Entries in Africa (12)


Mars and Maua featured at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit

Mars shared its success story of Maua with hundreds of entrepreneurs from all over the world this past weekend during the Global Entrepreneurship Summit held in Nairobi, Kenya.The Summit, opened by President Obama and President Uhuru Kenyatta came alive with inspiring stories from entrepreneurs as well as multinational companies such as Mars, intentional in transforming the lives of millions of people around the world through innovation and inclusive entrepreneurship.
Speaking at one of the panel discussion forums focusing on how innovation can drive connections with consumers, Wrigley EA General Manager Daniel Omosa said that entrepreneurs should focus not only on quick gains but on how they can make their businesses more inclusive and sustainable. “Mars is keen on the sustainability agenda ensuring that our ingredient sourcing, ethical business policies as well as empowering communities are all high on our agenda and embedded in our mutuality principle.”
Maua is one of the innovative ways through which Wrigley is reaching customers while making a positive impact on social capital. Through the Maua program Wrigley has created more than 490 entrepreneurs in Kenya, a significant number of them being women, transforming their lives both socially and financially. “Currently over 30% of Maua entrepreneurs are women and this has changed their lives and the communities in which they live.” Daniel said.
Women and youth were a key focus at the summit and this was highlighted during President Obama’s opening speech in which he said that by empowering women, economic growth would be realized. “Women are powerhouse entrepreneurs. When women succeed, they invest more in their families and communities,” he added.
Also highlighted at the panel session was the importance of innovation and the ability to co-create products in order to connect with consumers. On this Daniel said, “The consumer is king and you must be ready to listen, adapt and improve on your product quality efficiently to ensure success.”
As a prelude to the Summit, the international media network Al Jazeera ran a feature “Counting the Cost – The Battle of Hearts, Minds and Trade in Africa” in which journalist Andrew Simmons interviews Daniel Omosa and takes a look at the US-Africa trade relationship [to watch click here]. Wrigley has been highlighted as an American company investing in Kenya and leading the way in instilling confidence in other investors to operate in Africa. Wrigley recently broke ground for the construction of a $63 million state-of-the-art factory at a time when multinational manufacturers are pulling out of the market and investing elsewhere.
The Global Entrepreneurship Summit is an initiative of the US government and this sixth edition was held in Sub-Saharan Africa for the first time. For more on this story please visit click on this link: "Wrigley and Mars Inspire African Entrepreneurs at Summit Opened by Barack Obama"

-- Wrigley Corporate Affairs, East Africa


Andala Learning model

Young Nigerians face challenges such as high unemployment and relatively few options advanced education and career-oriented training -- daunting obstacles for the individuals, and an impediment to the country's future economic development. Yet two entrepreneurs examining the situation found an opportunity here to raise the bar in education and employment for Nigeria's youth, according to a recent CNN report.

The pair, Nigerian Iyinoluwa Aboyeji and his American mentor Jeremy Johnson, noted that U.S. companies are having difficulties finding professionals to fill technology positions, even at the upper end of the pay scale. They decided to create Andala, a startup talent accelerator that finds smart and ambitious young Nigerians and puts them through a rigorous education program.

The selection process is extremely tough -- with an acceptance rate of just 1% -- and the training is thorough. Trainees are paid an upper-middle class wage, and graduates are placed with large corporations and promising startups, all while allowing them to remain based in Nigeria.

A solution that reaches across the developed and developing worlds to provide a mutual and economically sustainable benefit is a concept we like.

Image source: CNN

-- Clara Shen




Innovation being driven by homegrown 'maker movement' in Africa

So-called makerspaces or hackerspaces are becoming the grassroots hubs for innovation in Africa, according to this recent article in Harvard Business Review by Ndubuisi Ekekwe, the Founder of African Institution of Technology. These open-minded individuals are combining knowledge of local issues with their own expertise and the ubiquity of computer-based tools to carve out their own markets.

Adweek explains that the Maker Movement consists of innovation ecosystems that take a bottom-up approach to the economy, enabling consumers to be engaged in designing and producing the products they'll ultimately buy.

Some examples of the Maker Movement in Africa include HacKIDemia, which empowers makers, typically youths, to solve local challenges and exchange best practices by awarding fellowships to mentors who engage with other makers in their communities. M-PESA, a Kenyan-based online payment system, and BitFinance, an ATM machine enabled for cash, digital money and Bitcoin, are two other examples of made-in-Africa solutions. Beyond the tech space, there is even a Nigerian group that is refining crude oil on a small scale.

Ndubuisi Ekekwe says:

These makers offer a platform for a new economic system that taps into the brainpower of Africans to seed shared prosperity.

With many issues facing the continent - clean water, energy, health care and food processing - these Makers are aiming to create solutions that address these challenges. There is also an opportunity to form partnerships with these makerspaces in an effort to garner insights into new products and offer methods to better reach new customers.


Emerging trends enriching lives in developing regions

There are some notable trends emerging in developing regions around the world that we find to be very interesting. Residents in these areas are making use of available technology to help enrich their lives and improve their standard of living.

One of the most notable trends is the use of scalable solar panels, as is explored in this recent Re/code article. While these areas are seeing a major uptake in the use of mobile phones and Wi-Fi, one thing that is missing is the ability to power these technological advancements. In a short period of time, there has been an explosion in the use of solar panels in these regions, so much so that Re/code article author Steven Sinofsky, a Board Partner at Andreessen Horowitz, believes solar power, combined with large-scale batteries, will become the energy grid in developing markets, perhaps even in the near future.

Sinofsky explains:

Solar will prove enormously useful and beneficial and require effectively zero-dollar investments in infrastructure to dramatically improve lives.

Image Source: Re/codeWith China investing heavily in solar technology, they are creating more choice and lowering prices for these products. This, paired with the abundance of trade between China and Africa, is creating an upsurge in the use of this technology in developing regions. This is just the beginning of this notable trend. As more battery-operated appliances hit the marketplace and the cost of solar panels continue to trend downward, the use of solar power will only increase.

Another emerging trend, explored in this recent article in The Guardian, is the use of eLearning in these areas. Virtual learning is opening up educational opportunities for residents that weren't available before. According to Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates:

Cheaper smartphones and tablets, advances in software and better network coverage will revolutionize the way children in developing countries learn over the next 15 years.

Bakary Diallo, rector of The African Virtual University (AVU), an intergovernmental organization that has used virtual learning to train 43,000 students since its creation in 1997, says these online classes can address some of the bigger challenges facing the continent:

In Africa, the need for education is so important. Poverty, violence, extremism – I think the root of these problems is lack of education.

In 2014, AVU announced 29 new distance learning centres for students to take part in and said it is considering plans to make lectures accessible on mobile phones.

As technology continues to reach developing areas around the world, residents are taking advantage and are making a strong effort to improve their living standards.

What other trends are you seeing emerge in these regions?

-- Jia Yan Toh


Africa's new relationship to innovation

I enjoyed this recent piece in the Economist that looks at technology in Africa.

Technology deployment and innovation in Africa was for a long time based on "hand me downs" from the Western developed world, but the paradigm for innovation across the continent is evolving. Today a host of technologies are being deployed, tested, and developed in Africa -- even before they are implemented elsewhere.

Examples of this include mobile payments, solutions for broader and more efficient wifi, and drone-based air cargo services. These initiatives are based on serving African requirements -- such as supplying food or medicine to remote communities or refugee populations -- but they have broader potential.

What is responsible for this changing relationship to innovation and technology? The authors point to a "peculiar confluence of economic and political circumstances." Lighter regulation and weak governance means that engineers can try things on the continent that are either prohibited or prohibitively bureaucratic elsewhere. The shortfall of traditional infrastructure such as roads or landlines means that new technologies or business models have a more open playing field.

Business investment is also growing, and the article ends with the hopeful prospect that Africa will become the source of new solutions for the challenges it's facing.

Image source: The Economist

-- Clara Shen