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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

Technology

Blockchain-based Innovations Embraced and Celebrated at Crypto Fest in South Africa

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CryptoFest 2019, a one-day event recently held in Cape Town by Bitcoin Events (Pty) Ltd which also runs the popular Blockchain Africa Conference,was a non-traditional exhibition style event. The theme was “Immersive, Interactive, Innovative” and in true fashion, the event unfolded as such.

The ground-breaking festival was engaging, thought-provoking and provided quality content on three stages to a diverse audience which included blockchain industry veterans, new entrants and attendees who were simply interested in learning more about the burgeoning blockchain and crypto sector.

The laid-back atmosphere at the vibrant Shimmy Beach Club in Cape Town where Crypto Fest took place, with it’s picturesque backdrop of the ocean, created the perfect festival setting. Attendees were well-catered for and drinks flowed along with the stimulating conversations around the sometime controversial subjects of cryptocurrencies and blockchain tech.

It was a well-balanced mix of business and networking. There was plenty of meaningful discussion and debate on how best to accelerate global adoption of cryptocurrencies. The Bitcoin Events team’s vision to bring cryptocurrencies to life through immersive activities and a showcase of real-world applications to bring awareness was fully realised at this stunning event.

The festival presented engagement opportunities through lively crypto debates, including a Bitcoin vs Gold debate which was moderated by podcaster Grey Jabesi, a Director of Marketing and Communications at the United Africa Blockchain Association. The speakers at the event were lively and the line-up included some captivating appearances by the likes of Rocelo Lopes,CEO of Stratum and representatives from Huobi, SA Crypto, and BitGive Foundation among many others.

Sponsors of the successful event included AltCoin Trader, Luno IG, Okex, and Sun Exchange. “There was a lot of interaction and activity – crypto debates and educational dialogue around blockchain and cryptocurrencies,” said Richard de Sousa of AltCoin Trader. “The event was the first and a great success, we hope to be part of the next,” he added.

Other exciting elements to the festival format included the crypto games, giveawaysand fun competitions which were part of the event. Attendees could utilize augmented reality games that rely on geolocation to manipulate physical reality with tech-discoverable crypto. People could get airdrops of Ripple tokens courtesy of Xago and Bitcoin airdropped at the event by Bitdropgo. Working with Heath Muchena of Proudly Associated, a company that advises international blockchain companies developing technologies which have use cases focused on emerging economy development, particularly in Africa, Bitdropgo was able to bring some live gaming elements to the event.

Also Read Lillian Barnard: Tech Enthusiast And First Female Managing Director, Microsoft South Africa

“We see Africa as a growth market with massive potential for adoption of products and solutions that integrate both blockchain and AR technologies. Our unique interactive marketing model is an ideal fit for consumers on the continent who are largely mobile-centric, and businesses that are willing to explore new innovations and embrace new technologies more readily,” said Jonathan Eagleton, CEO of Bitdropgo. Attendees of Bitcoin Events hosted Crypto Fest could also download wallets such as the Centbee app and receive free Bitcoin.

The festival ended with an after party which was a highlight all on its own. Entrepreneurs, crypto-enthusiasts, educators and learners alike mingled and connected. What was most fascinating about the general sentiment around CryptoFest was the fact that much of the dialogue that could be heard around the event was around the potential that blockchain hasin playing a major role in the technological and economic transformation needed to make Africa a force to be reckoned with on the global stage.

 

 

 

 

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May the 4th Industrial Revolution Leave No Child Behind (Pt. 2)

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Currently, the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) is merely a buzz word that has not been put into context. Judging by the recent establishment of the Presidential 4IR commission and various government initiatives to engage with foreign investment, the public and private sector, it is quite obvious that the future of South Africa’s socio-economic landscape will be highly influenced by this wave. Therefore, if we intend on driving socio-economic development through industrialisation, we need to take on a more inclusive, accessible and relatable communication approach.

We ought to think carefully about how we should be informing and educating the public about (a) What the 4th Industrial Revolution phenomenon really means (b) how does it impact the country’s economy and market because ultimately, this has ripple effect on (c) the skills required and will define future jobs and market opportunities.

If we don’t, we run the risk of leaving people behind and having a public majority that is not prepared to embrace the winds of change.

I therefore propose that as we begin to embrace the wave of 4IR which is characterised by merging the physical, digital and biological. The following solutions should be considered:

Unpacking 4IR through mass-communication platforms

As a point of departure, we must ask ourselves, how are we using our mass-communication platforms to unpack the 4IR? In my view, there needs to be more of a concerted effort to synergise government policy (National Development Plan) and the South African public broadcaster. What policy puts emphasis on should somehow find expression through a mass-communication platform like the SABC. The objective? To increase public understanding, drive public engagement and influence public discourse.

Of course, the role of the South African public broadcaster in this regard would not be to turn into a propaganda machine but, to start a conversation that will assist in increasing public understanding so that the general public is made aware of the developments happening around them and how they affect their lives. During the 90s and early 00s, SABC programming was extremely entertaining but educational and informative. I think of TV programmes like Soul City which weaved health and social issues into real-life stories. Sponsored by the Department of Health, BP, UNAIDS and the Department of Land Affairs, they discussed issues on HIV/Aids, housing and land, depression and youth sexuality to name a few.

More investment in entertaining and educational programmes that contextualise 4IR are some of the key initiatives that should also be considered that will ultimately contribute towards public understanding.

The importance of supporting black science organisations

While organisations like SAASTA and the CSIR have played an instrumental role in taking science, technology and innovation to communities through outreach programmes and exhibitions, they cannot reach all black South African communities. While initiatives like SciFest Africa and the National Science Week are equally important, they take place once a year and we all know, knowledge is more meaningful when it is shared and taught consistently.

Therefore, in addition to what already exists, the growth of more impact-driven black science awareness organisations should be encouraged and those that already exist, should continue to be supported.

Over the past two years, I have seen a growing number of black scientists and engineers mobilizing themselves to either create or join organisations that ensure black communities are educated and are prepared for the 4IR wave. This level of community mobilisation for science awareness is important in order to maximise reach, address challenges unique to the community of interest and monitor impact.

Also Read Lillian Barnard: Tech Enthusiast And First Female Managing Director, Microsoft South Africa

Establishment of science, innovation and languages centre

Finally, as part of consistent learning, community-based science, innovation and languages centres should also form part of science awareness. Organisations like Inspire Foundation Group (IFG) Africa have done an excellent job by establishing such centres which provide Maths and Science learner’s access to academic assistance, career guidance and have designed fun programmes which encourage critical thinking, science communication and innovation.

Similarly, the US Embassy through its Mae Jemison centre based in Mamelodi, have taken on the same approach, thus making science learning accessible. When you plant centres of this nature in communities, you do not only make science and technology facilities accessible but, you inspire outside of the classroom, application based learning.

When we are more intentional about how we communicate information as a country, we indirectly give our people the opportunity to mobilise and educate themselves so that they make informed decisions. When we fail to do this, we disempower the majority, leaving them in limbo. I pray that in the wake of 4IR, the latter will not be the fate of the South African child.

 

Credit: Chumisa Ndlazi (Marketing and Communications Professional)

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Carbon, AppZone Partner Open Banking Nigeria, to extend the Frontiers of Innovation

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Chijioke Dozie, OneFi co-founder and CEO. Pic: GuardianNG

LAGOS, NIGERIA. 3 September 2019: To achieve improved customer-centric digital services increased consumer control of data and unprecedented levels of innovation, Carbon, Nigeria’s largest alternate digital lender and AppZone, foremost home-grown software solutions provider have collaborated with Open Banking Nigeria, towards the attainment of non-partisan and non-financial Application Programming Interface (API) standards for financial services in Nigeria.

This revelation was made recently as the two top financial technology (fintech) players respectively announced their collaboration with non-profit Open Banking Nigeria.

Carbon, formerly PayLater, and AppZone join other industry players like Paystack, Flutterwave, Interswitch, Ernest & Young, Fidelity Bank, Global Accelerex, TeamApt, PwC, and Sterling Bank who have partnered with Open Banking Nigeria.

The collaboration would, among others, further advance ongoing efforts by various notable financial industry stakeholders in Nigeria for the maximisation of the rapid increase in digital and mobile payments, with the ultimate objective of the meeting the ever-dynamic yearnings of consumers for flexibility and convenience.

Carbon and AppZone would actively participate in diverse phases of the development of common API standards for Nigeria, testing the APIs for certification, and stimulating the adoption of Open Banking standards across the country.

“At Carbon, we know that data is more important than oil. We also understand that open banking presents a tremendous opportunity to unlock financial access for millions of consumers and has the potential of transforming the financial services landscape, not only for banks and fintechs but for everyone across the ecosystem,” said Chijioke Dozie, the Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of  OneFi, the parent company of Carbon.

“It follows our innovative leanings as a brand committed to providing credit to the financially under-served and excluded individuals around Africa. We believe that, with Open Banking, we would be able to extend consumer credit to the 40 million unique bank customers across the nation.”

Speaking on the partnership with Open Banking Nigeria, Obi Emetarom, Chief Executive Officer, AppZone said: “We find open banking critical to the future, especially as we support over 300 financial institutions on BankOne, our banking-as-a-service platform.”

Also Read Black Space App CEO, April Jefferson on entrepreneurship and connecting black travelers to their culture

“Our partnership with Open Banking Nigeria also comes as a result of our understanding that in our fast-rising digital world, the use of standard APIs is crucial to empower verified third party players to securely leverage technology. Moreso, the adoption of standardised APIs is known to cut cost, reduce connectivity complications and improve turnaround time.”

This fintech-Open Banking Nigeria collaboration, according to Ope Adeoye of Open Banking Nigeria, would “enable further innovation in our financial services industry where the lack of common API standards currently constitutes a barrier to innovation, especially in the areas of digital payments expansion and financial inclusion.”

Appzone is a proudly Nigerian firm that provides software solutions for the financial services industry. Supporting and accelerating growth in the adoption of banking services across the continent, AppZone expands the scope and competitiveness of financial institutions by delivering disruptive innovation on agile technology using best practices.

Launched when lending with no collateral or documentation or to non-salary earners was inconceivable, Carbon raised the bar and pioneered a new phase of consumer lending in Nigeria, becoming the country’s first digital lender. The firm has continued to transform lending services in Nigeria and across Africa.

Open Banking Nigeria partners with stakeholders across Nigeria’s financial services industry to define an open and non-partisan set of APIs for financial services in Nigeria. 

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