AFRICA’S ECONOMIC TRADING BLOC

By Paul Ndiho

After nearly four years of talks, African leaders have launched a Continental Free Trade Area. The $3.4 trillion economic bloc aims to boost cross-border trade and usher in a new era of economic development.

Africa Trading Bloc

The African Continental Free Trade Agreement officially went into force on May 30. It was signed in Niger, by all but three African countries, and establishes the world’s largest free trade area, since the creation of the World Trade Organization in 1995. The deal will progressively eliminate tariffs among AU member countries.

African leaders hope it will be an economic game-changer that will unite more than a billion people, boost intra-regional trade, and unlock the continent’s enormous economic potential.

“African trade today is conducted on the US dollar, Euro and including the remittances. What this is doing is to reduce the use of three currencies in the bilateral trade settlement in Africa.  Because we estimate that that cost Africa between five to seven billion dollars. Beyond that, it also reduces the trade, because Africa has a scarcity of foreign exchange.”

However, the new free trade zone faces a number of challenges. African Development Bank President, Akinwumi Adesina, says if African nations want to step up trade and economic development on the continent, they must remove non-tariff barriers.

“The challenge cannot be solved unless all the barriers come down. Free mobility of labor, free mobility of capital, and free mobility of people, this is very important for the continental free-trade area.”

The bank chief also encouraged African countries to increase trade with one another and add value to agricultural produce.

“Africa has to industrialize. Industrialization is critical, and it is not just about moving raw materials, it is value-added products,”

Tariffs are a major source of revenue for African countries. Nigeria, the continent’s largest economy, signed the pact. Abuja had been reluctant because it worries protectionism could hamper the free trade deal. However, the Manufacturers Association of Nigeria says any attempts by that country to slow-pedal implementation of the pact could hamper the free trade zone’s effectiveness.

“Harmonization of the customs arrangement, particularly not just the custom tariffs but also none tough barriers, and technical barriers, I think these are some of the things that has to be negotiated amongst the participants in the agreement that will try to eliminate the possibility of increased dumping and increased smuggling,”

Some are worried Nigeria will be flooded with cheap goods from more competitive neighbors, and undermine the country’s efforts to revive local manufacturing and expand farming, as it tries to reduce dependence on crude oil exports.

 Adeleke Adeleye owns a thriving stationery company. He sees trouble ahead.

“It is not a level playing field, and it is a…to me I consider Nigeria the lion of Africa where we have the largest population, and we have the largest market, so it feels like we are giving so much for not enough,”

Observers say some countries will benefit more than others: South Africa, the continent’s most industrialized economy — and, arguably, its largest exporter — is already conquering much of the Africa with its brand of supermarket chains, banks and telecommunication firms. Countries like Ethiopia and Kenya, are hoping to tap into the continental market – investing heavily in railways, highways, and power generation projects. Eritrea, the only African nation that has not joined the pact, says its government supports the bloc, and plans to hold talks with the A-U in the near future.

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GHANA’S POLITICAL TRANSITION

Ghana is considered one of the more stable countries in West Africa. Since 1992, the country has held competitive multiparty elections that have led to peaceful transfers of power. But relatively little is written about the role of women in Ghana’s political history. Its former first lady, Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, has written a new memoir, called, “It Takes a Woman”

You have probably heard the saying that “behind every successful man there’s a strong woman’. Nana Konadu Agyeman Rawlings, Ghana’s former First Lady, is a perfect example of one.

She was thrust into the political limelight, when her husband Jerry John Rawlings, seized power in Ghana in successive coups, first in 1979, and then in 1981. He ruled the country until 2001. Some scholars say the secret to much of Jerry Rawlings’ success is his wife.

A politically ambitious woman in her own right, Mrs. Rawlings was elected first vice-chairperson of Ghana’s National Democratic Congress (NDC) in 2009. Two years later, she challenged the late President John Atta Mills in a bid to be the ruling party’s presidential candidate but lost. 

In 2016, she became the first woman in Ghana to run for president, in an election that dubbed her the African Hillary Clinton. Rawlings lost after garnering less than 1% of the national vote. Her supporters blamed a narrow electoral college and too few women delegates for her defeat. 

But analysts say besides Ghana’s founding father and first President, Kwame Nkrumah, perhaps no other political leader has made as much of an impact in Ghana as Mrs. Rawlings. She is known for being a fierce advocate for women’s rights. 

She’s the founder of the 31st December Women’s Movement, an organization that works to eliminate poverty among women and children. In her memoir, Mrs. Rawlings writes about championing the causes of women and under-served citizens, while her husband worked to transform Ghana into a model of African democracy.

Ghana has seen years of difficult economic recovery and transition from authoritarianism to multiparty democracy. Today, working-class people widely cite her husband, Jerry Rawlings as one of Ghana’s best presidents. And, while they remain an influential political power couple, the country remains split over the Rawlings legacy:  some point to Jerry Rawlings’ association with political violence and see him as a military dictator whose Forces Revolutionary Council executed eight senior military officers, including three former heads of state.  Others are willing to forgive the violence and human rights abuses as necessary steps to achieve lasting change and those who suffered under his rule.

In 1992, Rawlings resigned from the military, founded the National Democratic Congress, and became the first President of the Fourth Republic. He was re-elected in 1996 for a second term. He recently served as the African Union envoy to Somalia. Ghana has remained a peaceful and thriving democracy but lags behind other African countries, such as Uganda, South Africa, Rwanda, in women’s political participation.

 

Since 2001, four other leaders – all men — have served as presidents. They include John Kofi Agyekum Kufuor; New Patriotic Party (NPP) was President of Ghana from January 7, 2001, to January 7, 2009. President Kufuor also was Chairperson of the African Union from 2007 to 2008.

John Evans Atta Mills President of Ghana from 2009 to 2012. He is the first Ghanaian head of state to die in office.  John Mahama first served as the vice president who later took over the presidency after the death of his predecessor, Prof. John Atta Mills. John Mahama, President of Ghana, was later elected and served a full term from July 24, 2012, to January 7, 2017.  President Nana Akufo-Addo has been in been in office since January 2017.

 

THE POLITICS OF SUCCESSION IN AFRICA

By Paul Ndiho

The number of authoritarian leaders in Africa has declined since 2010. However, not surprising, is there are still many African leaders that have been in power for more than 30 years.

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Western-style democracy is being tested across Africa, especially in countries where some of the world’s longest-serving leaders continue to hold power. In some cases, plans to remove or circumvent presidential term limits by some leaders are alarming.

By September 2019, five African heads of state had been in power for more than three decades each:

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, age 77, has been president of Equatorial Guinea for 40 years. He is Arguably Africa’s longest-serving president.

Paul Biya, 86, has been President of Cameroon since November 1982, the second longest-serving leader on the continent, with nearly 37 years in office.

Yoweri Museveni, 75, the President of Uganda has been in power for 33 years. He was elected to a fifth term in February 2016.

Denis Sassou Nguesso, 75, has been President of the Republic of the Congo for a combined total of 34 years. He first served from 1979 to 1992 and then 1997 to present.

King Mswati III, age 51, is the King of eSwatini, a post he has held since April 1986, He has ruled over the kingdom for 33 years. The Kingdom of eSwatiniis is the continent’s last absolute monarch.

Other Leaders who have been in power for a long time include; Idriss Deby, 67, he has been the President of Chad for 28 years. He won a disputed fifth term in April 2016.

Isaias Afwerki, age 73, the Eritrean leader has been in charge since independence in April 1993.

Paul Kagame, age 61, has been the President of Rwanda since 2000.  In 2017 Kagame won with nearly 100% of the vote, securing a third term in office.

Other previous record-holders included Haile Selassie, the Ethiopian emperor, who holds the African record for the longest time in power. After reigning for 44 years, he was ousted in 1974.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, ruled for nearly 42 years — he was killed in 2011, after a protest movement turned into an armed conflict.

Gabon’s Omar Bongo died on June 2009 after more than 41 years in power.

Angola’s Jose Eduardo dos Santos stepped down in September 2017, having led his oil-rich country for 38 years.

Gnassingbe Eyadema also ruled the west African country of Togo for 38 years from 1967 until his death in 2005. His son Faure Gnassingbe succeeded him.

Robert Mugabe Zimbabwe’s “father of independence” was forced out in November 2017 after 37 years at the helm, he died on September 6th.

Not all of Africa is dealing with a lack of democratic transitions. There have been several peaceful power transitions. In January, Felix Tshisekedi was sworn in as the Democratic Republic of Congo president, marking the country’s first-ever peaceful handover of power after multiple bitterly-disputed elections.

Liberian president George Weah and the President of Sierra Leone, Julius Maada Bio, both were elected through an open and transparent process.

Other countries are building stronger governance and leadership institutions.

Ethiopia is building stronger institutions. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has embarked on a series of reforms since taking office in April 2018.

It’s a new dawn in Sudan. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan is chairman of Sudan’s newly-formed sovereign council in Khartoum following the ouster and three-decade rule of former president Omar al-Bashir. Bashir tightly ruled Sudan for 30 years.

Elsewhere, tens of millions of Africans have used the ballot box to deepen the quality of democratic governance and bring about political transitions.

President Macky Sall of Senegal easily won re-election. Senegal has had peaceful transitions of power since attaining independence from France in 1960.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari easily won re-election securing a second four-year term.

South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa was sworn in as president for his first term and Malawian President Peter Mutharika was sworn in for a second term after a contentious election marred by allegations of fraud and vote-rigging.

In 2012, the African Union ratified the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance. But critics say the continental body has failed to take similar action against long-time leaders who have exploited ambiguities in the law to extend their time in office.

AFRICAN ACTIVISTS JOIN GLOBAL CLIMATE PROTESTS

 

BY PAUL NDIHO

Thousands of Africans are joining the climate change protest movement.  Across the continent and elsewhere, they are calling for efforts to save the planet.

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Africans worldwide are demonstrating and voicing their concerns about climate change.

“We’re marching because we want to stop climate change, we want to save the planet.”

Young people in 160 countries recently protested, calling for a climate emergency to be declared, before it’s too late.

“It’s going to affect everybody, rich or poor. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you are in the world; it’s going to influence you. So it’s going to force us to work together.”

The demonstrations are partly inspired by the activism of Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who has staged weekly demonstrations, over the past year, under the heading, “Fridays for Future.” She is calling on world leaders to step-up their efforts against climate change?

“Essentially, young people have come together and said they are not going to allow this generation not to take decisive action on climate change. They are going to take action themselves and demonstrate to our leaders that the climate change is a catastrophe, that we need to reduce the levels of global warming.”

Experts say Africa is the most vulnerable continent to climate change — and the least equipped to deal with it. Many African governments are pleading for more support from the international community.

 “We started this when we saw the effects in Kenya like the droughts in the north, the fires that were on Mount Kenya. We are troubled that no one did anything about it, and we were seeing people in Europe and the US, they were protesting about this, but we realized that in Kenya, nothing was being done.”

A new United Nations report, entitled “The Heat is On,” showcases how the world can take swift and meaningful action on climate change. At a launch event in New York, Amina Mohammed, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations spoke about what she would like to see happen.

 “When I look back on this Climate Action Summit, I want us to see it like a slingshot that helped to change our common trajectory towards sustainability.; where we built trust between this generation of adults and the next between our children and ourselves  that we are all working together to our fullest potential to tackle the climate emergency.”

The Central African nation of Gabon is working diligently to battle climate change. The United Nations announced this week that it is set to become the first African country to be paid with international funds to preserve its forests to fight climate change.

“Each year, our forests absorb a certain amount of CO2 from the atmosphere. And we are looking to find a new model to reward countries like Gabon, that have high forest coverage but with very little deforestation.”

 Norway will provide funding of up to $150 million dollars to battle deforestation, according to the Central African Forest Initiative, a program launched by the United Nations to bring together the region’s countries with Western donors.

The UN invited 500 young activists and entrepreneurs to participate this week in the UN climate change meeting, the first of its kind. Unfortunately, some activists were unable to attend after being denied a U.S. visa.

XENOPHOBIA ATTACKS IN SOUTH AFRICA

 

By Paul Ndiho

 

South African government condemned a recent wave of deadly riots and xenophobic attacks against foreigners.  Last week, some Nigerians returned to Lagos on a free flight from Johannesburg, following a series of attacks that have stoked tensions between Africa’s two largest economies. Screen Shot 2019-09-18 at 1.31.23 PM

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa condemned a recent wave of deadly riots and xenophobic attacks on the homes and businesses of foreign nationals.

“No amount of anger and frustration and grievance can justify such acts of wanton destruction and criminality. There can be no excuse for the attacks on the homes and businesses of foreign nationals, just as there can be no excuse whatsoever for xenophobia or any form of intolerance.”

Many Nigerians living in South Africa were repatriated back home last week following a wave of xenophobic attacks targeting foreign nationals in Pretoria before spreading to nearby Johannesburg. Both cities, in Gauteng province, have large immigrant populations.

A free flight carrying nearly 200 Nigerians landed in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos, with some of those on board singing their national anthem while waving pictures of burnt shops.


“The situation is terrible, my brother, I am telling you. We were all scared, to the point that they go from home to home looking for Nigerians, that is what they are looking for.  South Africa, the apartheid in South Africa and the policy is continuing in South Africa, that is the policy of segregation. This time it’s not about segregation from white, from black, it is about the oppression of other Africans.”

Violence in South Africa has killed at least 12 people, and police say they had arrested more than 700 people in the attacks spread across Gauteng province, where Johannesburg and Pretoria are located. Rose Uzoma, a Democratic Republic of Congo citizen boarded the flight with her five children, leaving her Nigerian husband behind.

“With my kids, I am not a Nigerian, foreign citizen, but I am happy to be Nigerian because what I saw in South Africa it was terrible. For the past four days, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t do anything because of the fear, because of the fear of being killed, because of the fear of being attacked, because of the fear of my children being killed, or being burnt alive. So I am happy to be in Nigeria right now.”

The surge of anti-foreigner violence has forced some foreign nationals to seek refuge in a community hall after being displaced in the east Johannesburg township of Katlehong.
“I am terrified, but in the news, they are saying the fighting is finished, but we are still fighting, they are fighting with us, even today. So now I am homeless, they burnt everything that belongs to me. I thank God that I am still alive.”
An alleged drug dealer shooting sparked part of the unrest in South Africa, along with the killing of a taxi driver, which led to South African taxi drivers and locals instantly retaliating.
Over 50 shops and businesses were destroyed last Monday.  The shops targeted are mainly owned by Africans from other countries on the continent, such as Nigeria and Somalia.

“let’s go back home now to start afresh’. My brother, you know. You go home empty-handed, you know what it means? To go home empty-handed to your own country, to start from grassroots again. It’s like when you are born again.
South Africa is a major destination for economic migrants from neighboring countries. Those migrants have often borne the brunt of anger from locals frustrated over jobs. But the latest surge of attacks on businesses and homes is extremely troublesome.  The embassies of Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Mozambique have liaised with the International Organization for Migration to carry out voluntary repatriations.

NINE YEAR-OLD NIGERIAN CREATES COMPUTER GAMES

By Paul Ndiho

A Nigerian boy has launched a “Hide and Seek” gaming app using a free programming application called ‘Scratch.’ His mobile game, which is accessible online, features animation and storytelling. He has incredibly created over 30 games.

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Basil Okpara Junior loves playing video games, but he loves making them even more. At the age of 9, he has created dozens of games. He called the first one ‘Frog Attack’ – gamers shoot alien frogs that have attacked the earth.

“Frog Attack is my favorite because it was my first game that I built on Construct 2 and it is full of action,”

Basil has created 34 other games using a free coding application called ‘Scratch 2’. Which allows users to create games, animation, and other digital stories, online or offline.

Earlier this year, Basil’s father signed him up for a Bootcamp called ‘Codefest’ where he learned coding, computer programming, and how to create mobile games and other skills. The Bootcamp targeted young Nigerians of ages 5 to 15.

“I started coding this year, and it was the first a boot camp that taught me how to code, the name of the boot camp was “Code Fest” and why I like to build games is because the games are much fun to play, and when I play them I feel like I am the owner of a game,”

Leapfrogging into technological innovation is a quick way to attain lasting economic growth and development, according to some tech experts. Basil’s most recent game is “Falling Apples”, where a player tries to catch as many apples as possible, receiving one point for each apple found.

“My mom and my dad have already tried my games, and they say that they love it, my mummy says she loves the falling apples, and my daddy says he loves the Frog Attack.”

During his spare time, he teaches other kid coders game programming skills. Like many kids his age, Basil’s biggest fan and inspiration is his father.

“When I found out that he is interested in technology, I was excited because I know that there is a huge potential in the technology industry around the world. You know being able to write code, being able to build things, being able to program robots, to program something to behave the way you want it to behave is very exciting.”

Basil has great potential to grow as a game developer — Especially in Africa, where only 16 percent of its 1.2 billion people use the internet, according to the International Telecommunication Union.

RETHINKING EDUCATION IN AFRICA

By Paul Ndiho

Education has the power to transform people worldwide. But some argue the effectiveness of current African educational systems are outdated, and governments need to rethink how to make programs more competitive. STA Rethinking Education in Africa CLEAN-1

A UNICEF report titled “Education Under Threat in West and Central Africa”, warns that deliberate targeting of schools, students and teachers is sweeping across the region. More than 1.9 million children have been forced out of school due to an upsurge in attacks and threats of violence against education facilities.

“There are so many children and young people who give up on education because of violence. I can tell you all those children are so inspiring and so courageous, and they deserve to go to school because they know education is the lifeline which can help them and protect them of so many problems such as abuse and sexual exploitation.”

Education remains a fundamental tool to alleviate poverty in most African communities. Educational systems worldwide are undergoing massive transformation and development.  For example, In Ghana, Tech-Aide has developed a different solution to deliver informative content to rural schools using new technology. Tech-Aide has developed E-solutions to tackle some of the country’s challenges by building a network over 70 education labs in rural areas.  Kafui Prebbie is one of the founders of Tech-Aide.

“We have developed products specifically for education. And ‘we’ve been in the space for close to ten years delivering technology solutions in education and supporting rural development. And two of our core products that ‘we’ve developed over the period is EduLab, which is an education computing solution for schools and the latest one which is Asanka, which is our content delivery system.”

Kenya’s “Discovery Center,” a social enterprise, is also trying to change how kids learn in schools. They’ve developed creative ways to make science, math, and technology exciting and interactive. Daniel Gichuki Muhoro is the Chief Executive Officer.

“We make science and technology fun for children of all ages. Our mission is to star innovation, and we believe ‘children’s innovation and inquisitive nature need to be natural.”

A World Bank Study says education in Africa is under-developed and has been a low priority for decades — despite a tremendous increase in student enrollment at all levels.  Dr. Lawrence Muganga, the author of “You ‘Can’t Make “Fish Climb Trees,” is proposing to overhaul the current educational system, across the board and perhaps adopt the authentic learning education model.

In Cameroon, Sophie Ngassa has created a curriculum based on Sciences, Technology, Engineering, and Math. She says targeting students as young as eight years old with digital skills prepares them for relevant career opportunities in the future.

“You have students with a lot of theory and little practical, and this limits them a lot, so they go to school and finally graduate, and they can’t practice, and they are not able to be competitive in the job market, which keeps them behind especially in the world platform,”

Students learn how to develop websites, programs, apps, games, and how to code — all for only two dollars a month. And they appear genuinely excited to learn about science and technology.

I’m interested in the computer world. My dream is to become a web developer, and I think STEM is going to get me to where I want to go to.” “What we are doing here is very important most jobs now need computer literacy, so what I’m doing here, I need it.”

Ghanaian teacher Sackey Percy, who wants to make school more appealing to students, has created an unconventional method.

“I found that the interaction between the kids and the teachers, which is the teacher-pupil relationship was very low. I decided to come out with a dance which builds this great companionship between the teachers and the kids. It also builds up their self-confidence in class as well.”

Perhaps Africa needs more people like Percy, who are thinking outside of the box, changing their communities and inspiring a whole new generation of young students.

Transitions to Democracy in Africa

By Paul Ndiho

Africa has seen a decline in the number of authoritarian leaders since 2010.  Multiple countries witnessed significant political change due to popular uprisings, but the number of democracies has not noticeably increased. Screen Shot 2019-08-29 at 7.42.21 AM

The Africa Center for Strategic Studies says a large number of African governments are in a “democratizing stage” and still have a long way to go. So far this year, voters in Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, and Malawi voted in general elections, but there was no transfer of power.
It’s a new era in Sudan.  Abdel Fattah al-Burhan is the new chairman of Sudan’s newly-formed sovereign council.  Nine other members were also sworn at the presidential palace in Khartoum.  Under the deal, the sovereign council comprises 11 members, including five military members, five civilian members chosen by the opposition alliance, and one civilian selected through consultation by the two sides.

The sovereign council was the result of tense negotiations between the countries pro-democracy leaders of mass protests, which erupted last December against the three-decade rule of former president Omar al-Bashir, and the generals who ousted him in April.
Political analysts say western-style liberal democracy is being tested, especially in countries where some of the world’s longest-serving leaders continue to hold power.  In some cases, a so-called constitutional coup to remove or circumvent presidential term limits by some leaders is alarming.

For example, long-time leaders have exploited ambiguities in the law to extend their terms. President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea has ruled for 40 years, since August 1979.  He won a fifth seven-year term in 2016.

In Cameroon, 85-year-old President Paul Biya extended his 36-year-rule. Biya is also one of Africa’s longest-serving rulers. In 2008, the Cameroonian Parliament voted to change the constitution, to remove term-limits, so President Biya would be eligible to extend his time in office.

Incumbent President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda is still going strong.  In December 2017, Uganda’s Parliament voted to lift the age limit for the presidency, setting the stage for Yoweri Museveni to rule indefinitely. Museveni pushed to change the constitution in 2005, to abolish the term limits.

Idriss Deby has ruled Chad, for 28 years. He won a fifth term in 2016. And without term limits, he could keep running until he dies. In Congo Brazzaville, Denis Sassou Nguesso repealed term limits in 2015, was re-elected on March 2016 for another seven-year term.

In 2017, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, won with nearly 100% of the vote, securing a third term in office. Kagame’s re-election followed a constitutional amendment which ended a two-term limit allowing him to remain in power until 2034. In Burundi, Pierre Nkurunziza is widely expected to take advantage of recent changes to the constitution that would ideally will enable him to stay in power until 2034.
Perhaps more importantly, not all of Africa is dealing with the lack of democracy syndrome. Other countries are building stronger governance and leadership institutions.  Ethiopia is rebranding and building stronger institutions. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has embarked on a series of reforms since taking office in April 2018.  Elsewhere, tens of millions of Africans are using the ballot box to deepen the quality of democratic governance and bring about political transitions.
On January 24, Felix Tshisekedi was sworn in as the Democratic Republic of Congo president, marking the country’s first-ever peaceful handover of power after multiple bitterly-disputed elections.
In Senegal, President Macky Sall easily won re-election. Senegal has long been viewed as the region’s most stable democracy, with peaceful transitions of power since attaining independence from France in 1960.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari easily won re-election, securing a second four-year term.
New South African president Cyril Ramaphosa is vowing to create jobs and tackle deep-rooted corruption.  Malawian President Peter Mutharika was sworn in for a second term after a contentious election marred by allegations of fraud and vote-rigging.

Finally, Liberian President George Weah and the President of Sierra Leone,  Julius Maada Bio were both democratically-elected through an open and transparent process.

INNOVATIVE VOCAL APP FIGHTS ILLITERACY IN MALI

By Paul Ndiho

A Malian entrepreneur has created an app for people that can’t read.  It works with voice instructions in several of the languages spoken in Mali and it’s helping small businesses market their goods and services. Screen Shot 2019-08-29 at 7.40.11 AM

Ada Tembeli sells fruits and vegetables on the street in Bamako, Mali’s capital. Tembeli is among a growing number of entrepreneurs who are illiterate, but have found a novel way to do business through social media. It’s called the Lenali vocal app.

Tembeli attracts customers by sending a voiced message in Bambara with her stall’s location, as well as photographs of the fruits and vegetables she has available on the day.

“Here are your lovely fruits. We have nice ripe oranges, apples, bananas. Without forgetting to mention the pineapples. Today we have almost everything to keep you satisfied. To find us go to the third bridge and you will see me.”

She says the app works for her because she didn’t go to school and doesn’t understand French. Tembeli, also said her earnings have tripled since she  starting using the app, which, just like Facebook, provides users options such as ‘likes’ and ‘posts.’  The app’s interface is also available in different local languages.


Lenali was developed by Mamadou Gouro Sidibe, an internet technology engineer from Mali.
Sidibe got the idea to create the app when the manager of a shop he regularly visits asked him to read a message in French on the chat application Viber.

Sidibe took years to develop the app. He left his career in French start-ups to work on what he says is the world’s only voice-based network available in different West African languages such as Bambara and Soninke that are spoken in Mali.
He says he wanted to create an application that could be used by people who could not read or write, as well as help those who need to share information in French but haven’t gone to school to learn it.
” I needed to allow people like him  to understand what they were doing when they try and install it. A lot of people get applications installed for them because they can’t do it themselves. So it was with that in mind that we created vocal guides, vocal instructions in the local language so people can understand what they are doing. Right up to doing up your profile vocally. If you know how to write, you can put it in writing and if not you speak into the application and record it. And after that you can publish vocally, you can comment vocally, and you can do everything in this application without ever having to write a single word.”

Before the application was developed most small business owners in Mali relied on friends, family, and word of mouth to keep them going.  Now they can reach out further afield and attract a wider net of customers through the vocal app and sharing network. Motorbike sales at Boubacar Sidiki Goita’s shop in Bamako are up this year after he started using a vocal social media application to promote his goods and share information with customers who can’t read.

Goita is literate, but many of the people he is trying to reach are not. He says Lenali is popular with young people.

“Since I have been using Lenali, my turnover has gone up 5 percent, and now I can sell 20 motorbikes a day whereas before it was hardwork selling just five a day.”

Only 33 percent of Malians are literate, according to the United Nations.   Sidibe says the free app, available since January 2017, now has over 73-thousand users.   He expects the app to become profitable when it reaches 200,000 users.

SOUTH AFRICAN ENGINEER HAS WON 2019 AFRICA PRIZE FOR ENGINEERING

By Paul NdihoThis a fascinating story about a young electrical engineer whose cutting edge innovation has won him the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation. E5B86799-1730-44A1-BBC4-A9C3ECA27851.jpeg
A South African has become the first person from his country to win the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa Prize, after designing a Pele-Box smart locker system that dispenses medicines to patients with chronic illnesses.

Pelebox was created by electrical engineer, Neo Hutiri, who won $25,000 in prize money for the British-based award.  Hutiri told VOA he decided to develop the technology after realizing patients were spending too much time in long lines, waiting to collect medicines at various healthcare facilities.

In 2014, Hutiri was being treated for tuberculosis and had to wait for at least two hours each time he went to refill his medication.

“I was trained to build solutions and product. The idea was to then say, ‘Can we build a product that is patient-centric?’ That speaks to us first as patient, while still adhering to all the regulatory requirements, and all of the, framework that the department of health wants to exist to improve access to care,”


The smart-lockers are regularly stocked with prescription drugs by health workers. Patients then receive a notification on their smart-phones and use an ATM-like machine and a personal identification number to access the medicine. Gontse is a pharmacist at Stanza Bopape II clinic in Pretoria.

“The machine makes it easier because some patients would say coming to the clinic is stress already for them – and then waiting again for medication, it’s another stress,”

South Africa launched a similar vending machine last year called the “ATM pharmacy” that also dispenses medicine in public hospitals. Hutiri says winning the award came as a surprise. He is now working on channeling the prize money into developing Pelebox further and manufacturing more units.

“It was very rewarding for us, it was very inspiring seeing that actually, the work that we do is on a global level and it can compete, it can scale…”It has multiple country applications. It was this, almost an endorsement of saying: we see you,”

Created in 2014, the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation is the continent’s biggest award that is dedicated to innovation in engineering. The prize encourages ambitious and talented sub-Saharan African engineers from all disciplines to apply their skills to develop elite solutions to local challenges, while highlighting the importance of engineering as an enabler of improved quality of life and economic development.

 

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