Archives For africa

Santa Clara Valley in California had a lot going for it up until the early 1980s. Having since been the centre for economic growth in California, the Valley was home to picturesque orchards of apricots, pears and other fruits and vegetables. Home to a steady economy hinged on agriculture and food production it’s no wonder the variety and business opportunities earned it the title “The Valley of Heart’s Delight.”

It was then that the introduction of the IBM Personal Computer and more importantly the semiconductor and microprocessor industries that defined the 3 decades that have followed. Consequently known today across the world as Silicon Valley, agri-business paved way for high-end technology, orchards making room for innovation labs and an age of software and hardware ushering us into a present day.

Between the 1970s and 1980s there were mentions of the term Silicon Valley and its imminent transformation but they remained murmurs as it wasn’t at full scale. Africa sits much on the same precipice today. The continent’s geography of hubs, labs and accelerators featuring to testify of the renaissance. MXit, Ushahidi, M-Pesa and a range of examples of innovation colouring dots on the new map of the continent. Regions and more specific countries making their own contribution to the collective redefinition of the brand known as Africa.


Coming closer to home is the majesty of the Great Rift Valley which thanks to its happens to form across more than half a dozen East and Central African countries. These said countries were recently represented among the 40 startups at DEMO Africa 2013 in Nairobi. The finalists share the vision of turning the continent into less of a market dependent on agriculture, natural resources and other expected forms of industry and enterprise. Instead by showcasing their businesses they took their chances on bringing software, hardware and a new discussion on Africa to light. The term Silicon Savannah could not hold more meaning and DEMO couldn’t signify a greater opportunity to solidify the credentials behind the term for the African continent.

2013 has been a great year for the nascent hardware production and fabrication sector in Africa. Far from the early days of young William Kamkwamba in rural Masitala. The Malawian inventor of a windmill sparking a decade of emerging under 18 innovators both literate and illiterate alike. This new generation is building and fabricating concepts years before they get access to a keyboard and software technology.

For DEMO Africa 2013, the convergence of hardware and software is a big sign of the times in Africa rewriting it’s present and future. From Ushahidi launching the BRCK to several DEMO participants each bringing longer term hardware ideas or prototypes to market, this year will be make or break in Africa and inevitably Nairobi in realising the truth behind the title of Africa’s Silicon Savannah.

D8A will be bringing opinion, analysis and insights from the two day conference from Nairobi, Kenya here on the blog as we unpack what went into the conference and what the outcomes were.

Image by Mutua Matheka.

Mark Kaigwa has spent the last 7 years helping global and African businesses, brands, and nonprofits use technology to connect with Africans online. He is a consultant, strategist, and speaker who likes to get hands-on solving problems and applying ideas that will change the future of the continent and emerging markets. Follow him on Twitter @MKaigwa.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of speaking at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida about the changing business landscape of Africa the opportunities that exist on the continent. I shared about the general market trends of the African continent as well as specific examples from the tech sector, from startups to companies worth over $100 million that are still Africa based and African owned. The slides I used can be downloaded from or here on Slideshare.

For those looking for information on Africa’s internet penetration, visit the deck below…

Africa’s experiencing a bit of a boom in startup activity right now. What’s driving it? Who’s helping to grow the ecosystem? This graphic explores the topic.

Africa's Entrepreneurial Ecosystem
Infographic available from Statfrica

White lines represent the monetary support organizations like Indigo Trust and Infodev are proving to the innovation hubs of the continent which in turn support entrepreneurs with non-monetary services represented by the gray lines. Mentoring, workshops, events, conferences, investor meetings etc. are the types of things these hubs are responsible for organizing. Meanwhile, Local governments have mostly been responsible for enable policy decisions. Can they become direct financiers of entrepreneurs and/or the network of hubs? The fact that this ecosystem has emerged mostly without their intervention certainly presents that opportunity.

For a more in-depth analysis on startup entrepreneurship as a driver of economic growth in Africa download our latest report New African Business.

Statfrica Africa Research Trends

A portal for learning, sharing and discovering more about Africa.

Over the years we’ve collected more data about Africa than we can hope to ever use as one company. However, we know from meeting many other companies, NGOs, schools, investors and others that there is a huge amount of demand for all things Africa. The problem most of these groups have is not that they can’t find information, but that things are changing so rapidly, they can’t find up-to-date information. Usually articles are three to five years old. Its also hard to find information on topics that is immediately applicable like information on contemporary African social entrepreneurs, consumer behavior, and research around trends that haven’t quite caught the attention of corporates global research firms.

With Statfrica we’re making of our incredible amounts of research on these subjects available to all, for free!

Open Courseware, Open Research, Open Data

Perhaps the biggest opportunity though, is to change how classrooms teach Africa to students. I recently spoke at an international business school where much of the knowledge being offered about Africa was from the 80s and 90s, when the most recent text books were published. There was little information about contemporary phenomena like the growing strength of ‘south-south’ trade (from developing nation to developing nation).

The other problem we noticed was that corporations, universities, bloggers, entrepreneurs etc. were spending their time collecting the same information over-and-over again for different purposes. This is an incredible waste of time and while there are options for hiring firms to do this kind of research for you, it can be unbelievably expensive — obviously not a solution for students, smaller non-profits, or young entrepreneurs.

Many Options

For professional analysts and universities, all of our material is available in a way that is modification friendly. We realized that it was rare to find files that can be completely remixed or modified so that they fit within a lesson. With Statfrica Pro, subscribers can download the raw files used to make each presentation in multiple formats (.pptx, .key, .pdf, .html, .ai, .psd). This gives you 100% control over what you use or don’t use in a classroom, boardroom, or conference presentation. There’s also a lot of supplemental material that isn’t available at the free rate.

Take an infographic like the one above and remix it completely!

Interested in a free or paid subscription? Check out pricing here.

By opening up our research repository, we hope to create a community that’s more aware of Africa, and an Africa that’s more aware of itself. In fact, we like to use the tagline “Africa’s Quantified Self”!

For updates specifically related to our research initiatives, please follow us @statfrica on Twitter or visit

On Tuesday August 6th, 2013 we were honored to host a pre-screening of our documentary THE CHEETAH CODE at the social impact/civic hack space the OpenGov Hub!

THE CHEETAH CODE is a web series and forthcoming documentary featuring interviews with the creative entrepreneurs and technologists who are changing the face of business in Africa. ‘Inside DEMO Africa’ is an excerpt of the film that was shown at the screening, it chronicles entrepreneurs from across the African continent as they arrive at DEMO Africa 2012 to pitch investors and network. You can watch this excerpt in its entirety on Vimeo.

Jon Gosier and Kaushal Jhalla

Jon Gosier (Founder of Appfrica & Director of THE CHEETAH CODE) with Kaushal Jhalla (World Bank Innovation Team)

Christina Crawley (OpenGov Hub)

Christina Crawley welcomes guests to the OpenGov Hub.

Reggie Showers (Urban Youth)

Reggie Showers of Urban Youth having a conversation.

Thomas Genton (U.S. Department of State)

Thomas Genton of the United States Department of State watching himself on screen.

Wayan Vota (Kurante)

Many thanks to Wayan Vota of Kurante who helped us get set up for the event.

Guests chatting before the screening.

Guests chatting before the screening.

On July 16th, 2013 Appfrica CEO Jon Gosier had the pleasure of sharing information about the history of Appfrica and business opportunities in Africa with summer fellows at Temple University’s Urban Apps + Maps Studio.

Appfrica Temple University Urban Apps + Maps

Slides from the presentation. Business opportunities across the continent…

On Appfrica and our role…

Join Appfrica/D8A and the OpenGov Hub on August 6th for a special Happy Hour to share the 30-minute THE CHEETAH CODE short and to announce D8A. The event will be held at 1889 F Street, Northwest, Washington, DC 20006 on Tuesday, August 6, 2013 from 5:00 PM to 8:00 PM.

The Cheetah Code chronicles young African entrepreneurs who are coming up with disruptive innovations and creating new business models in the technology sector that not employ themselves, but their peers, creating new ecosystems for trade that boost the continent’s productivity.

Cheetah Code: Inside DEMO Africa 2012 [Trailer] from Jon Gos on Vimeo.

The footage was taken at the first annual DEMO Africa 2012, a global trade show highlighting the most promising techpreneurs. Appfrica will also unveil its new parent company, D8A, a full service digital design firm that uses mostly African staff to serve its clients globally.

Please join us from 5-8pm on August 6th and enjoy beer, wine and snacks!

Click here to to RSVP for free!

In Uganda, no one can hear you scream… your computer while waiting for a file to download or a video to buffer. Fortunately, there are number of reasons these frustrations may soon be a constraint of the past.

On Saturday I spent the afternoon with Thibaud Weick, CCO, and Mark Pritchard, Head of Sales & Marketing of Smile Communications (U) Ltd. Smile is one of few organizations bringing super-fast internet connectivity to Africa’s urban centers and rural areas. There are a number of things that Smile is doing very different to other mobile operators in the region that make them a company to watch in the coming years.


Their LTE technology is new to the continent, having only been deployed in two other African countries to date. Thus, their launch in Uganda earlier this year puts the country on the bleeding edge of innovation when it comes consumer accessible mobile telecom solutions. Because LTE (Long Term Evolution) technology works over long distances, Smile is keen to service rural African markets as well, not just the densely populated urban markets.

The Smile Communication Uganda headquarters in the Bukoto area is an unassuming campus, located just around the corner from the local Nakumatt grocery store. It’s easy to forget you’re visiting a telecom company, that is, until you enter their data center.


One of the advantages Smile has over their competitors is that their infrastructure is new, optimized for LTE from end-to-end. This is vastly different from the incumbents in the market who, more often than not, have to maintain legacy GSM equipment in addition to any new systems they wish to deploy. This makes deploying new technologies like LTE much more cumbersome and expensive for them, one of the many reasons innovation with local telecom infrastructure may appear to have stagnated.

At Smile, their data center is compact, small enough to fit in a mid-sized bedroom. If the team there ever wants to expand, and realistically only utilizes about a third of the room it’s contained in, so there is plenty of room for expansion.


The Smile team performed a test on my behalf downloading 35 gigs of the RACHEL courseware repository. Download speeds peaked at 17mbps by averaged at closer to 4mbps. The team assures me that this was during peak hours (2pm on a Saturday) and that during non-peak hours the speeds increase dramatically (for instance, at night).

The most exciting thing about Smile is their commitment to driving the local market forward instead of simply maintaining the standard.

Cheetah Trailer 45 from Jon Gos on Vimeo.

Why aren’t there more of a focus in books or film, about African innovations in business?

Not about its colonial history, its artists and musicians, its Dictators and tribes, its poverty and wars, its animals and wildlife…but work simply about doing business in Africa?

That was the question I asked myself before undertaking THE CHEETAH CODE. After spending several years living and working in the continent, it dawned on me that there were few resources available to those interested in doing business in, or with, the continent.

THE CHEETAH CODE is the culmination of several years of research in my time as a technologist, small investor, and activist. The book is about Africa’s young creative class, its expanding technical capacity, and entrepreneurs.

It is not a about philanthropy, poverty, or scapegoating foreign corporations. It is about contemporary business, economics, societal trends, and technology that happens to be told from the African perspective. It will be made available as a documentary film, and book.


If you find the above concept compelling, you can help make this project a reality by backing it on! Those of you interested in the project who live abroad, email me privately at


This great graphic by the guys at Mhealth Africa illustrates where innovation hubs are popping up across the continent.

African Innovation Hubs