With a Boom Before the Cameras, Nigeria Redefines African Life (NYT)

ASABA, Nigeria — Sitting on a blue plastic stool in the sweltering heat, Ugezu J. Ugezu, one of Nigeria’s top filmmakers, was furiously rewriting his script as the cameras prepared to roll. “Cut!” he shouted after wrapping up a key scene, a confrontation between the two leading characters. Then, under his breath, he added, “Good as it gets.”

This was the seventh — and last — day of shooting in a village near here for “Beyond the Dance,” Mr. Ugezu’s story of an African prince’s choice of a bride, and the production had been conducted at a breakneck pace.

“In Nollywood, you don’t waste time,” he said. “It’s not the technical depth that has made our films so popular. It’s because of the story. We tell African stories.”

Filming against a green screen in Illah, a village in southeast Nigeria, in November. The production is part of the Nollywood industry, which has exploded in Africa. Credit Glenna Gordon for The New York Times

The stories told by Nigeria’s booming film industry, known as Nollywood, have emerged as a cultural phenomenon across Africa, the vanguard of the country’s growing influence across the continent in music, comedy, fashion and even religion.

 

 

 

By

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, overtook its rival, South Africa, as the continent’s largest economy two years ago, thanks in part to the film industry’s explosive growth. Nollywood — a term I helped coin with a 2002 article when Nigeria’s movies were just starting to gain popularity outside the country — is an expression of boundless Nigerian entrepreneurialism and the nation’s self-perception as the natural leader of Africa, the one destined to speak on the continent’s behalf.

“The Nigerian movies are very, very popular in Tanzania, and, culturally, they’ve affected a lot of people,” said Songa wa Songa, a Tanzanian journalist. “A lot of people now speak with a Nigerian accent here very well thanks to Nollywood. Nigerians have succeeded through Nollywood to export who they are, their culture, their lifestyle, everything.”

Nollywood generates about 2,500 movies a year, making it the second-biggest producer after Bollywood in India, and its films have displaced American, Indian and Chinese ones on the televisions that are ubiquitous in bars, hair salons, airport lounges and homes across Africa.

The industry employs a million people — second only to farming — in Nigeria, pumping $600 million annually into the national economy, according to a 2014 report by the United States International Trade Commission. In 2002, it made 400 movies and $45 million.

Nollywood resonates across Africa with its stories of a precolonial past and of a present caught between village life and urban modernity. The movies explore the tensions between the individual and extended families, between the draw of urban life and the pull of the village, between Christianity and traditional beliefs. For countless people, in a place long shaped by outsiders, Nollywood is redefining the African experience.

“I doubt that a white person, a European or American, can appreciate Nollywood movies the way an African can,” said Katsuva Ngoloma, a linguist at the University of Lubumbashi in the Democratic Republic of Congo who has written about Nollywood’s significance. “But Africans — the rich, the poor, everyone — will see themselves in those movies in one way or another.”

Filming of the popular Nollywood series “Shina Rambo,” based on events surrounding a notorious real-life criminal. Credit Glenna Gordon for The New York Times

 

In Yeoville, a neighborhood in Johannesburg that is a melting pot for migrants, a seamstress from Ghana took orders one recent morning for the latest fashions seen in Nollywood movies. Hairstylists from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, working in salons or on the street, offered hair weaves following the styles favored by Nollywood actresses.

“Nigerian movies express how we live as Africans, what we experience in our everyday lives, things like witchcraft, things like fighting between mother-in-laws and daughter-in-laws,” said Patience Moyo, 34, a Zimbabwean hair-braider. “When you watch the movies, you feel it is really happening. One way or another, it will touch your life somewhere.”

When I first reported on Nigeria’s film industry more than a decade ago, the movies were slapped together in such a makeshift fashion that, during one interview, a production manager offered me the part of an evil white man. (Never mind my Japanese roots, he assured me, I was close enough.)

After I casually threw out the term “Nollywood” in a conversation with a colleague, a copy editor created this headline for my article: “Step Aside, L.A. and Bombay, for Nollywood.”

The name stuck — and spread. But success hasn’t robbed Nollywood of its freewheeling ways: During my recent visit to a Nigerian village where a half-dozen movies were being shot, a producer came over and, on the spot, offered me the role of an evil white man who brings a vampire to Nigeria.

Back in 2002, the movies were simply known as Nigeria’s home videos. They were popularized at first through video cassettes traded across Africa, but now Nollywood is available on satellite and cable television channels, as well as on streaming services like iRokoTV. In 2012, in response to swelling popularity in Francophone Africa, a satellite channel called Nollywood TV began offering round-the-clock movies dubbed into French. Most Nollywood movies are in English, though some are in one of Nigeria’s main ethnic languages.

The whole village came out to watch filming in Igbuzor, in southeast Nigeria. Credit Glenna Gordon for The New York Time

Until Nollywood’s ascendance, movies made in Francophone Africa — with grants from the French government — dominated filmmaking on the continent. But these movies catered to the sensibilities of Western critics and viewers, and won few fans in Africa, leaving no cultural footprint.

In Nollywood, though, movies are still financed by private investors expecting a profit.

“You want to do a movie? You have the script? You look immediately for the money and you shoot,” said Mahmood Ali-Balogun, a leading Nigerian filmmaker. “When you get a grant from France or the E.U., they can dictate to you where to put your camera, the fine-tuning of your script. It’s not a good model for us in Africa.”

Mr. Ali-Balogun was speaking from his office in Surulere, Lagos, the birthplace of Nollywood. Film production has since moved to other cities, especially Asaba, an otherwise sleepy state capital in southeastern Nigeria. On any given day, a dozen crews can be found here — “epic” films with ancient story lines like “Beyond the Dance” are in the works in nearby villages, while “glamour” movies about modern life make the city itself their sets.

People gathered to watch a film in production in Igbuzor in October. For countless people, on a continent whose past and present have long been shaped by outsiders, Nollywood is redefining the African experience. Credit Glenna Gordon for The New York Times

One recent entry in the glamour category was “Okada 50,” the story of a woman and son who, after leaving their village, open a coffin business in the city and terrorize their neighbors.

Most films have budgets of about $25,000 and are shot in a week.

Once completed in Asaba, the movies find their way to every corner of Africa, released in the original English, dubbed into French or African languages, and sometimes readapted, repackaged and often pirated for local audiences. Many movies are also propelled by a symbiotic relationship with Nigeria’s Pentecostal Christianity, which pastors have exported throughout Africa.

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, pastors who visited Nigeria years ago returned with videocassettes and showed the films in church to teach Christian lessons and attract new members, said Katrien Pype, a Belgian anthropologist at the University of Leuven who has written about the phenomenon.

Today in Kinshasa, the Congolese capital, Nollywood permeates mainstream culture. Local women copy the fashion, makeup and hairstyles of the actresses; local musicians grumble at the popularity of Nigerian imports, like Don Jazzy and the P-Square twins.

Trésor Baka, a Congolese dubber who translates Nollywood movies into the local language, Lingala, said the films are popular because “Nigeria has succeeded in reconciling modernity and their ancient ways, their culture and traditions.”

Nollywood has also created a model for movie production in other African nations, said Matthias Krings, a German expert on African popular culture at Johannes Gutenberg University.

In Kitwe, Zambia, local filmmakers were recently making their latest movie in true Nollywood style: a family melodrama shot over 10 days, in a private home, on a $7,000 budget. Burned onto DVD, the movie will be sold in Zambia and neighboring countries.

Acknowledging the influence of Nigerian cinema, the movie’s producer, Morgan Mbulo, 36, said, “We can tell our own stories now.”

Read More At the New York Times

[wysija_form id=”2″]

Digital Classroom In a Box unveiled (IT News Africa)

Gilat Satcom has announced that its Digital Classroom In A Box is now available for shipping to Africa, as a part of the Smart Village turnkey solution. This new concept for rural schools was unveiled at The Aid & International Development Forum summit which took place in Ethiopia last week.

The summit looked at how technological innovations and best practice are being deployed to improve aid delivery and development strategy in East Africa and was attended by 250+ senior representatives and advisors from regional governments, UN agencies, international and regional NGOs, investors and donors, research institutes and the private sector.

Gilat Satcom’s Digital Classroom In A Box was developed as the e-learning component for its ‘Smart Village’ portfolio that enables rural villages and remote communities in Africa where ARPUs are low to be a part of Africa’s digital future.

The Digital Classroom comprises a fully insulated and decorated shipping container powered by solar with VSAT connectivity, a wifi router with 500m radius, a management and billing system, a projector, interactive screens, sound system and microphone, computers and tablets, tables and chairs.

It has been designed to provide everything that an African rural school needs to deliver both face-to-face lessons and remote e-learning.

Gilat Satcom has joined forces with Intelitek to provide an e-learning content platform specifically developed to meet the needs of Africa’s rural communities and providing a large number of ready-to-use syllabuses.

Although any e-learning platform can be easily connected to the Digital Classroom In a Box, the Intelitek solution was extensively tested by the Gilat Satcom team who found it to be extremely powerful, scalable and cost effective – and best able to meet African Rural Community e-learning demands.

Eran Yoran, CMO and head of Business Development at Gilat Satcom who attended the summit said “Gilat Satcom’s Digital Classroom in A Box was extremely well-received at the summit because it provides a complete solution. Content can easily be emailed through to teachers whilst our high-speed satellite connection enables high quality video-conferencing.”

Ido Yerushalmi, President and CEO of Intelitek says “Intelitek’s educational technology solutions have been revolutionizing learning environments for over 30 years, in more than 50 countries across the globe. Our goal is to prepare students for the careers of tomorrow by continuing to develop systems and solutions that optimize education today just like Learnmate 7- our E-learning solution. We are dedicated to making it easier for teachers to teach, and more exciting for students to learn.”

Last year Gilat Satcom launched its Smart Village which was developed to provide Internet, VoIP and Video over IP over an affordable private satellite network with prices for connectivity for individual villagers starting from $1 a month.

Gilat Satcom’s Smart Village can be provided by Governments, NGOs, cellular and telephony operators, major ISPs and others to a group which acts as the Village

Nano-ISP. This group could be a church, a school, a village chief or another community organization.

The private Village Nano-ISP is responsible for selling the services direct in the village, billing users and paying the monthly service charge to the provider. Gilat Satcom provides detailed business plans to enable both the network providers and the Village Nano-ISPs to build profitable and commercially sustainable services.

The Smart Village portfolio has three components which can stand-alone or be deployed simultaneously:

  • Basic – this provides the Village Nano-ISP with two tablet devices for internet browsing and domestic and international VoIP and Video over IP calls.  Usage is uncapped and a fixed monthly rate is charged.

Calls to regular telephones and cellular users in the country and anywhere in the world can also be made and will be billed separately to the Village Nano-ISP.

  • Wi-Fi – As well as the Basic Island package, this includes a router for Wi-Fi coverage with a 500 meter radius. Individual usernames and passwords can be generated to allow the community Nano-ISP to track usage and bill accurately. Customers can use their own tablet or smartphone on this network or the Village tablet. Additional routers can easily be added as demand increases and to extend coverage. (By Point To Point connection villages as far as 15Km can be connected into one local network managed by one local Nano ISP.
  • Cellular – As well as the Wi-Fi service, this includes a GSM base station – which can also be solar-powered – which will be integrated with the network of a local cellular operator. This integration will be managed by Gilat Satcom.

Smart Village is economically self-sustaining and scalable so it can grow with demand and with a minimal additional investment. Gilat Satcom has established a business plan that targets users with $1 a month to spend on telephony and is still profitable.

Read more at IT News Africa

Fraud-free voting, quantum research and buses without fuel – examples of Africa’s tech leapfrogs! (M&G Africa)

Somaliland set to become first country in the world to use iris-recognition software in an election!

THE subject of growing innovation in African countries continues to generate interest and, therefore funds.

Today Africa’s budding entrepreneurs, universities, scientists and professionals are demonstrating that there is huge scope to push the envelope with global-standard technological break-throughs.

Expect to see iris scans in Somaliland election. (Photo/Bloomberg).

At the recent World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that “Africa has the possibility of being the first continent to become a green continent”. That because of the deficit in electricity, people are increasingly turning to the continent’s abundance of renewables for results.

Some countries on the continent already pushed the boundaries of renewable energy research and, it has now been about three years in the making. Uganda’s automotive engineering and technology innovation in particular is also looking to take off to a new level by relying on environmentally friendly technology.

The 35-seater “Kayoola” bus, currently being tested and set to launch later this month, is going to be Africa’s first solar-powered bus. This comes just three years after the world’s first solar bus was launched in Australia.

The launch of the bus also highlights the high innovative activity and potential within African universities. The idea was inspired by Uganda’s Makerere University’s participation in the 2006-2008 Vehicle Design Summit 2.0, which was headed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

According to local reports, Makerere University students, under Kiira Motors Corporation (the company that was partly created by the government to start motor vehicle manufacturing in Uganda), built the electronic vehicle which is powered by 240 Lithium Ion cells, packaged as two battery banks, one running the motor at a time and it is designed to cover 80km before the next charge.

The fuel-efficient model is just the beginning. According to Kiira motors, they will make different kinds of cars including pickups, compact SUVs, sedans and light and medium duty trucks.

Quantum leaps

In recognition of the potential of African research, the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) – a pan-African network of centres of excellence for postgraduate education, research and outreach in mathematical sciences – is pioneering quantum research to the continent.

Africa’s first quantum research centre – Leap Africa – is to be launched later this year in Rwanda. Going beyond start-ups, it is showing a new appreciation for cutting edge research.

For this reason, several companies have even redirected their efforts towards solutions aimed at the increasingly lucrative African market.

 

Take for example the renewable industry sector which is growing in the world’s emerging economies nearly twice as fast than in industrialised nations. Not only are renewable energy technologies now cost competitive with fossil fuels in many developing nations, but they are often more reliable, safer, and at times cheaper than conventional grid power.

Fraud-free voting

There are also however very specific technologies that could take off because of their unique demand in the African context.

For example, a worrying time in many African countries is when elections crop up on a calendar. This can lead to situations of instability when there are allegations of rigging or suppression.

The self-declared independent state of Somaliland however is showing that this can be overcome, and just how progressive it is, becoming the first country in the world to use iris-recognition software in an election!

In first photo, the solar panels on top of the bus. Above, the finished product. (Photo/Kiira Motors).

The move comes after the Somaliland government’s election experts approached University of Notre Dame’s biometric research group to develop the biometric system to improve the accuracy of its election process.

Presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled to take place in 2017, and in the build up citizens started their registration process in January 2016. Iris recognition software has the ability to make the voting process fairer, accurately establishing the number of eligible voters per district in a country where many citizens still do not yet have identity cards.

These feats have continental, and even global, magnitude. Considering the high rate of innovation and adoption this is just scratching the surface and we can expect to see a lot more…very soon.

Read more at M&G Africa

[wysija_form id=”2″]

Nigeria: Airtel subscribers to open bank accounts via cellphones (IT News Africa)

In an effort to deepen financial access in Nigeria, Access Bank in partnership with Airtel Nigeria has launched Smart Savers initiative. The initiative will enable Airtel customers open bank accounts directly from their mobile phones without the bureaucracy and complexities of traditional banking.

The campaign, which will kick off from January 5th, 2016 will provide all Airtel subscribers the opportunity to open a savings account for customers who sign up.
With the Smart Savers initiative, customers can enjoy real-time mobile banking services such as funds transfer to accounts in Access Bank and other Nigerian banks’ accounts; as well as make quick airtime purchases, pay bills, view account statements/ account balance enquiry and much more.

by Staff writer: IT News Africa

In addition to providing customers a convenient platform through which payments of products & services can be made, the Smart Savers account allows Airtel subscribers save towards a target goal.
Executive Director, Personal Banking, Victor Etuokwu, said “The Smart Savers initiative is designed to enable Airtel subscribers conveniently open and operate a savings account from the convenience of a mobile device. This is a way of leveraging the evolution of technology to bring fast and convenient financial services closer to Nigerians of all socio-economic classes”.
“This initiative further re-iterates the Bank’s commitment to Financial Inclusion and promotes the ongoing cashless policy campaign of the CBN”.

Commenting on the initiative, Chief Commercial Officer, Airtel Nigeria, Ahmad Mokhles, said Airtel is committed to providing innovative services that will empower and enrich the lives of its customers in line with its brand vision of connecting Nigerians to their dreams.

“Airtel Nigeria is pleased to partner with Access bank on this exciting and innovative Smart Savers Initiative. Indeed, this is an important step in offering innovative, relevant, simple and practical solution that will improve banking experience for telecoms consumers,” he said.

Customers are encouraged to save a minimum of N10, 000 monthly in their Smart Savers account to qualify for the grand prize of a Hyundai i10 and other consolation prizes.
To open a Smart Savers account, customers may dial *903# from their Airtel lines.

Read More at IT News Africa 

[wysija_form id=”2″]

Intel to empower women in Africa with online learning platform (IT News Africa)

[wysija_form id=”2″]

Intel Corporation has unveiled an online learning platform, which has been dubbed “Intel She Will Connect: My Digital Journey,” that is aimed at providing an opportunity for women to learn, connect and share online.

Intel revealed that My Digital Journey is a web-based application with gaming mechanics where women are empowered to learn individually or in a facilitated environment, and with the support of a peer network. My Digital Journey uses case scenarios relevant to women in the form of challenges, which gives them the opportunity to practice solutions before moving on to the next level.

by Staff Writer IT News Africa

The platform is a new addition to the Intel She Will Connect programme, which aims to bridge the technology gender gap, to teach young women how to leverage the Internet and technology to pursue their goals.

Intel She Will Connect was introduced as a direct response to findings of the Women and the Web Report, which examined women’s access to and use of the Internet in low- and middle-income countries. The report found that, on average, there are nearly 25% fewer women than men online in developing countries. This represents 200 million fewer women than men online today. In sub-Saharan Africa, the size of the gap is 43% – the largest across all the regions in the study.

Launching the programme in Nairobi, Intel Corporation’s Vice President, Director of Corporate Affairs, and President Intel Foundation, Ms. Rosalind Hudnell, said: “My Digital Journey provides an opportunity for women and girls in Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria to learn about the Internet and benefit from the wealth of information available that will contribute towards achieving their goals and provide access to opportunities.”

Learners on My Digital Journey will receive a digital completion certificate after successfully completing three quests. Each quest comprises between three and six missions. The first mission may take a learner 15 to 45 minutes to complete, depending on reading speed and the thought put into responding to challenges.

“This learning platform provides women and girls with a unique opportunity to connect with like-minded individuals and to access additional resources that support learning in a safe environment. Gaining access to the Internet enables women and girls to improve their self-esteem and expression, expand their social and political participation, gain new skills that enable them to obtain formal education, become entrepreneurs or secure employment, and get access to information and new connections within their communities and beyond,” explained Ms. Hudnell.

Intel believes that educating girls and closing the Internet gender gap has an important multiplier effect – expanding opportunities for families, communities and nations.

“Through the Intel Global Girls and Women Initiative, we are working to empower millions of girls and women around the world by closing the gender gap in access to education, inspiring more girls and women to become creators of technology and connecting them to opportunity,” noted Ms. Hudnell.

Also speaking at the launch event, UN Women Deputy Regional Director for eastern and southern Africa, Simone Ellis Oluoch-Olunya, noted that addressing gender equality will unlock the growth potential of the continent.

“Grounded in the vision of equality, UN Women believes that technology can be a game-changer for women and girls. Enhancing women’s economic empowerment is one of the five priority areas of UN Women’s work; therefore, this initiative is one of many UN Women is undertaking to advance women’s economic empowerment and support women, particularly from a technology perspective,’’ added Ms. Oluoch-Olunya.

The Intel She Will Connect programme aims to reduce the Internet gender gap around the world, through an innovative combination of digital literacy training, an online peer network, and gender-relevant content.

The programme has been rolled out in sub-Saharan Africa, where the gap is the greatest, with initial pilots in South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria.

Read More at IT News Africa 

The future of jobs: What will survive by 2020, what won’t and what it means for Africa (Mail & Guardian Africa)

[wysija_form id=”2″]

 

65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist

Young Entrepreneurs At i-Hub The African Tech Hub (Photo/Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg via Getty Images).

Those that believe we are about to launch into a fourth industrial – or “smart” –  revolution say that it is driven by developments that will see society simplify things, remove bottlenecks and do more with less. It will bring together previously disjointed fields such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, robotics, nanotechnology, 3D printing and genetics and biotechnology – all building on and amplifying one another.

MANY industry observers believe that we are on the cusp of a Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The first Industrial Revolution, driven by steam, created new manufacturing processes. The second was driven by electricity which led to many new inventions and witnessed the expansion of steel and petroleum. The third is the one we are living through now – when IT and electronics have transformed our lives and manufacturing has gone digital.

By SAMANTHA SPOONER

Klaus Schwab, the founder and executive chairman of the World Economic Forum, argues that this distinct stage – the “Fourth Industrial Revolution” – isn’t a continuation of the third revolution because of the speed of current breakthroughs, which have no historical precedent, and are disrupting almost every industry in every country. For example, engineers, designers, and architects are combining computational design, additive manufacturing, materials engineering, and synthetic biology to pioneer a symbiosis between microorganisms, our bodies, the products we consume, and even the buildings we inhabit.

Whether you believe this constitutes a new revolution or whether it’s a continuation of the third revolution, one thing is certain, it will cause massive disruption. This reality is examined in a new report by the World Economic Forum, The Future Of Jobs, which imagines how jobs in their industry will change up to the year 2020, and the new skills needed to drive them.

The jobs that won’t survive, ones that will

The report, which covered 15 economies accounting for about 1.86 billion workers or approximately 65% of the world’s total workforce, found that there will be hard times ahead with job gains unable to offset expected losses – estimated at a total loss of 7.1 million jobs – in the next five years.

So what jobs are most at risk?

According to estimates in the report, 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in completely new job types that don’t yet exist. The jobs most at risk are concentrated in routine white collar office functions, such as office and administrative roles – expected to account for two-thirds of job losses.

The jobs that are looking to “win” and gain a total of 2 million jobs are in computer and mathematical, and architecture and engineering related fields. Manufacturing and production roles are also expected to see a further bottoming out but are also anticipated to have relatively good potential for up-skilling, redeployment and productivity enhancement through technology.

So those choosing college degrees today should hedge their bets on a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) course – although there is a heavy emphasis on the need to specialise within this.

As for the job title to aim for, the report described two new and emerging job types which stood out due to the frequency and consistency with which they were mentioned across practically all industries and geographies.

The first is the role of data analyst, which companies expect will help them make sense and derive insights from the torrent of data generated by technological disruptions. The second is the role ofspecialised sales representative, as practically every industry will need to become more skilled in commercialising and explaining their new offerings to unfamiliar businesses, government clients or consumers.

How will this affect Africa?

The impact on African can be looked at in two ways  – either that this will bring huge opportunity, or that it will perpetuate poverty and increase inequality.

In the past the biggest beneficiaries of innovation tended to be the providers of intellectual and physical capital. The demand for highly skilled workers has increased while the demand for workers with less education and lower skills has decreased. So it is natural to assume that the less skilled African labour force – principally employed in subsistence agriculture and the informal sector – who have low literacy rates and great barriers to acquiring a quality education will suffer greatly in the “catch-up” to the fourth revolution.

For example, the next stage of 3D printing, and its increasing affordability could badly hit cottage industry manufacturing and metal smiths (known as jua kali in East Africa).

Behind in STEM

In another example of the lag; sub-Saharan Africa research in terms of STEM – the skill area expected to make the greatest gains – the continent significantly lags behind other subject areas. Excluding South Africa, research in the physical sciences and STEM makes up only 29% of all research in the region, compared to an average of 68% in Malaysia which had the same research output as Africa in 2003. It gets worse: the share of STEM research in sub-Saharan Africa has declined by 0.2% every year since 2002.

For the fourth industrial revolution to be considered in terms of an “opportunity” for Africa will be down to how fast Africans can redesign their education systems, adopt to new technologies and whether they can afford them. Otherwise the continent will remain on the consumption, not production end.

This is not be an impossible task. Already we are seeing increased attention in STEM education in Africa: there is more investment – for example last year the Mastercard Foundation announced a $25 million commitment to the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences – and more institutions, like theInternational Institute for Water and Environmental Engineering (2ie) in Burkina Faso are starting to crop up.

One thing about this new era of change is that being led by technology and innovation – it can provide limitless opportunity and the outcomes are going to be hard to predict.

Paul Clark, an Africa specialist at Ashburton Investments, explains that this can give a positive outlook for Africa’s incorporation into the revolution describing how Africans have been strong adopters of new technologies and that Africa has even leap-frogged existing developments. A case in point is how with more than half of all the mobile money platforms in the world, sub-Saharan Africa is leading the globe in rolling out financial products to masses of people who were previously excluded from this area of the formal economy.

Read more at mgafrica.com

(CNN) Finally, a video game hero for Africa

Updated 5:26 AM ET, Wed January 20, 2016

(CNN) When Madiba Olivier set out to make Cameroon’s first video game with his newly opened studio Kiro’o Games, he had to do it with just $100 and daily power outages. And those weren’t even the most difficult challenges for the Yaounde-based developer.

An early design for Enzo, the hero of Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan

An early design for Enzo, the hero of Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan

“We had difficulty finding funds and showing investors that we are not a scam,” recalls Olivier. “We had people telling us, you are just another African scam on the internet. That was very humiliating for me.”

Recently, he has proven the doubters that he means business. With the help of a Kickstarter campaign, Kiro’o Games has raised over $50,000 to create the country’s first African role-play game: Aurion: Legacy of the Kori-Odan.

Unlike most fantasy games, this one features an African hero, and creates an alternative world inspired by African folklore and mythology.

“At first, the idea was to make games about ninjas,” notes Olivier. “But then I realized many gamers were bored of the same story and the same heroes. That’s how the idea to create an African fantasy came out. I wanted to break what I call ‘the exotic world’ image of Africa.”

The hero of the game, Enzo Kori-Odan, is the ruler of Zama — a diverse country free of an imperialist past but now threatened by a coup. The story centers around Enzo and his wife Erine, and their fight to regain the throne. The hero’s power comes from the collective energy of his ancestors, a force known as the Aurion.

“I think people with good eyes will see a lot of symbols about the African challenge,” says Olivier. “Geopolitics is not about who will rule the world, but about deciding what the goal of the human race will be.”

Kiro'o Games employs 18 people, and is one of several video game studios gaining prominence in Africa.

Aurion is just one example of what experts say is an industry growing at hyperspeed, thanks in large part to sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo.

“It allows gamers to be invested in the process. Considering that funding for a game is rather difficult to come by, crowdfunding certainly makes sense in this market,” notes Pippa Tshabalala, a South African video game writer and TV presenter.

For Olivier, the release of Aurion is just the beginning of a lifelong ambition to make Kiro’o Games the leader of gaming in Africa.

“We have an advantage with our colonial past, in that we can relate to people from different countries. We need to find a place in the games industry that will make us the center of gaming world trade,” he says.

So what are his ambitions for 2016 and beyond?

“We want to be the biggest publisher and we plan to go into mobile gaming too,” he notes. “We have spent the past ten years running from poverty. So the next ten years? We’ll spend it running towards prosperity.”

The article was published in CNN. 

This little black box could change the internet in Africa– here’s why you should care (CNN)

(CNN)Kenyan start-up BRCK has secured $3 million in funding for an invention that hopes to change the face of internet connectivity across Africa.

Founded in 2013, the tech innovators are the brains behind a tough-as-nails modem designed for harsh environments with limited connection and power.

What makes the BRCK noteworthy is that it can hop between Ethernet, Wi-Fi and 3G or 4G networks, and it has eight hours of battery to keep going during blackouts.

It may be small, but BRCK CEO Erik Hersman says the device packs a punch like no other, with the potential to help millions facing the daily frustrations of power cuts and unreliable and patchy internet.

By Heenali Patel, for CNN

Kenyan start-up BRCK developed this Modem with Africa’s limited connection and power in mind

“Most of the organizations working to increase access to the internet in Africa are dealing with it at the infrastructure level, with satellites or undersea cable, with mobile phone towers — and even balloons and drones,” Hersman told CNN.

Where BRCK fills the gap is in the the last meter of internet connectivity “in the bus stops and kiosks, homes and schools of Africa.” With BRCK, Hersman claims “there will be millions online in schools, in businesses and even retail consumers.”

Powering a digital revolution in schools

There are 410 million school children in Africa, according to the African Development Bank. The vast majority have little access to the internet.

Last year, BRCK rolled out BRCK Education, an initiative built to help solve the problem of providing remote schools with digital material.

“There are certain industries that badly needed what we had built, such as education institutions,” said Hersman.

BRCK’s “Kio Kit” is a customized drop and water-resistant tablet for children within a rugged case. “It allows any teacher to create a digital classroom in just a few minutes,” explained Hersman.

On the outskirts of Nairobi is Lighthouse Grace Academy, the first school to test out BRCK’s Kio Kit, using it in four different classes. Schoolmaster Pastor George Njenga says the invention has so far worked wonders.

“This technology is a great help not only for the teachers but also the students, who are really learning a lot. In fact, sometimes I think they learn more with this kit than with the teacher,” he said.

“I would recommend any school, anywhere in the world, to use it,” added the schoolmaster.

African technology going global

BRCK is proving that African-led solutions can lead the way for tech innovation not just locally, but globally too — and it seems investors agree.

Since 2013, BRCK has sold over 2,500 devices in 54 countries. With $3 million in pocket from supporters including former AOL executives Jean and Steve Case and TED, the company looks set for continued growth in 2016.

“A lot of this funding is earmarked to grow our footprint, distribution and team around BRCK Education across the continent and globally,” said Hersman.

Read More at CNN.com

(All Africa) 10 Things to Watch in Africa in 2016

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Joseph Kabila of DRC. Photo Credit: Paul Kagame

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda and President Joseph Kabila of DRC.
Photo Credit: Paul Kagame

ANALYSIS

By Nick Branson and Jamie Hitchen

Staying Power: Referenda in the Republic of Congo and Rwanda have paved the way for presidents Sassou Nguesso and Kagame to extend their tenures. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), President Kabila appears intent on remaining in power beyond the end of his second term in November 2016. Kabila’s political machinations have been met with violent protest and international opprobrium. By contrast in Benin, incumbent president Boni Yayi has resolved to step down when he completes his second term in February 2016.

Africa Debt Rising: Sovereign bond issuance rose dramatically as commodity markets peaked in 2014, before tailing off as the price of oil and export minerals collapsed. With budget deficits approaching unsustainable levels in many countries and the supply of cheap debt in decline, some African governments face tough choices – cut spending or dramatically improve domestic revenue collection. This new reality will be inescapable for Zambia and Ghana in an election year. In 2015, their currencies were devalued substantially and visits from the IMF further raised concerns about the sustainability of debt levels. 2016 may see the IMF revert to a more familiar role of supervising austerity measures, albeit in a less conspicuous fashion than during the structural adjustment era; whilst Ghana accepted IMF support, Zambia has so far rejected a financial bailout package.

Economic Opportunity: African economies that rely heavily on oil and other commodity exports – including Nigeria, Angola and Zambia – continue to suffer due to low or declining prices. But this setback also provides an opportunity to focus on diversifying their economies. In Nigeria, there is much talk of revitalising agriculture. In East Africa, efforts are being made to reduce economic inefficiencies and improve productivity: progress in regional telecom reform, for example, demonstrates much from which the rest of the continent can learn.

Insecurity in Nigeria: Many Nigerians voted for Muhammadu Buhari because of his campaign commitments to tackle corruption and defeat Boko Haram. The arrest of former National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki for allegedly overseeing illicit and financially fraudulent transactions worth billions of naira is highly symbolic. Despite an announcement that the government has “technically won the war” against the Boko Haram insurgency, military action has not yet been convincing and the threat remains. The renegotiation of the Niger Delta amnesty and recent agitation by Biafran separatists illustrate the security challenges facing Buhari’s government.

Urban Transport: In September 2015 Addis Ababa opened the first part of a new 17km light rail system funded in part by Chinese investment. A similar venture that forms part of the urban plan in Lagos has been beset by delays. However, Governor Ambode of Lagos State has promised that the first line will be operational by December 2016. Dar es Salaam’s bus rapid transit (BRT) system failed to open as planned in October 2015 but is expected to launch in the first quarter of 2016. New urban transport networks will need to be affordable for the everyday commuter if they are to successfully reduce congestion and improve the productivity of cities.

Flying Donkeys: The world’s first civilian cargo drone station is set to open in Rwanda in 2016. “Flying donkeys” will be capable of carrying small packages across distances of up to 80km and could help to overcome some infrastructure challenges. Regulation concerning the use of unmanned vehicles is in the process of being drafted by Rwanda’s civil aviation authority and a successful pilot should see a nationwide network of cargo drone routes established.

 

Sorting out the Union: The post-election crisis in Zanzibar has highlighted the shortcomings of Tanzania’s current political configuration and reignited calls for power to be shared more equitably among the constituent parts of the Union. Tanzania remains the only African nation to possess a dual-government structure, a lopsided arrangement that falls short of being a fully-fledged federation. Zanzibar retains its own executive, legislature, and judicial system; while a parliament in Dodoma and a president in Dar es Salaam take decisions for both the mainland and the Union as a whole. Tanzania’s president, John Magufuli, may consider constitutional reform as a solution to the impasse in Zanzibar; however, he will face resistance from his own party, which has repeatedly rejected changes to the status quo.

The Prominence of Social Media: African youth harnessed the potential of modern communication tools to mobilise protests in Burkina Faso and South Africa, successfully preventing a military coup and halting significant rises in university tuition fees. Twitter hashtags are becoming important tools for mobilisation and are likely to become more prominent as the cost of communication decreases. Governments are already responding to this perceived threat. Tanzania rushed through four pieces of legislation relating to access to information, media, statistics and cybercrime in 2015, while Nigeria may adopt a social media bill in 2016.

The Battle for the ANC: In South Africa, rumours have been circulating about plots to oust President Zuma mid-term. Zuma famously usurped Mbeki as ANC president at the national conference in Polokwane in December 2007, positioning him to become head of state, following the April 2009 elections. Zuma’s decision to fire Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister was an assertion of his authority that backfired. With the ruling party likely to lose control of important metropolitan authorities at municipal elections in 2016, the campaign to succeed Zuma will dominate South African politics right up until the next ANC national conference in December 2017.

A Changing Climate: In 2015, flooding in Freetown and Accra devastated urban areas whilst El Niño brought drought to rural Zimbabwe and Ethiopia. Unpredictable weather will be a continuing feature in years to come, despite the agreement reached at COP21 in Paris. Long term commitments can work alongside short-term solutions: improved urban management and support for the growing of drought resistant crops like finger millet. But weather can also offer opportunity for the continent. Renewable energy, in particular solar, wind and geothermal, has been cited as a key avenue for tackling the power deficit on the continent by African Development Bank president, Akinwumi Adesina.

Nick Branson and Jamie Hitchen are researchers at ARI.

Are you an African leader? join the Young African Leaders Initiative

Providing the Tools, Training, and Technology to Promote Leadership: The YALI Network

The YALI Network provides virtual resources and vibrant physical spaces to equip young African leaders with the skills and connections they need to foster change in their communities and their countries. Established by the President in April 2014, the Network already includes almost 150,000 members. Using yali.state.gov and social media, the United States provides online courses and materials, and connects members with global leaders in their fields to help members develop leadership skills.

black business faces

 

Join the YALI Network to take advantage of virtual training, tools, and technology:

  • Online courses & certificates: The YALI Network platform has created 13 tailor-made online courses on leadership, business and entrepreneurship, civic leadership, and public management featuring U.S. university professors and experts in their fields. The training videos provide tips on everything from creating a business model to developing public-private partnerships, with supplementary guides with discussion questions and developmental actions.
  • Follow YALI Network on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for professional development and online discussions, including monthly  #YALICHATs with experts, professors and U.S. Government officials.
  • YALI Network face2face group– the ability to make connections with other young leaders in person: the YALI Network face2face Facebook group enables members to connect, network and collaborate on new initiatives.

In addition to virtual resources, YALI Network members in 9 countries will soon have access to state-of-the-art YALI Spaces. Over the next two years, American Corners in Cote d’Ivoire, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Senegal, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, Nigeria, and Rwanda will be outfitted to provide YALI Network members opportunities to meet, learn, and incubate their ideas. YALI staff or trainers will facilitate online courses and provide advising sessions on everything from business start-ups to opportunities for study abroad. Meeting rooms, collaboration spaces, and business tools will allow YALI Network members to work together to create social ventures, community service projects, and new business start-ups.

Partner with the YALI Network

YALI Network members appreciate the opportunity to connect with leaders from a wide variety of industries. They value the lessons to be learned from those who’ve succeeded in business, finance, civil society, agriculture, natural resource management, media and health care to name a few. Eager to develop personally and professionally, Network members gain valuable insight when leaders and innovators share their experiences and best practices. By connecting with the more than 140,000 members of the YALI Network, you are empowering these young African leaders to develop the skills and networks they need to build brighter futures for their communities, their countries and their continent. Don’t miss out on your chance to speak to the next generation of business, civil society and government leaders. If you’d like to know how you can make a difference to the future leaders of Africa, contact us at YALINetwork@state.gov.

more information is provided via the links below:

https://youngafricanleaders.state.gov/courses/

https://youngafricanleaders.state.gov/yali-network/