Tag Archives: african

Style and Swagger With a Renegade Trike Hacker in Nigeria

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I’m a motorcycle guy, so anytime you put a motor on a chassis with something less than four wheels, then I’m interested. This week I’m at Maker Faire Africa in Lagos, Nigeria. This is the 4th installment, after Ghana 2009, Kenya 2010 and Egypt 2011.

The creation below is by a young man called “STA”, who’s got a lot of swagger and a double teardrop tattoo under his right eye. In many ways STA is a one-of-a-kind character, unlike anyone else I ran into in Lagos.

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Let’s put it this way, anyone who rides such an eye-catching bike without a license plate, and who has no worries of the cops hassling him because of it, is certainly cut from a different cloth. When stopped, STA simply points to the Nigerian flag flying on the front and explains that it’s all the license he needs. (I kid you not)

STA spent about 4 years in Holland where he was inspired by custom motorcycles and trikes (tricycles). When he came back to Nigeria he decided he could build his own here. STA International’s first bike is the long-forked trike.

Due to using his own funds, it’s a little underpowered with only a 250cc engine and a 10 liter tank. STA scrounged around and found the different parts, and put it all together himself. All total, he spent 300,000 Naira ($1,600) on it.

The bike has some very comfortable seating, a nice big sound system, 4 big silencers in the rear and drink holders for both driver and passengers. He can carry two passengers in the back, and there’s room under the seats for a little storage.

The bike is kickstarted, which I wasn’t expecting at first as I’m used to bikes this big having an electrical starter. Makes sense though, as this is a small engine bought off of a used engine reseller. The trike also has a reverse gear, which comes in handy when the bike is as long as this one is, for maneuvering out of difficult spaces.

STA and I hung out a bit over the last few days. He’s got a real passion for modding bikes, and his next big plans include an even bigger trike, though he hasn’t fully fleshed out the design yet. I showed him some of the cool, retro, modded designs on Bike Exif and we talked a while about what a custom bike for African cities might actually look like.

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Note: I’ve been blogging most of this on the Maker Faire Africa blog, so go there to find more posts on the stories from Lagos, Nigeria and the innovative and fun products made there.

Quick Hits Around African Tech: July 2012

Africa’s Mobile Stats and Facts 2012

Few organizations do as good of a job as Praekelt in creating well-designed applications that are used by millions of people in the continent. A couple times a year, they take that same level of quality and create new videos and resources to better showcase Africa’s tech statistics. Here’s their newest video.

Game Creators: an Interview of Maliyo Games in Nigeria

Good interview of Maliyo Games founder and the opportunity in Africa’s gaming space.

Why do you think the African audience is looking for African games instead of Farmville or Mafia Wars?

“It’s not so much what they are looking for, more what is being pushed to them. Our games ‘Okada Ride’, ‘Mosquito Smasher’ and ‘Adanma’ have far more local relevance than Mafia Wars. Nigerian music and Nollywood movies have a strong appeal to the local and diasporan consumers. We are riding this trend and thus far we are seeing traction.”

Check out Maliyo’s website to get their games.

Opera’s “State of the Mobile Web” for Africa 2012

Opera puts together a great resource of user-based statistics [PDF link]. It’s a country-by-country breakdown of mobile penetration, user growth, top domains and top handsets used. Here are a few of the interesting tidbits:

  • Across Africa, data growth seems to outpace page-view growth. This fact suggests that Africans are browsing larger pages and most likely, using richer, more advanced websites.
  • Facebook is the top domain in every country except for these six, where Google leads: Egypt, Guinea, Djibouti, Comoros, Central African Republic, and Algeria.

Mobile Reporting Field Guide

UC Berkeley has created a mobile reporting field guide, useful for people doing data collection and research as well as activist types.

Upcoming Tech Events in 2012

PyCon South Africa – Cape Town, Oct 4-5
DEMO Africa – Nairobi, Oct 24-26
Tech4Africa – Joburg, Oct 31-Nov 1
AfricaCom – Cape Town, Nov 13-15
Mobile Web Africa – Joburg, Nov 28-29

(If you know of other tech events coming up before the end of the year that you think belong here, put it in the comments and I’ll add it later.)

Some Self-Serving Links:

Pivot East: East Africa’s Startup Pitching Competition

Mark your calendars, buy your tickets, submit your applications!

We’re ramping up to the Pivot East pitching competition, where the best startups in East Africa come to show what they have, pitch their startup to investors, media and the judges for a chance to win the prize money.

Pivot East will be held at Ole Sereni Hotel in Nairobi, June 5th and 6th. Last year we had over 100 applications for the 25 slots, and we’re expecting even more after seeing how well Pivot25 did last year (writeups by TIME Magazine and CNN). Last year we saw startups from Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania, and this year we’re hoping to see some from South Sudan and Somalia as well.

WERE2011_PIVOT25-1610

Categories

As last year there are five categories, each of which will have five startups that will pitching in them. If you think you have a prototype, a deck and a business plan to wow everyone with, let’s see it. Applications are open.

  1. Financial Services
  2. Business and Resource Management
  3. Entertainment
  4. Mobile Society
  5. Utilities

Getting more information

Pivot East is put on by the m:lab East Africa, an incubator for startups in the mobile apps and services space. All profits go to support the facility. This year support comes from Samsung, and we’ll be announcing a few more big names in the coming weeks. If you’d like to be one of them, contact us.

If you have any questions, we’re having a meeting a Baraza at the iHub on Monday the 6th of February from 2.30pm to 3.30pm. If you’re a startup wanting to know more, or are media or an investor, come by and talk to the organizing team.

[Note: for more on last year's here is my blog post retrospective.]

UPDATE:
The Pivot East Team will be coming to Uganda on the 20th February 2011 at Makerere. You can book your tickets for the event on the link below:

http://pivotuganda.eventbrite.com/

Thinking 2020: The Future of Mobile in Africa

A few months back Rudy de Waele got in touch with Ken Banks and myself about helping to curate a collaborative outlook on the mobile industry in Africa, called “Mobile Trends Africa 2020“.

Our task was to gather the mobile minds from across the continent and the world and ask them to vision out what they saw happening in the mobile space in Africa in the year 2020. Not an easy thing to do, tech in general, and mobile specifically, are such fast moving items that it’s hard to say where things will be even 3 years from now, much less 10.

The final 28 contributors include some of the people I most respect in this field. To name just a few:

  • Stephane Boyera (World Wide Web Foundation)
  • Will Mworia (Afrinnovator)
  • Gerald Begumisa (Yo! Uganda)
  • Steve Vosloo (Shuttleworth Foundation and mLab South Africa)
  • Nigel Waller (Movirtu)
  • Nicholas Heller (Google)
  • Moses Kemibaro (Blogger and Dealfish East Africa)
  • Gustav Praekelt (Praekelt)
  • Bright Simons (mPedigree, Ghana)
  • Nathan Eagle (TxtEagle)
  • Wolfgang Fengler (World Bank)
  • Anthony K. Ng’eno (WinAfrique)

At the Best of Blogs as a Jury Member

I’m in Bonn, Germany as the English speaking judge for Deutsche Welle’s “Best of Blogs” awards (aka The BoBs). There are 11 judges, each representing different languages, and we each get to present one blog for each main category and each get one vote for the winner. Being the English judge is actually quite challenging, where many of the language judges need only focus on a single region, I have to contend with the fact that there are English blogs all over the world, so many that I can’t know all of them.

House Help and Human Rights

Blogs give voice – they lower the barriers, allowing stories to surface that would otherwise not be seen or heard.

The first vote today is for a Special Award on Human Rights. It’s a sobering start to the morning, going through blogs where people are doing courageous writing, shining a light on atrocities from Mexico to Germany to China. My nomination was for the blog Migrant Rights in the Middle East. It’s a blog put together by Mideast Youth, led by Senior TED Fellow Esra’a al Shafei out of Bahrain – a true grassroots effort.

One of the top contenders in this category is the Chinese blogger Teng Biao’s blog, a prominent human rights lawyer, writer and professor from Beijing. He was arrested this February dung the first day of China’s Jasmine Protests.

Migrant Rights won the award. I think this is largely due to the fact that what the team at Mideast Youth is doing hits on a subject that is so rarely spoken of. There are millions of house help and casual laborers that work in homes throughout the middle east, they come from all over the world and they lack a voice. Their stories get picked up from time-to-time in mainstream media, but there’s a need to follow this all the time (with resources and a database of activities), across the whole region and that’s where Migrant Rights fits in.

Expatriate workers are a crucial part of the fabric of Gulf society and economy, where they make up to 80% of the population in some states…

Whether we are a Qatari citizen who has grown up with a team of domestic staff at home, a Saudi woman who relies on her Pakistani driver to go to visit her girlfriends, or a western expat who benefits from a Filipino cleaning lady and works in a smart, modern office tower that was build from the back-breaking work of Nepalis, Indian, Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, we all owe these individuals a debt of gratitude. Yet instead these individuals are undervalued, ignored, exploited and denied their most basic human rights. This is modern day slavery.

Congratulations to Esra’a and her team for providing a voice to the often voiceless.

Other Jury Winners

I was also in charge of the Best Blogs in English category, and I’m very happy to announce that the winner is Sandmonkey!

(Note: For those counting, 3 of the 6 jury winners are from North Africa and the English winner is also from the continent. All for good reasons of course, the activity in this space has been amazing since just January. Now it’s time for sub-Saharan African bloggers to up their game. Part of that means nominating the really amazing bloggers who are doing incredible work in your region. )

The Kenyan Mobile Money Ecosystem

[This is a guest post by Ben Lyon of Kopo Kopo, and recently of FrontlineSMS:Credit, who I consider to be one of the leading experts on mobile money, banking and payments in Africa. Kopo Kopo aims to make the integration of microfinance and mobile money as affordable as possible by offering a software-as-a-service that connects m-money transaction data to customer accounts in a range of common loan management systems. You can follow Kopo Kopo on Facebook and Twitter.]

Mobile Phone with Money in Kenya

Kenya is by far the most exciting, innovative mobile money market on earth. Below is an overview of some of the major and upcoming players.

MAJOR PLAYERS

Safaricom M-Pesa
Launched in March 2007, Safaricom M-Pesa was the first mobile money system in Kenya. It is now the most successful mobile money deployment on earth, boasting use by 51% of the adult population. In addition to person-to-person transfers, you can use M-Pesa to remit funds from the UK to Kenya, pay bills, purchase goods, buy airtime, and, with the launch of M-Kesho, move funds to and from an interest-bearing account with Equity Bank. Fun fact: Safaricom M-Pesa has more agents in Kenya than Wells Fargo and Wachovia have ATMs in the United States.

Airtel Money
Formerly Zain Zap, Airtel Money is the second largest mobile money system in Kenya. Prior to its acquisition, Zain was focused on creating a “cashless society” whereby any number of needs could be met via mobile money. Zain was also committed to its notion of One World, the idea that a Zain customer in Country X should be able to call a Zain customer in Country Y a at local rate. One World was the source of much speculation with regard to international person-to-person mobile money transfer. It will be interesting to see if / how Airtel changes course, especially with regard to pricing.

Orange Money
Orange Money launched in late 2010 in association with Equity Bank. Instead of offering the same features as M-Pesa, Zap, or yuCash, Orange opted to create a de facto front-end for Equity Bank accounts, allowing it to exceed regular transaction and m-wallet balance thresholds.

Essar yuCash
Essar yuCash launched in December 2009 and is powered by Obopay. yuCash offers some standard features such as person-to-person transfer and balance inquiry as well as some unique features like requesting money, adding a short message to a payment, and inviting friends to join. yuCash is also unique insofar as it offers five different front-ends: WAP, SMS, Voice, USSD, and STK.

Equity Bank
Equity Bank is the largest microfinance institution in Kenya and is nothing short of a powerhouse. It has an extensive ATM network throughout Kenya and has integrated with M-Pesa (M-Kesho), Orange Money, and yuCash.

Musoni
Musoni is at the cutting edge of microfinance, enabling loan disbursal and repayment via Safaricom M-Pesa and Airtel Money. Musoni plans to conduct country studies in Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda in the coming years.

Paynet Group
Paynet is responsible for all Visa transactions in Kenya, interchange for 2,000+ ATMs, and PesaPoint. Due to their interaction with Visa, they are PCI DSS compliant, meaning that their system is both redundant and incredibly secure. Paynet aggregates and formats transaction data for several mobile money providers in East Africa.

UPCOMING PLAYERS

iPay
A product of Intrepid Data Systems, iPay enables merchants to accept online payment via Safaricom M-Pesa, Zain Zap, and Essar yuCash. Prominent users include PewaHewa, Fenesi, and Zetu.

PesaPal
PesaPal is a product of Verviant Consulting that, according to CEO Agosta Liko, aims to “make sense of the Kenyan payment landscape”. PesaPal lets online merchants collect payments via M-Pesa, Zap, Google Checkout, and a range of common credit cards. Their latest product, e-Ticketing, allows event organizers to accept online payments for registration via mobile money.

M-Payer
A recent product of Zege Technolgies, M-Payer enables real-time mobile money transaction processing. The CEO of Zege Technologies, Kariuki, played an instrumental role in the M-Pesa / Equity Bank integration that resulted in M-Kesho.

Lipuka
Powered by Cellulant, a company that serves 60M+ subscribers throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, Lipuka integrates bank and payment channels to enable music downloads, bill payments, and information services via WAP.

Moca
Formerly called ZungukaPay, Moca is a product of Symbiotic Media Corsortium. ZungukaPay enabled online merchants to accept payments via M-Pesa, Zap, yuCash, PayPal, Google Checkout, and a range of common credit / debit cards. ZungukaPay also had an open API for integration purposes. The new product, Moca, takes a different turn by enabling customers to buy ‘Moca credits’ via mobile money, which they then use to pay for goods and services on partner websites (e.g. KeleleMobile). Fun fact: selling non-refundable credits precludes Moca from being seen as an e-money issuer by the Central Bank of Kenya.

JamboPay
A product of Web Tribe Limited, JamboPay is an “Online Checkout & Micro-Payment Service” that enables merchants to accept online payments via M-Pesa, Zap, yuCash, and Visa credit/debit cards. JamboPay has a tariff structure similar to PayPal in the US: a commission per transaction + a flat fee for any transactions initiated over the JamboPay web platform.

MobiKash
MobiKash, a third party mobile money provider, is operated by MobiCom Africa Limited in partnership with Sybase 365 and Seal Systems. MobiKash leverages USSD to give Kenyans on any mobile network real-time access to accounts at participating banks, including Post Bank, National Bank of Kenya, and Trans National Bank. MobiKash uses the Sybase 365 Mobiliser Platform.

KrossPAY
Formerly PesaPot Holdings Limited, KrossPAY worked with PAYG Solutions to develop a hosted core banking and financial management platform for microfinance institutions, credit unions, and community benefit organizations. Some PAYG Solutions programmers were involved with the creation of M-Pesa, so there may be a mobile money integration in the works. KrossPAY also offers a “universal mobile money transfer and payment” service called CaribPay.

Jipange KuSave
Jipange KuSave is an initiative of Mobile Ventures Kenya Ltd., a subsidiary of Signal Point Partners. Launched as a pilot in 2010 in partnership with FSD Kenya and CGAP, Jipange KuSave aims to extend affordable micro-savings and micro-credit to the ‘mwanachi’ (Kiswahili for ‘common man’) via mobile phones.

Tangaza Limited
Managed by Mobile Pay Limited and a network of independent trustees, Tangaza enables both local and international money transfer as well as services like utility bill payment and remote airtime purchase. Tangaza is accessible via USSD and the internet and works across multiple mobile networks.

NOTABLE M-MONEY INTEGRATIONS

PewaHewa
PewaHewa is similar to the iTunes Store insofar as you can browse for musical artists, albums, genres, etc. and purchase songs via mobile money. PewaHewa is powered by iPay.

Kalahari
Often referred to as “the Amazon.com of Africa”, Kalahari offers a wide range of online goods and services, which customers can pay for via Safaricom M-Pesa.

Kilimo Salama
Kilimo Salama, Kiswahili for “safe farming”, is a crop insurance product offered by the Sygenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture. Kilimo Salama enables farmers to pay crop insurance premiums and receive payouts via Safaricom M-Pesa.

Quick Hits Around African Tech

Africa’s mobile industry needs to re-invent itself to meet tomorrow’s challenges
Another great zinger from Russell Southwood’s Balancing Act on the state of the mobile industry across Africa and what needs to change.

“Furthermore, although the shift to data puts a spring in the step of most mobile executives, the shift to an interest in services and apps has the potential to marginalise them as “dumb pipe” operators. The new generation of OS operators (Blackberry, iPhone, Android and others) are offering services and apps in a way that the mobile operators failed to do.”

Desert discs: How mobile phones are at the root of Saharan music.
Christopher Kirkley went to Mali to make field recordings, but returned with a mixtape of music taken from Saharan Sim cards.

African Facebook stats, by Country:

“Only 1.7% of Africans are on Facebook, but since there is only 10.9% Internet penetration, we see that 15.9% of African Internet users are on Facebook.”

Kenyan Internet users woo businesses to Twitter and Facebook

“According to the research, Kenya is ahead of its peers in East Africa in social networking with an average consumer spending atleast 6.5 hours per week, followed by Tanzania — 1.6 hours per week — and Uganda 1.5 hours per week.”

Reflections with Michael Joseph in his last week as CEO of Safaricom:
(Video 1, Video 2)

Reflections with Michael Joseph from Al Kags on Vimeo.

Wrong model. Wrong place.
Ken Banks discusses the challenges of normal business models in the ICT4D and M4D space.

The Future of Mobile in Africa:
A great deck by Rudy de Waele, from his talk at Mobile Web Africa 2010.

InMobi and Mobile Advertising in Africa

India is watching Africa closely, especially after the big $10.7bn move by Bharti Airtel to take over Zain’s Africa operations. Yesterday Ankit Rawal, head of advertising for inMobi in Africa, spoke at the iHub. He spent a good amount of time explaining why Africa was so important to their growth strategy, and used a good bit of data from an InMobi research project to show why.

Ad Impressions

From their July 2010 statistics, Africa has over 2.8 billion mobile ad impressions available, an 18.5% growth from just one month before (June 2010). That’s an amazing figure, and amazing growth, by anyone’s standards. Only 16% of that inventory is on smartphones.

InMobi’s largest African markets, in order, are: South Africa, Egypt, Kenya, Sudan, Libya, Nigeria. There is a big difference between these countries and some of the others that we saw stats for. For instance, Mozambique, Tanzania, Angola and Namibia have only about 20-40 million impressions/month. There is a wide gap between Africa’s tech leaders and the rest of the continent.

Manufacturers

Continent-wide, the most popular manufacturer is Nokia at 61.3%, followed by Samsung at 21.8%, with SonyEricsson a distant third at 6.3%. Those aren’t especially surprising figures, but if you dig down into the country details provided for South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria, they differ.

  • In South Africa, it’s 38% each for Nokia and Samsung
  • In Kenya, it’s 66% Nokia and 18% Samsung
  • In Nigeria, it’s 78% Nokia and 9% SonyEricsson

Operating Systems

Important information for mobile app developers and businesses is which operating system to focus on. Nokia OS and Symbian lead, followed by RIM. No Android, iPhone or Windows Mobile mentioned, though there is a suspiciously large (37%) chunk of the pie for “other”.

Handsets

The actual devices that people are using that show mobile advertising is interesting as well. It’s largely Nokia, holding 7 of the top 10 spots, with Samsung carrying the other 3. The top device, is the moderately priced Nokia N70 is a popular, though unpretty, “do it all” phone.

Other Information

Not available in the qualitative research document provided by InMobi, but part of Ankit’s talk yesterday, were some other demographic statistics.

Male acceptance of mobile advertising in Africa is the highest in the world, when asked, “How comfortable are you with mobile advertising?”. African women came in second behind Asia on that same question. Women in South Africa were the clear outlier compared to Nigeria and Kenya, with only 45% comfortable with mobile ads.

Africa’s under 25 population has the highest comfort level with mobile ads in the world. 75% from this age range are okay with mobile ads, as opposed to 67% in Europe, 73% in the US and Asia.

South Africans are more interested in ads when top global brands appear as ads. The primary benefit of mobile ads that all consumers are looking for is “new information”.

Final Thoughts

Africa, as a whole is well positioned to see a huge growth in mobile advertising. This comes from a combination of consumer acceptance of mobile ads being the highest in the world, healthy support via increased data plan competition among telcos, growth in 3g and smartphone adoption, and mobile screen mindshare amongst users.

Russell Southwood at the iHub

I consider Russell Southwood to be the most well-connected person in the African tech scene, he also happens to have one of the best macro view of what’s going on across the continent in the established tech and media worlds. For a taste of his work, read his article, “Africa’s mobile market will go open access – it’s not if but when and how it all work out“.

On Friday he came to the iHub in Nairobi where he took 2 hours to have a fireside chat with local web and mobile technologist on “The Future of Kenya: what needs to happen for local services and apps to succeed.”

“Russell Southwood looks at the kinds of changes that will happen in Kenya over the next ten years, how the barriers to change might be broken down and the relationship between the ICT business and the broader economy and society. He sets out to try and understand what will produce the success factors for the growth of ICT services and apps businesses across Africa and why Kenya has a key role to play. From these broad arguments, he then focuses down on the needs and type of customers services and apps companies can potentially serve.”

Russells relaxed and intimate chat with the community is going to serve as the first of many new fireside chats at the iHub with Africa’s “big thinkers” and top tech CEOs.

Banks Blocking Mobile Money Innovation in Africa?

There’s an good post over at the CGAP blog about mobile money’s innovation crisis. The author claims that nothing new has happened in mobile money since Mpesa was launched in Kenya, except for maybe the launch of Mkesho this year in Kenya as well. Besides that, everyone around the world pretty much tries to duplicate what Safaricom is doing in this space.

Why?

“There may also be one partnership in particular that could be hampering innovation—that with the banks. Historically, these two players have taken very different strategies for new product development, especially in resource poor countries.”

Thinking big picture

You can send up to $500 for as little as 37 cents using Mpesa. On Zain it will cost you 74 cents. That’s an insanely low transaction cost compared to what banks charge, and that’s not even going into the fact that they can’t do transactions as low as 50 to 100 Ksh ($.60 to $1.24). The kicker, you can store your money in it for no fee at all (unlike the usurious rates that the banks charge).

Simply put, banks cannot compete with mobile operators when it comes to transacting payments for the majority of Africans.

Regulators make and enforce the rules around everything. How do they make their decisions, who lobbies them and why? Is the reason that we haven’t seen a true replication of Mpesa anywhere besides Kenya due to the banking sector protecting its interest?

Opportunity lost

Right now anyone in Kenya can do every type of transaction within our own borders, and if creative into neighboring countries as well. A few other countries have the ability to do this type of thing as well, if less efficient and/or elegantly conceived.

Currently opportunity is lost by local merchants in not integrating mobile payment structures better into goods and services offered to both businesses and the public. This is changing, businessmen are quick to move to figure out new ways to increase margins and customers. It’s only held back by the operators not willingly opening up their platforms for easier integration into business.

11% of Kenya’s GDP was shifted through Mpesa in 2009, and the company expects that to be around 20% this year.

We can all agree those are big numbers and that a massive ability to make money has been shown in Kenya. This begs two questions:

  • Why has no one allowed it to truly replicate in another country?
  • Why is no one throwing big money after this, trying to figure a way to scale a mobile operator and bank agnostic payment solution across a region, if not the whole continent?

There are big players trying to break into the greater African market (I’m looking at you Naspers). There are banks who have the money to spend on figuring this out, but aren’t thinking beyond their own brand, so continue to fail. Maybe the answer is we just should sit here and let all this lost opportunity continue to drift by us, waiting on the big credit card players of the world like Visa or Mastercard to make a move.

That’s a fatalistic stance, and I certainly hope it’s not true. Unfortunately, I don’t think we’ll see this service come from 2 guys coding in a garage. Instead, I hope that there are mobile operators and banks banding together to make something bigger than themselves that make more profits for everyone. If not them, a big investor willing to wager millions of dollars on making billions.