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
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.
“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.”
Three Reasons Why Ghana
1. Ghana is seeing its ‘weaknesses’ as a tech opportunity.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Digitalization in logistics – A user’s experience
Geraldine Mamburu, Founder & MD PDQ Logistics (Source: Geraldine Mamburu)
In some cultures, children are sometimes named after events that would have taken place close to or during their birth. Jokes around naming children Quarantine Buthelezi, Social-distance Moyo, or Pandemic Ndlovu, were circulating in 2020 and made for a good laugh, however, one couple in India took this a little too seriously and named their twin boy and girl, Corona and Covid.
Looking back, I do not recall ever coming across a proposal to name children after any of the variations around the word digital, after all, every second Point of View that was being released was around digitalization and digital transformation. It got me thinking, and realised that a lot of these terminologies are thrown about in the corporate space, but what does this actually mean to the end-user? How does the user interact, make use of, and appreciate digitalization?
Being in the logistics space has found me interacting with a lot more digital platforms over and above e-commerce, social media, and the all-so-dreaded-virtual-meeting platforms. My favourite most convenient app (which is currently the best thing ever since sliced bread in my books) has got to be Truck Fuel Net (TFN). TFN offers a cloud-based, real-time software management solution that helps me manage all my on-road refuelling and driver spend needs. Given that the bulk of operational costs in road freight is fuel, one must have their finger on the pulse and be on the constant lookout for the best price, over and above monitoring driver efficiency. The TFN Management system helps me decide, where, when, and how much the driver can refuel.
Sidebar – I’ve been driving a Ford Kuga 1.6 AWD for a few years (NB: No fire starter jokes allowed) and for such a small engine, that car can chow fuel – I’m talking 11 – 12km/100! I never used to fill up because it was painful watching all that money go down the drain. When I filled up the truck for the first-time round, let’s just say I needed to sit down because I felt a little dizzy.
Every day, we transport goods worth millions of Rands. It goes without saying that the safety and security of the driver, the goods we carry, as well as the trucks themselves, is of paramount importance. TFN’s solutions enable us to run a cashless operation. In the road freight sector, cargo, equipment, and increasingly drivers, are all targets for criminals and if we can take one incentive out of the equation, the better off we are.
Whilst on cashless operations, I would like to give SANRAL a standing ovation. Now, now, before your eyes roll all the way to the back of your head, let me just say that we might have qualms as “Gautengers” about how they went about the e-toll saga, but their app is such a lifesaver! With an e-tag fitted on the vehicle, I can manage my account quickly and securely. The app works in real-time, allowing me to be kept informed of my spend on vehicles. And lo and behold when I do forget to top up (because …you know …admin), I immediately get a notification the moment my funds are depleted, allowing me to top up immediately whilst the truck is still on route, contributing to a seamless operation. Well done SANRAL. Sometimes the government does get it right …sometimes.
The South African logistics sector contributes about 12% towards the GDP, according to Stellenbosch University and the World Bank. Of that percentage, approximately ¾ is attributed to road freight alone. With such modestly generous figures, it’s encouraging to see various organisations come up with digitally inspired solutions to cater to this industry.
This brings me to my most used platforms, Car Track and Tracker. I can only assume that before the advancement in technology, one must have had to have a great deal of faith, composure, and trust. Not to say that we no longer require these skills, but the ability to log onto these apps and be able to get real-time updates on the exact location of a customer’s goods in transit certainly prevents a blood vessel or two from popping (in the event that you cannot reach the driver.) As for Google Maps, it goes without saying, that this is the backbone of my interaction with these tracking platforms.
There are a bunch of other digital platforms such as Linebooker that I am still to explore as the business continues to grow. However, it’s been interesting to know that before we start thinking self-driven trucks (think of that one scene from Terminator, were the machine is operating the truck…but I digress) and other seemingly complex technological advancements aimed at this industry, there are still digital channels that make the day to day operations in logistics that much easier.
What other digital platforms are you using or have you heard off that have made a world of a difference in the logistics space?
Article by: Geraldine Mamburu, Founder & MD PDQ Logistics
Three African-American Female Engineers Who Changed Our World
Image source: Pexels
The fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) produce innovation that drives us forward as a species. Despite the fact that women and people of color have often been at the forefront of new discoveries, their representation within the STEM fields is historically low.
As culture progresses in understanding toward the value of a diverse workforce, those seeking out the future leaders of STEM are reaching out to underrepresented populations – specifically, women and people of color. One such outreach is ‘Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day’, a global campaign established by the National Society of Professional Engineers.
The event, which takes place this February 25, is run by teachers, volunteers, and STEM professionals, and includes engaging engineering-based learning activities that encourage young women to develop problem solving skills and indulge their interest in science and engineering.
The road to their future success was paved by the intrepid women who came before them, including these three remarkable African-American female engineers:
- Kimberly Bryant: Seeking to create an inclusive technology learning space for young women of color, Ms. Bryant created the not-for-profit coding camp Black Girls Code. As of late 2019, the organization has 15 chapters, and Ms. Bryant has been recognized as a White House Champion of Change for Tech Inclusion as well as one of 2013’s 25 Most Influential African Americans in Technology.
- Dr. Patricia Bath: An early pioneer of laser surgery for cataract treatment, Dr. Bath was the first female member of the Jules Stein Eye Institute, the first female African-American surgeon at UCLA Medical Center, and the first female leader of a postgraduate ophthalmology training program.
- Alice Parker: A housewife from New Jersey, Mrs. Parker developed and filed a patent for a gas-powered central heating system inspired by cold coastal winters. Her filing came before both the Women’s Liberation Movement and the Civil Rights Movement, a remarkable achievement for an African-American woman during her time.
More stories of African-American female engineers and female leadership in engineering can be seen here:
To discover more about Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, visit NSPE online.
North Ladder Secures $5 Million Series A Financing Round To Accelerate Global Expansion
North Ladder Team (Source: Siddharth Sudhakar)
North Ladder (previously called BuyBack Bazaar), a UAE based secured trading platform for pre-owned luxury assets and electronics, today announced a $5 million Series A funding round led by regional venture capital firm BECO Capital. The new investment will help the company scale up its technology platform, enhance customer experience and pursue further geographic expansion.
The homegrown start-up also revealed that it will begin operating under the new brand name North Ladder effective immediately, representing the company’s strategy of charting new markets and supporting individuals across the globe in their endeavour to elevate their financial situation. The disruptive and innovative technology platform is the first of its kind, providing access to verified buyers of second-hand goods and instant cash. North Ladder currently enables users to sell electronics such as phones, laptops, tablets, and smart watches, as well as luxury assets including watches and cars, with a unique option of buying it back within a few months.
The Series A financing builds on an exceptional year for North Ladder which saw rapid growth of its clients, network of buyers and corporate partnerships. To date, the platform has witnessed over 15,000 transactions in the UAE, with over 85 different nationalities served while earning an impressive 4.9/5 customer satisfaction rating. In 2021, the start-up is looking to establish its presence in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States, with a focus on scaling the platform significantly in the next 18 to 24 months.
“North Ladder has demonstrated tremendous success with its unique model of helping customers access immediate funds against their assets. The provision of a seamless and trusted digital platform for the sale of pre-owned goods has immense socially transformative potential at a global scale. We are excited about partnering with them to take their services to the next level,” said Dany Farha, CEO & Managing Partner, BECO Capital.
The company recently appointed Sandeep Shetty, former Managing Director of the core ride hailing business at Careem, as Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer of North Ladder. Prior to Careem he also led the digital transformation program at Emirates NBD and has held leadership positions at McKinsey & Company and GE Capital across India, the United States and the Middle East. Sandeep joins the leadership team of co-founders Pishu Ganglani and Ricky Husaini who together bring years of prior global start-up, financial services, technology and operations experience.
“Our exciting partnership with the region’s leading investor BECO Capital gives us the opportunity to scale operations in the UAE and expand to other strategic markets, with the mission of meaningfully impacting people across all strata of society,” said Sandeep Shetty of North Ladder. “Our global auction brings professional buyers from around the world to compete and provide local customers with the best prices and no hidden surprises.”
Since its launch in 2018, North Ladder has been recognized as one of the “Top 5 innovative start-ups in the MENA region” by PayPal backed accelerator, Village Capital and awarded as an Innovator by Entrepreneur Middle East.
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