Author Archives: vipiafrica

AFRICA’S $3.4 TRILLION ECONOMIC BLOC

By Paul Ndiho

Africa’s new Continental Free Trade Area is being hailed as the largest free trade area in the world since the World Trade Organization was founded in January 1995. The economic pact aims to boost cross-border trade by reducing or eliminating tariffs and red tape.Screen Shot 2019-07-25 at 9.07.19 AM

After nearly four years of talks, an agreement to form the African Continental Free Trade Agreement was ratified in Niger earlier this month. The new trade initiative brings together 1.2 billion people, creates a $3.4 trillion economic bloc and ushers in a new era of development.

Shaka Ssali, while appearing on VOA’s Shaka Extra Time internet broadcast, says the timing of this trade pact could not have come at a better time.  He also says credit should go to Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who started this initiative and was one of the first people to sign it in March 2018.

“Frankly we should give credit to the man who can up with the idea and pushed it through  Despite a lot of NAY Sayers and that is the Rwandan President Major Gen. Paul Kagame. There are a lot of people who thought that this idea was not possible, especially because two African giants, South Africa, and Nigeria were reluctant to embrace the concept.”

After months of reluctance over competition concerns, Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, at the African Union Summit in Niger launched the African Continental Free Trade Area agreement by signing Africa’s largest economy into the deal.  But, while there is much hope that pan-African trade will grow, structural weaknesses are expected to make it a slow process.

“I am very interested because I think I will get one of the countries around and open my office, even if it’s a showroom for me to move my products directly.”

Inter-regional trade in Africa currently accounts for only 17 percent of the continent’s total exports, compared to 69 percent in Europe and 59 percent in Asia. Pat Utomi, a Nigerian professor of political economy and management expert, says this trade deal could drive Africa’s numbers up to 52 percent.

“African countries stand to profit also from Nigeria being engaged.  It will not only lead to Nigeria’s economy to becoming bigger but lead to those other African economies to becoming stronger and much bigger.  So together, the mutual benefit of trade will lead to elevating the African status away from the poverty of today.”

African exporters want the free trade area to eliminate barriers and create free movement between states.

“African trade today is conducted on the U.S. dollar, Euro and including the Renminbi, (the official currency of China).  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.”

Brook Hailu Besha, a journalism professor at the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University, says Eritrea, Africa’s only non-signatory to the trade pact, says it will seriously consider signing the agreement.

“It is said that the Eritrean government did not believe in the merits and the goodness of this new Africa trade association and to line up with fellow African sisters and brothers. No country has succeeded in the world by isolating itself.”

Once fully operational, the free trade accord is projected to boost the level of intra-Africa trade by more than 52 percent, by the year 2022, according to the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

 

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MOTORCYCLE TAXI COMPANIES TEST THE WEST AFRICA MARKET

 

By Paul Ndiho
Motorcycle taxi companies are expanding in West Africa, thanks to support from investors betting on the sudden rise of two-wheeled taxi firms in Asia.  Can this success be replicated in some of the fastest-growing economies in Africa?

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Motorbike taxi firms are now battling it out on the streets of Nigeria’s commercial capital, Lagos.  As Nigeria’s oldest motorcycle taxi firm MAX.ng, is planning to expand across the country and launch in Ghana and Ivory Coast.

The company’s app-based platform organizes motorcycle taxi and delivery services for individuals and businesses.  The firm has also recently been infused with $7 million dollars from investors.

Informal motorcycle taxis operate across Nigeria, where they are known as “Okada.” Two-wheeled ride-hailing firms are hoping to lure passengers seeking rides that are safe and fast.


New motorcycle transit companies hope to win a measurable market share by offering teams of trained drivers, safer equipment, and the convenience of booking rides through a mobile app.   Some are looking to turn their ride-hailing apps into one-stop mobile shops offering a host of services from e-payments and deliveries to insurance.

“I see them like they are more executive; you feel more secure. I believe they should be trained before they are allowed to ride on Gokada, unlike common Okada on the road, you see some people that are already drunk, they are already high, so you can’t control them. I know if I have a complain I can always go to Gokada website and lodge my complaint there. Everybody wants faster movement in Lagos, we all know Lagos, but we are still afraid of the normal Okada.”

Rival ride-hailing companies typically have a mobile app, but also allow passengers to hail available drivers.  Gokada launched in Lagos in January 2018.  Founder Falim Saleh says, so far, the company has raised US$5 million in 2019 – and it plans to start rolling out new services, like repair centers and rider training schools across West Africa.

“The reality is that the infrastructure is not meant to handle so many cars and to do major infrastructural projects like trains will take a long time, and there are so many Okada that they are here to stay at least for a while, so why not make the best of it, right? Why not make sure they are riding safely, why not track them, why not give them proper permits and make the best of the situation instead of just ignoring what the reality is.”

MAX.ng also operates in several southern Nigerian cities.  Okadas have come under so much criticism for unpredictable driving and accidents, that in 2012, Lagos banned motorcycles with a cylinder capacity below 200 cc’s from using major roads or the bridges that criss-cross the city built around a lagoon.  Jude Okoro, left his job as a clerk over a year ago to become a Gokada driver.

“I was actually interested in their vision, the vision of saving people’s time, taking them to their destination safe and sound, and I wanted to be part of that vision and at the same time to actually increase my financial capabilities so that I can do more.”

MAX.ng plans to launch in three other west African cities – in Ghana, Ivory Coast, and Nigeria – by the end of 2019, according to co-founder Adetayo Bamiduro.  MAX.ng’s target is to reach 2 million rides by mid-2020 – up from 200,000 trips in May 2019 – as a result of the West African expansion.

“Nigerians principally…mostly move around either on motorcycles or in mini-busses and these are two spaces that have not seen a lot of normalization and structure even as we speak, right. So if you combine all the organized and structured ride-hailing platforms and transport companies till date, there is still less than one percent of the total market.”

Africa offers enormous potential for motorcycle ride-hailing firms, for example in East Africa, where two-wheeled taxis known as “Boda boda” are already accessible.  Car ride-hailing giant Uber, last year launched its two-wheeled Uber BODA service in Kampala and Nairobi, but the company says it does not have plans to launch a similar service in Nigeria.

The Ugandan company, SafeBoda, which was founded in 2015 and launched in Nairobi last year, says it’s in the process of launching in Nigeria. SafeBoda says it also plans to expand into at least 20 other African cities.

Both Gokada and MAX.ng said the average cost of a trip was around US$2. Most Nigerians live on less than that sum each day.  But there are no signs of interest waning from firms planning to launch in the region.

JUMIA TECHNOLOGIES TARGETS LOWER-INCOME EARNERS

 

By Paul Ndiho

Online retail stores that target the middle-class are on the rise in Africa. The stores are aiming to meet a demand for products that conventional retail stores appear to be struggling to satisfy. But Jumia Food, a unit of Jumia Technologies, is looking beyond the middle-class and plan to offer cheaper options to attract lower-income earners. A54 Jumia Technologies PKG-1

Jumia is Africa’s largest e-commerce platform primarily for electronics, fashion, and appliances that connects sellers with consumers. In April, upon being listed on the New York Stock Exchange, it became Africa’s first sub-Saharan unicorn – a private company with a value of at least $1 billion dollars – to test the sub-Saharan public market.

Commonly dubbed as the Amazon of Africa, the platform delivers food and beverages to 11 African countries, joining other multi-national companies such as Uber and China’s Huawei Technologies who are looking to grow their customer base on the continent beyond the middle class. 

 

“We are also looking now to target this mass-market customer that is starting to come online over the last couple of years for the first time realizing that the level of basic convenience and assortment is not just the preserve of the upper classes. It’s now available to the mass market because of the level of sophistication of technology, the level of experience that we now bring to on-demand means that we can hit a price point that’s attractive to them.”

Jumia Food has one-million customers across 30 African cities, including Lagos and Casablanca.  Kenya, however, is its biggest market. Its platform there has 4,000 restaurants offering everything from local cuisine to international fast food – from the likes of KFC, Pizza Hut and McDonald’s.

Jumia follows Uber, which introduced a low-cost, quick-trip option called Chap Chap to users in Kenya in 2018. It has also added a motorcycle service in Uganda and rickshaws in Tanzania.

 

“You knew five years ago, six years ago I considered this to be a food delivery business and what happened over the years is that we built up a huge base of customers eloped profound expertise in on-demand delivery technology, and when you have those two assets we recognize that food is probably the biggest opportunity that we have in the market, but we can leverage those assets to serve customers in other areas.”

The online giant is betting that as more Africans reach middle-class status — people whose average daily spending is between $2 to $20, according to the African Development Bank, the demand for their services will rise.

“So we have around 4,000 vendors on the platform, and the way I like to think about it is that we have roughly, I’d say maybe 99 percent or so of the vendors that we want to have on the platform. On the vendors’ side, it’s not a numbers game, and it’s a quality and assortment and trust game.”

Africa’s growing population is expected to lead to an increase in consumer spending to $2.2 trillion dollars by 2030 – from $680 billion in 2008, according to the African Development Bank, and other UN Agencies.

Jumia’s shares skyrocketed after an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange. It raised $196 million dollars, selling 13.5 million American depositary shares at $14.50 each, within the expected range of $13-to-$16. 

The Lagos, Nigeria-based tech firm now has over four million customers. But critics say the retail platform isn’t profitable, despite its sales jumping by almost 40 percent to $147 million dollars last year. 

Sudan’s Military and Pro-Democracy Movement Sign a Power-Sharing Deal

By Paul Ndiho
After weeks of violent protests and difficult negotiations, Sudan’s protesters and ruling generals signed a deal that aims to install a civilian administration, a key demand of demonstrators since president Omar al-Bashir was deposed in a coup three months ago.

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Sudan’s ruling military and the pro-democracy movement on Wednesday signed a political document that’s part of a power-sharing deal meant to end the country’s deadlock after weeks of stalled talks.

The two sides – representatives from the military council and the forces for declaration of freedom and change – signed a so-called political declaration, one of two documents that are part of the deal, at a ceremony in Khartoum.

The other document, a constitutional declaration, is likely to be signed within days, perhaps as early as Friday.

The signing is a key step in Sudan’s transition after months of street protests that prompted the military to oust autocratic ruler Omar Al-Bashir and take over the country in April. Mohamoud Dirir, Ethiopian Mediator.

“It is a great moment that the people of Sudan have reached this historic moment the parties, I would not say different entities of Sudan, but a unit a united front that represents the gallant army of the Sudan, the transitional military council and of course the revolutionary youth, intellectuals who have taken to the streets to stand for democracy.”

Sudan has endured a wave of protests over the deteriorating economic conditions and price hikes of essential commodities since mid-December 2018. Long-time President Omar al-Bashir was ousted in a coup by the military in April.  He tightly ruled Sudan for 30 years.

In the days following the coup, the military generals announced that they would set up a transitional military council to run the country for up to two years — but pro-democracy demonstrators firmly rejected that plan.

In early July, the Transitional Military Council and the coalition of pro-democracy groups called the “Forces for Freedom and Change” reached an agreement, ending the dispute between via a joint sovereign council with power shifting between military and civilian leadership.

Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, deputy chairman of the Transitional Military Council and chief of the Rapid Support Forces, says the agreement covers everybody.

“The deal that we have been waiting for a long time has been agreed on, and this agreement needs unity and purity of intent.”

The African Union and Ethiopian officials also assisted in mediating the deal.

Omar al-Dkir, a representative of the Forces for Freedom and Change, says the government now has its eyes clearly on the peace deal.

“This agreement opens the way for the establishment of institutions of Transitional Authority, which will carry out reform programs in the political, economic, and social fields. One of the priorities of this government will be to focus on the cause of peace.”

A lot of mistrust surfaced between the two sides when government security forces killed dozens of people when they broke-up a sit-in demonstration in June.  But with the help of mediators, the two parties ironed-out their differences to establish a sovereign council, rotating between the military and civilians for three years.

After the agreement was announced, thousands of people took to streets in jubilation, waving Sudanese flags, dancing and embracing each other.

 

THE ROLE OF HISTORICALLY BLACK COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES (HBCU’S)

By Paul Ndiho

Historically black U.S. colleges and universities like Morehouse and Howard are a familiar presence at the independence celebrations of several African countries. HBCU’s play a critical role in ensuring that African Americans, Africans and students of all races, receive a quality education. sta package fix

Historically black U.S. colleges and universities produced many of the leaders from the civil rights era. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. graduated from Morehouse College, Dr. W.E.B. DuBois, Fisk University, Rev. Jesse Jackson, North Carolina A&T, Ambassador  Andrew Young, Howard University and Congressman John Lewis also graduated from Fisk University.

But less is known about the immense contributions HBCU’s had in molding and developing leaders in the struggle for the independence of countries in Africa.  This generation of leaders was very outspoken in advocating for the rights of Africans and in fighting for the independence of many new nations.

Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who became Nigeria’s first president in 1963, was a classmate of famed American poet Langston Hughes and former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Prime Minister of Ghana, first African country to gain independence, graduated from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, Malawi’s first president, graduated from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee.

Today, there are over 100 historically black colleges and universities across America granting over 50,000 degrees to students of all racial and ethnic backgrounds according to a Pew Research Study.  VOA’s own Ndimyake Mwakalyelye, is a graduate of Howard University.

“Howard University gave me the foundation. I got my first degree there. It was a question of understanding what does it means to study, and what does it mean to be informed about the discipline and the area of choice that you’ve identified as your career path… It opened my eyes as well to the experience of black American culture, history of slavery, and how these historically black colleges to keep that memory flesh and it’s very integral.”

Many historically black institutions of higher learning, like Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, Spelman College and Morehouse College in Atlanta and Howard University in Washington, DC are continuing to play a significant role in educating students and empowering the African American community. Attending any university is now a very expensive proposition.  Terry Hartle, of the American Council on Education represents thousands of colleges and universities across the United States.

“It’s a terrible problem that we face as a country.  We want more and more post-secondary education.  We want more focus on academic quality and graduation.  At the same time, the funding sources for higher education have been diminishing for a generation.”

 

For the past 30 years, college tuition in the U.S. has been rising at twice the rate of inflation — and private schools now charge an average of more than $30,000 a year.  Earlier this year, billionaire American philanthropist Robert F. Smith pledged to pay off the student loan debt of the 2019 Morehouse graduates.  He says college should be affordable.

“We’re going to put a little fuel in your bus. My family is making a grant to eliminate their student loans.”

U.S. President Donald Trump is also supporting HBCU’s.

“I’m proud to say that my budget continues America’s commitment to helping HBCU’s improve their competitiveness, requesting more than half a billion dollars for HBCU focused programs. Further, the recent budget deal allows for the forgiveness of any outstanding loans owed under the HBCU.”

Historically black colleges and universities continue to be a major educational pipeline in preparing young people to serve in their chosen endeavors.

 

 

 

A Coding Academy in Johannesburg

By Paul Ndiho

South Africa is facing a severe shortage of developers leaving significant sectors such as financial institutions struggling to recruit employees with critical computer skills.  Now, a small, alternative academy in Johannesburg is working to change that deficit.

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There are no teachers or classes, and students don’t need to have any prior experience or qualifications to enroll at the “We Think Code” academy in South Africa.  Instead, the program focuses on peer-to-peer training for students to learn how to develop websites and apps. Students are selected through an intensive boot camp that sees only the top one percent with quantitative skills admitted to the school.  Nyaradzai Samushonga is the chief executive at We-Think-Code.

“Our universities are doing a great job, of delivering technical skills that are desperately needed within the business space. The reality is that they can’t keep up with the demand. And the university channel focuses on a particular type of high school education, which then feeds into what they do. A program like WeThinkCode_ democratizes the opportunity by saying ‘it doesn’t matter what your prior educational background is, it doesn’t matter what your prior social background is, you could be born to code and here’s an opportunity to include you in the economics of technology.”


Unemployment in Africa’s most advanced economy has remained high since the end of the apartheid era 25 years ago.  South Africa’s government says youth unemployment is a “national crisis.”  The 15 to 34 age group accounts for almost two-thirds of the country’s jobless.  But We Think Code says it wants to help improve things and be part of a solution.  About 98 percent of the students who’ve graduated from the program are now employed.

“Well we’ve seen that if you’re able to train one skilled developer successfully, that impact that individual has is on 10 to 15 other individuals in that person’s environment because they’re creating employment, they’re bringing more efficiency into the workplace, they’re creating more profitable businesses enabling companies to employ even more people. So the impact that one skilled developer has is on 15 other individuals. If we’re able to produce an extra 100,000 skilled developers across the country, we have 1.5 million people that can be employed in the country.”

The program, however, is struggling to recruit girls. Only 17 percent of the We Think Code students are female.  One of the aims of the program is to dedicate more resources to challenge perceptions that coding is only for males.
Software programmer and Geekulcha community manager, Skinny Shugo Kgwedi says there is a growing need for South African youth to have coding skills so they can have leverage when looking for jobs.

“I’d say coding is important because we are evolving in a technological world whereby, you get to build anything. So if you are starting a business and you need a website, you might pay a lot of money for a website. So if you know how to code, you can build your website which will be less. It gives you a chance whereby you get jobs easier; you get hired easier because a lot of companies now are involving in technology because of the 4IR (Fourth Industrial Revolution).”

Convincing young South Africans to learn how to code remains an uphill battle. Only four-of-ten public schools have a computer lab, according to the South African Institute of Race Relations.  Expensive data prices and a lack of internet infrastructure outside of Gauteng and Cape Town means that millions of students eager to learn coding are left without access to the internet.

BLOCKCHAIN AND CRYPTO- CURRENCY IN AFRICA

By Paul Ndiho
Blockchain and crypto-currency are two rising social media buzzwords.  Social Media trends show a increased interest in the technology, especially coming from Africa. Screen Shot 2019-07-03 at 3.20.54 PM

At a recent Africa Technology Summit in London, African tech players, international investors, critical decision and innovators – kicked-off the event by opening the market at the London Stock Exchange and talking about the future Blockchain and crypo-currency on the continent.

Exporting tech solutions from Africa to the rest of world is likely to become more and more common – according to Tunde Kehinde, head of a digital platform which helps small and medium enterprises access to credit in just one day.

”The traditional way of getting credit assembly is not working. Why don’t we use technology and data to make loans without collateral, do risk-adjusted pricing, and more or less help any SME access the funds they need to grow.”


Elizabeth Rosiello, CEO and founder of Bitpesa, says Africa still isn’t at the same level as the rest of the world in terms of cryptocurrency use.

”In Africa, regulation has been a little bit slow and unclear, and in general, there are less financial institutions, there are fewer fintech companies. So there’s just less opportunity to purchase.”

Limited access to smartphones, stable power supplies, and internet connection are just some of the stumbling blocks in the way.  But with smartphone usage expected to jump exponentially to 67% by 2025, many investors are optimistic.

”We still have the challenges of governments inability you know to get with the program and raise the game so to speak. But yes, I’m quite optimistic about 2025 given the level of youthful energy that is going into solution creation.”

Meanwhile, social media giant Facebook has revealed plans to launch a crypto-currency called Libra, the latest development in its effort to expand beyond social networking and move into e-commerce and global payments.

” Crypto is still a niche topic, not a lot of people know about it, not a lot of people own cryptocurrencies, and it’s the idea that Facebook could expose millions, tens of millions, hundreds of millions, or even billions of people to the idea of cryptocurrency and get them interested in the space, that’s really exciting to me”

Facebook is linking with 28 partners in a Geneva-based entity called the Libra Association, which will govern its new digital coin set to launch in the first half of 2020.

” One of the beauties of the cryptocurrency markets is that they’re open markets and anyone can participate, and anyone can create a new cryptocurrency, or fork an existing one, and compete on an even playing field. And, so, I think Libra will be competitive.”

Facebook has also created a subsidiary called Calibra, which will offer digital wallets to save, send, and spend Libras.  Calibra will be connected to Facebook’s messaging platforms — Messenger and Whats-App, which already boast more than one-billion users.

The California-based company, has big aspirations for Libra, but consumer privacy concerns or regulatory barriers may present significant hurdles.

 

NIGERIAN TO HEAD THE 74TH SESSION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY

 

By Paul Ndiho

A Nigerian diplomat was a elected as the new president of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly.  The new chief is pledging to focus on “peace and prosperity” for the most vulnerable.  Nigeria elected as next General Assembly President

The United Nations General Assembly is now headed by Tijjani Muhammad-Bande.   The world body elected Nigeria’s Ambassador to the U.N. to the post last month, by acclamation, to preside over its upcoming session.
“Taking into account the provisions of Paragraph 60 of General Assembly decision 34/401, I, therefore, declare His Excellency Tijjani Mohammad Bande of Nigeria elected by acclamation as President of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly.”
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, focuses on peace and security, poverty eradication, climate action, and inclusion are among the major priorities of his presidency.

Addressing the General Assembly, the newly elected Mohammad-Bande said that the international community must continue to invest in sustaining peace and conflict prevention.


“As the United Nations has not met the expectations of its founding fathers, in terms of preventing many violent conflicts and mass atrocities, we have to assume a collective responsibility to make the world a better, safer and more peaceful one. The promotion of human rights and the empowerment of women and youth deserve special attention, and I will be devoted to the promotion of gender parity throughout the whole UN system, starting from my own Office.”
Mohammad-Bande observed that the UN will commemorate the 75th anniversary of the creation of the United Nations, and that presents a unique opportunity to reduce the trust deficit between nations.   He says the world shares the same aspirations and must but work together

“The General Assembly must play its role in bridging the gaps and promoting collective action to address all international issues that deserve attention, with close coordination and collaboration with the Secretary-General, Security Council and ECOSOC.”

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres says the Nigerian Ambassador can bring many relevant and admirable qualifications to the job from his years as the UN representative from Nigeria, and from expertise in political science and public administration.
“As a Nigerian and as an African, you have invaluable insights into the continent’s challenges  such as the Sahel and Lake Chad basin  and more broadly into the challenges our world faces across the three pillars of our work, peace, sustainable development, and human rights.”
Mohammad-Bande’s election to lead the UN General Assembly could help spotlight insecurity in Northern Nigeria where Boko Haram, the Islamic terrorist group, carries out attacks targeting civilians and the military.
In its annual world report, Human Rights Watch says that despite notable military advances, and premature proclamations of Boko Haram’s defeat by government forces, the extremist group remains a threat to security in the northeast region.  Abductions, suicide bombings, and attacks on civilian targets by Boko Haram still plagues the Nigerian government.

 

Their attacks have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives and displaced millions of people.

The Politics of Transitions in Africa

 

At the beginning of 2019, voters from Ten African nations were scheduled to vote in general elections. So far, only Nigeria, Senegal, Comoros, South Africa, and Malawi have held elections — but there has been no transfer of power.

Screen Shot 2019-06-28 at 9.06.11 AMTens of millions of Africans  have gone to the polls in an effort to use the ballot box to deepen the quality of democratic governance and bring about political transitions.  However, only the Democratic Republic of Congo has had a peaceful transfer of power.
On January 24, Felix Tshisekedi was sworn in as DRC president, marking the country’s first-ever peaceful handover of power after multiple bitterly-disputed elections since the country gained independence from Belgium in 1960.
“Tshisekedi Tshilombo Felix Antoine, elected President of the Democratic Republic of Congo, I do solemnly swear before God and the nation to observe and to defend the constitution and the laws of the republic.”


Perhaps the symbolism of one leader handing over the presidency to another, as Joseph Kabila wrapped the presidential sash around his successor, was in sharp contrast to what we have often seen on the continent.
Omar al-Bashir was ousted as president by the military in April. He ruled Sudan with an iron fist for 30 years before he was overthrown following mass protests that have rocked the country since December.  Al-Bashir was one of Africa’s longest serving presidents. The military generals announced that it would set up a transitional military council to run the country for up to two years — but pro-democracy demonstrators are firmly rejecting that plan.
Earlier this month, Sudan’s ex-president Omar al-Bashir appeared before a prosecutor in Khartoum, where he was charged with corruption-related offenses.
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.
It’s worth mentioning that two of the best-known opposition figures were banned from running in February due to corruption convictions that rights groups say were politically motivated.

Also in West Africa, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari took the oath of office in May for a second four-year term to the cheers of many Nigerians who looked forward to a brighter future at the Eagle Square in the heart of Abuja.
Buhari, 76, won with 15.2 million votes. His nearest rival, Atiku Abubakar, trailed by nearly four million votes. The opposition claims that vote-rigging and corruption marred this election.  In 2015, Buhari was Nigeria’s first democratically-elected opposition candidate to be handed power from an incumbent president in the nation’s history.
South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa was sworn in as president is vowing to create jobs and tackle deep-rooted corruption.  Ramaphosa, becomes the country’s fourth democratically-elected president since the end of apartheid era in 1994.
Malawian President Peter Mutharika was sworn in last month for a second term after a contentious election marred by allegations of fraud and vote-rigging. Malawi’s opposition rejected the election results; and are calling for countrywide demonstrations over the disputed result.  Police have used teargas to disperse protesters gathered in the capital Lilongwe, and in the commercial center Blantyre.

AFRICA FARMERS TURNING TO THE USE OF DRONE TECHNOLOGY

By Paul Ndiho

An Ivorian Agriculture-technology company is introducing locally assembled drones to help farmers boost crop production.  It’s part of an initiative across Africa to increase crop yields through the data-driven technology. Screen Shot 2019-06-20 at 3.31.29 PM
A World Bank study says agriculture is an essential driver of Ivory Coast’s economy, accounting for 22 percent of its Gross Domestic Product and more than 75 percent of its exports.

Palm tree farmer Emmanuel Adou looks on as engineers prep a drone at his farm in Sikensi, 80 kilometers Northwest of Ivory Coast’s commercial capital Abidjan.
Adou is among a growing number of farmers now using drone technology to help boost crop production.

For Adou, the days of back-breaking work at his plantation ended after he sought help from Investiv Group, an Ivorian company that specializes in precision agriculture.

“In the past, we would to physically irrigate the farm, but today, with this technology, we can irrigate the crops from above with the use of drones, as well as spraying fertilizers from above, that’s why I was very interested in this new technology, I wanted this company (Investiv Group) to work with us and help our workers,”

Precision agriculture incorporates technology like drones, sensors and GPS devices that allow farmers and researchers to monitor and optimize their crop growth – and assist in conserving resources such as soil and water.


Investiv Group uses drones to capture aerial imagery of crops and other physical features of farms.  The data is then analyzed to identify the types of plants, the potential yield, and health, as well as whether pests or the weather have damaged the crops.

Investiv Group CEO, Aboubacar Karim, says farmers must embrace technology and innovation.

“When we talk about precision agriculture, it’s really about being able to identify and pinpoint the exact areas of the farm that may have issues. For example, based on data received from the drone, we can assess the health of the crops, or areas that need a boost in growth, and we compare and contrast to find out if there are issues around water irrigation or issues around crop fertility and so on,”

Cote d’Ivoire Drone is another company facilitating access to drones technology in the West African nation. Moroccan-born entrepreneur Maruna Jebbar, says Africa  is ripe for innovation in the aerospace industry, although the technical skills gap remains a challenge.

“It was challenging for us at the beginning, but it has become easier over time. We can now assemble up to four drones a day, and if we have all the pieces here, we can put out four drones a day,”

Meanwhile, in landlocked Malawi, which suffers from periodic crop failures and is prone to flooding  and is frequently in need of food and other aid.  Limited road access makes it difficult to get needed help to its rural communities.

“We are understaffed that one extension worker is covering 3,000 farmers instead of 700 farmers. So, if we can have access to these modern technologies, definitely we can ease our work and we can be producing reports in relation to what is actually happening on the ground.”

Malawi’s government and various United Nations agencies are using the country’s drone testing corridor to analyze drone assessments of crop health in the region.
The data is cross-checked against a ground survey and then shared with farmers.

 

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