May 072012

As entrepreneurs spark change, Africa’s electricity future is getting brighter.

Women working on solar lighting circuit boards
Women working on solar lighting circuit boards.
Photo Credit: UN Women/Gaganjit Singh

With the blessing of global institutions increasingly worried by the prospect of global warming and so happy to push green agendas, entrepreneurs are hacking out a small-scale, low-carbon path to universal African electrification.

What’s encouraging them is the enthusiasm with which mobile phones have been taken up by many Africans and the new innovations and opportunities that this has opened up; the success of undersea fibre-optic broadband cables, the possibilities that this is opening up.

In Soy, in rural Western Kenya, some 280 km from Nairobi, as long as the sun keeps shining, Mark Kragh’s audience of young farmers is completely electrified. Turning sunlight into free electricity is a life changer.

“They’ve listened and learned like nobody I’ve taught before,” says Kragh who runs a solar panel business, KnowYourPlanet, in London. “They took notes, they figured out my diagrams. And within four hours, the first phone was charging away.”

Kragh’s solar master classes teach how to make solar phone chargers. These sell for 700 shillings (just over $8) each. There’s likely to be a ready market for them in Soy, says Kragh. It only takes 70 charges for the charger to pay for itself.

 Posted by on 7 May, 2012
Apr 172012

As Africa’s rush for broadband connection continues, Steve Song’s map of African undersea cables can’t help but get tangled up:

I am gobstopped again with the announcement of the BRICs cable. I struggle now to find ways to represent all the impending capacity on a single map without it looking like a dog’s breakfast. What I thought was a clever innovation, using the width of the cable as an indicator of design capacity, has turned out to be a nightmare as cables like the SAEx cable announced a design capacity of 12.8 terabits/s, 10 times that of the Seacom cable which launched in 2009.

> African Undersea Cable Map Goes Non-Linear

 Posted by on 17 April, 2012
Sep 012011

Africa’s got software talent… but for how much longer? What do African techies make of Silicon Valley? What might Silicon Valley make of them?


Steve Mutinda: Kenyan App developer.
Photo Credit: WhiteAfrican

No Prada suits, hoodies or flip flops. No algorithms stolen off dorm room windows. None of that Social Network, San Francisco stuff. Steve Mutinda’s award-winning mobile health app may be designed for the global market, may end up slaying them in Silicon Valley, but, built in Africa by Africans for Africans, MedKenya comes out of a clear African sensibility — that’s its unique selling point.

“We want to showcase the potential of Africa in creating solutions that make a difference,” explains the 29-year-old software developer from Nairobi. “We want the world to see that, yes, it is possible for Africa to be a net producer of solutions rather than a net consumer.”

A one-stop shop for healthcare advice, the app squeezes out revenue from the realities around Mutinda: the technology available to him; Kenya’s most urgent healthcare issues; and, crucially, what’s considered affordable by ordinary Kenyans.

Subscribers to MedKenya pay to receive health alerts. Doctors pay to be included in its directory; the more alerts they write, the better placed their entry.

 Posted by on 1 September, 2011  
May 132011

So Facebook hired a PR firm to plant negative stories about Google. What you gonna do about it? Get over it, already… although it isn’t right, obviously… MG Siegler on the latest Facebook “slimeball stunt”:

Like it or not, Facebook is too integrated into the fabric of the web now for everyone to just walk away. As has been proven time and time again, people will get really angry with them for some misstep, and then totally forget about it a week later.

110512 TechCrunch

 Posted by on 13 May, 2011
May 012011

By developing its developers, Africa’s tech sector hopes to go from ping to kerching.


Photo Credit: Sundhult

Time was when African software developers didn’t register on Silicon Valley’s radar. No undersea fibre optic cables meant that there wasn’t much of a digital infrastructure in most of sub-Saharan Africa and so accessing and developing its software market was tough work.

These days, with access getting easier, the African blip on the Silicon Valley screen is starting to ping somewhat louder: the world’s biggest technology companies can’t get enough of the right kind of African ideas.

Seeking solutions to African needs, the kind not generally grokked by Silicon Valley VCs, companies like Google and Nokia are working hard to encourage African developers.

They go into schools and universities. They set up apps markets. They help with marketing. They sponsor conferences. But the most obvious way, the one which gets the most attention, is via the kerching and bling of the apps challenge.

Going app?

US Dollars
Photo Credit: AMagill

 Posted by on 1 May, 2011