Quick Hits Around African Tech (May 2012)

This last month has kept me too off-kilter to get a good blog post up. However, there have been some very interesting happenings around the continent, here are the ones that caught my attention:

Pivot East

East Africa’s mobile startup pitching competition is just a month away. We announced the top 50 a few weeks ago, and now the 25 Finalists are named as well. Don’t miss this event, June 5 & 6th at the Ole Sereni hotel in Nairobi.

Google Releases “Insights Africa”

This truly deserves a blog post of its own… Google spent a lot of money and time gathering information from over 13,000 people across 6 African countries (Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Uganda) to determine why, and how, people use the internet. This data is all openly available, with an outstanding visualization tool to see what the information really means, and compare it, at InsightsAfrica.com. My chart below is just one example, showing how people access the internet across these 6 countries:

Donors prioritized “industrial policy” in Asia, but “social sectors” in Africa. Why?

Kariobangi writes a compelling blog post on the difference between the aid that was prioritized for Asia versus that for Africa.

TeleRivet: An Android SMS gateway

Similar what Ushahidi offers at SMSsync, TeleRivet is a tool that allows you to use your Android phone as an SMS gateway. It’s more robust, offers an API, and makes it easy for people to get started on SMS and USSD apps. Mbwana Alliy writes up a blog post on why this is important, and the business prospects involved in utilizing this type of service.

WEF: The Global Information Technology Report 2012

The World Economic Forum’s annual report on IT has some good information on emerging markets. You can read it online here. Here’s the video:

ForgetMeNot and the rise of Africa’s Smart(er) Phones

BizCommunity has a good article on ForgetMeNot’s Message Optimizer service’s growth on the continent. This service delivers internet content to users who can only access that information via SMS. Here’s how it works:

“First, a mobile phone subscriber sends an SMS to a given short code. The message is received in the mobile company’s message centre, which then forwards to ForgetMeNot Africa’s internet servers. The servers process, route and deliver the message to the subscriber, who can then respond.”

Kenya study, impact of venture capital on small and medium sized enterprise

VC4Africa reviews a report on VC’s in Kenya. This isn’t just tech, but it is interesting and surfaces some great information. [PDF Download]

“The minimum profit before use of venture capital was Ksh 34, 866. Upon use of venture capital, the minimum profit increased to Ksh 600, 000. This shows an increase in minimum profit of 94%. The maximum profit respondents reported before use of venture capital was Ksh 38, 567,951 which increased to Ksh 62, 864,152 an increase of 63%. The average profit also increased by 69% (from Ksh 7,204,653 to Ksh 12, 202,775)”

Mpesa, a 5 Year Infographic

Just how big has Mpesa become? Take a look [PDF version].

Jason Njoku, Funding and Nigerian Movies Online

In Nigeria, Jason Njoku is at it again, raising $8m from Tiger Global Management, a US-based PE and hedge fund. Here’s an interview with him on Forbes. Iroko Partners is the world’s largest digital distributor of Nigerian movies and African music. The firm is YouTube’s biggest partner in Africa, boasting over 152 million views in 2011.

Quick hits around African tech

Google’s Code Jam Africa is underway, and top African programming talent are working to solve some tough algorithmic challenges.

Idd Salim gives us, “10 Kenyans Under 32 will be USD Millionaires before October 2010” or, his thoughts on how to make big money in the web and mobile space.
(related, how to make money with Safaricom)

Foreign Policy writes a scare piece on how a high-speed wired Africa dooms the world to powerful botnets
(related blog post)

AllAfrica covers Sophia Bekele’s .Africa project, trying to get a TLD set up for Africa (a la www.whiteafrican.africa).

Inside Facebook points out the slow and steady growth of Facebook users across Africa.

Finally, in the not-tech-but-interesting category we see the blurring of the US military and development/aid programs and how this new “smart power” is going to mean more US military industrial complex members invading Africa.

Quick Hits Around African Tech

South African Startup Index
The Business Report is running a South African Startup Index using YouNoodle‘s API. Quite cool, I’d love to see someone do this for startups across Africa.

The Malawian Who Harnessed the Airwaves
Really, it’s an AfriGadget-type story on Gabriel Kondesi who constructed a radio station three years ago, using, among other things, three small transistor radios, car batteries, TV aerials, wires, and a radio cassette player.

A Rwandan software developer finds success
“Yves Kamanzi does not just study computer sciences, it is a passion which does not leave him when he gets out of the classroom. As a result, he has developed several administrative computer applications and despite fierce competition in the sector, he has been able to win over several companies. One program, which calculates employees’ net salaries, has proven especially popular.”

Musoni: mobile microfinance
Musoni is a new microfinance company in Kenya that is using mobile services for all their work. “Musoni will enable clients to repay their loans and deposit their savings using existing mobile money transfer products, such as M-PESA, Zap and Orange Mobile Money.”

Quick Hits Around African Tech

I’m thoroughly enjoying Dambisa Moyo’s “Dead Aid” book. Buy it, has great food for thought, and numbers to back it up.

The New York Times article on big web content companies lack of profitability in places like Africa.

We’re seeing a new trend of microblogging platforms emerge across Africa. Most recently in the Congo with Akouaba, but also in Nigeria with Naijapulse and South Africa’s Gatorpeeps.

Matt Berg writes about the “Off-grid solar calculator” in North Africa.

Mobility Nigeria points out that Nigeria displaces Germany in the Opera Mini top 10 list.

Bankelele breaks down some of mobile payment tool M-Pesa’s strengths and weaknesses in Kenya.

We’ve announced Ushahidi’s Beta stage, and another round of funding.

APC talks about the broadband rollout issues and a movement to change policy in South Africa.