  Other funders and investors are interested in this space and support is available to turn your idea into a reality.  If you’ve got a great idea for an application which can support young entrepreneurs, why don’t you get involved and be part of the change you wish to see in your community.