Top 30 startups selected for DEMO Africa 2015

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Top 30 startups selected for DEMO Africa 2015

By Miguel Heilbron

DEMO Africa

DEMO Africa will launch 30 of the most innovative start-ups in Africa and highlight some of the best new technology innovations from across the continent. The 30 finalists have gone through two rigorous screening processes with the final vetting and adjudication done by a pan-African panel of judges comprised of entrepreneurs, VCs and academia.

The 30 start-ups have been selected from over 600 applicants with four earning direct nominations during DEMO Africa pre-pitch events. The ventures are addressing opportunities in Agriculture, Health, Education, Manufacturing, Retail, Media & Entertainment, Communication, Transport and Logistics, Energy, Finance & Banking, Water & Sanitation, and Waste Management & Recycling. On September 24 & 25, these 30 entrepreneurs will present their plans to a global audience of investors, media, strategic buyers, C-level executives, and other entrepreneurs.

Last year’s giant, Nigeria, tops the list again with 8 representatives followed by Kenya with 6. South Africa is third with 3 representatives while Ghana, Egypt, Cameroon and Zimbabwe each have two. Uganda, Tanzania and new comer Ivory Coast will each be represented by 1 start-up. The presence of Ivory Coast on the list of giants is a strong signal that more African nations are warming up to the ability of the continent to craft her own solutions to various needs. The highest represented category on the 2015 list is Finance and Banking with 8 products. Other popular categories include Education, Transport and Logistics, Retail, Communication and Media and entertainment.

The team at DEMO Africa, and everyone part of the VC4Africa community, would like to congratulate the selected entrepreneurs for their achievement!

Here is an overview of the selected ventures. Click on the tiles to find out more.

abacus65 Abacus – helping investors make smarter, faster and more decisions by providing access to real time market data, news and analytics. Joel Macharia Kenya
airshop-65 Airshop – unleashing the untapped potential of duty-free stores by enabling passengers to make special orders of high value products in advance. Francis Yapobi Ivory Coast
bambapos65 BambaPOS – allowing retail merchants to access point of sale and inventory management automation with any android smart device. Karogi Kamau Kenya
Bitsoko Bitsoko – an Android mobile wallet removing the cost of transferring money between two individuals and increasing access to payment services. Daniel Bloch                    Kenya
bozza Bozza Media – a digital distribution platform enabling artists to connect with fans who want locally relevant content via mobile and web. Emma Kaye South Africa
Carparts Nigeria Carparts Nigeria –  an online car and truck parts and accessories store with millions of inventoried parts and a quick and simple search. Ade Oladapo Nigeria
ECOMC2 Eco-mc² Compressed Air Hydraulic Energy Storage – innovative air- compression storage based products ensure the power stays on, without the disadvantages of battery based systems. Magriet Leaper South Africa
edge books Edge Books – a digital platform for eBooks and other digital platforms such as magazines, comics & Journals. Daniel Oluwagbemiga ben-Daniel South Africa
Ent-Mobile ENT-Mobile – converting human conversation on social media and mobile platforms to actionable and quantifiable data for business decision making. Andrew Kamau                 Kenya
feemwifi Feem Wifi – providing an easy way to transfer music, videos, documents and other files – and listen to music or play videos when you are not transferring files. Fritz Ekwoge Ekwoge     Cameroon
flippycampus Flippy Campus – Flippy Campus is a social application that helps students get updated on what is happening on their campuses. David Mumuni Ghana
iKon Tracker iKon Tracker – iKon Tracker is a conveniently sized bluetooth tracking device paired with a downloadable iKon smartphone application. Adedayo Charis               Nigeria
insureafrica InsureAfrika.com – InsureAfrika.com is an online comparison platform which enables users to compare insurance quotes across insurance categories. Gagan Hayer Kenya
IPC IPC eProductivity – IPC eProductivity is an on-line productivity calculator that helps organisations determine their key drivers of productivity. Lovemore Jokonya Zimbabwe
Koomzo Koomzo – Koomzo is a hosted (cloud based) SaaS School ERP platform that automates core school processes (academic and administrative). Longchi Gide Kanouo Cameroon
lipaplus-65 Lipaplus – LipaPlus helps SMEs accept credit/debit card payments and also manage their sales, inventory and finances using just their phones. Ndeeri Macharia              Kenya
Locname65 LocName – a web and mobile application that gives a short, unique name for your address, which you can then share easily in just 2 seconds. Mourad Ashry                  Egypt
maviscomputer Mavis Computel Ltd – Mavis Computel Ltd provides a Talking Books & Talking Posters education solution. Chizaram Ucheaga Nigeria
OgaVenue ogaVenue – making it easy to search, check availability and book event venues online, by aggregating variety of event venues. Andrew Airelobhegbe Nigeria
PoshRite PoshRite – PoshRite is an online beauty social network that aims to encourage women to express their inner beauty by offering a web platform. Chidimma Nwankwo       Nigeria
raye7 Raye7 – provides a greener, cheaper, nicer, safer and time-efficient way of transporting people aiming for a better tomorrow. Ahmed Negm Egypt
roadrules Road Rules – a mobile app that will disrupt and revolutionize the way individuals study, practice and prepare for their driver’s license exam. Chikosi Tawanda Zimbabwe
Roundbob Roundbob – allows travelers to create travel wallets facilitating travel savings, installment payment options, reducing cost exposure and supporting this with relevant content. David Gonahasa Uganda
shield Shield Finance – a FinTech company using proprietary technology while leveraging on Mobile Money to offer under banked employees affordable salary advances directly to their mobile phones. Kenny R Kenya
simbapay SimbaPay – offers mobile apps that allow for fast, convenient and cheap money remittance to Africa. Nyasinga Onyancha        Nigeria
SmartEdu SmartEdu – an Education Technology Startup that helps Educators and Parents monitor and improve students’ academic performance. Molawi Adesuyi Nigeria
TalkingBookz65 Talking Bookz – a business focused on making learning interactive and entertaining by using mobile application to transform the learning experience for students. Kolapo Ogungbile           Nigeria
tango tv Tango TV – a Tanzanian technology company focusing on integrated media streaming services, beginning with African Movies, music videos and TV shows. Victor Joseph Tanzania
Zeepay Zeepay Mobile Financial Services – Mobile payments for both USSD and smart phones using NFC and supporting international remittances onto PoS. Andrew Takyi-Appiah Ghana
Zuvaa Zuvaa – Zuvaa is an online marketplace for African Fashion. Kelechi Anyadiegwu        Nigeria


Want to see these companies present on stage? 

You can now book your tickets for the DEMO Africa event, to be held in Lagos, Nigeria, on September 24-25, or join as a V.I.P. if you are an investor.

More people continue to book their slots to witness the unveiling of the selected thirty products. The full event will take place between the 21st and 25th September, 2015 at the Eko Hotel & Suites, Lagos Nigeria. Over 500 guests including investors, IT buyers, IT consumers and media are expected.

DEMO Africa is the premier platform for the best and brightest companies throughout the continent seeking to launch their products in front of a global audience. VC4Africa represents the largest community of entrepreneurs building innovative early stage companies.

The selected start-ups will now be placed under a mentorship programme which will run until September 22nd 2015. This programme is aimed at sharpening the pitching skills of the entrepreneurs readying them for the DEMO Africa stage.

This year, DEMO Africa introduces knowledge streams to delve into critical topics including Business Modelling, Scaling Businesses, Creating an unfair advantage, and Raising Capital. Top industry players including Jorn Lyseggen-MEST Founder, Harry Tomi Davies-ABAN President, Folabi Esan-Partner, Adlevo Capital, Jason Njoku-IROKO TV CEO among others will lead the discussion. Other notable activities at the 2015 DEMO Africa event include an investor roundtable forum and the LIONS@FRICA Summit with the uptake of Africa generated technology being expected to dominate the conversations.

The event will be co-hosted by DEMO Africa, Nigerian Ministry of Communication Technology and National Information Technology Agency-Nigeria in collaboration with LIONS@FRICA partnership and VC4Africa.

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5 African Cleantech Startups You Need To Watch

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5 African Cleantech Startups You Need To Watch

A woman uses a solar light from M-Kopa. Image: Georgina Goodwin/M-Kopa

Africa is extraordinarily rich in energy power potential. According to McKinsey and Company’s 2015 Brighter Africa report, the continent has 10 terawatts or more of potential capacity for renewable energy. If sub-Saharan Africa pushes renewables, it could result in 27 percent decrease in carbon emissions worldwide.

But sub-Saharan Africa is in an energy crisis. Two out of three Africans lack access to electricity — that’s 621 million people. The Brighter Africa report also stated the sub-Saharan Africa region has 13 percent of the world’s population, but 48 percent of the share of the global population without access to electricity.

African entrepreneurs and technologists are coming up with solutions to solve their own energy problems. In 2014, Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicted that 1.8 gigawatts of renewable energy would be commissioned. That’s a huge leap from the previous 14 years. And in the first quarter of 2015, Bloomberg reported, South Africa emerged as one of the top clean energy leaders.

Here’s a look at five African cleantech startups bringing power to the continent.

M-Kopa Solar

M-Kopa started a pay-as-you-go solar revolution in Africa by capitalizing on the popularity of mobile phones on the continent. Customers replace kerosene lamps with a solar light and radio/phone charging stations over several months in installments via SMS messaging on mobile money networks. The company was started by the founders of M-Pesa, Kenya’s incredibly popular mobile money system that has served as a model for the rest of the world.

Quaint Global Energy Solutions

This Nigerian company develops renewable power projects, and recently received a US Trade and Development Agency grant as part of Power Africa, a US government initiative. Quaint Global is working with California-based Tetra Tech, an energy project developer, on a feasibility study to determine the best way forward with the project. The effort will bring 50 megawatts of clean energy to Kaduna State, a state in Nigeria, and could also leverage more than $160 million.

Freedom Won

This South African company was founded in 2011 to grow Africa’s clean energy and electric vehicle solutions. The first electric vehicle prototype they developed was Freedom1, a Jeep Grand Cherokee, and since then, they have built several more, mostly for safari drives for wildlife tourism.

More recently, Freedom Won created a wall-mounted Tesla Powerwall-like system called the FreedomCOR, which uses lithium-ion batteries to store renewable energy. The modular batteries range in size from 5 kilowatt hours to 30 kilowatt hours for residential, and even larger for industrial, and reportedly last up to 13 years.

African Clean Energy

According to this company, three billion people worldwide cook on open fires or with dirty, dangerous fuel, and accidents resulting from that kill four million people a year. To help solve this massive problem, African Clean Energy developed the ACE 1 Ultra-Clean Biomass Cookstove, which burns any type of biomass cleanly and smoke-free indoors or outdoors. It reduces fuel use about 70 percent, saves 50 percent of costs, and drastically improves the lives of women and children, who do the majority of the cooking.

iCoal Concept Ltd.

Earlier this year, the World Bank’s Kenya Climate Innovation Center launched a crowdfunding mentorship program for entrepreneurs in East Africa, to provide them financial services and mentorship. One of the startups chosen was iCoal Concept Ltd., which turns the waste from charcoal into modern energy. The company collects charcoal waste from the community and repurposes it into  charcoal-based briquettes that are 35 percent cheaper than regular charcoal.

Kenyan households use 700 tons of charcoal per day. But now that iCoal has a handle on the market, the startup is producing three tons of its own SmartCharcoal per day for hotels, farmers, and residential communities.

Source:Forbes.com Lyndsey Gilpin

Nigerian Billionaire Tony Elumelu Commits $100 Million To Create 10,000 African Entrepreneurs In 10 Years

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Tony Elumelu

Nigerian billionaire investor and philanthropist Tony Elumelu has committed $100 million to create 10,000 entrepreneurs across Africa over the next 10 years.

Elumelu made the commitment on Monday during a press conference in Lagos to announce the launch of The Tony Elumelu Foundation Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP).

TEEP, a Pan-African entrepreneurship initiative of the Tony Elumelu Foundation, is a multi-year programme of training, funding, and mentoring, designed to empower the next generation of African entrepreneurs.

The programme will identify and help grow 10,000 start-ups and young businesses from across Africa over the next 10 years. These businesses will in turn create 1,000,000 new jobs and contribute $10 billion in annual revenues to Africa’s economy. The 10,000 start-ups selected from a pool of applicants across Africa will participate in a comprehensive programme which will include a customized 12-week business skills training course, mentoring, an entrepreneurship ‘boot camp’ and seed capital funding among other things. Interested entrepreneurs will be able to submit their applications to join the programme as from January 2015 through the Tony Elumelu Foundation’s website.

“The opportunity and challenge in Africa is scale – in our people, our resources and our horizons. In my business and philanthropic journeys, I have always sought ways to help inspire a generation across our continent. This programme brings together my own entrepreneurial experience and my fundamental belief that entrepreneurs – women and men across Africa – will lead Africa’s development and transform our futures,” Tony Elumelu, founder of The Tony Elumelu Foundation, said in a press statement.

The programme will be backed by a $100 million grant from the Tony Elumelu Foundation, an African-based, African-funded philanthropic organization that supports entrepreneurship in Africa by enhancing the competitiveness of the African private sector. The Foundation is solely funded by Tony Elumelu, a billionaire who has derived an estimated $1 billion fortune from banking, energy, investments and real estate according to FORBES’ recent ranking of Africa’s 50 Richest People.

“It is our opportunity to empower a generation,” said Elumelu.

More details about the program, including eligibility and the application and selection processes are available on the Tony Elumelu Foundation website at: www.tonyelumelufoundation.org/TEEP.

Souce: Forbes.com

Nigerian Startup Going Up Against Paypal Is About To Raise Almost $10m

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SimplePayOnonobi

Ever since SimplePay pitched on stage in Geneva at the $500,000 SeedStars World startup competition in February, the Nigerian internet payment startup has witnessed a rain of investment proposals from local and international moneybags.

SimplePay founder Simeon Ononobi while addressing a keen audience of tech entrepreneurs, investors, and media persons, explained he had planned to launch Africa’s ebay off proceeds from his last exit when he realised it costs merchants in Nigeria $3000 to be able to accept online payments from debit cards. And at the time, the free and easy to use third-party payment platform Paypal was unavailable to users in Nigeria, and most of Africa. By January 2013 SimplePay was born.

Simply, the startup is Paypal localised to the Nigerian market and it’s no wonder investors are scurrying to have a piece of the pie. According to Euromonitor, the 171 million people-strong country has a 62.4 million online population, the ninth-largest in the world, with mobile penetration being the major driver. Yet, a July Online Shopping Report by Phillips Consulting revealed Nigeria records a meager $2 million worth of transactions per week and close to N1.3 billion monthly. Factors such as hefty costs for payment gateways and the drudgery and unsafe exposure of personal debit card details on multiple sites have discouraged adoption of online transaction; consequently, leaving an enormous market yet to be conquered. SimplePay on the other hand, solves both problems; a dollar to sign up and users expose card details once to only SimplePay then use personal SimplePay accounts for transactions.

Italian investment and consultancy conglomerate CBO Group were the first to jump on SimplePay’s wagon after Simeon’s pitch in Switzerland.

“We got offers from the likes of CBO Group which we are happy about,” Ononobi tells me. The CBO Group offer was $2 million.

Just then he adds another interesting revelation. “Our biggest offer might be coming from Interswitch or the CEO (Mitchell Elegbe).”

It’s no surprise Nigeria’s leading digital payment giant is trying to get its hand on the future of payment in the market. It’s like Google acquiring Andriod Inc. It’s like Yahoo acquiring Summly. It’s the way of Corporate giants.

Another local financial powerhouse, UBA Group Chairman Tony Elumelu has made contact with Simeon’s quarters through a third-party though no definite public offer has been made yet. DSTV owner Naspers too doesn’t want to be left out of the party.

“Its what God has done. No man can take the glory,” Ononobi humbly says.

He adds: “We have told them to all hold on as we are getting ready for the Series A round in January. We hope to raise up to $10 million then.”

Simeon Ononobi was confident and not uncertain. The future seems bright for SimplePay with pan-African, Middle East and Europe expansion plans within the next two years. It’s been thought through. Ononobi would be leaving within two years to let “a more competent international CEO” run the company.

“I need to learn more to be able to take the company global,” he explains.

But first, the startup must capture the home market.

Its biggest competitor, the American new entrant, Paypal reportedly registered “thousands” of users on its launch date in June. Simeon is unfazed. He says SimplePay has 10,000 registered users, mostly merchants, and 30,000 unregistered users. Last month, Simeon’s partner Rich Tanksley, flew into Lagos from their Abuja office to hold meetings with Zenith Bank officials. The startup is planning to double down on users and reaching for a million subscribers by January through a partnership with the bank.

“They have 20 million account holders,” Tanksley quips.

“So when about 1,000,000 users keep N5000 in SimplePay account, that’s N5 billion. Whatever bank is nice to us gets to play with all that money.”

Nigerian financial institutions are definitely aware of the encroachment of web and mobile payment technology on their over-the-desk-based transaction business and are readily embracing the trend to survive the future. In not too far away Kenya, banks turned a blind eye to the emergence of mobile money and now pay dearly for it. Between a third and a half of Kenyan GDP now goes through M-Pesa!

Nigeria’s online payment market is still nascent and very much open. What happens if some company begins to crush competition and dominates too much? Rich says: “I’m sure that we and Paga would join forces.”

This post first appeared on Enterprise54.com.

Source: Ventures Africa

The Russians are coming: Russia increases its role in African Trade

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Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (L) during their meeting at the Bocharov Ruchei residence in Sochi on August 12, 2014 during the Egyptian leader's first official visit to Russia. (AFP Photo / Alexei Druzhinin)

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) shakes hands with his Egyptian counterpart Abdel Fattah al-Sisi (L) during their meeting at the Bocharov Ruchei residence in Sochi on August 12, 2014 during the Egyptian leader’s first official visit to Russia. (AFP Photo / Alexei Druzhinin)

I’ve said it before and I will say it again. Africa is the last frontier.The Continent has been the trade and investment location of choice for all of the BRICS nations several years now. Recently, Russia, a nation that has been largely absent from the scramble for Africa, has reared it’s head and is making moves.

I am certain that this decision was prompted by recent US sanctions against Russia related to the situation in Crimea. In response to those sanctions, Russia suspended imports of meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and milk products from the United States, the 28-nation European Union, Norway, Canada and Australia for a year. This will cost these nations more than about $17.5 billion for the duration of the year long ban.

Russia is now stepping up its search for partners to fill this void with suppliers in Latin America and Africa.

According to Russia Times, “Russia held talks on creating a free trade zone with Egypt and countries in East Africa have said they are ready to triple or quadruple trade with Russia.

“African suppliers have declared their readiness to supply Russia with up to 100,000 tons of fruit and vegetables per week, products that before were re-exported to Russia via the European Union,” Elena Nagornaya, president of the Russia-Africa trade alliance, told ITAR-TASS.

African countries are ready to directly export pineapples, bananas, citrus fruits, apples, nuts, avocados, strawberries, as well as ginger to Russia. Negotiations are underway with major Russian grocery chains.”

Egypt said it is ready to boost agricultural deliveries to Russia by 30 percent. The head of the Ministry of Agriculture of the Russian Federation, Nikolay Fedorov said this will close half of a possible deficit following Moscow’s ban on the import from some Western countries. In 2013, Egypt’s exports of agricultural products to Russia totaled $440 million, meanwhile in the first half of 2014, they have already supplied $460 million. Trade turnover between the two countries in 2013 amounted to $3 billion and more than doubled in the first half of this year to $2.5 billion from $1.2 billion in the same period of last year, according to ITAR-TASS estimates.

I am optimistic about this opportunity. However, my concerns with Russia in Africa are the same as those with China in Africa. I want the business conducted to be mutually beneficial, not just for the companies involved but for the people of Africa.

Sources:

http://www.rt.com

http://www.eurasiareview.com

Global Ankara Trend: The Colorful Fabric Revolutionizing International Fashion

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From the streets of Lagos, to countless boardrooms, to catwalks all over the world, the Ankara fabric has proven to be so versatile that it is now recognized on the global fashion scene. A number of celebrities have been spotted in Ankara ensembles on red carpets globally. To many, the Ankara fabric has become a wardrobe staple already.

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The fabric is used to make a growing number of fashion items; bags, shoes, dresses, jewelry and countless accessories. This development has led to a change in the general perception of the Ankara fabric worldwide. According the article Fashion Reborn: Blends of African outfits from Ankara, by fibre2fashion “Destiny of the ‘once before’ cheap Ankara fabrics, have undergone a magical transformation. Elegant creativity of the designers has made it a preferred choice of the rich and celebrities.” The African print fabric has metamorphosed from cultural attire to a glamorous wardrobe must-have and right now the spotlight is on Africa.

 

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This Ankara trend has impacted the West African economy in a lot of ways and thus, the Nigerian economy. In the mid- 1980s, there were around 180 functional textile mills in Nigeria. The mills employed approximately a million people, this accounted for more than 60 percent of the textile industry capacity in West Africa, empowering millions of households across all geopolitical zones of Nigeria. This however changed shortly as the sector crashed into an industrial abyss. During this period, the number of textile companies dropped from about 180 to almost zero. This was revealed by an article on Nigeria’s textile economy titled: Nigeria’s Textile Industry on a Rebound?.

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However, in recent times, the sector has rebounded. The number of functioning textile companies has risen once more to 25. While the industry may not be at its former place of glory, a steady incline can be noted in the growth of the industry which is largely due to the current global Ankara trend.

The rise in the demand of the fabric which was not too long ago considered to be a fabric for the poor or restricted to cultural festivities due to its brightly colored patterns and relative low cost, has led to a corresponding rise in the production of the material. Also, aside from the lower priced brands, a lot more textile factories have started producing the Ankara fabric in more appealing and sophisticated designs.

Furthermore, due to the ready availability of Ankara in the local market, it has become the preferred choice of fabric when making custom designed outfits. What was once considered to be a local market has grown exponentially to meet the increasing demands for the fabric worldwide. African designers and their Ankara designs are now sought out in all the echelons of the global society. The Ankara fashion industry has proven to be a veritable goldmine in these ways and many more.

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A lot of Ankara fashion shows spring up daily all over the global fashion scene. One of the more noteworthy ones is the annual Ankara Festival hosted yearly in Los Angeles, California. The festival or AFLA as it is commonly known was created in 2010 with the goal of increasing the visibility of African Culture through fashion, Arts, music, dance, and food. The festival aims to showcase Modern African Designs in African Print (Ankara), established African and African inspired designers, young up and coming designers, providing them a venue to showcase their abilities, and develop their entrepreneurial ambition in the international fashion arena. Another notable development is the Ankara Invasion. This has been adopted as the collective name for the current global Ankara trend. Different items fashioned out of the Ankara fabric are now spotted in places where it was once viewed as unsuitable.

As Duro Olowu -a Nigerian fashion designer- said, “For a long time, there was a sense that this was limited to Africa but now it has become global. Combined with an awareness of social responsibility, it makes for a powerful statement.” Countless international designers have launched various new designs revolving around the Ankara fabric. Marc Jacobs, Givenchy, Eley Kishimoto, Jean Paul Gaultier, Diane Von Furstenberg, Gwen Stefani, Dries van Noten, Kenzo and Paul Smith among others have included items fashioned out of Ankara fabric in their recent collections.

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A lot of renowned celebrities have also taken to this fashion trend. Beyoncé Knowles, Rihanna, Fergie and Kim Kardashian to name a few, have adopted the Ankara fabric and have been spotted in daring designs using one or more fabrics. The rise on the trend isn’t restricted to celebrities alone. A lot of foreigners who have seen the designs at work, on TV or even at school have joined the movement. It is not uncommon to find people wearing the fabric who may not even know the traditional name. The fabric is commonly referred to in these circles as “African Print”.

The overnight explosion of the use of Ankara fabric on the global fashion scene is perhaps one of the most notable fashion trends to have emerged from Africa over the last couple of years. The Ankara fabric is one that is very versatile and constantly evolving to meet today’s fashion fads. Hence, one may go as far as saying that the fabric and the trend have come to stay on the global fashion market.
beyonce-aliciaSource: Ventures Africa

What Africa Needs – Part 2

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Here you go! Part 2 of the 5 part series, What Africa needs: Increased Inter- Africa trade.

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According to the Economist, “The bulk of the Africa’s trade is with Europe and America: only 12% is with other African countries, according to research by Ecobank, a Togo-based bank. By comparison 60% of Europe’s trade is with its own continent. The same is true in Asia. In North America the figure is 40%.”

According to Reuters Africa, it costs South African grocer, Shoprite $20,000 a week to secure import permits to distribute goods in one country. As if that isn’t enough, in order to send one of its trucks across the border to neighboring Zambia, 1600 additional documents are required.

An excessive amount of border check points  are yet another problem.  To transport goods from Nigeria to neighboring Ghana, you have to go through about 5 border checks. Ghanaian President, John Dramani Mahama admits that he is aware of the problem and states that Ghana is working to reduce the number of border posts to just one. In my humble opinion, zero would be better but you have to start somewhere right? The legal and illegal payments made at these borders are all costs that are passed on to consumers in order for the traders to make a profit. At one checkpoint in Mali, border agents extort as much as $4,000 every day. In addition to the aforementioned high costs of trade, unclear policies are another hindrance. Seeds from Kenya can be held indefinitely at an Ethiopian border because they don’t meet Ethiopia’s standards. Tanzania may ship corn to Kenya only to find out there is now a ban on the importation of corn.

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The issue of infrastructure also needs to be addressed. Lack of adequate road, rail, and other physical infrastructure continue to impede trade within and between African countries. According to a report from the UN Economic Commission for Africa, only about 30% of African roads are paved and, as a result of this “shipping a car from Japan to Abijan costs $1500 while shipping that same car from Addis Ababa to Abijan would cost $5000.” Some of these unpaved roads have potholes big enough to swallow an SUV. The railways in Kenya and Uganda face multiple constraints, including ageing equipment and infrastructure with some over a century old.

These are just some examples of red tape and trade barriers that are costing Africa billions of dollars and depriving the region of new sources of economic growth. However, in spite of all this, there is reason to be optimistic. It seems that for the past few years, this issue has become too dire to ignore and strides are being made to rectify it.

In 2012, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma unveiled a plan to spend $97 billion on infrastructure by 2015 to upgrade roads, ports, and transportation networks. At the World Economic Forum held this May in Abuja, Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta called on African leaders to work together in removing obstacles that hinder movement across the continent. In his speech, he said free movement would help Africa meet its development targets. He also announced plans for Kenya and Nigeria should sign agreements that will boost trade and investment between the two countries. Since then, the Nigeria Export Promotion Council, NEPC, and its Kenyan counterpart have pledged to explore the vast market opportunities in Africa to promote trade and investment

Also at the 2014 World Economic forum, Africa’s richest man, Aliko Dangote spoke on the matter of visa issuance stating that presently, he and other Nigerian businessmen are required to obtain visas to enter about 38 African countries but a foreigner has more access to these same counties than he does because all they need to do is get a visa at the airport and pass through.Steps are being taken to streamline the visa process so that African businessmen and investors can invest in other countries with ease.

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In Kenya, barriers that formerly prevented professionals like doctors and lawyers from practicing in Rwanda have been removed. Now, a Kenyan lawyer can practice law in Rwanda without sitting for the bar all over again. This will also lead to a reduction in unemployment because new graduates will have more job options and not so new graduates will have more opportunities to provide services.

At the end of the day, increased inter Africa trade is the best way for Africa to use all of its resources and talent become self sustainable, grow and thrive. The less cumbersome the trade process is, the lower the cost of goods and services will be. The lower the cost of goods and services, the more people can afford them. The more people can afford them, the more people will be empowered and gradually lift themselves out of poverty.