NIGERIEN DESIGNER “ALPHADI” SET TO PROMOTE HIGH-END FASHION IN EAST AFRICA


BY Paul Ndiho

Nigerien fashion designer Sidahmed Alphadi Seidnaly, known as the “Alphadi ”is arguably the first African artist to make it onto catwalks in Paris, New York, Milan and beyond (is he or isn’t he?). Now the celebrity designer and UNESCO Artist for Peace is using his label to promote high-end fashion on the continent and peace in the world.

Born in Timbuktu (Mali) in 1957, Alphadi has been described as the “magician of the desert.” He is recognized in the fashion industry as one of the greatest names in fashion on the African continent. His creations combine cutting-edge style and traditional African styles.

My brand is unique because

?I use unique textile. My collection is from all the prominent designers from Europe… I’m a big artist from Africa. Europeans send some people to see my collection sometimes in my country. They copy, at times they do to see what works for them.  My work is unique because all the first ladies in Africa wear Alphadi collection. Big ministers in Africa wear Alphadi collection.”

Alphadi started his label in 1984. His first haute couture line was released in 1985 at the Paris International Tourism Tradeshow.  Since then, Alphadi has been featured in top fashion magazines as a pioneer designer and entrepreneur on a mission to promote high-end African fashion.

For 35 years, Alphadi brand helps African textile, supports African names and promotes African beauty—that is Alphadi brand. All the pregnant women, Alphadi makes a collection for them. The president, Alphadi makes the collection for them. That is Alphadi brand.”

In 1998, Alphadi launched the first International Festival of African Fashion (FIMA) in the Tiguidit desert (Niger) under the auspices of UNESCO. The Festival has since become a place of exchange and dialogue between cultures from all over the world.

Apart from showcasing unique designs, the event also brings together international models to inspire upcoming talent as well train and mentor young models in the region.

“We bring designers from Europe, from Asia, from America, from Africa together to show how African design can get better and better.”

The artist has also created the Alphadi Foundation, which works to improve the lives of women and children in the Sahara and helps build and develop employment in the region.

“We give them the chance to get scholarships if they come study fashion in my industry in Niger, and I’m going to build one of Africa’s big university for fashion. I’m going to do it in Niger; big schools like universities for fashion and arts and that is in Niger. And the young girls we give them a chance to be actual designers. This industry can help out for the development.”

Alphadi has held FIMA shows in various African cities and abroad. Alphadi and his team are currently working on establishing a university to teach fashion designer to address the growing demand for high-end on the continent.

Earlier this year UNESCO designated Alphadi as an Ambassador for Peace for his commitment to culture and development, promotion of tolerance and his dedication to the ideals of the Organization

APP DEVELOPERS IN UGANDA


 

By Paul Ndiho

Just as fortune hunters migrated to find gold in the old Wild West, today there’s a gold rush happening in Africa. Developers are scrambling to release more and more apps.

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Mobile applications are beginning to Transform African communities economically, socially, and politically. Young African software developers are creating APPS to address their needs in many areas, including mobile banking, information gathering, farming, healthcare, and education.

In the East African nation of Uganda, LeBron Brian Ssekalegga, a recent graduate of Information Technology at the Makerere University in Kampala has developed an app dubbed “E-Chicken” that helps farmers.

“In case, they have problems with the birds they can use the app through searching for diseases, vaccinations, marketplaces. This app can simplify their life. They can use the app in one place. The app has everything in one place; you download it once you use it forever because you don’t require the internet to use it every time.”

As an experienced App Developer, LeBron Ssekalegga knew a good opportunity when he saw one and he’s part of the talented group of Ugandans trying to find homegrown solutions for problems Ugandan farmers are facing.

“When you open the app there is a menu where you can search for diseases, vaccinations, drug stores, marketplaces, simple tips, and growth plan.”

Ssekalegga has won several contests for developing cutting edge applications including the National Youth Talent Expo. He has also developed an app that makes all of the student’s class schedules available on handheld devices.

Donald Waruhanga a graduate of computer science at Makerere University. Like Brian, he has also won several awards. He has built from scratch mobile applications that focus on wellness.

“Most of the problems that are posed in our country are related to health, and they are paid little attention when compared with other fields. My app is called Momma baby because it deals with pregnant women at the stage where they are giving birth.”

According to World Health Organization (WHO), an estimated 303 000 women will die from complications related to pregnancy or childbirth. Donald says his apps are meant to change this narrative.

“I developed an app that can help the midwife just measure and input the information that they have measured. So when you record that data, it is supposed to be interpreted. After you record it, it gives you a computerized decision telling that a woman may need a C-section or that women can proceed with a normal birth. This can be done even in a remote village as long as the midwife has access to a smartphone or a tablet.”

Tech analysts say that these apps will have a significant impact on how we use smartphones in the future and that, young African app developers are innovating out of necessity.Critics say that most of these app developers are struggling to market their creations on a national level because the technology isn’t widespread enough yet.  Only a few have cashed in on their apps. However, for LeBron Brian Ssekalegga and Donald are optimistic about the future and hope that one day they’ll cash in as well.

BAMBOO FARMING CHANGING LIVES IN ETHIOPIA


 

 

By Paul Ndiho

Nearly 70% of Africa’s bamboo forests grow in Ethiopia, but much of it is commercially untouched. However, start-up companies like African Bamboo, a forestry, wood, and bio-energy company based in Addis Ababa, has come up with innovative ways to tap into Ethiopia’s natural resource.Bamboo Broll

If you asked the average person on the street to name a country that they associated with the bamboo plant, it’s unlikely you would hear many answers other than Ethiopia.

But the country is rich in bamboo, with 2.47 million acres of it untapped, but due to widespread deforestation, the government has taken drastic steps to promote sustainable harvests and green industries like African Bamboo are strategically placing themselves to tap into this growing industry. Khalid Duri is the General Manager.

“If you look at Asia, bamboo is a huge industry, $120 billion, if you look at Africa, it is negligible, almost $0. So we are trying to be a pioneer or to lead the industry using innovative applications for bamboo, practically for industrial and commercial purposes.”

Duri says industries such as African Bamboo are taking steps in managing, cultivating and using Ethiopian bamboo species to help mitigate rapid deforestation in the country by creating alternative “wood” sources and sustainable business opportunities.

“At least 6,000 farmers (in Ethiopia) they would earn, in total, in aggregate a-million-and-a-half Euro annually. Individually, their income would rise from just below a dollar to above two dollars.”

Bamboo is potentially an ideal source of local, sustainable purpose-engineered building materials for growing cities not only in Ethiopia but across Africa.

“The end product is the bamboo-based panel board for, that panel can be used for outdoor decking or indoors as well as wall siding, for applications with marinas, gardens and swimming pools and the like.”

Khalid Duri was one of the few African innovators competing for more than a million dollars in investment at the recently concluded AG Innovation Investment Summit organized by USAID. The event brought together more than 50 agricultural technology innovators, and investors to present, asses, and invest in game-changing technologies that will help small farmers improve their productivity and competitiveness. Event organizer Dr. Ku McMahan.

“We’re looking if they have a strong team, if they have a good organizational structure, a plan for scale, organization, and the finances prepared and a long-term vision of how they’re going to achieve that. And most importantly, that they have the local connections, and the interactions for their partnerships to make their whole organization move forward, to achieve the results that they’re climbing to have.”

Industry analysts say bamboo trade will also benefit from its greater sustainability than rival materials such as timber. Bamboo is the fastest-growing plant in the world, capable of growing almost one meter a day so that stocks can be rapidly regenerated.

Bamboo is extremely versatile.  The profit potential has become even greater as environmentalists link bamboo with climate change mitigation, and the possibility of increased income through carbon credits.

So far 18 African countries with natural bamboo have joined International Network for Bamboo and Rattan or INBAR, which is assisting them with bamboo information, technology transfer, capacity building and policy formulation.

 

NIGERIAN – U.S BASED GRAPHIC DESIGNER CREATING AUTHENTIC AFRICAN SUPERHERO


 

By Paul Ndiho

Here in Washington, DC, YouNeek Studios is creating an authentic African superhero that operates in a futuristic Nigeria. Is this a sign that comic books are gaining momentum in Africa? A continent that was said to lack interest in African-inspired comics. Roye Okupe was one the few African who exhibited their work at the Global Entrepreneurship summit last week in Silicon Valley California.20160615_131343

The African superhero universe continues to widen with the emergence of a comic book E.X.O “The Legend of Wale Williams” a science fiction graphic novel about redemption, set in a futuristic, 2025 Nigeria. The Comic book follows the journey of Wale Williams, an impetuous young adult who inherits a suit with super powers after his father goes missing. Roye Okupe is the brains behind the graphic novel.

“I grew up watching superheroes, cartoons; I tried reading as many comic books as possible. And immediately I fell in love with the genre, but I noticed that there weren’t a lot from Nigeria, where I was born or even Africa as a whole and I always thought that it would be cool actually to see an African superhero or Nigerian superhero in a Nigerian environment.”

With a keen interest in graphics and creative writing, the Lagos-born Okupe, studied computer science at both the undergrad and graduate level at George Washington University in Washington DC. His passion for animation led him to start YouNeek Studios, which would allow him to pursue his dream of creating a diverse library of superheroes and inspire young African children.

“I feel like representation matters, and it’s critical. For me, growing up, and not being able to see any African cartoons on TV made me feel like it wasn’t possible for me to do it. I didn’t see any African animators, I didn’t see any African producers doing it, so I just assumed that since there was nobody from Nigeria doing this, and it just meant that it’s impossible.”

Okupe’s superhero was received with critical acclaim and has since been featured on different media outlets.

“So it’s getting the publicity that I hoped that it would. It’s not only about me now; but it’s also more people seeing what Nigerians and Africans can do when it comes to comic books, superheroes, and animation.”

Unlike Nigeria’s thriving Nollywood film industry, the animation sector is relatively nu-established. For self-made animators like Okupe, the challenges are daunting.

“Everything right now is self-published, self-funded. I mean hopefully, that can change in the future where we can start to integrate more strategic partnerships with people that can help take this to the next level.”

Critics say in Nigeria a majority of animators struggle to complete their projects due to a lack of proper studio facilities, funding and training.  But Okupe says there is still hope.

“If you have a dream, or if you have something that you want to do, go for it or give it a try, just take what happens from there – as long as you give it an effort, there’s nothing that you can’t achieve.”

E.X.O “The Legend of Wale Williams” has something that other African superheroes created by Americans usually lack and that is cultural authenticity. In fact, some industry analysts say, if the success of Nollywood is anything to go by, the animation industry’s growth potential in Africa is enormous.

BUYERS ‘BEWARE’ UGANDA HOUSING BOOM


 

By Paul Ndiho

Uganda’s property boom has led to up surge in real estate brokers capitalizing on a rush of people to buy new homes.  But shadow players and amateur brokers are also trying to cash in – leaving buyers at the mercy of unscrupulous agents.Uganda Land Reform PKG

Uganda is enjoying a vibrant housing market. The country has one of the fastest population growth rates in the world. To get a perspective — I’m here in the capital, Kampala, to ask the experts and senior government officials to explain what has caused this boom.

Gabindadde Musoke, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Lands and Urban Development explains.

“Land was becoming a commodity and transactions were becoming too many and government wasn’t able to respond to the transactions that were now taking place in this sector, so it put pressure on land management.”

Vincent Agaba, a rising real Estate agent in Kampala says as the population grows, the surging middle class is scrambling for real estate.

“Real estate is an area whereby you can invest money and be able to keep money in that area without you being required to be there full time. So I’ll be working in job “x” and be able to have money “y” and be able to put it in a piece of land it can’t require me to be there on a daily basis.”

In some parts of Kampala, the cost of land has soared by nearly 60 percent.  Attractive profits are luring amateur brokers into the business, hoping to make quick money. But the sector has little regulation, which means unassuming buyers may be exploited.

“Most of them are thugs, they are not brokers. When they pass by a house and realize it is vacant, they will go looking out for people in need of premises. They will engage the person as a broker and claim to know a vacant premise and lie about how the vacant premise belongs to their relatives.”

Uganda is one of the few African countries that is using a computerized land management system. The old land registration system has been a drag on development and dates back to the colonial era, as you can see at the national land records office in Entebbe.

“. Each one is labeled Northern region – if you want to work on the northern region you come in this and if you want to work on Western region, it is all kept in here, even when you work on Eastern region you know where to go … when you are working on a computer you keep all your stuff in folders so these are our folders.”

However, there are calls to clean up the industry for fear of the negative impact.

“If the players in the land transactions are really left half-hazard, it’s not only a threat to people being conned and robbed of their money, it is also a threat to the whole economic fiber.”

Daudi Migereko, former Minister of Lands, Housing and Urban Development dismisses those claims. He says the digital land records management system allows the government to make brokers and agents accountable.

“I think we have had a major breakthrough. This increases the level of confidence on the part of the public that we are trying to serve. But also in terms of supervision we can now be in a position to tell who is working and who is not working, and where there is a problem its easier for us to discern where.”

Real estate analysts say Uganda’s housing market grew by more than 6 percent between 2009 and 2015. But critics say that a shortage in housing, alongside demands for more controls, could mean that the property boom has a long way to go before it’s considered an equal opportunity business.

DRIVING UBER IN AFRICA


By Paul Ndiho

Born out of the frustration of two Silicon Valley entrepreneurs trying to catch a cab in Paris, Uber services have flourished since being launched in 2010 and IS now offered in more than 450 cities worldwide.uber in Nairobi

With an Estimated worth of nearly $62.5 billion, Uber Technologies Inc. An American multinational online transportation company operates in over 66 countries and 450 cities worldwide. The Uber mobile app allows clients with smartphones to submit a trip request that’s then routed to Uber drivers nearby who use their cars to pick the customer. The service is giving the metered taxi industry a run for their money.

To get an idea of how Uber works, I signed up as Uber driver. This is an example of my actual Uber driver pay statement. But first, let me explain how Uber calculates ride fares.

When someone takes a ride with you, they are charged a fare plus a “Rider Fee.” The base fare for UberX in DC is currently $1.15, booking fee 1:35 + $1:02 per mile. If there is “Surge Pricing”, then the entire fare is multiplied by that number. Surge pricing means Uber increases the fare prices during certain times of higher demand, making these hours more attractive for drivers.

In Africa, Uber is already operating in more than five major cities. Alon Lits, Uber’s general manager for sub-Saharan Africa says convincing traditional taxi drivers to work for the ride-ordering service was an essential part of the company’s plans to expand across the continent.

“There is an enormous number of taxi operators on the platform in South Africa, a growing number in Kenya and a growing number in Nigeria and part of our strategy when we launch in new markets will be that engagement upfront with the taxi operators.”

Ruth Kagiri signed up with Uber in Nairobi to support herself as she pursued an acting career. With a return of about 400 US dollars a week, she was able to graduate from driving someone else’s car to her own, with a little investment from her dad.

“I am not afraid. Whatever happens, I need to work Friday nights; I need to work Saturday nights, and I do it the whole night till morning. Because I can’t afford to live in fear, this is my job for this season, and I have to do it, and those are peak hours you know. The security issue has not phased me; I just try to be very vigilant.”

Uber drivers around the world have faced threats and protests from regular taxi operators, who say cheap UBER fares are driving them out of business. Consumers are flocking to the service.

“What I typically pay my cab guy is around 7-800 Bob but what I paid to Uber was 500 shillings. So I cut down my cost by 300 bob, and that’s something good to me.”

Uber began making inroads into the Nairobi market by offering lower prices and cutting out haggling that often infuriates customers. Joseph Gitau has been driving his taxi for nearly 20 years.

“I have worked here for 17… 28 years. There are others who have been here for 30 years and over and that person cannot leave here. If a client loses something, they will still find it if they come back. That’s why I say our work is good.”

Uber’s experiment in Kenya to let riders pay fares with cash or via mobile money has boosted growth in Nairobi, where about 100,000 people open the Uber app once a month.

Gitau says his association is looking at ways of creating their mobile platform.

“Whether we like it or not, it seems we have to embrace technology. Because you have to concede when you realize that you cannot win a fight. We cannot fight Uber operators on our streets,”

Uber is facing increasing competition, as many other companies provide similar services. Whether they can maintain this sustained growth over the next couple years remains to be seen.

 

ROOTIO A GRASSROOTS COMMUNITY RADIO STATIONS IN UGANDA


 

By Paul Ndiho

Innovation is happening across Africa, in many different sectors, from agriculture to banking, education to energy — and in broadcasting. In Uganda, Rootio, a community radio station is broadcasting without a studio or transmitting tower.

Humility is what describes Jude Mukundane, a Ugandan software developer and technology enthusiast. He’s the inventor of a grassroots community radio station dubbed the “Rootio Project” Or “the radio in a bucket.”

Among his peers, he’s just regular guy, in fact, very few people know about his innovation that is creating buzz on the international scene. Mukundane is part of a new breed of young African innovators trying to change Africa’s image.  His love and passion for technology has inspired him to build from scratch a grassroots community radio station.

“I’m into technology for the grassroots. The kinds of projects that I am working on are projects that try to reduce technology to a level where people, and their grassroots can take it, and apply it to their lives, and use it in ways that do not require them to learn a lot to use computers and things like that.”

The Rootio Project is a loosely-integrated, content-agnostic “solution stack” for peer-oriented radio networks.

“We build a very small community-based radio stations. These radio stations are small enough to fit in a bucket. We have taken out all of the expensive equipment and put in more bio foam and anything transmitted in a bucket, and so that plays audio content that’s broadcast out into the communities.”

Mukundane is part of a talented group of Ugandans that has been tasked to find homegrown solutions for Ugandans living in rural villages.

“I do understand the things that you can do with technology. But also, part of me is about looking at technology and wondering what can you use this technology for…”

Rootio grew out of the recognition that despite the wonders of mobile telephones and the Internet, radio is still a vibrant medium — and in many places across Africa it is still where most people get the bulk of their information.  It doesn’t require literacy, a personal device, or much power, it is transmitted free of charge, and it comes built into many of the phones used around the world.

“People receive them using their regular radio receivers. They don’t need any specialized applications or smartphones, just their standard radios that they are using at the moment.”

Technology analysts say Rootio stations are designed to best serve rural citizens and bridge the gap between the communities and the currently available commercial radio stations, which are located within the business centers hindering access.  The Rootio project has had some success as well as many challenges.

For example, we’re proposing radio at a scale that the Uganda Communications Commission was not used to giving these kinds of licenses. Our station runs at a maximum of 25 watts, so that is nothing compared to a typical radio station, but regarding the issue of credibility, these stations are owned by the committee, it’s not an individual.”

Uganda Communications Commission recently licensed Rootio community radio stations to run pilots in Northern Uganda, up to a radius of about 35 kilometers on flat terrain areas.