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.

GHANAIAN DESIGNER – MAKING CLOTHES FOR PLUS – SIZE WOMEN

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.

GHANAIAN TECH FIRM MPIDEGREE FIGHTS COUNTERFEIT PRODUCTS

 

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. 

GHANAIAN TECH ENTREPRENEUR TEACHING WOMEN TO CODE

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.

SELLING PRODUCTS ON INSTAGRAM

 

 

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.

HISTORICALLY BLACK COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES (HBCUs) OPENING SATELLITE CAMPUSES IN AFRICA

 

By Paul Ndiho

Historically black U.S. colleges and universities – also known as HBCU’s, play a critical role in higher learning for African-Americans, Africans, and students of all races.  As HBCUs seek to expand, they are looking to build satellite compasses in Africa.

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Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the United States are a source of great pride for African Americans. The principal mission of an HBCU is the education of black Americans.

HBCU’s produced many of the American civil-rights era leaders.  Most notably, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who graduated from Morehouse College, Dr. W.E.B. DuBois graduated from Fisk University, Reverend Jesse Jackson from North Carolina A&T, former U.S. Ambassador to the UN and Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, graduated from Howard University — and Congressman John Lewis graduated from Fisk University.

However, 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.  Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, who became Nigeria’s first president in 1963, graduated from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.

Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Prime Minister of Ghana, the first black African country to gain independence, also graduated from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania. Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, Malawi’s first president, graduated from Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee.

Now, a diaspora initiative, dubbed HBCU Africa homecoming is in the process of creating satellite campuses of HBCU colleges in Africa.  Kwabena Boateng leads the effort.

Morgan State University, a public historically black research university in Baltimore, Maryland, is leading the way and will initiate degree programs in Ghana this year.  Dr. David Wilson, President of Morgan State has played a crucial role in the launch of Ghana’s first satellite compass with All Nations University.

The African University College of Communications has signed a partnership agreement with Morgan State University.  The agreement enables the two universities to exchange faculty and students and provide study opportunities abroad for both schools and to encourage joint research and publications.

The Partnership also allows the AUCC to run Morgan State University’s Bachelor’s and Master’s programs in Global Journalism & Communication as well as Entrepreneurship.  Kojo Yankah is the founder and Chairman of AUCC.

Analysts say that the time of the inaugural HBCU Africa Homecoming Summit could have come at a better time.  Ghana dubbed 2019 the “year of return,” as the country welcomed over one-million Africans in the diaspora to visit the nation and discover their African roots nearly Ghana 400 years after the first enslaved Africans arrived in English America in 1619.   Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo launched the year of return campaign in Washington, DC in September of 2018.  So far, high profile visitors, including several African American celebrities, members of the U.S. Congress, and other notable personalities, have visited the country.

REFLECTIONS OF PAN AFRICANISM

By Paul Ndiho

Pan Africanists believe that solidarity among people of African descent will enable the continent to fulfill its potential to independently provide for all of its people.  Historically, the Pan-African movement often takes shape in the form of a political or cultural movement.

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The “scramble for Africa” conference chaired by German chancellor Bismarck in 1884 ended with almost all of the continent being divided between a small group of Europeans countries – known as the partition of Africa in Berlin in 1884. Only Liberia and Ethiopia were not colonized.  As a consequence of colonialism and imperialism, the majority of African nations lost their sovereignty and control of their natural resources.

The Pan-African movement was born as a result of colonialism – initiated by blacks whose ancestors came from Africa.  There are many well-known pan Africanists such as DR. W.E.B Dubois, Marcus Garvey, George Padmore, and henry Sylvester-Williams and Paul Robinson.  Other notable Pan African legends are DR. Kwame Nkrumah, DR. Nnamdi Azikiwe, Jomo Kenyatta, DR. Kamuzu band and Leopold Sedar Senghor.

This generation of leaders were more outspoken about fighting for the rights of Africans. While some became Pan-Africanists merely out of curiosity and sentiments of black pride.  The majority of the leaders fought for the independence of new African nations.

W. E. B. Dubois, an African American civil rights leader, founded the us-based national association for the advancement of colored people.  He moved to Accra in 1961 and lived there until his death in august of 1963.

Today, he is still considered a symbol of pan-Africanism. Morandon Henry was part of a delegation that visited the home of W.E.B Dubois’s final resting place.
Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, prime minister of Ghana, the first black African country to re-gain independence, graduated from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.

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 also at Lincoln University in Pennsylvania.
Dr. Hastings Kamuzu Banda, Malawi’s first president, graduated from Meharry medical college in Nashville, Tennessee.
Jomo Kenyatta was a Kenyan anti-colonial activist and politician who fought against British rule.

The pan-African movement also played a significant role in 1960, when 17 sub-Saharan countries became independent from their European colonizers, 14 of them from France.

Pan Africanism was highlighted in 2019, as Ghana dubbed 2019 the “year of return”, as the country is welcomed over one-million Africans in the diaspora to visit the nation and discover their African roots.
The year of return campaign was launched by Ghanaian president Nana Akufo-Addo in Washington, dc, in September of 2018. So far, high profile visitors, including several African American celebrities, members of the U.S. Congress, and other notable personalities have visited Ghana.

 

 

RUSSIA – AFRICA RELATIONS – OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES

 

By Paul Ndiho

The “Compact with Africa” conference, which promotes private investment by G20 countries in Africa, is underway in Germany.  The event is being held nearly a week after marking the 30th anniversary of the Berlin Wall collapsed and the end of the Cold War.

Screen Shot 2019-11-21 at 7.50.32 AM German Chancellor Angela Merkel hosted the leaders of 12 African countries in Berlin Tuesday for discussions on boosting business investment in Africa.

Merkel announced that incentives would be created for German companies that decided to invest more in Africa.

“We believe — and I am deeply convinced about this — that more transparency can encourage more investment in these countries because for investors from G20 countries such as German medium-sized companies, it is very, very important that there is trust and that there is transparency, so that it’s clear where one is investing and under what conditions.”

Germany already has “reform partnerships” with a number of African nations including, Ghana, Tunisia and Ivory Coast, Senegal, and Ethiopia. Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo talks about African products being sold on the international market.

“On the minimum price on the global market for the sale of cocoa beans from ivory coast and Ghana. The facts that are being put out about the farmers who produce the raw material, who earn a tiny bit of the value chain of the raw material. So we now make the conscious decision that we’re moving away from the situation whereby we’re just exporters and producers of raw material, to ramping up the value chain in our own countries.”

Germany put Africa and inclusive growth high on the G20 agenda when it held the rotating presidency in 2017.  The European nation addressed the root causes of mass migration from underdeveloped to developed countries.  Rwandan President Paul Kagame says Africa has a fertile business environment.

“We are showcasing how Africa is ripe for business, for investment and how far we can go. For example, the partnership we have had, Rwanda has had, with Volkswagen, Siemens now coming in, and SAP demonstrates the competitiveness of the economies of our continent, of our different countries. “

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently led a series of commemorations to mark the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which divided the city during the Cold War. The wall was built by Communist East Germany to prevent its citizens from fleeing to more freedom in the West.

 On November 9, 1989, East German border guards, overwhelmed by large crowds, threw open the gates to West Berlin, allowing free passage for the first time since the Berlin Wall was built.   For many Africans the fall of the Berlin Wall ushered in new hopes of freedom. In South Africa, the long and hard anti-apartheid struggle had been gaining momentum nationally and globally — and in 1994, the country became the last African nation to be freed from white rule.

 In December 2018, U.S president Donald Trump unveiled a new U.S. strategy for Africa, to combat what was characterized as the “predatory” practices of China and Russia and their growing influence on the continent.

 Last month, the first Russia-Africa summit was held at the Black Sea resort of Sochi. It opened a new chapter in relations between Moscow and Africa.  Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted the African leaders at the conference aimed at boosting economic ties with Africa.

 Across Africa and around the world, the day the Berlin wall finally collapsed is still vividly remembered as one of hope happiness and freedom.

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