Nigerian ehealth startup wins Best Mobile Software Solution in Africa award

Standard

eHealth-focused Nigerian tech startup Mobile Software Solutions has emerged winner of the the Best Mobile Software Solution in Africa 2014 at the World Summit Award (WSA). The startup was selected out of over 400 other solutions from across the continent.

The award was presented to its Chairman, Mobile Software Solutions Ltd, Mr. Chris Uwaje, at the just concluded 2nd Inter-Ministerial Conference on Science, Technology and Innovation (STI), held in Rabat Morocco.

The startup’s winning solution is its Malaria Destroyer Game which had earlier won the Best Mobile App (Game) of the year award at Mobile West Africa Conference held in Lagos Nigeria.

“With this type of solution, we can stop these massive Malaria deaths and sustain economic growth by ensuring the good health of our workforce,” Uwaje said.

Source: Human IPO

Advertisements

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

Standard

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

Yorubas Contribution to Civilization

Standard

In this video, Prof. Brimmy Olaghere gives an account of African history and the contributions of the Yoruba people to Africa and the rest of the World.

2

Among some of the most interesting information shared includes:

  • The pyramids were originally created in Sudan, not Egypt.
  • W. E. B. Du Bois was instrumental in the creation of the African Development Bank (ADB)
  • All languages used in Africa are derived from Yoruba
  • The Yorubas are the originators of the alphabet
  • The people of China originally migrated from Plateau state in Nigeria

Global Ankara Trend: The Colorful Fabric Revolutionizing International Fashion

Quote

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.

80a642d14f0468d7736bae0bbe7626d2

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.

 

beyonce

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?.

thCAB862CY

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.

Solange

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.

5EXU6F5

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

Standard

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

Image

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.

Image

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.

MAL10.0120.TRUCKS0199

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.

What Africa Needs – Part 1

Standard

What Africa Needs – Part One: TRADE NOT AID

After taking some time figure out what I wanted my first post to be about, I came to the conclusion that I want to address what I feel are some issues holding the continent back. I also wanted to use this opportunity to give my opinion on what I think some solutions are. The goal is to spark something within someone (or myself) that will eventually result in some of these issues being further addressed and hopefully resolved. Another goal is to vent my frustrations. Ha! With that said, I present to you, Part 1 of a 5 part series entitled “What Africa Needs”.

africaaid  
Part ONE: Trade Not Aid:

“Trade Not Aid” is a popular phrase used by proponents of the idea
that instead of giving ‘free money’ to Africa to fight poverty and
hunger, donors should support job and business creation through
foreign direct investment. Dont get me wrong, not all aid is bad. I am
not referring to emergency aid given in situations like a natural
disaster. Nor am I referring to donations given to help a child go to
school or clothe an orphan. My sister actually runs a non profit,
Change A Life Africa (www.changealifeafrica.org) that is focused on
providing disadvantaged children with a quality education. I have seen
the difference such organizations can make and I applaud and support
them.

The type  of aid I am referring to is government to government aid. I
feel it is time we realize that this type of assistance is not only
the least effective in terms of poverty reduction but it is also
destructive. It is stunting the growth of a middle class that is
needed to spur economic growth. Zambian-born economist and author of
the best seller, “Dead Aid,” Damiso Moyo states that “Over the past
60 years at least $1 trillion of development-related aid has been
transferred from rich countries to Africa. Yet, real per-capita income
today is lower than it was in the 1970s, and more than 50% of the
population live on less than a dollar a day, a figure that has nearly
doubled in two decades.”  If this economic development model is
CLEARLY not working, why is it still being used? Why is it being used
in Africa only? China moved 300 million people out of poverty in 30
yrs. India has approximately 300 million people in its middle class.
They did not achieve this by relying on aid to the extent that African
does today and has for the past half century plus.

A serious issue is that African governments are now relying on this
aid  as a source of income like a welfare recipient waiting on their
monthly check, instead of looking for alternative means of revenue
generation. Some say that aid promotes government corruption because
the funds are just moved to private accounts abroad. I am certain that
this happens a lot of the time,however, that is not the only issue.
Even where there is no corruption involved, you have a situation where
African governments are relying on western countries to provide the
people with goods and services that they should be providing e.g
education, healthcare, infrastructure etc. Who will respect a leader
that does not care for his own people? That is a huge reason why
African ‘leaders’ get zero respect in the global community. They are
looked at as beggars. You are sitting on priceless natural resources
that can be traded, yet you beg for money from countries that are in
actuality, broke themselves. But I digress…


June_13_Selling_land_for_AID!
Another issue is that aid does not create a meaningful amount of jobs
or opportunities to start and grow a business in Africa. Aid also
comes in the form of goods donated. Why not invest in local producers
of these goods or invest in a manufacturing plant to produce the goods
that are being shipped to Africa? This is a sure way to spur job
creation and invest in a local business instead of flooding the market
of charity goods that will put local producers out of business.There
is no way to reduce poverty if there are no jobs or means for
individuals to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors as a means to increase
their income and start to create wealth for themselves. Therefore, if
there is no middle class to drive the economy you are left with a
situation similar to that in Nigeria where there are extremely wealthy
people and extremely poor people with a few middle class citizens
sprinkled in the middle. I’m sure you can see how this would also lead
to an increase in crime, whether its fraud or good old fashioned armed
robbery.
foreign aid1
The good news is, in recent years due to the slowed economic growth in
Western countries, the amount given in aid is now slowly reducing.
Now, more than ever, the focus has turned Africa, not just as a poor
desperate continent in need of help, but as a place where Western and
Eastern countries need to do business in order to survive. This in
addition to business friendly policies in African countries  has led
to economic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa. This performance boost is
attributed to rising investment in among other things, natural
resources and infrastructure. China, for example has invested almost
$30 billion in Africa since 2012. According to the consulting group,
McKinsey&Co, “natural resources, and the related government spending
they financed, generated just 32 percent of Africa’s GDP growth from
2000 through 2008. The remaining two-thirds came from other sectors,
including wholesale and retail, transportation, telecommunications,
and manufacturing. This growth acceleration has started to improve
conditions for Africa’s people by reducing the poverty rate. But
several measures of health and education have not improved as fast. To
lift living standards more broadly, the continent must sustain or
increase its recent pace of economic growth.”

This to me is proof that we do not need handouts. What we do need is
to be taken seriously as players in the global trade market. We have
the resources, we have the talent and we have the potential. What we
need to do now is phase out aid and continue to increase the amount of
trade deals and investments that help move the continent in the right
direction.