TECH COLAB OPENS IN KADUNA NORTH WESTERN NIGERIA


 

By Paul Ndiho

Over the last five years, Nigeria has seen its innovation spaces grow from a handful to hundreds.  CoLab is the first tech hub in the northern part of Nigeria and is designed to be a multi-functional space where developers and start-ups can work and grow.

colab-kaduna

Nigeria has been getting a lot of attention lately in the tech world, and for a good reason. Young talent is entering the game with something unique and they’re developing mobile applications that are transforming their communities.

Located in the north western state of Kaduna, CoLab Nigeria is a hub for tech enthusiasts and entrepreneurs developers interested in solving everyday social and technological problems come to see their start-ups kick off.

Ifeanyi Mora is a regular at CoLab. He is working on an app that will help schools gather and manage their records.

“I don’t need to think of things I need to run like power and all what not. So it provides the space, it provides you know things I need to use like power and all that. And I said above all; you have people, people who have sort of the same skill set that you have that you can always mine from and share so that’s… it has been so helpful.”

There are many spaces like these around the world and a growing number in Africa – where nearly 90 technology hubs and research bases often funded by international firms such as Microsoft, Google, Facebook and Intel, incubate early-stage businesses in cities like Lagos, Johannesburg, and Nairobi.

CoLab founder, Sanusi Ismaila wants this space – launched just last year, to open up the state’s economy and draw investment for tech entrepreneurs and start-ups.

“What we are trying to do is get more people into co-working together. Get more people into technology because we feel like technology is one of the single biggest ways to get more people across the poverty line and especially here in this part of the country, so you know we are investing in that and we feel like where we are based now, which is Kaduna has everything that a tech ecosystem needs to flourish.”

CoLab offers training sessions on business and access to mentors and workshops to help local entrepreneurs develop their skills. It is also just a cool place to hang out. Youth unemployment is a massive problem in Nigeria; official figures show up to one in two young people are out of work.

“This is one of our work spaces; it’s the weekend so during weekends we do what we call downtime. Which is pretty much, play games, watch TV, chill, start interacting, and it’s open to everyone not just people from CoLab. So, we sought of having an avenue for people to interact with the people that are here and you know rub off each other. Get more people outside to come in and understand what we are doing, and also get user feedback on some of the things that we are working on,”

CoLab rents space out to members for between 3,100 naira (10 US dollars) and 10,500 naira (35 US dollars) a month. It can accommodate 100 people at full capacity in its indoor and outdoor areas.

Sanusi says the shared space and incubation concept is taking the time to catch on in Kaduna.

“You know the prevailing culture and mindset, so it’s one of the biggest challenges – changing people’s mindsets really and also getting people used to co-working. We also have a cultural of the problem here because everyone is sought of like siloes and you know is used to working on his own and doing everything for himself,”

Analysts say the potential market size of Africa’s most populous nation makes Nigeria, with nearly 170 million people, an attractive location.  Similar spaces in the capital Abuja and the second city Lagos, have helped many young people launch into tech business.

Perhaps it worth noting that Nigeria, is the home of Africa Internet Group (AIG), which owns several technology firms across 26 African countries including online retailer Jumia, delivery app HelloFood, hotel booking platform Jovago and online real estate marketplace Lamudi.

 

KENYA’S SAFARI COM LAUNCHES VIDEO STREAMING SERVICE


 

By Paul Ndiho

Kenyan telecom giant Safaricom wants to meet the growing demand for internet connections and online streaming services.  Until recently, the company had been focusing on mobile money, but now things are changing.

Safaricom-numbers-2016

When the name Safaricom is mentioned, many Africans immediately think of mobile money, Kenya’s most successful innovative mobile phone money transfer technology called mPesa. This technology is transforming the lives of millions of people and it has made paying for services and merchandise through your mobile phone very easy. To compete as an industry leader on the continent, Safaricom is reallocating funds to build up its fixed-data network, to connect homes to the internet, as demand for online streaming services like Netflix, grows. Chief executive officer Bob Collymore.

“We have been a bit lazy in growing our data business… you know the half year we showed it was something like 40 – 43 percent growth. If you look across the continent, that is a little bit, we are a little bit of laggards; the continent growth and data is probably being closer to 51 – 52 percent. Across the world is like 60 – 62 percent, so I think we can do better in this and that suggests therefore that the data potential in the market is huge.”

Collymore says their investment in the fixed-data network is a reallocation of its budget and it will not add to its planned expenditures.

“People want to have ideally unlimited data. Unlimited data on mobile is not economically viable in the long term so we are using fixed to give you the data access in the home and when you are roaming. What we are finding out is lots of solutions now for delivering data to customers. A lot of competitors are out there, people don’t want to fixate on the big three but there are a lot of guys who are providing now the Wi-Fi,” Safaricom has already connected nearly 6,000 homes to its new fixed-data network, using underground fiber lines and the more traditional overhead data poles.  He said the move was driven by growing local demand to download or stream content such as Netflix’ science fiction drama Sense 8, which has some scenes shot in Kenya.  To recruit new customers in Kenya, Safaricom has also partnered with ShowMax, an Internet-based video streaming service owned by South Africa’s Naspers, a broad-based multi-national internet and media group headquartered in Cape Town, South Africa.

“People don’t want to just have access to the internet, they also going to want to be downloading content and if you are downloading content, you are downloading movies. Even with short clips on mobile data is going to be relatively expensive. We are kind of pretty close to our cost base on our price of data, so we can’t really go as lower than that at the moment. Over time we might come low. So we want to give people solutions they can use, you know? You can access a Netflix movie or Showmax movie whether it’s on a TV, on a table or a phone,”

Kenya is among 130 countries that can now access internet streaming services from Netflix. Safaricom hopes to bank on the success of its mobile money transfer technology to tap into the growing demand for online streaming services.

Economic analysts say some of the factors behind Safaricom’s success cannot be copied; but others can, possibly allowing for other African companies and countries to follow Kenya’s pioneering internet building example.  Safaricom has already spent $25 million on a license for the fourth generation — 4G — network that it has rolled out to Kenya’s major urban centers.

ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES REVENUES RISE


 

 

 

By Paul Ndiho

Ethiopian airlines is one of Africa’s most profitable air carriers, reporting an increase in revenues over its last fiscal quarter.  However, the airline was unable to repatriate about $220 million held in local currency in Nigeria, Egypt and some other African countries because of foreign exchange shortages in those countries. "Sahara" taxing via Quebec for take-off, Runway 23, Toronto

Africa’s Ethiopian airlines is a profitable carrier in a troubled industry, but, it has been experiencing steady growth.

Despite us president Donald trump’s executive order on immigration.  The order imposes a 90-day entry ban for people from Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Yemen. The carrier flies to more than 69 international destinations including the United States. Ethiopian airlines’ chief executive Tewolde Gebremariam said the order temporarily halting immigration from seven Muslim-majority states was creating confusion for passengers but was not having much impact overall on its operations.

“Well operationally it has not created any disruption to us; either in our schedule or customer service because once the executive order was issued, we distributed to our system, and there was no big issue. But it is creating an atmosphere that people are confused, so they are not traveling so it is going to bring our travel demand down, and it is going to create a big problem to our performance.”

Ethiopian airline’s revenue rose 10.3 percent about $2.43 billion in the 2015/16 fiscal year, while passenger numbers climbed 18 percent to 7.6 million. Net profit was up 70 percent. The state carrier is sub-Saharan Africa’s biggest by revenue and has been rapidly expanding in its bid to become a global player through its increasingly crowded hub in Addis Ababa.  The carrier wants to increase revenue to $10 billion by 2025, and expand its fleet to 140 aircraft from less than 90 now, with sights on Asia but the airline still faced challenges, particularly in African states where foreign exchange shortages meant it could not repatriate earnings held in local currency.

“So today among these four countries between Nigeria, Angola, Sudan and Egypt, we have 220 million worth dollars of local currencies. Whether it is in naira in Nigeria or kwanza in Angola or the Egyptian pound or the Sudanese pound. Because there is a severe shortage of foreign currency and foreign exchange, so we are not able to take whatever we sold. So it is stuck there, it has been trapped for more than two years and it is subject to devaluation and this is a huge challenge for us and for the other African countries.”

Gebremariam also added that the issue undermined the benefits of an oil price drop during 2015/2016. The falling oil prices in the period had also undermined business from those African nations.  With the addition of the Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner’s and airbus a350 planes to its fleet, Ethiopian airlines, a state  owned carrier, will be stiff competition for other African carriers — including south African airlines and Kenya airways.

In addition to adding routes to china, Ethiopian airlines is also considering adding Jakarta and Singapore to its destinations this year.

AFRICAN UNION ELECTS NEW BOSS


 

By Paul Ndiho

The 28th African Union Summit has ended, but not before its leaders made two major decisions; selecting the foreign minister of chad to the top post of the continental body — and readmitting morocco to the group. 61c5ab2d2c7714c2b17c25d8cafe21f97ca296a4

The African Union on Monday elected Chadian Foreign Minister, Moussa Faki Mahamat, as its new commission chairperson.  In the final round of voting, he beat out Kenya’s top diplomat, Amina Mohamed. The 56-year old Faki takes over from South Africa’s Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, who remained in the post an extra six months, after leaders failed to agree on a candidate last July. The theme of this year’s meeting was “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through Investments in the Youth.” AU members also discussed the divisive issue of Africa’s relationship to the International Criminal Court.

Dlamini Zuma, who now is widely believed to be in the running for the presidency of the African National Congress, also spoke out against the new travel ban by U.S. President Donald Trump barring travelers from seven muslim-majority countries including the African nations of Libya, Sudan and Somalia.

“The very country (where) our people were taken as slaves… has now decided to ban refugees from some of our countries,”

The new U.N. Secretary General, Antonio Guterres spoke at the summit, and commended African countries for opening their borders to refugees and people fleeing violence, while nations in other parts of the world, including the West, are closing their borders and making plans to build walls.

“African nations are among the world’s largest and most generous hosts of refugees… `African borders remain open for those in need of protection when so many borders are being closed, even in the most developed countries in the world.”

Sub-Saharan Africa hosts more than 18 million refugees, about 26 percent of the world’s refugees, according to the U.N. refugee agency. The refugees have fled conflicts in Somalia, Central African Republic, Nigeria, South Sudan and Burundi.  The world’s largest refugee camp is the Dadaab facility in Kenya, which houses more than 300-thousand people, mostly from neighboring Somalia. However, last year, the Kenyan government announced its intentions to close Dadaab, which has been open for more than 20 years. Kenyan officials say the camp harbors Islamic extremists and is a security threat.

In another related development, guinea’s president Alpha Conde has succeeded Chad’s president Idris Deby as chairman of the African union.

Meanwhile, The African Union formally admitted Morocco as a member on Tuesday, more than three decades after Rabat withdrew from the predecessor organization.

Morocco’s King Mohammad, who had been campaigning since last year to join, waved to applauding heads of state and delegates at the end of an annual summit.

The North African kingdom quit the AU’s predecessor, the Organization of African Unity, three decades ago amid a dispute about the body’s recognition of Western Sahara, most of which has been controlled by Morocco since 1976.

 

 

Nigerian Fashion Designer Making Her Mark In Washington DC Metro Area


By Paul Ndiho

USA based, Nigerian-born designer Vivien Agbakoba, launched her clothing line “ANYA BY VIVIEN” in 2013, and since then, she has stirred up quite a buzz on the fashion scene here in Washington DC.  Now, women in the U.S. capital who like to shop, but are worried about what to wear, are getting a custom made shopping experience right at their door steps. screenshot_20170118-1004411

Fashion designer Vivien Agbakoba has always been a fashion fanatic. By the age of 11, she started to experiment with beautiful fabrics and taught herself the art of designing clothes. Today she is the founder and artistic director of her own label, Anya by Vivien — derived from her maiden name. “ANYA” which in the IBO language means eyes or vision.

“I see beauty in every woman, and a lot of times that’s what inspires me. When I look at someone I am already seeing the beautiful in them and I’m thinking of how I can make them even more beautiful.”

Agbakoba’s creative designs blend a mix of vibrant African prints and high quality fabrics produced by the Vlisco to create a dazzling array of outfits.

“When I see the fabric, I try to figure out which one would work with the concept I have. But sometimes I’m also inspired by these beautiful prints that I see. They are so vibrant and colorful.”

Agbakoba has participated in several fashion shows showcasing innovative, unique and cutting edge fashion designs and wants to make a difference in the diaspora.

” I just get excited when I start to think of what I can do with them, how I can work with them; but on top of it, I do have a chance to connect with my clients in a very personal way, sometimes that I find myself being a source of either mentorship or encouragement.

Stella Nkenchar, one of Vivien’s’ clients, says she manages to maintain the eccentric, romantic feel of the garment.

“This is a fabulous dress I’m wearing by Anya by Vivien. Very sophisticated. I’ve actually worn it to a dinner with my husband. And it was just unbelievable.”

Nina Oranwusi, another client says the day she wore this outfit, people were blown away because of its uniqueness.

“She has a unique way of doing things. Her tailoring is neat, the treading is neat and everything is in details. The cutting, the layout, everything is just placed together. And that’s why I like about what she does.”

Oma Ngwabia, notes that Vivien’s ability to design with variety of prints has given her a limitless opportunity to continue to unleash her creativity and grow her client base.

“She uses like fashion to bring out the best in people. So she makes fashion that works with one’s body, her dresses blend with your body and bring out your best cups and hide imperfections.”

Agbakoba attributes her success to her parents and other supporters who pushed her to pursue her dream in the fashion industry.

“My mom encouraged it by allowing me to use her machines and leftover fabrics that she worked with, and she taught me a few of the stuff that I knew. But my dad was exceptionally very supportive.”

Phil Russell, a manager at Sonna African Textiles, says Vivien has tremendous potential to meet the growing demand for high-end products in the global market including Africa’s growing middle class.

She typically buys the Vilsco. Um, she…they have wax block, super wax, java. And the way I would differentiate those three products is typically, if you think of, um, bedding, you know, thread count, you know, the higher the thread count, the better the quality.

As the Anya by Vivien’s label expands and makes its mark in the fashion world, Agbakoba says it will play a significant role in inspiring the next generation of young designers.

COFFEE CULTURE GROWS IN NIGERIA


By Paul Ndiho

Most coffee sold in Nigeria is instant and imported. But a local beverage company is working to market its new blends of freshly roasted and ground coffee to a growing middle class in Nigeria that has given rise to coffee drinking in the country. images

Kaldi Africa promotes locally roasted and processed coffee made from blends of coffee sourced in Nigeria, Uganda and Kenya.  The beverage processing company operates in Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos.

The company, launched nearly a year ago, started roasting coffee beans sourced from Nigeria, Kenya and Ethiopia as part of a larger plan to offer Nigerian coffee lovers a more premium product.

The goal is to target a growing middle-class that is ready to spend while meeting in coffee shops opening around the city.

Kaldi’s managing director, Nasra Ali, says most supermarkets in the country sell imported instant coffee varieties but that there is demand for freshly ground and brewed quality coffee.

“When you look at the generation that was in the 40s, 50s and 60s, they were exposed to coffee drinking and that was in the peak of Nigeria exporting coffee. They were drinking, then of course that went down drastically and so did the production. What we are having right now is as a result of the globalization and the coffee drinking culture globally, we know that coffee is the second drunk beverage after water. It is the second highest traded commodity after oil. Then it is inevitable that it would catch up in Nigeria. So what we are basically doing is we are using the best of the African product, and preparing ourselves for the launch of the coffee culture in Nigeria and the greater West Africa,”

After a roasting process, coffee beans go into a de-stoning machine to make sure that the last bits of impurities are removed before being grounded and packed in bags for sale. One kilogram of Kaldi’s coffee sells for about 8 U.S. dollars.

The company also works closely with farmers to buy their produce and help them promote their coffee. Nearly 10 percent of the world’s coffee comes from the African continent. Alfred Mwai is the head of operations at Kaldi African.

“We have no doubt because the kind of business model that we picked was very well thought through, it was not just about coffee roasting. It is about when we roast, what are going to do with the coffee. Do we have the capacity to be able to give the education to people on the benefits of drinking fresh roasted coffee, and how are they going to have the consistency of fresh roasted coffee. So I think, I cannot regret, it is really working,”

 

Apart from Ethiopia, which consumes half of the coffee it produces, few Sub-Saharan African markets have a taste for the drink. During weekends, Kaldi African treats guests to various coffee drinks made by top barristers to give people a chance to sample and learn more about the benefits of taking coffee.

“It was a great experience. Aside from the quality of the product, the passion, the zeal and everything is quite interesting. And then for me as a person the fact that we have such a thing here in Nigeria is actually great. I think it is a break through,”

New coffee startups in Nigeria compete with big brands like, Nestle which is responsible for more than 80 percent of the country’s coffee sales, mostly instant coffee sold off mobile carts on the streets.

 


 

ONLINE GAMING IN UGANDA

By Paul Ndiho

Video gaming is undeveloped in Africa. Though various start-up companies have appeared across the continent, few successes have been made. Well, in Uganda, Kola Studios might be a game changer.  Creators of the popular card game “Matatu” are making their mark on the global tech scene. unnamed

The introduction of broadband Internet has spawned a generation of young ICT savvy people in Africa. Gaming is among the fastest growing industries on the continent. Here in the Ugandan capital Kampala, young techies have developed a cutting edge mobile APP called “Matutu”. At over one hundred thousand downloads the card game has been played over 6 million times.

With the success of this gaming app, Jasper Onono, the brain behind all Android apps at Kola Studios has joined the growing ranks of East Africa’s wiz kids helping to propel the region into the tech spotlight.

“It’s the most popular game in Uganda right now. The idea came up back on campus when we were attending a conference. A thought just hit us: ‘Oh, why don’t people have this game on their phones.”

Matatu – a traditional two-player card game – has long been popular here in Uganda. But with the rapid growth of the smartphone market – in Kenya alone 1 in 5 people access the web through their phones. Sharon Rwakatungu says that the goal of the game is to play all your cards before your opponent.

“I like having it on the phone because then I can playing it anytime. Even when I’m alone, I don’t need to have friends around or a group of people. I can just have it on my phone and play it anytime, anywhere. And it’s fun.”

In 2011 Matatu was a finalist in Google’s Android Developer Challenge for Sub-Saharan Africa – providing them with publicity and mentoring, as well as having their app hosted in Google play store and Google cloud.

Uganda has experienced a dramatic “tech-hub boom” – spurred on by collaborative workspaces such as Outobox, Innovation Village and growing international investment where investors are looking to break into these lucrative markets.

“When you ask young people, about apps they have on their phones, they tell you that at least five apps on their phone,  are either from Ugandan or Kenyan apps. I feel like that will go a long way in encouraging other young people to believe that there is more potential than just what they see. We’re not just consumers of content, but we’re creators of it.”

If the future of computing lies in mobile – and the fastest growth in mobile comes from the developing world – many are beginning to look to African startups for a taste of things to come.

 

According to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) a multinational professional services network based in London, Africa’s gaming industry has been on a significant upswing in the past few years, driven primarily by advances in mobile phone technology.