Education Secretary Amina Mohamed. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU | NMG
The World Bank yesterday signed a Sh327.8 million ($3.8 million) deal with International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (Icipe) to fund training in science and innovation in sub-Saharan Africa.
The deal will support the Regional Scholarship and Innovation Fund (RSIF) to create a competent pool of researchers in applied sciences, engineering and technology sectors under the Partnership for skills in Applied Sciences Engineering and Technology (Paset).
It is part of a larger Sh922.1 million ($9 million) grant by the government of Korea to support the RSIF. Korea will facilitate PhD scholarships and support students in the transformative technologies.
It will also create an exchange programme between faculty in Sub-Saharan Africa and Korean universities in areas such as ICT, solar energy and energy storage.
“The World Bank is excited to be partnering with the Government of Korea on a new project to support the RSIF. Africa’s scientific and technical capacity will be key drivers for its economic growth and the RSIF is an important initiative on the continent that will help build highly qualified local talent as well as strong institutional capacity in a sustainable manner,” the World Bank said in a statement.
The deal follows an agreement between the Bank and the Korean government to set up a Sh1.02 billion ($10 million) Trust Fund to strengthen the on-going partnership to build Africa’s technical and scientific capacity, signed in May.
Paset chairperson and Education Secretary Amina Mohamed said the deal marks the start of a long-term mutual partnership towards building African capacity in science, technology and innovation to accelerate development in Africa.
African academics launch initiative to collate COVID-19 data across Africa, call for volunteers
Dr Vukosi Marivate
Computational epidemiologist and Assistant Professor of Global Health at Boston University Dr Elaine Nsoesie and University of Pretoria Senior Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science Dr Vukosi Marivate have launched an initiative to collate Covid-19 data across Africa and are calling for volunteers to join the project.
The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Africa was reported in Egypt on 14 February. The patient was a Chinese national who had recently arrived in Cairo. As of 27 March, more than 2,400 cases have been reported across Africa. South Africa, Egypt and Algeria have the highest number of cases – 927, 495, and 367 cases, respectively. Most African countries are reporting new cases every day.
Earlier this year, a group of epidemiologists led by Dr. Moritz Kraemer at Oxford University started collating data on the epidemic in China. This effort has grown to include contributions from around the world.
As part of this global effort, Dr Nsoesie and Dr Marivate have put together a team of more than twenty volunteers from across Africa to develop an open dataset of cases as they are reported.
The dataset includes patient demographics, date of diagnosis, location, symptoms, travel history, source of information and other necessary information. The location data is at the city, town or village level, and does not include household geographical coordinates so as to preserve individuals’ privacy.
The initiative obtains the data from official sources such as the World Health Organisation, Ministries of Health and Africa CDC, as well as unofficial sources like online news sites.
These data have many uses. It can help us understand the spread of the SARS-COV-2 in Africa, epidemiological characteristics of cases and how it compares to reports in other parts of the world. The data can also be used in models to study the impact of various interventions, such as social distancing and for making recommendations on resource allocation.
For example this dashboard developed by Dr Marivate and colleagues provides a picture of COVID-19 in South Africa, based on currently available data.
The data collation initiative is calling for more volunteers who can help in collating data. Data collation can be a tedious effort for a few people, but many contributors will make the task easier. Those interested in joining this effort can send an email to [email protected] and also look at Github Repo for additional instructions.
The initiative is also looking to support data collection efforts by Ministries of Health (MoH) in Africa by connecting them with volunteers in Africa. Volunteers with technical and public health expertise can support the collection, organisation, and visualisation of relevant data on MoH websites. The rapid increase in new cases is putting a significant burden on the health ministries and impacting the reporting of data. This is understandable because MoHs are addressing multiple challenges at this time – including tracking, testing, and quarantining cases – while implementing social distancing and other public health measures to control the local epidemics.
“We want to encourage everyone to follow the advice of public health experts and clinicians who are dedicating their time and lives to fighting this pandemic in Africa. Stay safe and healthy,” said Dr Nsoesie and Dr Marivate.
About Dr Elaine Nsoesie and Dr Vukosi Marivate
Elaine Nsoesie is a Computational Epidemiologist and Assistant Professor of Global Health at Boston University. She was born and raised in Cameroon. You can contact her by email at [email protected] or Twitter: @ensoesie.
Vukosi Marivate is the ABSA UP Chair of Data Science and a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Computer Science, University of Pretoria. He leads the Data Science for Social Impact research group. Vukosi is also a visiting Principal Data Scientist at Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, South Africa. You can contact him by email [email protected] or Twitter @vukosi.
Zimbabwean AI expert and entrepreneur William Sachiti invents open-sourced technology to improve access to education in Africa
William Sachit taking a class under a tree(Source: Academy of Robotics)
LONDON, United Kingdom, January 31, 2020- Zimbabwean AI expert William Sachiti, CEO of UK-based start-up Academy of Robotics has today published an open-source technology known as ‘Trees of Knowledge‘ to improve access to education through smartphones in Africa. This free-to-develop technology enables a tree or rural landmark to broadcast a wifi connection providing access to a pre-loaded package of educational content. The wifi connection and content comes from a micro-computer moulded into the landmark to protect it from theft or damage.
A community-driven, secure and cost-free solution
Anyone within a roughly 100m radius can then access the content on any mobile device free of charge. Users can also charge their phone by plugging it into the accompanying solar-powered battery charging station. The micro-computers will run on the power equivalent of a small rechargeable battery and can run for years without maintenance. All the user needs is a wifi-enabled device such as a phone, tablet, laptop or computer. There is no need for the phone to be connected to a carrier or any network provider, removing the issue of expensive data charges.
The technology uses a basic computer like the Raspberry Pi computers which have been used in refugee camps in Lebanon by UNICEF as part of its Raspberry Pi for Learning initiative.
A global crisis in education
Globally there are 258 million children out of school and UNESCO‘s new report Education Progress highlights that the problem is particularly acute in Sub-Saharan Africa where the population of primary-school aged children has doubled since 1990 and 1 in 5 children of primary school age are out of school. However, this is also a region witnessing rapid growth in smartphone adoption. Already more than 23% of people in Sub-Saharan Africa have access to a smartphone – a number which the GSMA estimates will rise to 39% in the next five years.
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AI expert and serial entrepreneur, William Sachiti, who was educated in Zimbabwe before moving to the UK where he started his first technology company at 19 years old highlights the challenges:
“One of the challenges in providing education through smartphones is that, while many people have access to a basic smartphone of some description, in many areas 3G coverage is still patchy. The data costs are high for most people and in rural areas keeping the phones charged is a problem when there is limited or no electricity. Trees of Knowledge aims to address all these challenges.”
“Every day millions of children walk for hours to get to school in the hope – often a vain hope – that they will find a teacher present at their school. In other cases, children are unable to attend school because they need to take care of the family’s cattle or support their families in other ways.
There is an urgent need to improve access to education for these children. For many children their classes are taught gathered under the shade of a large tree, so ‘Trees of Knowledge’ seemed a natural technical extension of this existing system.”
Last week, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay noted, “Rethinking tomorrow’s education must be done collectively,”
Sachiti believes that Africa’s burgeoning tech ecosystem can play a vital role in this collective effort commenting:
“While many programmes already exist to fix this problem, it is still not enough. With the growth of the developer community in Africa, I believe we have the opportunity to simply release the technology and let local communities build it themselves. If this technology reaches one or two more children, then I feel it would be a success.”
The pre-loaded educational content is likely to be largely video-based and would be free to access by anyone at any time. Whilst the system can work with existing educational content packages, ultimately Sachiti hopes that content can also come from local educators.
Further information and instructions for building Trees of Knowledge are available here
EdTech Entrepreneurs: Reasons You Should Apply for Injini’s Cohort 4
Do you have a technology-driven or technology-enabled innovation that could improve educational outcomes in Africa? Are you looking to take your early-stage startup to the next level?
Injini is now accepting applications for our next cohort of EdTech changemakers in Africa. If you are one of the selected Cohort 4 startups, you will participate in a five-month incubation programme that will take place both in Cape Town, South Africa and in your home market, where the team will support you remotely.
During this time, you’ll get an opportunity to work with subject matter experts in education, business, technology and entrepreneurship. But that’s not all, just for participating in the programme, you’ll receive a grant of R100,000 to spend on your business. Finally, if we’re impressed with your performance and trajectory once you’ve joined our alumni startups, Injini may offer an investment of up to R1 million for equity in your business!
Applications for Cohort 4 are now open! Click HERE and apply today!
Injini: Africa’s First EdTech Incubator
Injini is the first educational technology (EdTech) incubator or accelerator on the African continent. Based in South Africa, Injini invests in promising African EdTech startups and works closely with them to ultimately achieve their goal of positively impacting educational outcomes on the continent. The Injini incubation and investment programme was officially launched in August 2017 and has involved incubating and investing in the most promising early-stage startups from Africa and holding ecosystem development events across the continent to encourage broader innovation and evidence-driven EdTech solutions.
Injini has already incubated 24 EdTech startups from eight different African countries, including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Tanzania, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Zambia, and Nigeria. Injini has extensive reach on the African continent and has received over 1,200 applications from startups from more than 35 African countries. The team has also run ecosystem building activities in Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, Botswana, Namibia and Zambia.
More about the Cohort 4 Incubation Programme:
The Cohort 4 Incubation Programme will be made up of three phases.
Phase 1 is set to begin in mid-March 2020 and will take place in Cape Town, South Africa. 1–2 decision-making members of your startup’s founding team will join us for an expenses-paid* stay in the Mother City for a period of six weeks. You’ll be expected to attend a number of business training workshops, engage with industry experts in 1:1 sessions and build a relationship with your mentor, who will support you through the duration of the programme.
Phase 2 will begin the moment you leave Cape Town and head back to your home market. During this 12-week period, you’ll be expected to apply the learnings from Phase 1 to your business on-the-ground, while the Injini team supports you remotely — we may even pop in to visit some of you on your home turf!
Phase 3 will commence back in Cape Town in July 2020, marking the final leg of the incubation programme. This four-week stretch will give us the chance to tie up loose ends and make sure your EdTech startup is ready for post-programme growth and possible investment.
* Injini covers the cost of international and domestic return flights to Cape Town, accommodation for the duration of Phase 1 and 2 and extends basic living stipends to subsidise the higher cost of living in Cape Town compared to other African cities. These expenses are only covered for founders who are not already based in Cape Town. All entrepreneurs are expected to cover their own food and in-country transportation costs, although Injini will occasionally sponsor group meals and social events.
Injini is looking for EdTech startups that meet the following criteria to join us for our Cohort 4 programme:
- Your EdTech startup is based in Africa and focused on improving educational outcomes somewhere on the continent.
- Your solution is aiming to address a key problem related to education in Africa.
- Your solution is evidence-based — meaning, you can point to research that backs up your methods or hypothesis.
- Your company is registered and a certificate of incorporation can be shared with the Injini team upon request.
- Your startup has (at least) a minimum viable product or prototype.
- Your startup has (at least) one full-time founder.
- One or more decision-making members of your startup’s founding team are able to travel to Cape Town during Phases 1 and 3 of the incubation programme.
- Participating founders from outside of South Africa must have a valid passport and eligibility to apply for a South African visa.
- Participating founders must be fluent in English.
Applications for Cohort 4 are now open! Click HERE and apply today!
The Application Process
- First-round applications opened on Monday, 14 October 2019 and will remain open until 10 December 2019. We will be reviewing applications on a rolling basis, so it is in your best interest to apply early— promising applicants will be invited to participate in the second-round application process.
- If we’re impressed by your first-round application, we’ll ask you to record a 2-minute video pitch and to complete another form that will dive a bit deeper into your solution, giving you the chance to convince us that you’re the best pick for Cohort 4. Note:the earlier you submit your first-round application, the more time you give yourself to complete the second-round process (if selected), which will close on 5 January 2020.
- From this point, we’ll select our top 20 applicants and schedule remote interviews between each founder and the Injini team. These calls will take place between 13–24 January 2020.
- Finally, we’ll invite the top 12 applicants to pitch to a panel of judges at the end of January 2020 in Cape Town (either remotely or in-person) to compete for entry into Injini’s Cohort 4.
At Injini, we believe African innovation will help to solve our continent’s most dire challenges in education. We can’t wait to read your application and, hopefully, welcome you to Cohort 4!
Don’t risk missing out on the latest news about Cohort 4 applications — sign up for our mailing list on our website.
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