iSpace Ghana’s Innovation and Technology Hub

By Paul Ndiho

Young people in the west African nation of Ghana are creating new technologies and applications that are driving the country’s economic growth and turning Ghana into a tech hub.Screen Shot 2020-04-03 at 9.30.45 AM

Voice of America’s Paul Ndiho just returned from Ghana, where he caught up with Josiah Kwesi Eyison, co-founder and CEO of ispace, an innovation and technology hub in Accra, Ghana.

ispace offers a co-working space, training, mentoring, access to funding, and helping entrepreneurs to launch their startups and access markets.


By Paul Ndiho

A Ghanaian fashion designer launched her clothing line “Selina Beb” eight years ago.  Since then, she has created quite a buzz on the fashion scene in Accra.  Now, plus-size women who like to shop, but are worried about what to wear, and where to buy, are getting a custom-made shopping experience right at their doorsteps.   495c4925-2dce-44fb-b3fc-e7d90b9662c1

Designer Selina Bebaako-Mensah has always been a fashion fanatic.  She set out to be a lawyer, studying law in Britain, but didn’t like it and switched careers and went into radio broadcasting.  However, this was not for her either.  For fun, she decided to experiment with African fabrics and taught herself the art of designing high-end handbags and women’s clothing.

“When I moved back to Ghana in 2008, I noticed that African prints accessories were in Vogue. Everyone was using African prints for all sorts of things, for bags, for jewelry, and not just for clothes. I said, wow, it encouraged me, and they were durable, stylish, and nice. So, I was like, maybe I should venture into it.”

Her creative designs blend a mix of vibrant African prints and high-quality leather to create a dazzling array of handbags that she names after her favorite clients.

“This is another unique design named after one of my clients. They deserve to be honored because they’re Loyal to me, and some of them have been with me even before I had a shop.

Since launching her label, Selina Bed – the derived from her maiden name. “Bebaako,” which means another warrior in her native language Krachi, from the Oti region of Ghana.  She spends a lot of time behind the scenes creating new styles.  But, she also likes to wear her own designs.

“I have always loved accessories. As a plus-size woman, it’s had to find stylish clothes sometimes. But I realized with accessories; I could always accessorize my clothes to make them more stylish. Like what I’m wearing today is quite plain, but with my bold statement accessories, it makes it stylish.”

Bebaako-Mensah has participated in several fashion shows, showcasing innovative, unique, and cutting-edge fashion designs.

 “The reason I started a clothing line was not that my customers where asking for it. But I had a challenge as a plus-size woman, finding clothes in my size and a lot of people who are in my size, they tell me, find it difficult finding clothes in their sizes. And that was also another inspiration and the reason I started my line, and so because of that, my clothes come in big sizes as well. We the UK sizes 8 -22 so women on who is on the large size can find clothes in our shop.”

Adiza Ibrahim Sadia, one of Selina’s’ clients, says she wants to be associated with the brand because it makes her feel good.

“I like to feel good, when I look good myself, I feel good, so anything beautiful I want to be attached to it. For example, this is 100% leather, the fabric is GTB, and the beads are handmade.”

Afia Addo- Ghedemah, another client, says the day she wore this outfit, people were blown away because of its uniqueness.

“It’s not so easy to be outside of what would be called the normal bracket to walk into a shop and purchase clothes that would fit and fit right. One of the things that I appreciate about this Selina Beb brand is that they have maintained to the truth of the tagline which is they want to make things for the everyday woman. The everyday woman comes in all different shapes and sizes.”

Faith Senam Ocloo, notes that Selina’s ability to design a variety of prints has given her limitless opportunities to show her creativity and grow her client base.

“When you walk into Selina Beb shop, your jewelry, hand bracelets like the one I’m wearing. For instance, I’m wearing something lay back with a white. So, I add a bit of color with my neckpiece and earrings as well. So, I get something with a little bit of African handmade beads, nixed with local pearls, bronze, and gold. You find something that fits your style.”

Bebaako-Mensah attributes her success to her family and other supporters who pushed her to pursue her dream of working in the fashion industry.  As Selina Beb’s label expands Bebaako says her brand will play a significant role in inspiring the next generation of young designers.



By Paul Ndiho

The global counterfeit trade accounts for more than $200 billion dollars annually.  The World Health Organization says nearly 42 percent of all fake medicines reported in the last five years were from Africa.  But now the Ghanaian social enterprise technology company mPedigree is working with manufacturers to weed out counterfeit products in the African market. Screen Shot 2020-04-03 at 9.01.00 AM

Tens of thousands of people across Africa die each year because of fake and counterfeit medication.  The drugs are primarily made in China, India, Paraguay, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom. Nearly 50 percent of the fake and low-quality medicines reported to the World Health Organization were found to be in sub-Saharan Africa.  Eugene Boadu, in charge of Corporate Affairs and Marketing at mPedigree says his company has created technology that will detect counterfeit products.

“Counterfeiting has become a global problem, essentially giving the pornification of various forms of technology. Just about anything can be counterfeited. From your favorite clone to you piece of shirt. But the stakes are higher when the item being counterfeited is one that has life depending implications such medicines.”

The worldwide counterfeit drug market is linked to more than 700-thousand deaths every year, according to health studies, making it the most lucrative trade of illegally manufactured goods.  Boadu says mPedigree technology has been designed to empower patients — and save lives.

“Our company, a little over a decade ago, proposed a bold solution to the medicinal counterfeiting problem in particular that by allowing end-user authentication, we can allow consumers and patients to be able to sift out counterfeit from an original one.”

“We have seen about 2 billion product authentications that mean 2 billion times that consumers have had to dispel doubts and fears and have been able to pick the right product out of what would have been a counterfeit one.”

Drugs protected through mPedigree carry a short-code that is revealed through scratching a specific area of the packaging.

“When you scratch this, there are some numbers, and you send this unique I.D free via text message on their smartphones to the 1393 via SMS, and you will immediately receive a message to verify the drug’s authenticity.”

The fact that I can check and know that it’s genuine, it gives better assurance and trust in the technology. I was able even to get the expiry date so that I can confirm that – So this is very good.

Since launching in 2008, the mPedigree has expanded its platform to more than 14 countries in Africa and Asia.  The tech firm has also diversified into a wide range of products, ensuring authenticity — and providing businesses and consumers comfort in knowing that what they’re selling and buying is authentic.

We have pivoted from Medicine, and counterfeiting to other areas like Agriculture. Where we are now working with different ministries of Agriculture to serialize parts of seeds and ensure that farmers are buying the right seeds and not buying fake seeds planting them and discovering down the line that they’re sold a knockoff version of the seeds.”

Experts say that the lack of proper monitoring of imported drugs in many parts of Africa, is allowing counterfeiting criminals to cash in on a continent constantly battling various diseases and poverty.


How Ghanaian Tech Guru Farida Bedwei succeed against all odds

By Paul Ndiho

The phrase disability is not inability. In our first African women in tech series, we feature Farida Bedwei, a celebrated Ghanaian Software engineer, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Logiciel, a company that develops technology solutions that promote financial inclusion for the unbanked. Screen Shot 2020-03-25 at 8.53.02 AM

Farida bedwei, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at the age of one.  In this interview, she shares her inspiring story. Her ability to succeed against all odds is remarkable. 


By Paul Ndiho


 African women in tech series, we feature Regina Honu, a Ghanaian social entrepreneur, software developer, and founder of Soronko academythe first coding and human-centered design school for children, young adults and women in west Africa. Screen Shot 2020-03-25 at 8.31.59 AM


Ms. Honu is a former Mandela Washington fellow – An initiative started by former US president Barack Obama, who used her grant money to help her community and empower women and girls in the technology sector. So far, her academy has trained over 4500 girls and women in computers and how to code.




By Paul Ndiho

Social Media is revolutionizing the way people do business in Africa. It allows young entrepreneurs to create labels and brands via the internet. Meet a college student dubbed the Instagram queen.  Screen Shot 2020-03-24 at 1.02.27 PM

Twenty-three-year-old Rachel Apusiyene, is a law student at the University of Ghana in Accra.  She is a budding businesswoman and the creator and lead designer of her own label, Bonnet Haven.

“I started when I was twenty-one, I started marking them by myself with just twenty pieces, and we’ve grown to what we’re now. I got money from my savings because my parents always sent me an allowance and I would always save a few Ghana Cedi’s here and there. That’s what I used to start my business with twenty pieces and an Instagram page.”

Known in her neighborhood of Achimota, a town in the Accra Metropolitan District, as the Instagram queen, she has become an internet sensation.  With help from her younger brother, Rachel has turned her parent’s living room into a showroom for Bonnet Haven.

“From June to date, we’ve sold close to 1000 pieces.”  Apusiyene sells her Bonnets for about 30 Ghanaian Cedi’s or about six U.S. dollars, enough money to increase her business.

“This is my page Bonnet Haven; on my page, you would find my username, things I sale in my bio, and a link that would take you straight to my WhatsApp when you tap on it. I have it on me every day, and I want to be a quick responder. I want to be able to respond to my customers quickly. I take photos of my products. Here is my latest baby. It’s silk. I sent it to one of my customers to say thank you for her royalty.”

It wasn’t until Apusiyene took a photography class and learned how to take and post-professional pictures on her Instagram page that people started taking her seriously.  “Before, I had the page, the pictures where not professional. But the minute I posted professional ones, people took interest because I appeared serious. And that’s how it started.”

Building Bonnet Haven has been tough for Apusiyene, but with help from her family, a support network of other women entrepreneurs, and her trusted delivery guy, she is optimistic that things will get better. She hopes that one day her product will be in the hands of millions of new customers.  Franklin Owusu Karikari, Director of Business Support and Policy — and National Entrepreneurship and Innovation programs, says young entrepreneurs like Rachel have a unique opportunity to access an international market and make money.

“What I want to tell young people is that when your business fails, that’s a great opportunity for you to backtrack and access yourself where you went wrong and bounce back again. Because of the mistakes, I made in my first business, I have to be able to avoid them with the new businesses that I have set up, and for the last ten years, our businesses have been able to withstand the test of time.”

Africa has the one world’s fastest-growing telecom markets and analysts say internet-based mobile solutions are helping boost development and growth on the continent.  For Rachel and other African entrepreneurs who are tapping into the power of social media mobile technology, the sky is the limit.



Corruption In Africa 2019

By Paul Ndiho

Transparency International has released a new global corruption index that tracks perceptions of corruption in 180 countries.  The report reveals that the performance of countries Sub-Saharan Africa paints a bleak picture of inaction against corruption. SSA_753_449-1

As world leaders gathered with billionaire executives at the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, tens of thousands of people demonstrated in cities around the world, demanding that action be taken to tackle growing inequality and corruption.

A new report released by Transparency International highlights the scale of the problem.  The annual corruption perception index states that winning the fight against corruption continues to be an uphill battle for Sub-Saharan Africa nations.

With a score of 66, Seychelles earned the highest mark in the region, followed by Botswana 61, Cape Verde 58, Rwanda 53, and Mauritius 52.  Not surprising are the countries at the bottom of the index; Somalia 9, South Sudan 12, Sudan 16, and Equatorial Guinea 16.

A majority of citizens surveyed in more than 35 African countries think that corruption is getting worse and that their government is doing a poor job of fighting the vice.

Angola is waging a fight in its battle against corruption.  The nation’s judiciary is investigating billionaire Isabel Dos Santos over alleged mismanagement and misappropriation of funds while she was chairwoman of the state oil firm Sonangol.  Her bank accounts and assets in her home country have been frozen and the nation’s chief prosecutor says authorities could issue an international arrest warrant if she fails to cooperate with a fraud probe in which she has been named a suspect.  Dos Santos denies any wrongdoing and says the allegations are politically motivated.  Dos Santos’ father, Jose Eduardo dos Santos ruled the oil-rich, but impoverished country for nearly 40 years.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists obtained more than 715,000 documents pertaining to Isabel Dos Santos, stoking fresh claims she siphoned off hundreds of millions of dollars in public money.

In a separate investigation, the anti-corruption N-G-O, “Global Witness”, has discovered the apparent theft of more than $50 million in public funds from the Republic of Congo by Denis “Kiki” Sassou-Nguesso, the son of the President Denis Sassou-Nguesso.  The report alleges that he laundered millions through six European countries.  “Kiki” Sassou-Nguesso is denying all allegations of wrongdoing.

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, has made fighting graft his number one issue, but critics say he has been slow to pursue top officials.  No high profile convictions have occurred since he took office.

Nairobi governor Mike Sonko, late last year, pleaded not guilty to corruption charges, in a rare example of a sitting governor facing court in the graft-wracked country.

Widespread corruption continues to hinder development and disproportionately affects Africa’s poorest citizens, who many times have to pay bribes to access public services.

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