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Three Reasons Why Ghana Is Winning In Tech | Martin Best

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This year the Tech in Ghana event has moved its London-based event to coincide with London Tech Week, allowing the 55,000 attendees to get a taste of the Ghanaian tech ecosystem first hand. Those new to Ghana may not appreciate the speed of change in the country nor the degree to which tech-focused services are fuelling growth. There’s significant room for expansion in the economy – a young population that ‘skipped’ a tech generation straight to smartphones. The use of mobile money and e-commerce is normal for these consumers and not a ‘thing for tomorrow’. Below GSMA Intelligence lead Kenechi Okeleke talks about some of the reasons why Ghana is on the cusp of a step change in tech:

Below sources: GSMA / HOOTSUITE

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With the Ghanaian economy posting some of the fastest growth in the world over the last 2 years, the government are keen to attract and diversify inward investment into the economy.

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“We’re looking to make Ghana the best place to do business – technology is critical to our economy and we need to focus on it even more going forwards.”

Yofi Grant , CEO Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC)

 

Three Reasons Why Ghana

1. Ghana is seeing its ‘weaknesses’ as a tech opportunity.

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It may look small on the map but try getting across the country and you’ll see that for many rural inhabitants, accessing services is no easy matter. This geographical isolation leads to poverty and low growth. Agriculture employs over 40% of the population, but represents only 18% of GDP in 2017 (down 14% points since 2009). Farming is riven by low productivity, and high costs of non-farming related expenditure. Weather patterns, yield optimisation and market prices are all ‘luxury’ items beyond the reach of many. Most of these smallholder farmers live and work in remote rural communities that have poor internet connectivity, poor road networks and low levels of education.

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Step forward Farmerline which combines digital technology with 200+ field agents who deliver information and resources to smallholder farmers. They aim to help farmers increase productivity and yield, generate more profit and build sustainable businesses. They do this by offering inputs such as location-specific weather forecasts, market prices and good agricultural practices suited for the specific crops they grow; all made available through mobile voice messages in the farmer’s preferred local language. All this information is managed and shared from their bespoke Mergdata platform. The platform creates digital profiles for farmers which allows them to receive value-added services such as receiving inputs and advice on credit. This gives farmers immediate access to farming inputs which they can pay for at a later date.

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Mergdata offers decentralized traceability, certification audit, farm mapping, farmer education, and analytics solutions to help organisations that work with farmers achieve their sustainability and food security goals efficiently. We’ve collected insights from 200,000+ farmers in 13 countries, and mapped over 1m acres of farmland. Over the next three years, Farmerline plans to leverage technology to connect over 126,000 farmers in Ghana to extension services. We also have an ambitious goal of reaching and transforming the lives and work of 1.3 million farmers directly and through partnerships by 2023.

Amos Olerty Wussah, Senior Consultant at Farmerline

By increasing farmers’ access to resources and increasing other players’ access to farmers, Farmerline aims to increase the quantity and quality of the global food supply.

 

2. Ghana is a leading tech nation not just a developing one.

Those that have not been to Ghana might not realise how easy it is to get by without touching physical cash – mobile money can suffice in everything from taxi’s to school fees. Beyond the mass consumer tech jump is also a movement to modernise how SME’s operate. Once such example is Jetstream, a cloud-based web platform which consolidates international freight shipments and cross-border shipping.

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African SME’s pay the highest rates globally to import and export cargo in shipping containers. Often, they have no visibility into basic things like transit times, landed costs, and the physical whereabouts of their shipments. What they cannot see, they cannot control. When it comes to the unglamorous work of moving physical goods from A to B across borders, there is a fundamental lack of coordination between the thousands of customs agents, shipping lines, freight forwarders, and truckers who comprise cross-border supply chains in Africa.

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Jetstream’s tech platform, combined with real-world coordination with third-party logistics providers in Africa (customs agents, shipping lines etc.) is designed to solve the SME’s entire logistics problem; being only point of contact that they need when they trade across borders.

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With Jetstream, B2B cross-border trade from Africa is converging with eCommerce logistics.

Say you’re a farmer or factory owner in Africa. You shouldn’t have to become an expert in tariff rates and sailing schedules in order to move 5 tonnes of dried cassava from Ghana to Malaysia, or to buy fertilizer from India, for example, and know the full cost beforehand.

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We create that level of convenience and transparency by putting the fragmented pieces of the supply chain together. You book a shipment on our online platform the same way you would book an airline ticket. You give us details about where your cargo is going, where it is from, and the info we need to clear it through customs. Jetstream then takes that online information and dispatches orders to our network of third party logistics providers — from customs agents to shipping lines — who physically execute the shipment. 

Miishe Addy Co-founder, CEO at Jetstream Africa

Based in Accra, Jetstream claim to have 2 million kilograms of cargo in their pipeline from their HQ in Ghana; with a view to expanding their physical footprint to Lagos and other African port cities by 2020.

 

3. Digitising trade means more than offering aid.

Some were taken aback in 2017 when newly elected President Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo declared Ghana as ‘moving beyond aid’, but this mindset has placed Ghana on the side of reform and a growing belief in economic self-determination.

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The African continent when you look at its resources, should be giving monies to other places…We need to have a mindset that says we can do it…and once we have that mindset we’ll see there’s a liberating factor for ourselves.

President Nana Akufo-Addo

This sentiment is shared by many of the countries entrepreneurs, such as Founder and CEO Samuel Tettey Amanor who runs BlueSPACE Africa Technologies in Accra. Thanks to the recently signed AfCFTA trade treaty, the company will create a linkage with Banks/Insurance/and Trade partners to spur growth on the continent; increasing cross-border payments & FX businesses for companies in Ghana and across Africa.

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How can it be that intra-African trade is only 12%, when intra-EU trade is at 68% for example? Those walls and restrictions are coming down and technology is driving that based on the landmark political decision to work together across the continent. With our BlueSPACE (BlueTRADE Platform), we’re fully supporting the aim of increasing intra-African trade by as much as $35 billion per year by 2022 as stated in the last meeting BlueSPACE represented with IMF officials.

Samuel Tettey Amanor Founder & CEO BlueSPACE Africa Technologies

52 of 55 nations across Africa have now signed the treaty and this is allowing entrepreneurs to see their own region in a new light. At a company level, it addresses the challenge of a business operator exporting goods to an African counterpart with an average rate of protection of around 12.4% compared to 8.4% when exporting overseas.

Ghana still has a long walk ahead. Countries such as Malaysia and South Korea have all found the ‘middle income trap’ a challenge to navigate with mixed success. For it to thrive in the coming years, it will need sustained reforms, forward thinking institutions and a corruption free platform for inward investment. With a bullish young and educated population, a proven democracy and an ever-more-influential diaspora the ingredients are there for greater diversification of the economy.

 

Akosua Annobil

Founder of Tech in Ghana, Akosua Annobil is keen to widen the interest in Ghana from the diaspora to the mainstream Tech scene – and London Tech Wekk offers that visibility.

What might surprise many observers is how international the Tech in Ghana event is. By holding this year’s event within London Tech Week, we’ve seized the opportunity to further internationalise and widen participation. Whether you’re an American based Venture Capitalist or a European tech start up looking to expand, our event is a window to an economy that is booming, and sincerely pushing the tech agenda in both the public and private sectors. Ghana is a entry point to a continent that offers stability among a whole region of growth. It’s tech-based businesses that offer many of the solutions to unlocking those opportunities in the coming years, which is why this event is so important.

Also Read GO Ads: A hybrid Ad Network pushing adverts on every screen in Africa – Boluwa Olojo

 

Author:

Martin Best is the Managing Director of the agency Full Reach

Press Release

Thabo Mashegoane Appointed As Chairman of the Africa ICT Alliance (AfICTA)

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Thabo Mashegoane

The President and Board Chairperson of the Institute of Information Technology Professionals South Africa (IITPSA), Thabo Mashegoane, has been elected as Chairman of the Africa ICT Alliance (AfICTA).

Formerly the Vice-Chairman of AfICTA, he succeeds Engr. Hossam Elgamal from Egypt to become the third Chairman. AfICTA, a private sector-led alliance of ICT Associations, multinational corporations, companies, organisations and individuals in the ICT sector in Africa, aims to fulfil the promise of the digital age for everyone in Africa by encouraging dialogue and fostering ICT enabled development.

During an electronic election at the AfICTA Annual General Meeting on 25 November, Mashegoane was elected chair, while IITPSA Past President and Non-Executive Director Ulandi Exner was also elected AfICTA Vice-Chair for Southern Africa.

The election named the following board members and officers: Paul Rowney, Deputy Chair; Opeyemi Onifade, Treasurer; Dr. Waudo Siganga, Vice-Chair for East Africa; Engr. Assem Wahby, Vice-Chair, North Africa; Adetola Sogbesan, Vice-Chair, West Africa; and Eric Sindeu, Vice-Chair, Central Africa.  

Thanking his predecessors for their service and leadership in the Alliance to date, Mashegoane noted that AfICTA was an organisation with a vast network, impact on critical policies, and reputation that took years and hard work to build. “Mine is to take the baton and continue where the honourable Engr. Hossam Elgamal has taken this organisation to. Of importance is the platform to enable African countries to collaborate and share best practices and lessons learnt with an objective of not leaving anyone behind in development. This is a vision we will continue to uphold. We stand in a critical position to influence attainment of Sustainable Development Goals 2030 through ICT.”

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Speaking after the election, Mashegoane said digital inclusion and ICT-enabled development was also a key mission for the IITPSA in South Africa.  “The IITPSA shares the vision and ethos of AfICTA. IITPSA has also stated that we need to step up efforts to achieve the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which, among other things, seeks to bridge the digital divide and harness technology to address major global challenges such as poverty, climate change and conflict, we need to work harder. At IITPSA, we believe this means we have to collaborate across industries, across countries, to deploy the benefits of ICTs for the good of all,” he said.

Africa ICT Alliance

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AI Media Group launches The Deal Room – Africa’s first AI-focused, free investment matchmaking service

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The AI Media Group has launched The Deal Room, Africa’s first artificial intelligence (AI) focused, free investment matchmaking service which aims to connect African AI focused startups to interested investors and venture capitalists (VCs).

AI Media Group is the publisher of AI and Data Science quarterly magazine Synapse, the AI TV YouTube channel, as well as the curator and organiser of AI Expo Africa — Africa’s largest B2B / B2G trade-focused AI, Robotic Process Automation and Data Science conference — which has been a great success over the last three years.

The annual expo has seen AI Media Group amass a database of over 1000 companies, most of which are Africa-based tech startups, scale-ups or small and medium sized businesses. The company has regularly been asked by some of these firms to make introductions to investors and also observed the challenges faced by startups, such as access, transparency, intermediaries and fees.

Although AI Media Group has been able to connect some of these companies with investors in the past, the number of requests have been on the rise and the firm now wants to improve on this service in terms of scale, process formalisation and automation through the launch of The Deal Room.

The Deal Room will be hosted on the AI Expo Africa domain — www.aiexpoafrica.com —  which is a popular platform for Africa’s Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) community with over 3 million hits a year allied to a vibrant LinkedIn Group with more than 4 000 members. The Deal Room’s primary aim will be to direct 4IR, AI and smart tech companies seeking funding to investors, VCs and organisations who are interested in backing firms in this rapidly growing sector.  

The Deal Room has attracted six launch investment partners, namely; Cirrus AICape AI VenturesKnife CapitalE4E AfricaBritegaze & Intelligent Impact, with more set to join in the coming months.

Nick Bradshaw, CEO AI Media Group and co-founder of AI Expo Africa explained, “The main idea behind The Deal Room platform is to facilitate rapid matchmaking between an investor and 4IR / AI focused startups and scale-ups that align with the firm’s stage of growth. It’s often a minefield to find the right investor so we curated a group of like minded investors that are interested in this space or who have a track record of similar investments to date. This is a long awaited value add service for our community with no strings attached, no “middleman” and total transparency.”

The Deal Room’s launch investors cover a broad spectrum of the investment lifecycle and include; Cirrus AI CEO Gregg Barrett; Cape AI Ventures co-founder Pieter Boon; Knife Capital co-managing partner Andrea Bohmert; E4E Africa Ventures principal Bakang Komanyane; Britegaze CEO Reshaad Sha, and Intelligent Impact founder Aunnie Patton Power.

Sha stated, “BriteGaze Fund One’s primary purpose is to assist AI businesses to accelerate their growth in South Africa and across the African continent through the provision of growth funding and advisory services to expand into new verticals as well as new geographies.”

Boon stated, “We expect that the Deal Room could be a catalyst for startups in Africa!”

Power stated, “There is such a need for greater transparency for startups that are raising capital. We are excited to have this tool available to the market!”

Bohmert stated, “Investing in companies who solve real world problems applying deep AI capabilities is what we are looking for. We are very excited about The Deal Room and its ability to match startups with investors, embracing a partnership journey that is equally more about substance and less about the hype”. 

Komanyane stated, “The Deal Room will help us identify new 4IR-focused companies that align with our investment goals in this sector, its a great innovation for the Africa tech scene and one we are proud to be associated with”

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Barrett stated, “The Deal Room by AI Media Group will assist in the development of Africa’s AI ecosystem and is therefore an initiative that we are enthused to support and participate in.”

Bradshaw concluded, “The Deal Room’s biggest selling point is there is no complicated paperwork, costs or loss of equity for companies looking to use the platform. They simply answer a set of confidential questions on the nature of their investment needs, details about their company, products or services and the AI Media Group then passes them on to the most appropriate investor(s). Just like internet dating, our goal is to make a perfect match and speed up the process of investment capital flowing into the African 4IR tech sector. We can’t wait to see the results!”

Startups and scale-ups looking to submit their requests for funding can do so via The Deal Room online submission process HERE

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How Non-Techies Are Breaking Into Tech Jobs

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Image credit: Tasnim Shamma/WABE

Technology startups are at the forefront of innovation. However, while there are plenty of opportunities to influence technological growth, many people lack the necessary training to succeed. This means people need to attend training programs designed to help acquire the skills needed to break into careers in tech. Many college graduates were prepared for jobs that no longer exist or will soon become antiquated.

A 2017 report by McKinsey found that around 50% of current work activities are “technically automatable”. With this in mind, the reason is clear why so many regular people are starting to consider jobs in technology. 

Whatever statistic you want to use, one thing is for certain: millions of workers are vulnerable to automation, and many future jobs are in the technology industry. 

As automation continues to take hold and disrupt new markets, there are a number of available programs to support people who want to transition into the tech industry. This article will discuss the three main paths being used to support workers in their transition: coding bootcamps, upskilling, and reskilling.

Coding Bootcamps as a Training Method

Coding bootcamps are short-term, intense training programs focusing on employment. Whereas college is focused on teaching a wide range of theoretical knowledge which builds the foundation for a career in Computer Science, coding bootcamps have one specific focus: to help people find jobs in tech. 

A recent report on the bootcamp market found that 33,959 people graduated from coding bootcamp in 2019 alone, a 4.38% increase from the previous year. 

Coding bootcamps, which have been around for about a decade, have grown in popularity because they promise to help people pursue specific careers in technology.

Bootcamps often position their courses in fields such as Data Sciencea and Web Development, both of which are expected to realize strong growth in the coming decades. Also, bootcamps bundle services such as career support and hiring partnerships together with offerings. These services assist people in their transition from a training program to a job.

Learning New Skills Through Upskilling

Often, a worker will be in a stable field but needs additional training to keep up with technological changes. For instance, a retailer may need to be trained in a few Sales tracking tools, or an Engineer may need to learn a new programming language. This type of training, called upskilling, is an important part of workforce training.

Upskilling refers to when people learn about new technologies to help them stay viable.  While a particular job may not be directly affected by automation, new technologies have emerged, allowing employees to be more productive and efficient.

Many companies looking to largely incorporate technology in their business have in-house upskilling initiatives. The Guardian Life Insurance Company, for instance, is training its workforce in new technology like sensors used to improve underwriting and risk management procedures.

Upskilling allows people who work in more traditional roles – like Marketing, Business Development, Sales, and Payroll – gain exposure to new tech ideas, and may act as a springboard to further training opportunities. For instance, a marketer may be trained in how to use SQL to analyze campaign data. Also, after finishing an upskilling program, an employee may decide to commit to pursuing a career in tech, capitalizing on the skills acquired during training.

Also Read: Chidi Nwaogu: Multi Award-winning Entrepreneur Launches Global Fellowship Program for Aspiring and Early-stage Entrepreneur

Reskilling Existing Workers

There is another training option in addition to coding bootcamps and upskilling which has become popular among technical training programs in recent years: reskilling programs. Reskilling programs are initiatives where a business invests in its workers and help build the skills employees need to remain viable.

In contrast to bootcamps, reskilling programs are designed for workers whose job is at risk of automation. An employer will create a training program in a field of growth within their business–the Cloud, for example–and offer some workers the opportunity to retrain in a new field. AT&T, for example, is investing $1 billion in workforce retraining. The telecom giant did so after learning only half of their employees had the skills needed to be protected from automation.

Reskilling programs have grown in popularity because they allow businesses to simply retrain existing employees instead of hiring a new workforce. Often, companies will work with external training providers such as Udacity to design a reskilling program and offer to retrain any employee whose job is likely to soon become obsolete.

Reskilling programs offer dedicated workers an opportunity to stay with a company while being trained for a job in tech. This is an especially worthy proposition for workers who do not want to invest months training beyond work hours. With a reskilling program, a worker can stay with an employer – and earn a paycheck – while being trained in the new skills they need.

Each training method mentioned above has the potential to support people who are breaking into tech from non-technical backgrounds. Upskilling, coding bootcamps, and reskilling options are only three of the many workforce training options being explored. Apprenticeships and education-as-a-benefit, among other programs, are being seen as additional ways for workers to gain new technical skills.

Automation presents a threat to millions of workers, but jobs in techare likely to keep growing and provide job security. But before workers can get a job in tech, they need to find the training, and that’s where coding bootcamps, upskilling, and reskilling have become crucial in the workforce development puzzle.

Written by: Artur Meyster

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