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Safaricom’s Sylvia Mulinge Appointed Vodacom Tanzania Managing Director

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Ms. Sylvia Mulinge has been appointed as the new Managing Director of Vodacom Tanzania PLC. She joins the Company from Safaricom in Kenya where she currently serves as the Director for Consumer Business having joined the company in 2006.

Mulinge will succeed Ian Ferrao before August 31, 2018. Ms. Mulinge starts her new role as Vodacom Tanzania Managing Director on June 1st 2018.

Ferrao’s 3-year tenure at Vodacom comes to an end this June since joining the Company in 2015. Under his wings. Ferrao will be remembered among others for Vodacom Tanzania;s IPO which saw the telco list 25% of its stake equivalent to TZS 476,000,085,000 on the Dar es Salaam Stock Exchange with over 40,000 local retail shareholders.

Prior to joining Vodacom Tanzania, Ferrao was the Managing Director of Vodacom Lesotho. Vodacom Tanzania has over 12 million subscribers.

According to Vodacom’s Board Chairman Mr. Ali Mufuruki, “Ian has been a tremendous asset to Vodacom Tanzania. We are grateful for his strong leadership over the 3 years which was grounded by a resilient and sustainable 3-year turnaround strategy and a vision which transformed how Vodacom does business today. He leaves behind a strong leadership team which is committed to the Company’s success.”

Though not without blemish, Mulinge has been instrumental in growing Safaricom’s consumer business to its over 29.5 million subscribers and to its annual revenues in excess of KES 200 Billion. As a director of consumer business at Safaricom, Mulinge was in charge of several consumer initiatives such asG and 3G coverage and providing 2G coverage to 95% of Kenyans. Safaricom has harnessed its proprietary fibre infrastructure to build a dedicated enterprise business, which provides managed I.T. services to clients in the East African region.

Safaricom pioneered commercial mobile money transfer globally through M-PESA, the most successful service of its kind anywhere in the world.  Launched in March 2007, M-PESA now has over 27.8 million customers and over 148,000 M-PESA Agent outlets countrywide.

Piehole.TV launches to help firm’s use video to build emotional connections

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 Priscilla Kennedy, founder of Piehole.tv, a video production company, says that now is the time to experiment and embrace video within a business environment.

A native African strategist and creative director, Kennedy says they started Piehole.tv and then made a strategic decision to locate it in the Karoo, South Africa: “We decided to open our creative office in South Africa to expand the business. Our location, diverse talent, cost structure and approach makes us one of the burgeoning video-makers globally.”

She says that Piehole.tv is like no other video production company, not only is their location and heritage unique as a creative agency, video is its lifeblood and they work in animation, live action and everything in-between.

Going ‘viral’ is video nirvana. Everyone is looking to stand out, be noticed, seen and heard. “Video content has tripled over the past three years. In a rapidly growing digital environment, video has the potential to cut through the noise and initiate conversations. 2018 is the time take your audience on a viral test run. But be aware that although true virability can be hard to achieve for a business, you can still aim to go viral within your audience even if not across the whole internet.”

She says that your content should tap into the audiences’ hopes, fears and even their sense of fun to successfully deliver the message: “A video that gets shared and seen a lot within your target audience is worth gold,” says Kennedy. “What we’ve noticed are really engaging videos that get shared through a target company. They can spread like a proverbial ‘wild fire’ across the organisation and even through its extended network of customers and service providers, using internal chat apps and email, and suddenly your organisation is widely supported.”  Kennedy say this approach ties into a popular trend of Account-based Marketing.

In today’s potentially skeptical world where consumers no longer impartially trust brands, and decision-makers are over-marketed to, video enables organisations to build emotional connections. Piehole.tv creates videos that get you noticed. We work in animation, live action and everything in-between.

Several research projects report that video has a 135% greater reach than a static image. And, according to Unruly, videos increase purchase intent by 97% and brand association by 139%. Piehole.tv is therefore on the right path.

Beta-Art highlighting the growth of Kenyan artists

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BETA Art Kenya is an online portal consisting of a media and e-commerce platform. It aims to highlight the growth of Kenyan contemporary art and artists globally, as well as sell Kenyan art online globally, market artists and document the Kenyan art scene. BETA-Art founder Gloria Barasa spoke to Techmoran about her company and their vision for African artists.

Founder Beta-Art Gloria Barasa

Briefly tell us about yourselves, your educational background, team and how you came together to form Beta-Art.
My name is Gloria Barasa, the founder of Beta-Art Kenya. I hold an MSc in Strategic Management from Linköping University in Sweden, and Bsc in International Business Administration (Finance minor) from USIU Africa. The team consists of people I had worked together with in the corporate setting as well as individuals I had encountered in the art scene while researching on building the platform.

How would you describe your company; how does it work?
The company is a media and ecommerce company that focuses on visual arts. We document the art space and also provide additional avenues for art work to reach the global consumer.

What market gap did you spot that motivated you to start the company?
I had friends/relatives based abroad who were interested in Kenyan art but had limited avenues to view and access the same or learn about what is taking place in the local art scene.
I eventually came to learn that though the Kenyan art scene is vibrant, there lacked consistent online coverage of the quality art work being produced and accessibility to the art work also proved to be challenging if one wasn’t based in Kenya.

How has uptake been like since you launched?
I have received a positive response regarding the need and value of a platform such as this. Several already exist in the West but my focus is covering the Eastern African art space and ultimately support the growth of the local and global audiences interested in visual art from this region.

Who is your major competition? What do you do different to distinguish yourself from them?
Companies with a strong online presence in the art space are primarily based abroad, which of course serves to be advantageous for them as they have access to funding to support their growth. However, our focus solely on art from this region distinguishes us from major players that exist.

What are some of the biggest challenges you faced since the inception of the company?
One particular challenge with several Kenyan ecommerce companies arises in building a solid logistics system.
Also getting hold of like minded individuals to support this particular project has its unique challenges due to the lack of focus on arts at large. But I believe this is slowly changing.

What advice would you wish to share with aspiring African entrepreneurs?
Execution is everything. Ideas are great, but execution is even better. Also look for coaches and mentors who will provide support you through your entrepreneurial journ

WaystoCap providing a marketplace to connect African businesses

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The WaystoCap team

WaystoCap is a B2B marketplace where businesses in Africa can buy and sell products. It helps you find reliable Buyers and Suppliers, Importers and Exporters, secure trades, Manage and Compare Quotes, provide Protection and Insurance. Food and Beverage, Construction and Energy, Packaging and Office, Textiles and Clothes, Maintenance and electronics.

The WaystoCap team

Briefly tell us about yourselves, your educational background, team and how you came together to form WaysToCap.
CEO Niama El Bassunie CFA advised Africa governments on infrastructure projects and economic plans in Togo, South Africa, and Guinea. She was part of a task force involved in the economic vision for Togo, led by Sir Paul Judge. Her work in Guinea involved the clear up of the Port of Conakry, and working directly with the government on other infrastructure projects. She previously worked at PwC as a consultant in the Markets and Valuations team, focused on energy projects.
COO Mehdi Daoui worked for over 10 years in corporate and FX trading. He started his career at Societe Generale as a forex trader. Afterwards he moved to BCP, where he worked with their largest clients for the corporate and FX trading needs, particularly acting in African markets.
CTO Aziz Jaouhari Tissafi is a computer programmer by training, and subsequently worked for Rocket Internet’s Jumia, where he transitioned from a software engineering role into leading the entire content management and delivery team.
CSO Anis Abdeddine, led the African trading team at BCP for several years, working at the highest levels of corporate Africa in many of the largest West African markets.

How would you describe your company; how does it work?
We are building Africa’s future trading platform. We connect buyers and suppliers on one unified platform. It allows members to transact easily in a trusted environment.

What market gap did you spot that motivated you to start the company?
Niama’s work in Guinea involved the clear up of the Port of Conakry, and working directly with the government on other infrastructure projects. She previously worked at PwC as a consultant in the Markets and Valuations team, focused on energy projects. This encouraged the team to explore more opportunities in the area.

How has uptake been like since you launched?
Very good, many SMBs in Africa now work with us.

Who is your major competition? What do you do different to distinguish yourself from them?
Competition is focused on listings, we are a deals focused platform.

What are some of the biggest challenges you faced since the inception of the company?
Like all startups we have faced many challenges. But with an amazing team, and a vision we will prevail.

What advice would you wish to share with aspiring African entrepreneurs?
Work hard and get after it! Everything is possible.

Africa Sokoni bracing to disrupt the e-commerce landscape in Africa

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Africa Sokoni is a Kenyan based online marketplace that brings African customers and retailers together online in a hassle-free shopping experience. Africa Sokoni co-founder Fred Kirui spoke to Techmoran about how they are working towards this goal.

Briefly tell us about yourself, your educational background etc
My name is Fredrick Kirui,I am the Co-Founder & Director – Strategy at Africa Sokoni. I am a graduate holder of a Bsc Ecotourism Hotel and Institution from Maseno University and is currently pursuing a MBA for Executives from Strathmore Business School.

How would you describe your company, tell us about your team
We have a young and a robust team of professionals. 85% of the staff are female, I think we take the advise from Jack Ma very seriously, in regards to hiring women in for a successful organisation. The team was carefully selected based on their individual competencies and strengths. We realised that we need professionals who don’t see working for AfricaSokoni as an employment rather as an opportunity to enhance their skills.

What market gap did you spot that motivated you to start the company?
We launched AfricaSokoni driven primarily by the improved and increasing internet penetration in Kenya and Africa as a whole. We are also inspired by the numerous research data that depicts the untapped market opportunity for e-commerce in Kenya and Africa. We are also tapping into the need to offer reliability, convenience and affordability of items to the increasing middle class in Kenya. We are anchoring our vision of “Redefining Shopping in Africa” through leveraging the power of the internet, and through the introduction of relevant and scalable technologies.

How has uptake been like since you launched?
So far so good. I would be lying to you if I told we are making massive profits. We are however encouraged by the reception we have received in the market being only here in less than 2 months. We are positive that we are heading in the right direction. We are cognisant with the fact that we have a long way to go. We still have so much ground to cover. We are ready and thrilled by this opportunity to serve Kenyans and Africans in general.

Who is your major competition? What do you do to distinguish yourself from them?
For us, competition ranges from a brick and mortar retailer to anyone who is offering a similar e-commerce service either locally or internationaly.
We are trying to cut a niche for ourselves through availing products on AfricaSokoni that truly reflect the strong African spirit from clothing to handbags. We also provide 12 hour delivery within Nairobi and 24 hours outside Nairobi.

What are some of the biggest challenges you faced since the inception of the company?
Our biggest challenge has and will always be converting the millions of Kenyans who still think that it’s unsafe to buy stuff online.
The other challenge is getting the best prices for the stuff that we sell on our platform to ensure we give our customers the best value for money.
A future challenge for us, with global expansion being a main goal of ours we face what most companies face when dealing with global expansion growth. Advertising, culture, language, local market trends and product market acceptance. Gaining comprehensive insight into all these aspects is vital in expanding across territories, regions, and countries.”

What do you think the future of e-commerce is in Africa?
There is an enormous future in Africa for Ecommerce. According to a McKinsey’s Lions go digital report, online shopping could account for up to 10% of retails sales (with a value of around US $75 billion) by 2025, as more Africans gain access to the internet. For us, we want to dip our finger in this pie hence our focus on expanding to other countries in Africa.

What is your advice to aspiring African entrepreneurs?
My advise to aspiring Africa entrepreneurs is that, we need more of you in the market. Africa will greatly develop if we have more entrepreneurs especially in the technology industry. Entrepreneurship is not for the faint hearted. It requires, persistence and resilience. You have to surround yourself with people who not only inspire you but also people who can hold you accountable for all that you are doing. Finally, believe in yourself. We are capable of doing the extraordinary if only we believed in our abilities.

African Women Entrepreneurship Cooperative Finalizes its First Group of 200 Participants from 38 African Countries

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 The Center for Global Enterprise (CGE), a nonprofit, nonpartisan research institute, today announced that its new program, the African Women Entrepreneurship Cooperative (AWEC), has selected its inaugural cohort of 200 outstanding women entrepreneurs from 2,300 applications received from 41 African countries and the diaspora.

AWEC is a one-of-a-kind, 12-month training program that builds a pan-African community of women entrepreneurs and business owners and empowers them with the strategy, leadership and business management skills needed for growth and economic advancement.

While the demand for this type of business training, which blends online learning, real time video instruction, mentorship and peer collaboration, is clear, the number of places in the program is limited, resulting in a 9 percent acceptance rate.

AWEC Cohort 1 has the following defining characteristics:

  • Representation from 38 African countries
  • 86% are current business owners; 14% are aspiring entrepreneurs
  • A wide range of experience, from less than 1 year to more than 10 years in business
  • Representation from a wide range of industries, with a majority in agriculture, education, healthcare, cosmetics, and fashion

“One of the key missions of the African Women Entrepreneurship Cooperative is to provide more equal access to business management learning, skill development, and mentorship to those who otherwise might not have this opportunity,” said Karen Sippel, managing director of AWEC. “The women in this cohort range from agricultural innovators to social entrepreneurs to medical doctors, but the common threads are their passion to impact their communities and their need for business and management skills to advance their enterprises.”

Live online lessons are taught by an elite team of academics and business experts from around the world, including leaders from Babson College, Columbia Business School, CRE Venture Capital, Goldman Sachs, Lagos Business School, Ogilvy & Mather, and Rasello.

DEMO Africa 2018 to be held in Morocco

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DEMO Africa 2018 will be held in Morocco and will see the top 30 start-ups launch their products in front of investors, technology buyers, mentors and the media according to our sources at DEMO Africa Secretariat.

Founded in 2012, DEMO Africa allows selected startups to pitch to a diverse set of people from around the globe from the PE industry, venture capitalists, angel investors, technology buyers, corporate acquirers, strategic partners, global press and prolific bloggers. DEMO Africa is part of the global DEMO network which has over 25 years unmatched track record of selecting, coaching, promoting and helping commercialize top startups in the world.

DEMO Africa sets itself apart on its track record of success, coaching and mentorship opportunities, turnkey services and exposure to the entire tech ecosystem of VCs, investors, IT buyers and the global tech press making it the premier launch option with more than $150k worth of software and tools for each selected startup.

Morocco will host the 2018 and 2019 DEMO Africa pitches while South Africa held the 2016 and 2017. Nigeria hosted the 2015 and 2016 while Kenya has hosted several DEMO Africa events including DEMO Africa 2014, 2013 and in 2012 when it was founded.

DEMO Africa has launched 185 startups in the last 5 years raising over US$54m in investments and billings. Over 50 DEMO alumni launch companies have been acquired by tech giants including Adobe, Cisco, Google, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia, Symantec, Viacom and Yahoo!

SAP appoints CISCO’s Cathy Smith to lead Africa

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Cisco spokespeople photo shoot in May 2015 for Waggener Edstrom by Jeremy Glyn Photography

SAP Africa today announced the appointment of Cathy Smith as Managing Director. Cathy brings more than 25 years of leadership and technology experience to the role and is the first female leader of SAP Africa.

Steve Tzikakis, Regional President for EMEA South at SAP, says Cathy is an experienced and inspirational leader who joins the business at an exciting time in the continent’s history. “Africa is on the cusp of exponential growth and development enabled by digital technologies. As one of the foremost experts in driving digital transformation on the continent, Cathy is imminently suited to leading our Africa operations. We have great confidence in her ability to realise our innovation vision across our customer base.”

Cathy joins SAP from Cisco, where she was Managing Director for Sub-Saharan Africa, leading the development and execution of the
company’s go-to-market sales and digital transformation strategies for the region. Prior to that, she spent 23 years at IBM in a variety of leadership roles. As a fellow of the African Leadership Initiative, Cathy is also committed to developing the next generation of value-based African leaders, capable of guiding and leading their countries, as they balance the demands of globalisation with local visions of a sustainable society.

Supported by Steve and the newly bolstered SAP South Africa Board*, Cathy assumes the responsibilities of her new role today.

“Augmenting a culture of leadership, high performance and accountability, both internally and externally, is the core of Cathy’s mandate. This appointment also reaffirms SAP’s commitment to empowering women in leadership and is in line with the company’s dedication to furthering South Africa’s employment equity and transformation agenda,” adds Steve.

Cathy takes over from Claas Kuehnemann, who took on the role of acting Managing Director for SAP Africa over the past eight months and who now assumes a new leadership position with SAP in Switzerland. Claas will remain closely allied with SAP Africa as he will continue to be a non-executive director on the SAP South Africa Board*.

M-Shule making personalized lessons accessible to African pupils

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M-Shule is a Nairobi-based mobile learning management platform designed to improve performance for millions of primary school students across Kenya and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Foundedin 2016 by Claire Mangeau, the technology powers a service that creates and delivers personalized learning experiences for each child and empower schools with insights all through SMS and web. The Nairobi based company is, envisioning a world where every learning community works together to help students succeed.

TechMoran met up with Claire at M-Shule offices, as she told us more about the company’s goals and progress so far.

Tell me about yourself, your educational background etc
My name is Claire Mangeau, am the CEO and founder of M-shule. I’m from a smaller city called Rochester, in Upstate New York. I studied Psychology and French at Georgetown University, in Washington, which is the point where I realized that I really had this desire and tried to find which way I was going to channel it. I did a lot of internships, and studied the government and non-profit sides. When I graduated university I went to India to work with some affordable private schools, when I eventually realized that there are people who were using business strategies for good. Especially looking at these schools and how they were tackling problems, bringing in different resources, by monitoring the impact and business perspective, then I realized, now this is what I want to do.
A lot of people ask me how I got myself started on this journey actually. My mum works with special education students in primary school, and along with my brother and I being her little “guniea pigs” for her to test various different teaching techniques, sparked my desire to work with children to ensure, every child could unlock their potential.

How did you decide on Kenya in particular.
As I said in India I was working with a couple of low cost private schools, with gray matters capital, and consulting with these schools, to put together different types of programs, and I became really excited by this idea of business for accessible education and using various tools to support people in their communities. I went back to the US and after a few years got a job with Bridge International Academies (Now Bridge Schools), and at that point, I was uncertain as to what I would be doing, since this is a big chain of schools that are distributed in very many communities, which I think are exciting, so I just closed my eyes and came to Kenya to see what it’s all about, and i have been here ever since.

Tell us what M-shule is about, your team and your journey to where you are now.
Our goal at M-shule is to become the 21st Century learning platform for primary schools in Sub-Saharan Africa, which I admit is a very lofty goal, but the way we are working to reach that goal is through personalized learning and support to primary school students, and to their learning communities, using accessible technology.
So we built a platform where students can interact with an individualized tutor, using AI on the back end to automatically create different lesson plans for them based on their specific needs, then we take that data and share it with their parents and their schools. A child is most likely to be successful if they have the support of their parents and schools in collaboration.

What market gap did you spot that motivated you to start M-Shule?
Working with schools in India, with Bridge and from my own research, I have seen that there is a huge gap between the quality and variety of tools that parents and schools can access for their students, and the amount of money they can use in that way. Parents in Kenya spend so much money on education, which is a good thing because it indicates they care about their children’s futures. Parents are going into debt looking for school fees, and trying to find extra material like tutors and text books, however there are not that many options for them to standardize the learning for a particular student. In as much as there are tutors, there is not much in the way of technology, like what we see in other markets where AI is used to boost and accelerate students achievement, by tailoring learning according to their needs other than what the curriculum tells them they should be learning. So we decided to design our platform such that eve those without smart phones and internet can access the same content easily.

Is it complementary to school or can it be used exclusively?
We believe that you can never replace a teacher. Learning happens during all these interactions between a student and themselves, with other students and their teacher. Our goal is not to replace human interaction since that is critical to learning, but rather to supplement and complement what the students get from the teachers. This gives the students an enriching space for them to learn how to learn on their own and give the teachers and parents the ability to work together. It’s meant to be a complementary system

Does M-shule generate the content?
Yes we do, we have a team of 3 in house teachers who are stellar in working on curricula. They spend a lot of their time in the library, cross checking across different text books, to ensure everything we have is well aligned. They are also keeping tabs with all of the changes in curricula as guided by the ministry of education.

How does M-shule make money? Do students pay?
We are operating on a subscription model, where parents or schools can sign up and get a week’s, month’s or term’s worth of lessons. The pricing varies, depending on whether its a parent who wants to try it individually, but we also partner with schools, who sign up large groups of students at once, and of course once they do that, they get better recommendations as there is more data to analyze. Across the board it is very affordable to everyone.

How many students and schools have you reached so far?
We actually running our pilot and are working with a group of 15 schools and about 400 students. The students are mainly from class 4 – 8 at the moment, mainly focusing on Math and English. We have got really good feedback and this year we hope to reach more than 50 schools.

Do you have any competition, and what do you do to stand out from themselves
Yes, of course we do. It’s really exciting. There are various SMS learning companies that came before us, and paved the way for people realizing that text messaging is an interface that works for learning, and have basically opened doors for a solution like ours to come in. There are adaptive learning platforms in existence as well. However we are using this accessible high powered interface to enhance personalized learning, that’s what makes us different, no one is doing quite what we are doing so far. We are looking at the learning community as a whole, not just students in class alone, but all stakeholders like their parents, teachers, school directors. We think that it is critical to provide a solution that works for everyone.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced since the inception of the company?
We are doing something that has not been done before, which is very tough. You can’t just start a platform with SMS, with all its accessibility advantages and expect that everyone will pile on, but we want to ensure that we are building relationships with our students, parents and school partners. Finding and communicating with them is the biggest challenge, most of them are not online. Our biggest challenge is finding the right balance to strike.
Secondly, the goal in going in at the community level means that your business strategy takes much more time.

Closing the Gender Gap in Women’s Access to Financial Services Could Unlock $330B in Annual Global Revenue

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iMAGE CREDIT:scieng-women-ontario.ca

A new report from BNY Mellon and the UN Foundation reveals that increasing women’s access to financial products and services could expand the market for financial service providers and promote gender equality.

Closing the gender gap in women’s access to financial products and services could unlock $330 billion in global annual revenue, according to a new report released today from BNY Mellon and the United Nations Foundation. Increased market opportunities for financial services firms, along with greater financial inclusion and empowerment for women, are additional key outputs from narrowing this gap.

The report, Powering Potential: Increasing Women’s Access to Financial Products and Services, proposes actions to achieve major gains for both gender equality and market returns. By focusing on the financial sector, this report builds upon the approach used in the publication released last year, “Return on Equality,” to scale up the private, public and social sectors’ involvement in advancing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 5: “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.”

“By clearing the way for women to become fully engaged as financial actors, we have the opportunity to improve the lives of women and dramatically expand the market for financial products and services,” said Heidi DuBois, Global Head of Philanthropy and Corporate Social Responsibility at BNY Mellon. “Our hope is that financial services providers will design and market more products and services that fuel women’s economic participation, giving investors more options to invest with a gender-lens.”

Expanding women’s access to financial services and products would be a boost to financial service firms and the global economy. Conservative estimates in the retail banking, investment and insurance sectors show that closing the financial gender gap could:

  • Unlock $40 billion in annual global revenue in retail banking product access;
  • Unlock $290 billion in annual global revenue in life insurance access; and
  • Enable financial services firms to grow their share of $100 billion to $120 billion in annual revenue that women currently contribute to the retail investment market.

According to the report, when women control financial assets, they are often more likely than men to invest in the health, education and well-being of their families, suggesting significant benefits of financial inclusion to society as a whole and future generations.

“Economically empowering women provides an undeniable return on investment: markets grow, women thrive and families and communities are stronger. Closing the gender gap in access to financial products and services is an opportunity and obligation we can’t ignore any longer. If we want a better future, it starts with gender equality,” said Kathy Calvin, President and Chief Executive Officer of the United Nations Foundation.

Women influence or control roughly 25 to 30 percent of global wealth – or more than $20 trillion in assets. However, women still only have 77 percent of the access to fundamental financial services that men do, such as checking and savings; payments; credit, loans and capital; insurance; and investment.

The report reveals that women access and use financial products and services at lower rates than men for three primary reasons: There are fewer products on the market that meet women’s needs; the products that do exist tend not to be effectively marketed or delivered to women; and societal and structural barriers often impede women’s ability to be financial actors.

Actors from across the private, public and social sectors can take actions to overcome barriers to women’s financial equality, including:

Private Sector – Innovate approaches to reach more women customers and steer capital to companies whose products and services promote women’s financial inclusion and empowerment.

Public Sector – Eliminate legal restrictions and private sector discrimination in access to and use of financial products and services, such as housing loans that prevent women’s full engagement as financial actors.

Social Sector – Orchestrate partnerships across sectors toward common goals for women’s financial inclusion; identify and evaluate service firms, products and policies most effective in advancing gender equality.

In addition, the report shows that digital innovations present transformative opportunities for equality, enabling previously excluded populations of women to access financial services.

Achieving the unrealized full social and economic gains of women’s financial access will require long-term commitments from financial institutions, investors, NGOs and governments.

As women around the world continue to exercise their full potential as independent and empowered financial agents, society overall will increasingly see improvements in health and educational outcomes, expansions in entrepreneurship and greater overall financial security – all key ingredients to global economic growth and sustainable development.

Gjenge Makers is providing alternative building materials and products made from recycled plastics

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Gjenge Makers is social enterprise that aims to address the prevalent crisis of improper waste management in the country. The firm has developed an ecosystem for offering redeemable points in exchange for recyclable waste in an effort to improve living standards and foster an eco-friendly lifestyle for a greener and healthier environment.

Using a mobile application, Gjenge links households directly to individuals and businesses to source for inorganic waste like e.g. plastics, broken glass and old newspapers from households and institutions with the aim of recycling hence reducing pollution in Kenya.

 On picking of the waste, we weigh them through our agent network through the application which in turn sums up and credit the household via money centric handsets.

Briefly tell us about yourself, your educational background etc
I am Nzambi Matee, a social entrepreneur working in the space of recycling and construction. I have a Bsc Physics from JKUAT and work in various sectors such as oil and gas data management. Then decided to do the shift to social entrepreneurship where I started Gjenge Makers Ltd. Currently studying Social Entrepreneurship from Watson Institute in USA.

How would you describe your company, tell us about your team
Currently the company has two Directors Margaret Matee and me. We have a team of three one marketer and two product developers and researchers. Soon once we move to the Development stage we will increase our team, for better project execution.

What market gap did you spot that motivated you to start the company?
We are providing alternative building material and products which are strong, beautiful and durable made using recycled plastic as the adhesive. Currently Nairobi generates between 2000-3000 tons daily and approximately a third of this portion doesn’t find its way to the dump site. 15.9% of the waste generated is plastic and due to plastics nature of taking long to decompose it moved me into finding more practical yet useful way of recycling the plastic and that’s how it started.

How has uptake been like since you launched?
The uptake has been awesome we have not started mass production and we already have two large bulk customers who have committed to buying in our bricks. We are currently concluding our Prototype stage and by mid this year we will be launching our Development stage where we will embark on mass production.

Who is your major competition? What do you do to distinguish yourself from them?
Our major competitors are the concrete made bricks. Our competitive advantage is our price point and ability to customize based on customer’s needs.

What are some of the biggest challenges you faced since the inception of the company?
Data collection on the impact of the project and the customer feedback on the product since it was in the prototype phase and so there was little room to fully test and analyze the product properties visa vis the customer feedback.

What do you think the future of green/clean tech is in Africa?
Green technology has a lot of potential and opportunity to positively impact the continent and all we need to do is adopt and embrace it fully. In addition to creating collaboration between the players in the space.

What is your advice to aspiring African entrepreneurs?
Persistence, passion and put in a thought process to the solution development, in order to get credibility.

Wemo Kitawa on how Mama Ventures is empowering women and girls with transferable skills

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Wemo Kitawa started Mama Ventures in 2015 and she was overwhelmed by the entire process. She found herself listening to podcasts and reading on how other founders across the world managed their time. She found herself strained – managing to give herself between 2-3 hours of sleep a day.

At that time, she wasn’t worried because MAMA was her baby and she was willing to sacrifice her time to make her grow. She obviously suffered the ripple effect and found it more and more difficult to focus and her schedule was an absolute mess. It took that fall for her to realize that she was Kitawa and not a Forbes CEO clone. She started to listen to her body and recognize when she was mentally strained.

TechMoran caught up with her ans this is what she told us.

What inspired you to start MAMA Ventures and why girls?

My journey with MAMA stems from many social experiences that I had been part of. What stood out the most for me is that I wanted to find active solutions for women and girls, not by telling but by showing and guiding them towards seeking the right opportunities. I was tired of handouts and for me, it was a matter of designing innovative solutions that empower women and girls with skills, transferable skills at that. Therefore the social enterprise wing at MAMA focuses on women self-help groups and girls from rural Kenya to educate on financial literacy and economic empowerment. Second reason for starting MAMA’s business wing – where we focus on offering management consulting services for small and medium sized businesses – was because I realized that many businesses and ideas were never fully actualized. I ventured out to research through interviews, focused group discussions and speaking to various entrepreneurs within my networks. The outcome of this research then formed the idea to design an entrepreneurship toolkit that focuses on leadership, life and business skills. I would like to see more names and legacies built and I would like to stand at the crossroads to assist founders achieve that.

How do you balance your time?

I give myself 7-8 hours of sleep and also include morning meditation and exercise to my routine. I have also set boundaries to manage and separate personal from work time. By understanding my vision, I incorporate my mentees into the MAMA Ventures goals to actively mentor them before they choose their career path. This has allowed me to delegate simple tasks and focus on evolving the idea and vision that I have.

How does MAMA Ventures work and which segment of the market does it target?

MAMA Ventures has both the business consulting and social enterprise focus points. I have designed a circular model, with the toolkit as the core. We work with schools, small and medium sized businesses and self-help groups and are able to integrate all segments with each other through a needs analysis approach. At the beginning of each quarter, after conducting a market study, we identify the core problem and work with the three segments to educate, equip and solve the problem/challenge with the guide of our toolkit. To summarize the MAMA model, we meet the supply-demand barrier chain through a targeted mapping approach.

What do you think can be done to curb gender marginalization especially in business?

I am glad to mention and point out that one of the most recent statistics show that Africa currently has the highest number of entrepreneurs in the entire world. This shows that as women in Africa, we are demystifying the norm and stepping up to grab opportunities. There is obviously more room to grow and it is for this reason that I would like to encourage more women to maximize these opportunities and make the most out of these networks. I obviously cannot speak about gender without acknowledging the male led businesses. What stands out for me is that the opportunity lies in collaboration and identifying how men and women can support, complement and supplement their business goals. Men and women have different ways of leading and I believe that the gold lies in the grey area where the extremes can merge. Let us get mining!

How different is MAMA Ventures from She Leads Africa Accelerator and other similar ventures locally?

I love the structure that SLA has towards empowering women in business in Africa by providing the right information and resources. At MAMA, aside from educating business on where to access the right resources, we focus on a direct relationship with the businesses and through understanding the challenges that SMBs face, we build structures and innovating solutions for the founders. Every business needs to have an evolution model and we are conservatively working to create solutions for business. At MAMA, we make business personal.

In Africa, people work in jobs they don’t like just to make ends meet. What advice do you have for them to help find their passions?

It is not only in Africa that people work for sustenance while benching their passions. Passion hardly pays the bills and it is always better to have the security of a pay check. With the toolkit, we address this by working with individuals to nurture their passions and transition to build their legacies consciously. My concern is that some successful entrepreneurs tell half truths about the journey and process of setting up and running a business and mislead others looking to venture into their passions. At MAMA, we assist people transition from formal employment to running their businesses by building the right structures.

Most women say the availability and access to credit hinder them from venturing into business. How are you helping reduce that gap?

One of the major ways that we address this challenge is by curating and creating the right resources and partnerships to support women led businesses to access the information and opportunities. I negotiate on behalf of the women to bring these resources to them. It is a double-edged sword in the sense that financial institutions are faced with a huge challenge, the business models that most women present are not investor ready. This is where we come in. We ensure that the women have the right information and are equipped with the skills for success, especially when it comes to funding or raising capital.

Are there personal traits that someone need to have in order to start a thriving business? Is that what you address in the entrepreneur toolkit?

I believe that for one to run a successful business, it is important to understand their leadership style and that of every component or participant in the business. , We equip founders with the resources to understand their way of leading. We also supplement this by equipping their working team with these resources. We have noticed better work quality and productivity when one masters this aspect.

How do you identify viable businesses from those set for failure? Is it in the team or in the idea?

I believe that there is no business destined to fail. The challenge comes in aligning the right structures. Whether you are selling mandazi at a kiosk or cars, at the end of the day you need to have the right team, manage your finances and organize your leadership. We take  our members through innovation workshop to equip them with the right resources and link them to the right networks for the successful execution of their ideas.

How does MAMA ventures address the skills gap as some entrepreneurs are passionate about businesses they have no skills in?

We are currently building relationships and creating strategic partnerships to offer skills and give information to the individuals who are interested in businesses and how to get started. For us at MAMA, we must point out that we are offering the right information and offering value without extorting the entrepreneur. Our meet-ups are built with the focus to share information within the circle of business and create relationships that foster collaborative opportunities.

 

Bright Green’s Chebet Lesan empowering local women to pick up charcoal value chain

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CEO Bright Green Chebet Lesan with the Queen. (Photo: Bright Green Renewable Energy )
Bright Green team. Photo: Bright Green Renewable Energy

You simply can’t finish a conversation about clean energy and environmental conservation without mentioning Bright Green. Meet Chebet Lesan, 28, the brilliant vibrant visionary behind Bright Green Renewable Energy, Kenya. Bright Green is a Kenyan based company that is trying to promote clean fuel through their Moto Brikets, which are cheap eco-friendly charcoal briquettes by recycling urban waste from towns and agricultural waste from farms; playing a key role in providing clean affordable renewable energy for low income households. This helps to curb the massive deforestation caused by charcoal burning and cleaning up our environment.

Techmoran met with Chebet Lesan at the company’s manufacturing site in Karen, Nairobi. The plant sits on a little over half an acre, on it sits a little rustic cabin, that serves as the meeting room for Lesan and her team. Here is what she had to say.

Tell me about yourself, your educational background.
My name is Chebet Lesan, I am the Founder and CEO of Bright Green Renewable Energy, Kenya. I am in charge of product innovation and development and strategic partnerships, managing the execution of tasks and operations in the company. However this is a role I am considering handing over so that I can focus more on founding. My strength is more in creating and designing other than managing day to day activities of an organization. Being a CEO doesn’t allow me to exercise my creative side fully, because instead of focusing on the product it compels me to focus more on management and growing the company financially.
I studied Industrial design at UoN, where I was involved with various people at Fablab maker space there. Which is where I learned a lot about engineering and design, that played a pivotal role in the development of Bright Green.

Tell me about Bright Green, your team
The team consists of 8 people, 6 permanent staff and 2 contractual employees. Our roles are a bit jumbled up as one would expect of a startup, but we mainly consist of marketers, a logistics and research person and a production team. We set up in 2015, which is when we did a lot of product development, and research, we set up the production plant in 2016 before getting to market later the same year. So we have been in business for about 1 year 3 months. We also have volunteers and interns every year, they come to learn the art of making briquettes as well as experience what it is like to work in a startup. In January last year we had two ladies from MIT join us for a few months. We spend most of our time out in the field actually, we only meet for a few hours to consolidate our thoughts.

What market gap did you spot that motivated you to venture into this business?
I traveled to Tanzania in 2014, for a summit that brought together global participants, from all parts of the world. I hadn’t realized the extent to which it was a local innovation based summit when I applied. The group I was placed in was based on a little village at the foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro. At the time there were measures being taken by Tanzanian government to protect the forestland from deforestation and further destruction as is resultant of global warming. Fences were being erected. We got to stay with some local communities. And did everything from eating, to bathing with them. However they faced a massive challenge when it came to cooking. In as much as we brought our own food, everyone had overlooked the need for fuel needed to cook said food. They would gather leaves and twigs and burn them, a cumbersome effort that was never enough either way. That is when the question came up, why can’t we use biomass waste as raw material to create affordable charcoal briquettes? (MIT had once worked on a similar project before). We went about this, and even left the community using the briquettes, making it for their home use. Some of them even went ahead to make more and sell to others. The mind shift I had when I came back to Nairobi, I begun to study the charcoal prices and process, the charcoal value chain, what it would mean for our environment if trees got finished, and the market that relies on charcoal, and I figured that Kenya too could benefit from a more sustainable and affordable charcoal. Hence I decided to jump in and implement it.
One more thing we spotted is, charcoal is considered as a poor man’s fuel, a fuel they choose not due to lack of choices but because it is what they can afford at the time. Introducing fancy stoves still locks them out so we decided to come up with a product that serves the needs of the bottom of the pyramid customer while still conserving the environment.

How have the sales been like since the product hit the shelves?
In the beginning sales were rough. There is always that push-back, people asking, ‘What’s this?’ Charcoal has been used for so long it’s almost a cultural thing now. People question your intentions and ability to replace something that has been in use for centuries. But slowly, we begun to understand our market people were ignorant about what briquettes were to begin with. We went about user education and realized that every customer had their specific needs and preferences, and we tweaked our recipe to suit every niche. Some customers wanted a very long burning product, some wanted a very hot product that lights up fast. So we set onto playing around with our recipes to ensure we have the different products to satisfy the needs of all our customers and since then sales have picked up.
Our factory produces about 3 tonnes a week, all of which is sold and cleared out in readiness for the next weeks batch.

Who is your main competition and what do you do to stand out from them?
In terms of competition, we haven’t yet faced massive competition and push back from the long time charcoal distributors as they are still trying to figure out what exactly the briquette is. I will use the example of Uber. When it got to Kenya they had a happy time setting up because taxi drivers had not realized that it was a threat to them, till later on it hits them that all their customers are now using Uber.
Besides local distributors of the normal charcoal there are various companies offering eco-friendly charcoal, the biggest among them is Charbrick, which has been around for a while.
We are different from our competition in that we are more than just a company but are a social enterprise as well. We are ensuring that we empower women as the main distributors for these briquettes, to try and make them take up the value chain and own it. Currently the main distributors of charcoal are men whilst the main users are women.
We are also actively empowering Kenyan youth to see that they can make it working solely with the resources they have at hand.
Our brand is also very striking, the product is beautifully packaged.

What is the biggest challenge you have faced since the inception of the business.
The main challenge is a lack of injection of funding to push product into the market and also to product develop the product till it gets to a point where it can compete with charcoal. Theres a big challenge to change the mindset of our target market that this briquette is actually better than charcoal.

CEO Bright Green Chebet Lesan with the Queen. (Photo: Bright Green Renewable Energy )

In 2017 you won the Queens Young Leaders Award, and even flew of to the UK to receive it. In what way has this impacted your business?
This greatly impacted my business, through the impact it had on me. We were taken through a year long leadership course at Cambridge University. It taught me how to understand myself, my strengths, weaknesses, how to envision my thoughts and understand my environment. It was very wholesome. Other leadership trainings and conferences focus on how to lead other people, but this one taught me how to lead myself; because there is no point in leading others if you can’t lead yourself. Most of our homework was self reflection.
Also the recognition came with a lot of opportunity. Media and press coverage came by the truckload. The image taken whilst shaking the queens hand is such a massive vote of confidence and has opened several doors for us in terms of strategic partnerships for Bright Green.

What advice would you give to upcoming entrepreneurs?
I don’t think a lot of people really understand what it really means to be an entrepreneur, mostly because of how it has been romanticized by the media. They are so flamboyant, or rather they are pictured to us as so. But it really is not that. People never see the ugly underside of being in business which is what really determines the success of a business. They need to go into business whilst anticipating the hard work that will come with it. A startup requires flexibility, where you are the marketer and the handy work like engineering as well.

Where can one get Moto Briquettes for their personal use?
Currently our briquettes are available on order. We have a number of distributors in local areas. We are soon getting into Tuskys and Naivas.

Kenya’s BitPesa Acquires TransferZero, an International Online Money Transfer Service

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BitPesa, a Nairobi-based blockchain payments platform for Africa and Europe has acquired TransferZero, an international, online money transfer platform that specializes in sending money to consumers and companies in 200 countries using over 50 different currencies.

“Europe is a hub for global remittance and payments companies,” said Elizabeth Rossiello, founder and CEO of BitPesa. “Digital currencies and decentralized technology have hit critical mass in the financial services and payments space. It is no longer a question of whether this technology will have staying power—rather, which specific technology and what product iteration will launch and scale first.

Founded in May 2016 by Luis Cambronero, TransferZero is licensed by the Bank of Spain as an authorized payment institution and is a partner of Bankia, Spain’s third largest bank and has pioneered a number of innovations in the European FinTech sector.

The deal gives BitPesa ability to plant deeper roots through UK and European licensing, bank accounts, and integrations.

“BitPesa has the support of top-tier, institutional investors and a network that will help to bring TransferZero’s technology to the next level,” said Luis Cambronero, former CEO of TransferZero and current MD at BitPesa. “Traditionally, residents would have to go to an agency or office to send money in cash. We enable our customers to quickly send money across the globe for free. Our new smart phone application is designed for the next generation of users,” said Cambronero.

TransferZero has network integrations on four continents, and a team with decades of experience working with enterprise clients in need of global payment solutions. They are the only remittance company that does not charge a fee, aside from a small percentage in the FX.

Under the acquisition, TransferZero will continue to operate under the same brand name and all of its employees will stay with BitPesa. The headquarter will remain in Madrid.

“This is truly a partnership where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, allowing BitPesa to solidify our leadership in this space,” said Rossiello. “By bringing our regional and technological expertise together, we will further accelerate our month-to-month growth,” Rossiello concluded.

Endeavor Launches in Nigeria to Expand its High-Impact Entrepreneurship Movement in Africa

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Endeavor has partnered with Omidyar Network,to launch in Nigeria in a move to support  entrepreneurs and companies that have passed through the initial start-up phase and who demonstrate the potential for rapid expansion and scale.

With a population of 20 million people, Africa’s largest city Lagos is one of the leading centers of high-growth entrepreneurship across the continent. The size of the potential market in Nigeria is also notable for the success of companies in traditional sectors such as consumer, personal care, insurance and other financial services.

“We’re thrilled to launch Endeavor in Nigeria with strong support from Omidyar Network, continuing our expansion in Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Endeavor Co-founder and CEO Linda Rottenberg. “With the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Lagos growing rapidly, Endeavor Nigeria is well-positioned to make a big impact by providing vital support for the most promising entrepreneurs and emerging companies as they grow and look to scale.”

Endeavor Nigeria will be led by Eloho Omame, a former investment banker and private equity investor. Endeavor Nigeria will work identify and support high-impact entrepreneurs and businesses from multiple sectors to help them scale significantly and reinvest back into the country.

“Endeavor’s trademark support will be of tremendous help to Nigerian entrepreneurs at a crucial point in their journeys; when they are poised to scale their businesses,” said Omidyar Network Managing Partner Matt Bannick.  “We at Omidyar Network congratulate the Endeavor team on their continued expansion into Sub-Saharan Africa, and look forward to seeing Endeavor Nigeria’s contribution to a growing ecosystem of entrepreneurship.”

Founded in 1997 by Linda Rottenberg and Peter Kellner, Endeavor has helped over 1,600 of these entrepreneurs build more than 1000 companies across 30 markets, which generated combined revenues of $10 billion in 2017.

A couple of lessons from a couple of failed African startups

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photo credits: blogsoshace
photo credits: blogsoshace

Much as we would like to talk about the roses and daisies of the startup world, the funding rounds and bright futures, we still have to face the ugly skeletons in the industry’s closet. It’s hardly surprising that startups fail. 90% of startups fail globally, in Africa, that statistic is twice as high.

Over the past few years, the African tech scene has been bustling with startups, as evidenced by the sudden influx of Vcs and angel investors, lots of good press shining the spotlight and pitching competitions every other weekend. All this is a positive nod for Africa’s startup scene but more often than not, majority of these startups fail. Even the ones that raise good money are not immune to failure on an even larger scale. In the recent past several big names in the industry have bit the dust. This trend has been observed over time and perhaps it’s about time we knew why.

Here are some of them. (Only listed for others to learn from their mistakes)

Launched by ex-Carmudi Nigeria employees, Linda.com.ng, was a dating site which expected to make it easy for singles in Nigeria to find and date other singles easily conveniently and lead to long-term relationships and celebrated marriages.

During the launch Jimi Akinleye, the founder of Linda.com.ng said,  “Every single person in the country wants to connect with a member of the opposite sex. They do this because they believe such a connection would lead to a long lasting relationship. Often times, it leads to marriages. We want to be the bridge for such level of interaction. We want to be the go-to place for meeting new people, starting new relationships that would be long lasting and could also lead to marriages.”

The it shut down. Akinleye said the site was shut down because of some reasons such as high customer acquisition costs, too low numbers, bad timing and poor choice of market and the complexity of the product. Akinleye is now deeply into e-commerce and owns a few niche commerce businesses in Nigeria and Ghana and also heads a content marketing agency based in San Diego which helps online businesses in creating excellent content for blogs and social network.

The South African startup, Mxit, launched in 2005, had a very good run, accumulating over 100 million user worldwide before its Swan song in late 2015. The company had done well for the most art, and had even recently expanded into the Indian and Nigerian markets, which are notably very high user markets. Nonetheless they recorded a significant nose dive in active users. They later on shut down all commercial activities and donated all their IP and technology assets to mobile-based public benefit organization The Reach Trust, initially established to improve lives using Mxit technology. However, users are still able to access the social networking services.“Whilst Mxit overall has seen a decline in activity and engagement over the past 18 months, the use of services offered by The Reach Trust on Mxit has been stable and in many cases show an upward trend,” said Francois Swart, outgoing chief executive officer (CEO) of Mxit.

Nigeria’s Yarnable, ran by then CEO Ahmad Mukoshy, was for lack of a better word, a Nigerian twitter. They were unsuccesful in their bid to duplicate something as massive as twitter, despite their being more region specific. The major reason for their failure was lack of funding and technical support, which is basically what afflicts most African based startups. However, the situation looked up a bit when Yarnable was acquired by MobiQube Nigeria Limited.

Another startup that bit the dust around the same time as MXit, though with a much less track record than MXit, is South Africa’s Quweza,a data analytics company centered around the education sector. Their main product aimed to improve the quality of feedback in schools. Their analytics platform is designed to capture, analyze and report student performance data in simple graphs and charts to help educators make smarter decisions. Not a very bad idea, right? So why was Quweza a pitiable flop?

Former Quweza CEO opened up about his experience,“ Things started off great, we had an ambitious, multi-faceted, highly enthusiastic team. We noticed the gap in the market, and we convinced ourselves that there was a market in the gap. In one of our earlier meetings we even projected annual recurring revenue of about R19.2 million a year, this was before we even sat down to talk to a single user or potential client. Why didn’t we, you ask? Well we didn’t have to, we knew exactly what they wanted, duh! At this point in time we didn’t even have a minimal viable product (MVP), actually at no point in this journey did we ever have a minimal viable product, why? Because at this stage of our technology business careers we were not fully aware of what an MVP actually was. As a complete and utter 180 degrees from MVP-ness, we had become best friends with scope creep (“Hey guys, I think we should also add this before we go live…”). During this journey we were still to master the art of testing products on the market, we were still learning the magical ways of being a “lean startup”.

He mentioned several other reasons for failure such as assuming family would be quick to be the earliest paying customers. “One of the early mistakes I made when I was part of Quweza was to assume that family would be quick to purchase your product,” Mmari explained, “If I had the chance to do it again I would go as further away from family as possible. It can get very tricky very fast, when dealing with family and business, especially in the early days. If you do want to get family involved, rather turn to them for funding and hustle hard to get startup capital via angel investments or no-interest loans (or better yet no-loan loans #freeMoney). Just don’t make the mistake of thinking that they will be your first paying clients.” However, the major lesson other startup founders can take away from Quweza is to have a product centered around and validated by the customers. The quickest way to kill your company is to neglect your customer.

Nonetheless, failure is not meant to be a permanent barrier to success but is astepping stone instead.
“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely.” – Henry Ford

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation launch “Pathways for Prosperity” to explore how Innovation could help end poverty in Africa

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Pathways for Prosperity: Commission on Technology and Inclusive Development was launched today in Nairobi to discuss the need for a global conversation on the role of technology in driving progress and inclusion in developing countries.

Pathways for Prosperity was launched by Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Minister Sri Mulyani Indrawati, minister of finance of Indonesia; and Strive Masiyiwa, founder and executive chairman of Econet.

The new commission will provide evidence and analysis, along with concrete policy recommendations, to help developing country governments navigate this rapidly evolving landscape and will be led by the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford University.

“As an entrepreneur, technology underpins everything I do, and I am fascinated by what is coming down the line. But I know that there are also potential pitfalls and risks,” said Strive Masiyiwa. “This commission gives us a way of working together to understand how to harness technology for good, use it to enhance opportunities for all and drive inclusive growth.”

The commission’s academic directors will be Blavatnik School’s Stefan Dercon, former chief economist of the UK Department for International Development (DfID), and Benno Ndulu, former governor of the Central Bank of Tanzania.

Other commissioners include Kamal Bhattacharya, CIO of Safaricom; Shanta Devarajan, senior director for development economics at the World Bank; Minister Sigrid Kaag, minister for foreign trade and development cooperation of the Netherlands; Nadiem Makarim, founder and CEO of Go-Jek; Maria Ramos, CEO of Barclays Africa Group; Daniela Rus, director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT; and Shivani Siroya, founder and CEO of Tala.

“Innovation can help people transform their lives, but only if they have access to it,” said Melinda Gates. “This commission brings together diverse thinkers and doers committed to ensuring that everyone, no matter how rich or poor, can take advantage of technological innovation.”

The commission hailed the contribution of digital financial services such as M-Pesa to Kenya where it enabled 75 percent of the people over 15 years old to have access to bank accounts (up from 10 percent in 2005), and lifted 2 percent of the population out of poverty.

Bringing together a diverse range of leaders from government, business and academia, the commission will focus on frontier technologies such as automation, artificial intelligence, 3D printing, energy generation and storage, and biotechnology. The commission will also discuss tools to strengthen the relationship between citizens and governments.

Over the past 25 years, the number of people living in extreme poverty being halved to about 800 million, the commission will hold several events around the world over the next two years focussing on different thematic issues and countries, with the common aim of helping governments in developing countries take advantage of the opportunities technology brings.

 

Kenya’s Majik Water wins £15,000 1st prize in the EDF Pulse Africa awards held in Paris

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 Kenya’s Majik Water, a female-founded startup converting humidity in the air into water took the 1st prize at the EDF Pulse Africa awards held in Paris, December last year.
Led by Beth Koigi, MAJIK WATER beat two others to bring home 15,000 Euros, and will also be supported to access EDF’s innovation ecosystem and establish links with French and international financial institutions.
 “Access to drinking water is one of the continent’s greatest challenges. Our solution helps prevent the spread of certain diseases, thereby helping to save lives. These gives us the opportunity to cross borders and develop our project in francophone Africa. Our project lead team is made up of three women. Female entrepreneurship in Africa must be encouraged,” said Beth Koigi.

 Held on December 19th in Paris, the EDF group presented prizes to three startups from among the total of 97 companies who submitted entries for the very first EDF Pulse Africa awards. The prizes were presented by EDF Chairman & CEO Jean-Bernard Lévy, with the members of the competition’s panel of judges also in attendance. The three winners chosen by the panel won grants ranging from 5,000 to 15,000 Euros.
The 2nd prize: LONO, a startup based in Côte d’Ivoire, converts organic waste into biogas for use as cooking fuel, and into biomethane for electricity generation. “Comparing our ideas, sharing our working methods and pooling our knowledge has enabled all of the project leaders to gain a broader outlook. Organic waste represents an inexhaustible source of energy which still receives insufficient attention in Africa,” said Louise Bijleveld, co-founder of LONO.
While the 3rd prize: EDUAIR, led by Yann Nkengue from Cameroon, involves marketing digital boxes that enable access to a wide range of digital content without an Internet connection. The boxes, connected and supplied with power 24 hours a day, help to reduce the digital divide.
“Being an entrepreneur is a complex thing to be involved in, and I’m proud to go back to my country with this prize, which will be a source of motivation for our teams. It’s really rewarding, and it will give us a boost whenever we face difficulties with financing or with our profile,” explained Yann Nkengue.
The panel also decided to award a special “coup de coeur” prize to Nicolas Sancy for his NANOEproject, which provides a collective solution for the production, storage and distribution of solar energy at local level.
According to Marianne Laigneau, Group Senior Executive Vice President in charge of the International Division, and Chair of the EDF Pulse Africa awards panel: “The EDF Pulse Africa awards express EDF’s strong commitment to supporting such inspiring initiatives, which contribute to the development of the energy solutions of tomorrow, and reflect the dynamism of our portfolio of hydro, biomass and off-grid projects currently under development in Africa. It also provides an opportunity for the EDF Group to identify the people who are working today on the energy solutions of tomorrow.”

Kenya’s HR Expert is an Easy to use HR and Payroll cloud based software designed for SMEs

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Everywhere you turn, software seems to be the answer. Most Businesses are already using software for their marketing, accounting and management. SMEs have to consider the need for human resources software for their small business, it’s much more than a luxury but a necessity.

SMEs, Startups and fast-growth companies have been averse to adding sufficient HR systems, policies and personnel early in their life cycles. Whether by choice or accident, they wait too long and then develop serious people management problems.

HR Expert – www.hrexpert.co.ke, a cloud-based HR solution by recruitment expert Juliet Gateri aims to help firms to streamline Human Resource Processes conveniently and smoothly.

“It is a cloud based solution that enables Business Owners, Head of Departments and HR managers to manage employee affairs seamlessly,” she said. “We help SMEs to automate HR and sales processes like Employee documentation, Performance appraisals, sales tracking, expense tracking, attendance, leave, employee lifecycle and payroll.”

Nearly 75% of HR departments in Kenya and Generally in Africa, do not have comprehensive and effective performance measurement systems. Despite this, the HR services market is already a billion industry. As Human Resource Consulting Company we saw an opportunity to help growing companies to use automation to make business decisions, all at an affordable cost.

“We built this solution, as a frustration to what we faced as HR consultants- we manage various HR departments in different companies and it was overwhelming to manage all this data manually and the solutions available were not user friendly, costly and some are not customised to this market. The software has been a saving grace for us and we decided to release in 2017 as Software as a Service,” she told TechMoran.

HR Experts’s vision is to create ‘Simplicity in HR Software’ by providing easy-to-use solutions that don’t require extensive training, responsive & friendly customer support .We are making it easy for companies to automate their HR processes, take business decisions with the data derived from automation and create accountability among their employees.

The firm assists its clients in every aspect of managing their human resources. The software can serve a broad customer range — starting from small businesses with 5 people up to international companies with 1000 employees. We are able configure specific modules & features for customers, making system easy to use for smaller ones & at the same time extremely flexible for bigger companies

If you’ve been manually handling HR operations in the past, you may wonder about the benefits of paying for a software system. But take a closer look:

1. Cost savings

HR Expert Offers- 80% saving on HR related costs.

The Software costs from a minim of 200 USD Per Annum, Given the cost of hiring a junior officer to enter and verify data is costly and time consuming. Companies can invest this amount towards revenue generating activities e.g Hiring additional sales people.

2. Better use of time

Time is the one thing your HR staff can’t get more of. Thus, it’s imperative that you help them create systems that maximize time. If your HR team is constantly inputting data by hand they won’t have time for things that matter more — like handling legal issues and enforcing company policies.

The software platform helps businesses save time and better allocate manual resources to areas that really matter to a company’s health.

3. More accurate insights

With the amount of data that comes through an HR department these days, it’s virtually impossible for any person — or group of people — to process everything. This means valuable information is constantly being overlooked or misplaced.

The beauty of working with HR software is that you don’t have to rely on your own human limitations. Data is synthesized and analyzed in powerful ways that allow you to obtain more accurate insights and make strategic decisions.

4. Surprisingly cost effective

Many business people believe that purchasing a top-quality HR software package will bankrupt their entire budget. This is simply not true.As a company we have various packages that can work with even the smallest startup budget. “The organisations don’t have to invest infrastructure (servers, support, and security), the software comes as a package.

Some would even argue that you can’t afford not to use HR software. The amount of money you’re losing in terms of lost man-hours and mistakes doesn’t even begin to compare to the up-front cost of HR software. It’s an easy call to make.

The next phase of the software is to create a mobile app, create additional features-like tracking time attendance, integrating other software usability tools and deploying it to the rest of Africa.

Take a Test drive: http://hrexpert.co.ke/demo/

The world of female startup founders in Nigeria

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