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febuary 2020

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The Legatum Center for Development & Entrepreneurship at the MIT launches Foundry Fellowship for entrepreneurs in Africa

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The Legatum Center for Development & Entrepreneurship at MIT has launched the Foundry Fellowship, a first-of-its-kind leadership program for accomplished entrepreneurs who are considering their role in shaping the future of the African innovation ecosystems in which they work and live. At an inflection point in their entrepreneurial journeys, Fellows will learn from MIT faculty, connect with investors, and expand their network of peer innovators. The Fellowship is open to entrepreneurs working and living in Uganda, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, and Senegal.

Building on the MIT ethos of Mens et Manus (Mind and Hand), the Foundry is a place where entrepreneurs come together to reflect on their achievements and shape their futures as leaders in business, investing, and governance. The program includes an interactive online curriculum followed by a three-week immersive session that brings the cohort together to explore innovation-driven ecosystems.

The Foundry Fellowship presents a unique opportunity to bring MIT resources and knowledge to these critical innovation ecosystems and, importantly, also offers MIT an opportunity to learn from successful leaders and their innovative solutions.

Professor Fiona Murray, Faculty Director of the Legatum Center, described this opportunity to expand MIT’s innovation network “[as] a moment for the Fellows to reflect on [their entrepreneurial] journey that also allows us to learn from them. They can use this experience as a stepping-off point as they move to the next stage of ecosystem-wide leadership.”

“As a school dedicated to the development of principled, innovative leaders who improve the world, MIT Sloan looks forward to welcoming the Legatum Foundry Fellows to Cambridge and to the MIT community,” said David Schmittlein, John C Head III Dean of the MIT Sloan School of Management.

A Collaboration between the Legatum Center and The Mastercard Foundation 

Through this collaboration with the Mastercard Foundation, the Foundry Fellowship will deepen the impact of leaders who are solving complex problems, creating jobs, and bringing essential services to millions through innovation-driven business models.

With the world’s fastest growing youth population, Africa is home to 4 of the world’s top 5 fastest-growing economies, has the fastest urbanization rate in the world, and has a rapidly expanding middle class predicted to increase business and consumer spending. Innovation and entrepreneurial solutions are a critical component to continued growth and prosperous people and societies across the continent. Africa’s entrepreneurs are building businesses that offer lessons in inclusion, sustainability, and value creation that extend far beyond the continent. As a global network of entrepreneurs, investors, and thought leaders, the Legatum Center’s Foundry offers a platform for leaders to share their stories and consider new ways to extend their impact in their local ecosystems and around the world.

Dina Sherif, Executive Director of the Legatum Center says, “To propel Africa forward and remain competitive globally, we need innovation-led entrepreneurship and robust African entrepreneurial ecosystems. The Foundry Fellowship supports African entrepreneurs to transition to entrepreneurial leaders who work with various stakeholders to strengthen and improve their ecosystems.”

The Foundry Fellowship is a competitive program for outstanding entrepreneurial leaders working in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, and Uganda. The Legatum Center will accept nominations from May 3 – May 20, 2021. A nomination is not required to apply; entrepreneurs are invited to submit an application directly. All nominees and applicants must submit a completed application by 11:59 PM EDT on June 10, 2021 to be considered for the program.

Nomination and application information is available at The Legatum Center for Development & Entrepreneurship

An initial cohort of 15 Fellows will be selected for this fully-funded program.

 

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AI Expo Africa, Wesgro, and Zindi launch the Deepfake Africa Challenge

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AI Expo Africa, in partnership with Wesgro Film and Media Promotion and African Data Science competition platform Zindi, has launched the Deepfake Africa Challenge in a bid to raise awareness about deepfake media, tools and ethics on the African continent.

Deepfakes have been prominent in the news in the last two years as the tools and platforms that allow for such content to be produced are widely available and easy to use by both skilled and casual users.

While some deepfakes can be used to create fun, viral videos or new synthetic applications such as digital avatars that have multiple applications, they also can be used to manipulate or generate visual and audio content with the potential to deceive with subsequent negative impacts for people, organisations and wider society.

Dr Nick Bradshaw, founder & CEO of AI Media the company behind AI Expo Africa, stated, “The objective of the challenge is to create convincing deepfakes to highlight the power of this synthetic media, illustrating its creative potential for exploitation for both positive and negative outcomes and focusing debate about its ethical use or mis-use in an African context. We partnered with Zindi as they have the largest community of Data Scientists in Africa, and Wesgro Film Unit to tap into the award-winning creative industry based in the Western Cape, South Africa. This challenge is open to both creative and technical talent across Africa. We look forward to seeing the outcomes from the submission.”

Wesgro Film and Media Promotion head Monica Rorvik commented, “Deepfake media can have negative outcomes. This challenge serves as an opportunity and platform that we can leverage during this interesting time of the “Pandemic of deep fakes” – and by working together, and checking facts, we can learn together and gain some herd immunity.”

Zindi co-founder and CEO Celina Lee stated “Deepfakes are fast becoming a challenge of our time. Through the Zindi platform we are seeking to tap into the collective insights and creativity from twenty-six thousand African data scientists to shine a light on this topic and create debate about the potential harms these media and tools can do from a uniquely African perspective.”

Submission and evaluation

Submissions are welcome from across the African continent and from relevant communities including researchers, developers, content creatives and film makers. The winning submissions of the Deepfake Africa Challenge will be showcased at AI Expo Africa 2021 ONLINE between 7 to 9 September.

Submissions for the Deepfake Africa Challenge can be either video or audio based. Each submission should be no longer than 90 seconds in length (MP4 or MP3 preferred final format). The content submitted must not be offensive or harmful in anyway and any submissions deemed to contravene this rule by the judges will be immediately rejected.Winners must be citizens of an African country and must be residing in Africa.All entries will be judged as follows:
  1. Artistic creativity and relevance to the challenge topic
  2. Level of innovation used in the process to generate the content
  3. A short explanation of platforms, tools and techniques used to generate your submission will greatly enhance your submission and are encouraged so we can build a picture of the most common tools and techniques used

The judging panel will be made up of representatives from Zindi, The AI Media Group and Wesgro. The judge’s decision will be final.

Prizes

1st Place Winner: Complimentary ticket to join AI Expo Africa 2021 ONLINE (including 1x return economy flight & 4x nights hotel stay B&B courtesy of Radisson Blue to join us at AI Expo Africa 2022). The 1st Place Winner’s flight is eligible to delegates joining from outside the host city capped to $1000 using economy class fare. Expenses and visas are not included.

2nd and 3rd prize winners to receive 1x complimentary ticket to AI Expo Africa 2021 ONLINE.

Top 3 placed winners will have work showcased at AI Expo Africa 2021 along with write up and press mentions.

Timeline

The competition closes on 30th July 2021. Final submissions must be received no later than 11:59 PM GMT 30th July 2021. Winners will be notified and announced by 17 August 2021 with the winning submissions being showcased at AI Expo Africa 2021 ONLINE between 7-9 September.

The challenge organisers reserve the right to update the content timeline if necessary.

 

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Afripreneur

How the Founders of Odiggo are transforming the MENA auto industry using tech and linked end-to-end ecosystem

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Odiggo Founders (L-R); Ahmed Omar and Ahmed Nasser (Source: Ahmed Omar)

Odiggo was founded with the aim to close Egypt’s and the MENA informal and highly fragmented car repair process. Which makes it ripe with fraud and inefficiency gap by providing an online platform that links customers with established car parts vendors and car repair service providers. To date, Odiggo has earned 1.2M USD in GMV and grown its user base to 50K monthly active users. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Odiggo’s Founder and CEO, Ahmed Omar shared their journey, impact, challenges and the future for Odiggo. Excerpts.

 

Alaba: Could you tell me about the Odiggo journey and what sparked the interest?

Ahmed: We started off as e-commerce platform, bootstrapping our way up with no funds, until COVID-19 hit, we did not see it as a threat as much as we saw it as an opportunity, so we went to spare parts dealers and service providers that had to close down due to the pandemic, and allowed them to re-enable their online stores and channels to advertise their products. Then we connected them with service providers so customers can find those products and services delivered at their convenience at their own homes.

With one customer and has grown from the onset when we spotted a gap in the market to make people’s lives easier by simplifying car parts and services shopping. It’s a huge market need. let me explain what we mean with a huge market need, there is some number that can show you how big it is. MENA region Market size is crossing the 60 Billion USD, with a global market size of more than 1.9 Trillion USD as one of the top 10 revenue generating industries.

We are building a digital experience that is transforming the automotive and the after-sale industry, by connecting car owners with a safe ecosystem of car parts suppliers and service providers nearby to ensure convenience and network effect. Users can now find all their car needs in one single place, all their car parts and services. So we made it very easy for them to find what they are looking for.

 

Alaba: What competitive advantages allow Odiggo to deliver on its value proposition?

Ahmed: Team; we believe we are onboarding top notch talent with very high potential that can drive Odiggo’s innovation and growth in the past few months and this is what we will always have an exceptional team, delivering exceptional results, products and growth.

Technology/product; building scalable tech is what is making us grow very fast, everything we do is very scalable yet will be extremely hard for competitors to go at our speed.

Growth/Expansion; how fast we expand is just thrilling to watch, we built the company with a scalability mindset, yes takes more time to build such things but once you decide to open markets it just flies.

We recently had two of the top Executives of Agility Logistics Company that built it to a Billion Dollar Company, alongside, Essa Al Saleh – CEO & Chairman of Volta Trucks the next tesla for trucks joined on Odiggo’s board alongside side a billion dollar team coming from Jumia, Mackensey, Careem, Deloitte, Hyundai the next generation digital automotive support ecosystem to change the way car owners do their car parts and services shopping.

 

Alaba: What have been the biggest challenges?

Ahmed: There is a huge market need. Our biggest challenge is coping with that huge market need, as operations of serving that huge market need, so we do as much as we can to automate most of our operations.

 

Alaba: What are the biggest achievements Odiggo has had?

Ahmed: OUR GREAT TEAM, that got us the great results we reached. We’ve achieved 7 Figures ARR (Annual recurring revenue). Getting consumers to let us know how we changed their lives and how we made it easier for them motivates us.

 

Alaba: How is your company funded?

Ahmed: It started with a few angel investors coming from private equity firms and tech companies in the region. Latest 2 rounds were backed by Agitero AC (Switzerland VC), that’s led by Essa Al-Saleh, Chairman & CEO of leading electric trucks company Volta Trucks and former CEO of the Billion-dollar logistics company Agility.

 

Alaba: Kindly share the impact of Covid-19 on your business and survival strategy?

Ahmed: It was a positive impact, we did our highest day every when the lockdown happened in Egypt, and after 3 days we doubled that number. At that time, we recognized that we are in a space that has a huge market need. We are not selling a ” want ” it’s a ” NEED “. COVID-19 made people go for e-commerce more than ever before.

 

Alaba: What parts of the business will drive growth in the future?

Ahmed: There are multiple growth triggers that will drive growth of the company in the future. The core of this growth is understanding the customer behavior and helping them have a better experience and work on their repeatability. However, introducing more services will help customers to come back, in this case customers will have 3x of their retention.

Global infrastructure; allowing customers to buy from any merchant onboard worldwide is something that we are working on to make sure merchants that are on boarded on Odiggo is not only selling locally but also internationally.

Horizontal Expansion; not only cars, expanding into other vehicle types to support more businesses and car owners who generate income from driving their own commercial trucks or vehicles, motorcycles etc.

Car connection; understanding and reading the car data, will allow us to educate the customer on what needs to be changed, allowing them to make those purchase actions from the platform and making it very easy for them to place those purchases on Auto, so they would not need to confirm again.

Introducing all the DIFM – Do-it-for-me services like, to drive convenience and obsession to the app/platforms.

 

Alaba: What is the set milestones and future for Odiggo?

Ahmed: It’s mainly coping with the huge market need in the region. Based on research the market in GCC is more than $11 Billion USD. So we are mainly going to expand to the MENA Region mainly, with a focus on GCC starting with UAE and KSA.

Be the No. 1 source of car parts and services with a great experience through automated error recognition. Acquire 5% of the global market size in one of the top 10 revenue generating industries which is 100 Billion dollars, that means being a trillion dollar company. Between Mid-2020 to Mid-2022, we are looking to expand and earn the highest market share in the digital marketplace in terms of car parts and services in three markets UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

We are working on various testing environments and R&D ourselves that will allow us to always elevate the company and grow beyond our stakeholders expectations

 

Alaba: How do you feel to be African entrepreneurs?

Ahmed: First, we believe that Africa is the next big thing, we’ve seen great success stories that came from Africa that made it to billion dollar such as Jumia that went IPO at NYSE.

Second, is there a lot to be done in our industry, there are a lot of ideas that haven’t been applied to the region yet.

We believe that entrepreneurs make people’s lives easier so that’s our main objective. We feel so proud when we get a message from a customer saying how we made his life easier and how much time and money we saved him.

 

Founders Background 

Ahmed Omar CEO & Co-founder grew Odiggo traffic from 0 to 100K+ with no marketing team. He started his e-commerce career and made first eCommerce sale at 14 years old in 2017 with his e-commerce channels in Egypt selling through marketplaces like Souq, Jumia & social media channels making thousands of dollars during his college. While graduating back in 2014 he built what is called Seyanty a car maintenance booking platform, not knowing anything about tech product or venture capital. Omar have been involved in Find My Pic, which is an app that helps customers save images with keywords so they can easily find it, again.

Omar did not research the market well enough to know that Google Photos have launched it in their new app led to Find My Pic users to leave no reason to use the app anymore. Omar’s passion to solving the customer’s problem and disrupting industries as long as making people’s life easier always kept him hungry. After his last visit to Cairo, he decided to join a team building an aggregator marketplace called KasrZero.com, which was the first used cars (pre-owned) marketplace in Egypt during 2017/2018, They never made any money selling cars, the only money they made was when one of their customers asked for Car Parts, That was the start of Odiggo’s story.

 

Ahmed Nasser, COO & Co-Founder drove the growth of Odiggo’s revenue from $5K to $100K monthly in 11 months and transformed Odiggo’s performance to make 8x more during COVID-19. Nasser grew small traditional companies and digitized businesses to be top ranking companies in their industry in Egypt. He started helping businesses at the age of 16 and pursuing patterns that would make successful management. His obsession to how companies grow and building great products have carried him along every step of the road.

Nasser read over 500 books during his career trying to understand the right patterns to create successful businesses, yet he found the answer in execution. This is where he decided to be part of building a startup or build his own. Results speak louder than words! Since joining Odiggo the company has been on top of the list of any candidate looking to grow and be part of this disruption, the company was able to grow 40-50% month over month in GMV, transactions and Userbase.

 

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