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Pawame launches pay-as-you-go off-grid solar systems for low income families in Kenya

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Though Kenya already has M-Kopa Solar, d:light, Angaza, Mobisol and Azuri among others, a new pay-as-you-go solar platform Pawame has launched in the country to bring power to off-grid communities in the country.

Pawame provides cheap, clean, accessible energy to people living in rural Africa who don’t have reliable access to electricity by distributing and financing pay-as-you-go solar power systems and accessories such as lights, radio, and TV and spread the cost to the consumer through an affordable monthly subscription plan, paid via existing mobile money platforms.

The firm also develops software and hardware for its platform’s mobile payment integration, content provision and data collection and analytics to enhance the use of mobile money payment technology to distribute solar energy services and related hardware to the clear majority of rural households that do not have access to clean, affordable, and reliable energy from as low as 40US cents or 45US cents every day, and after 18 or 24 months respectively, customers get to fully own the system.

According to the firm, $40 cents or $45 cents makes Pawame affordable compared to charcoal or firewood or for kerosene to light homes, all of which have the added burden of polluting the environment and leading to various respiratory diseases that kill many people every year.

“Our Mission is to make electricity accessible to the off-grid communities with small daily energy budgets and little or no opportunities for credit by supplying modern-day devices and services that are aimed at improving their quality of living,” wrote the firm on its website. “Solar power is just the start of an even bigger revolution in consumer finance for low-income households. Pay-as-you-go financing is making electricity accessible and affordable in areas where the power grid is unreliable or non-existent.”

The firm added that by demonstrating that low-income customers can pay for high-value goods and services reliably, the PAYG model has the potential to bring products and services to “the last mile.”

Pawame solar systems cost about $250, but with a daily, weekly or monthly instalments of as low as 45 cents, kerosene and charcoal users in Africa can turn to clean energy affordably by making payments through mobile money.

A Pawame PAYG enabled kits consist of  a solar panel, two LED ceiling lights, wall switches, a rechargeable flashlight, a radio, and a phone charger at $250 in cash or pay a small upfront sum of $30 and make more flexible payments through mobile money so as the platform cannot turn off the device remotely should a customer falls behind on payments. After a down payment, a customer pays roughly 45 cents for the next 18-24 months, after which the customer owns the system, and Pawame turns it on permanently.

“Our business model overcomes a number of barriers that poor people face in accessing financial services,” wrote the firm on its site. “Small, digital payments better fit the unpredictable cash flow cycles of low-income households. The down payment encourages poor people to save for asset purchases and repayments create a credit history for poor consumers that may give them access to other financial services.”

5 Tips for Your Best Spring Skin

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It’s officially springtime! Many people are considering decluttering and spring cleaning or even breaking out the shorts and sundresses. While that is great, these people might forget about their skin care regimen and how it might need a bit of spring cleaning as well.

There are a few tips that people can follow to ensure that their skin remains healthy even though the drastic seasonal change that spring brings with it. From protecting your skin to reducing discoloration, there are a few tips you can follow to keep your skin healthy and glowing all through the spring and summer months.

Lighten and Brighten

As often as you change your wardrobe for seasons, so should you change your skin care products. When spring rolls around, you should put away the heavy creams and use lighter products.

When shorts and T-shirts become part of your everyday wardrobe, you should begin swapping out your products. Wintertime needs thick, heavier creams. Spring and summertime, however, needs lighter lotions and products. Cocoa or Eugenia Shea’s shea butter creams are great for this time of year because they are lighter and moisturizing without weighing your skin down.

Moisturized

Spring and summer bring about activities that tend to dry out your skin. Things, like swimming in the pool or going to the beach, can leave your skin dry. It has been recommended to moisturize after swimming or being exposed to any chlorine. This chemical is extremely drying.

Those who swim should rinse away all of the saltwater or chlorine filled pool water off of their skin before applying lotion, and these same people should lather up each morning. Of course, this routine doesn’t just apply to swimmers, but it also applies to people with specific skin conditions such as eczema or chronic dry skin.

Let it Glow

Sunscreen is extremely important to keeping your spring and summer skin healthy. Though people with fair skin understand the seriousness of using sunscreen to prevent skin cancer, those with darker skin tones tend to have fewer or any sunburns. Just because you might not burn as easily, that doesn’t mean you aren’t soaking up too much sun.

It is important to protect your skin from the sun to prevent any possibilities of skin cancer. You should go with the natural glow of your skin without seeking opportunities to tan. You should ensure your skin is always protected.

Less is More

Remember that you don’t need thousands of products to keep your skin moisturized. Instead of owning thousands of products that you barely use, you should find one that does multiple things. This can help keep your regimen simple and even help you save money in the long run.

Ask Your Doctor

Your favorite vlogger might have several suggestions for skin care, but your dermatologist will have all of the answers you need within just a few minutes. Everyone has different skin, and only a dermatologist can get to the root of the problems you might be facing.

You should make sure to visit your dermatologist on a regular basis. They can help you keep track of the best products for your skin, your skin’s conditions, and the health of your skin.

Afrivazi wants to dress the world with African-themed designs

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Launched in June last year, Kenya’s Afrivazi aims to be a marketplace for top African fashion designers linking them to customers around the world as well as connecting them to their peers and fans across the globe.

Founded by Valerie Nyamwaya, a fashion designer herself, the platform aims to revolutionize fashion in Africa and as well as open the world to experience top designs by African established fashion designers. The platform also aims to give upcoming designers an opportunity to sell to the world and make money out of their hardwork and creativity.

Nyamwaya says she started by hosting fashion events and later thought of creating an online home for the designers to sell their works and also give a chance to fashion lovers locally and internationally who wouldn’t make it to their events but have a passion for quality designs.

The platform now helps its members to sell their wares and have them delivered to their homes and offices conveniently. The site also uses social media pages and events expos and trade fairs to help increase sales for Kenyan designers and ensuring local designers are able to earn a living from their work.

AFRIVAZI is coined from AFRI , short for Africa and VAZI Swahili for clothing so the platform promotes African designs. “We all have a story to tell about where we come from, where we are going, what we have been through, our aspirations and the list is endless,” she writes on the site. “All in a bid to define ourselves create our space and make an impact. AFRIVAZI combines the stories of different designers to tell a tale that speaks of an untold beauty that lies in our rich African culture expressing what we believe in, what we love, what we value and who we are.”

AfriVazi  is like Tanzania’s African Fashion and with a slightly similar model to Soko.

Zain Verjee’s Amplify Fellows’ to Graduate First Cohort in Nairobi

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Amplify, Africa’s first paid-fellowship for content creators, heads to Nairobi on Friday 7 April 2017, to celebrate the inaugural graduation of the program’s first cohort. The 25 Amplify fellows from Nigeria, Rwanda and Kenya, have spent the last six months receiving training and mentoring in content creation and media, as well as working together on digital projects for aKoma. Launched in September 2016, and in partnership with The MasterCard Foundation, Amplify’s mission is to develop a fellowship of young, dynamic multimedia content creators who will craft compelling stories about Africa.

To celebrate Amplify’s first graduation, Rwandan Fellow Cynthia Butare has produced a short film, that chronicles the Amplify experience, describing the journeys of some of the fellows and how the experience has brought them together as a community.

aKoma co-founder, Zain Verjee credits the fellows for, “creating stories, owning them and showcasing images that we don’t typically see in international media.”

As a final project, each country cohort has been tasked to create a digital campaign for aKoma’s brand partner and Amplify sponsor, GE Africa. The Fellows will face each other in a final presentation event in front of an African who’s-who panel of tech, business and media judges, comprising Professor Bitange Ndemo, Pamela Sittoni of Nation Media Group, Patricia Obozuwa of GE and Google Kenya’s Charles Murito.

The final presentations will take place on Friday 7 April 2017 between 3-5pm at the Villa Rosa Kempinsky in Nairobi, Kenya.

 

 

More Top Skills to Have as a Startup Founder

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Founding a new company is always a challenge. You need a good handle on the market, the ability to lead a diverse team, and of course good business management skills. A lot of startups have failed in the past, not because of the lack of opportunities, but because their founders made some bad decisions along the way.

The recent failure of Popslate is a perfectly good example of how a great idea, amazing financial backing, and support from communities, as well as a great team, was still not enough. There are some more essential skills to have if you want to be a successful startup founder.

Problem Solving

Many founders and future startup owners are pursuing online masters in engineering, not because they need to learn how to develop their products – they usually have teams of engineers to do that – but because they need one critical skill: problem-solving. Engineers are natural problem solvers. The skills these founders acquire through the engineering online program will help them deal with challenges and issues effectively.

Online programs are considered the way to go because they allow you to pursue a master’s degree in a field of your choice while working on your product or running a startup. There are plenty of accredited programs to go for, especially now that top universities such as the University of California Riverside are opening their courses to more students.

Customer Experience Development

User experience is the most important aspect of your product, regardless of whether you’re developing a tangible product or a digital solution. The market is already very competitive as it is, so unless you offer a stellar user experience, it will be difficult to survive and attract more customers.

Unfortunately, not everyone can develop the right user experience to present through their products. There is one critical skill needed to be able to accomplish this, and that is the ability to think like the customer. After all, you are a customer.

This is an ability that can be mastered through training and experience. In order to fully understand what it is like to be a customer – and measure the user experience presented by your own product – you need to be able to think objectively, distance yourself from the company, and perform the necessary analysis to understand the bigger picture.

Research and Analysis

The last key skill to have as a startup owner is data analysis. There is no shortage of information to use when you’re running a business and trying to take a product to success. However, a special skill is needed to separate the important insights from noise – and to truly understand what the insights mean.

Data analysis is also a skill that can be mastered through formal education or experience. There are even short courses that help startup founders and future CEOs improve their ability to gather, process, and analyze information effectively. This, along with the previous skills we have covered in this article, will shape you into a better startup founder in no time.

 

Fashion startup Closet49 succumbs after a long-fought battle with cheap new imports

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Closet49 was one time Kenya’s only online marketplace for trendy, fashionable, unique and eclectic items but seems to have succumbed to cheap new imports after a long-fought battle, sustained for nearly five years.

Launched in 2012 by Serah Kanyua and Irene Abagi with seed funding from 88mph, the fashion marketplace connected upcoming designers, boutique stores, and pieces straight from individual consumer closets and had over 9,500 active buyers via its site and social media pages at its peak.

The startup had at one time signed up 58 traders and designers and even opened its API for anyone to use their platform to sell their wares minus.

If we say the girls were not devoted we lie. At one time, Kanyua arduously ran the platform on her own showing up for interviews, sourcing for trendy clothes from designers around town and did recruiting, PR and probably customer care and firefighting alone and deserves a hug.

However, the time for Closet49 had just come and every entrepreneurs knows when to give in to mounting pressure to move on to new things and avoid depression.

With the entry of cheap imports into town from the likes of Mr. Price, Jumia Fashion, among others, it was no  longer trendy to swap or buy a secondhand outfit, especially from people you might meet at  social function tomorrow. Clothes are so personal even siblings in most families rarely share clothes.

Though mentally agonizing, Kanyua didn’t give up easily. She remembers her campus days when she was inspired to start the online fashion site.

“I began selling clothes to friends while at University,” she told CNN. “My friends and I merged ideas to sell affordable fashion to people that didn’t want to pay too much and also give opportunity for people to sell clothes they do not want in their closet, that are still in good condition. They were able to get extra cash for their old clothes and find new cloths through this system.”

After graduating with a marketing degree, Kanyua knew that was what she wanted to do and passed over jobs to pursue her dream but after raising seed from 88mph, no one was willing to fuel the woman-led startup to grow. If the women and youth fund had been led by sensible leaders, Closet49 would be here today and a household fashion name for both kids and grownups.

After operating from her living room to save money, Kanyua expected Closet 49 to make a million shillings in annual profits in a year or two but like all the marketplaces out there, Closet49 does not own the clothes and the commissions earned depend on the inventory and the number of sales.

To increase the sales, one needs to have a variety of assorted clothing and to sell more, one needs to market more; and that is capital intensive.

Only connecting buyers and sellers when you have less traffic means you grow slowly. To move fast, Closet49 tried having its own inventory to maintain high quality as there’s a bit of control. However, setting up a good online and updating your inventory daily means spending more.Closet49 didn’t have the money for a word-class developer or for trendy inventory.

At the end of the day, we all tire, learn what we had to learn and launch something new.

Even if it dies forever, Closet49 will be remembered for helping customers looking for convenience, variety and affordability of online shopping by helping the avoid exorbitantly priced clothes in physical stores as well as opening up careers for young fashion designers and boutique traders to earn a living as well as grow their careers. Instagram might have been a plus to Closet49 had it been used heavily, but its also doing the same for everyone now.

Closet49 could still rebrand into a fashion blog to keep its members informed on the latest fashion news, events happening around them, and DIY beauty guides.

Kenya’s Beiless Group pitching for over $150,000 at the Global Student Entrepreneurship Awards

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June Syowia of Beiless Group, a digital story-telling agency will represent Kenya at the Global Student Entrepreneurship Award in Frankfurt, Germany  on April 26th 2017, after edging out 10 semi-finalists and 5 finalists locally.

Syowia will compete with the world’s top student entrepreneurs and stands a chance to win a cash prize of US$20,000 and a total package of over US$150,000 in cash and donated business services.

Akshay Shah, MD of Silafrica Plastics & Packaging and the 2016/7 GSEA Kenya Chair said: ” There is a lot to learn from these winning student entrepreneurs on how to be resourceful, and a lot of inspiration for what they manage to achieve at this age while engaged in a full time under-graduate university education. I am blown away by the entrepreneurial energy these young adults have shown, and I hope that Kenya provide them with an environment where they can succeed not only on the local and pan-African stage, but even the global stage. Kenya received the 2nd highest number of applications in Africa in 2017. Next year we are expecting over 500 entries.”

GSEA is a premier global competition for high school, undergraduate and graduate students with a mission to inspire students to start and grow entrepreneurial ventures.

To be eligible to participate in GSEA, applicants must be full-time students, running a business generating over US$500 / KES 50,000 in revenue and operational for at least six months.

Last year’s GSEA was won by Illuminum Greenhouses. The event provides students the opportunity to form lasting relationships with entrepreneurs, and over the years, participating students have gone on to create thousands of jobs and generate millions of shillings in revenue.

Chivas Regal Unveils 30 Finalists Pitching for its $1m Global Prize

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Chivas Venture, a global search to discover and reward the world’s most promising social entrepreneurs, has released 30 startups as finalists of its $1m third edition global competition out of almost 6,000 applications across six continents with Sanivation representing Kenya.

The 30 finalists will travel to Los Angeles in July where they will compete for a share of $1 million to make their dream of creating a better future for the world a reality.

According to Richard Black, Chivas Regal Global Brand Director,  “We were blown away by the calibre of entries for this year’s Chivas Venture competition. The businesses are a great example of the ingenuity and passion of entrepreneurs across the world who are committed to creating a better world for generations to come.”

One finalist will represent each of the 30 participating countries. The 30 finalists are attending a five-day Accelerator Week programme  to develop leadership skills, take part in practical workshops and be inspired by global experts on critical topics that affect social startups at the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship within the Business School at the University of Oxford.

From Monday 1st May to Sunday 4th June, the public will be able to show their support for their favourite finalist through a live vote. Over the course of five weeks, the public’s vote will determine how the first $250,000 in funding is split among the finalists.

The winner(s) of the remaining $750,000 in funding will be decided on Thursday 13th July at the Chivas Venture Final in Los Angeles, after a high-stakes pitch in front of the judges and a live audience.

Tigo Digital Changemakers win $40,000 to use tech to support community projects

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Tigo Tanzania  and non-profit organization, Reach For Change, have given an award of USD 20,000 each to two winners of the 5th edition of the Tigo Digital Changemakers Competition in a move to identify and support social entrepreneurs who use digital tools and technology to improve communities and impact future generations.

The winners will have access to Tigo and Reach for Change Incubator Program for advice, expertise and access to global networks, enabling them to build financially sustainable social enterprises that create lasting, large scale change to the community.

This year’s winners are Sophia Mbega and Nancy Sumari. Sophia Mbega runs VICOBA (Village Community Banks), a mobile app that creates a collaborative platform that uses existing tools for financial and task management in a way that is adaptable to the African context. Through the app, all users, regardless of where they are, can transfer money from their mobile wallet to their Vicoba group account (directly from the app by using an USSD code), view all of their financial records, profit generated, weekly reports, etc.

Nancy Sumari’s award-winning initiative dubbed JENGA HUB focuses on foundation knowledge for children. Through her hub and co-creation space for kids, she teaches computer programming, robotics and coding skills to primary school children. The hub also exposes children to learning basic Information and Communication Technology such as programming skills that can in turn be used for creation of a range of educational and entertainment content.

According to Tigo Tanzania Managing Director Diego Gutierrez: “It is with great pleasure that we announce the winners of this year’s Tigo Digital Changemakers Competition. For five years now, our Changemakers have touched the lives of over 250,000 children in Tanzania. We believe that with the addition of these two Changemakers, we will impact on the lives of more children and help to make Tanzania a better place for our future generations.”

This is the fifth year that Tigo and Reach for Change are unveiling the winners of the competition. The final winners were selected from a group of hundreds of passionate ‘social entrepreneurs’ who use digital tools and technology to implement solutions to problems facing Tanzanian communities.

To date, Tigo has supported a total of 8 Digital Changemakers in Tanzania and looks forward to supporting more social entrepreneurs every year to propel this movement forward.

The Changemakers in the program include Faraja Nyalandu, who runs a digital social enterprise called Shule Direct. Shule Direct provides digital educational content to help address teacher shortages and ensure that every child and youth has access to quality education. Faraja’s organization also offers a mobile app called Makini SMS that helps children study with access to unlimited multiple choice questions for 9 subjects. She is currently planning to scale her organization in other East African countries.

Carolyne Ekyarisiima, a YALI alumna, is a Tigo Digital Changemaker who is working to bridge the gender gap in ICT technology through her social enterprise, Apps & Girls. Carolyne has impacted hundreds of girls, through coding clubs in schools. She has also reached hundreds of girls through hackathons, bootcamps and competitions. Not only does this help to ensure that more girls have access to digital technologies, Carolyne is also empowering them to become ICT leaders of the future. Carolyne is currently scaling her social enterprise to maximize her impact and provide many more girls with tech education, helping them to develop solutions for social issues through their own digital applications and websites!

Joan Avit, a YALI alumna, is improving the quality of early childhood education through digital innovation. As a Digital Changemaker through her project known as GraphoGame Tanzania, she provides child-friendly, game-based learning that helps children learn to read using phonics. Her innovation has been life changing for hundreds of young students who previously struggled in school and are now thriving as a result of her digital innovation.

Little known TECNO & Infinix sister brand itel mobile pushes image with new brand partnership

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itel mobile, a Transsion brand and sister to TECNO and Infinix has signed Kenya’s Avril, a local musician and actress, as its brand ambassador on a one year contract.

The financial details were not disclosed.

As the main brand image of itel mobile, Avril will grace campus events sponsored by itel mobile, attend CSR activities sponsored by itel, and tweet, share on Facebook or Instagram everything itel mobile.

“I am extremely excited to partner with Itel on their new chapter into Kenya. Great affordable phones help us communicate better and that’s the essence of good living. I’m looking forward to a great partnership” Said Avril.

17156324_1241201635994662_728374758779885845_nAvril has in the past years won several awards, among the latest being, Bingwa Awards – Bingwa ever relevant female artist, best dressed female artiste – Jumia Glamour Awards, and Business Daily – Top 40 under 40.

Chris Zhao, itel mobile Kenya manager mentioned that they decided to work with Avril because she is young and successful which touches the hearts of many hence making her the best choice, since itel is a young brand that is growing at a fast rate and quite affordable to the “common mwananchi”

Launched in 2007 , itel is present in 45 countries. In 2016, itel said it delivered 50+ million mobile phones to worldwide consumers. It’s focus markets are Africa, India and other emerging markets.

Technology is proving to be a real game-changer for growth in Africa

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By Amrote Abdella, Regional Director Microsoft 4Afrika,  

Four years ago, the Africa Rising narrative was a hot topic among journalists, economists and investors discussing Africa. Some celebrated the refreshed outlook on the continent. Others, including some Africans, were more sceptical on the trickledown effect of the projected growth. Some felt there was too much focus on GDP projections and the urban middle class, and not enough on inclusive growth that reached every underserved village, where challenges around healthcare and education remained unsolved.

It was within this context, in 2013, that Microsoft launched its 4Afrika Initiative. As a technology company, we wanted to contribute not only to Africa’s economic growth, but to its economic development through the adoption of innovation – fast-tracked by affordable access and enabled by a skilled workforce.

We believed that by empowering Africans to create and consume locally relevant technology, we could foster the kind of inclusive transformation that Africa wanted to see. Four years later, we still believe in this vision. Our commitment to fast-tracking relevant technology adoption remains unchanged.

Technology is transforming people’s lives for the better 

Start-ups and SMEs are celebrated and looked to for driving economic growth and job creation. But we have also seen them play a key role in driving social development. Armed with mobile and cloud technologies, these young innovators are helping communities access previously unavailable services – advancing healthcare, education and general living standards.

In Ethiopia, for example, Microsoft 4Afrika has supported the Tulane Health project, which has helped 3,000 healthcare clinics in 10 regions to digitally transform. With Windows devices, Tulane collects relevant health data and now stores over 150 million digital records. Using Power BI, Tulane then analyses this data and produces real-time insights, empowering the federal ministry to make data-driven decisions. For the average patient, this means more informed consultations, a more accountable government and overall better quality healthcare. In addition, 2,500 new Ethiopians have also been trained and upskilled as health information technologists, to run and maintain the system locally.

Similarly, in Botswana, through our work with Vista Life Sciences and the Botswana Innovation Hub, we’re using TV white spaces technology to deliver telemedicine services to over 3,000 patients in remote clinics in Lobatse, Francistown and Maun. A patient no longer needs to walk miles to get specialised care. Screenings and diagnoses can be done remotely, helping to quickly and accurately detect diseases and improve maternal care.

Since 2013, 4Afrika has helped 82 start-ups – and brought over 500,000 SMEs online – to drive this kind of economic development using mobile and cloud technology.

Towards an environment for success 

However – the democratising of mobile and cloud technology in itself is not sufficient. The innovation ecosystem still needs more enabling policies if more of these start-ups and technologies are to succeed and benefit every person in Africa. We have spent four years working with hubs, accelerators and government entities to develop regulations that allow new business models to flourish, encourage trade between borders and develop climates that promote investment into local businesses.

Lessons from investing in Africa

 The good news is that the continent is on the right path. Investments into local tech start-ups increased by 17% in 2016. And governments in Africa have been very adaptive to and serious about embracing the cloud to positively influence their investment climates, cut costs and efficiently serve their citizens. Together, we have incubated 11 cloud-based solutions, including BioSIM in Kenya, which collects school data in local counties to help governments benchmark quality and take informed actions around education. Where there are security concerns around gathering such data, we’re working with the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA) to accelerate trusted cloud infrastructure through enabling policies in the areas of cyber-security, data privacy and data protection.

Equally important to creating new technologies is developing the skills for the meaningful consumption of them. Across our 15 TV white spaces connectivity pilots we have running in last-mile communities in Africa, for example, we’re not only introducing people to the internet for the first time, but also helping them use it as a tool to seek employment and register with government.

We believe technology has been – and will increasingly be – a game-changer for Africa. With the right foundations in place, it is the tool that will help Africa rise in the inclusive and sustainable way Africans want to see it rise. The tool that gives every African the power to actively shape transformation that works for all its citizens, by creating infrastructure and services where there are none, trading and consuming local products, and holding their governments to account.

Microsoft’s 4Afrika Initiative remains a partner in this journey. In the last four years, we have experienced successes, setbacks and shouldered new risks. But our focus, belief in and commitment to invest in affordable access, skills and innovation for economic development in Africa remains unchanged. We have seen the transformation that has already taken place – and this gives us hope in the work still to be done. We will continue to empower local partners, start-ups, SMEs and government entities through technology to enable growth and development in Africa – creating shared value that truly benefits us all.

 

 

Inside Branch, Tala & Mshwari | Which one works for you?

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Kenya has seen the rise of mobile money services since MPESA became a household name. Services range from mobile money transfer, payment services, purchasing solutions, and now the latest trend, savings and loan services. Many companies have come in to offer the loaning services to Kenyans, however, three of them seem to be making the headlines, they include, Branch, Tala, and Mshwari. We will review each one of them and help you decide which one is the best.

Branch app review

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Branch app has one of the shortest and most straight forward registration methods. All you have to do is log in with your Facebook credentials, give your MPESA number and receive a confirmation code. After you key in the code you get via SMS, you are set.

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The app does its magic behind the scenes to decide if you are eligible for a loan. If everything checks out, you get presented with a choice of loans that you qualify for. It starts from KES 200 and builds up with multiples of 500. The loan choices are presented in a beautiful interface of circular buttons which present loan amount and move in a carousel manner. Below each loan amount is the interest fee, duration of loan payment.

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Selecting a loan and confirming it will take you a page that breaks down the installments; it gives you the exact amount you need to pay and even the due date of each payment. You can go further to see the fee details section which  displays the percentage interest rate, and the actual interest amount. The money is sent to your MPESA account after the loan is approved. The interest rate for Branch starts at 14.57% for 500 shillings and gets lower as you request for bigger loans.

The app offers a customer care section that answers your questions but not as fast as I would like, they sometimes take hours before responding. Branch also offers a referral bonus that is deducted from the total loan amount that you have to pay.

Tala app review

Tala, just like Branch, requires you to give your MPESA number in order to get a confirmation code. The similarities between the two apps’ sign up end there. Tala asks you to enter a security PIN which is a great feature considering that this is a financial app.

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Once you finish singing up, you will be taken to the home section of the app, here you find four options presented in a card like interface. The options include “Apply for a loan”, “My savings”, “My Tala status” and “Success stories” section. Clicking on the “Apply a loan” section brings a lengthy questionnaire asking all manner of things from your job details to the possession of the phone you are using.

I like the simpler approach of the Branch app a lot more.

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After being approved for a loan, you will be presented with your maximum limit and will be given a choice to take an amount below that limit. The choices are very few, only two, I wish there were more. After you pick your amount, you will be given the option of choosing your preferred payment schedule. You can pay in single, one month installment or you can have weekly installments. What I dislike about the schedules is that the weekly installments amount to only 3 weeks instead of a complete month (4 weeks). Also, the interest rates of paying the whole loan in one installment are higher than choosing to pay weekly. Tala does not charge a lower interest rate if you take a big loan. The rates are fixed at 11% if you pay weekly and 15% if you pay monthly. It seems Tala wants users to opt for weekly payments.

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“My Tala status” section tracks the loan categories you qualify for. A user starts at bronze status which ranges from 500 to 4,999, a silver status spans from 5,000 to 9,999, and finally a gold status that lets you borrow from 10,000 to 50,000.

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Tala has a savings feature which enables you to deposit cash and set goals. Unfortunately, the feature has not being launched yet. On a positive note, Tala has a referral section that lets you earn KES 100 off your next loan payment whenever you invite your friend. Tala’s customer care is not as informative as that of Branch. Even more, the option of talking with the support team is not obvious at first impression; you have to search it in between the answers of the FAQ sections.

Mshwari review

Mshwari is built into the MPESA menu, unlike Branch and Tala, it has no dedicated native app, but do not let this fool you into thinking it is lacking feature-wise. To access Mshwari, you just click the loans and savings option on the MPESA menu.

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Mshwari lets you save money by simply transferring it from your MPESA account for free. You can have saving goals through the “Lock savings account option on the Mshwari menu”. This section lets you save for a given period of time ranging from one to six months. The saved money earns you interest of 7.35% paid every three months. These are features that neither Branch nor Tala offers.

When it comes to loans, Mshwari lets you borrow after you have been an MPESA subscriber for at least 6 months, have saved in Mshwari and use Safaricom services actively. Loans have no interest fee; they instead have a facility fee of 7.5%. Payment period is set at one month only, regardless of the loaned amount.

 

Comparison

Branch Tala Mshwari
Interest rates Starts at 13.36% on first loan but gets lower as the loan amount increases Fixed at 11% for weekly payment option

 

Fixed at 15% for monthly payment option

Fixed at 7.5 “facility fee”
Ease of use Simplest, beautiful, informative and intuitive interface Has a lengthy questionnaire before applying for a loan.

 

Does have many borrowing options

Interface is text based and straight forward but lacks the visual cues.
Added features Loans borrowing only Savings option coming soon

 

In-built PIN lock for opening the app

Normal savings feature

 

Lock savings feature

 

Earning of interests on saved money (7.35% payed every 3 months)

Doesn’t need internet connection to operate

 

 

 

 

HERWorld Energy Forum to address the gender gap in the energy & extractives sector

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iMAGE CREDIT:scieng-women-ontario.ca

The 2nd HERWorld Energy Forum, a global think tank that seeks to address the gender gap in the energy and extractives sector is set for 8th March to mark the International Women’s Day.

Hosted by Women in Energy and Extractives Africa (WEX) alongside Pink Petro under the theme “The Next Era of Energy: Lean In, All In, Join In” the global forum brings together energy professionals who care about the future of the energy industry and are open to new perspectives.

#HERWORLD17’s main stage will be in Houston, Texas and will be livestreamed between the 15 different cities participating this year: Denver, Dallas, Baton Rouge, Chicago, Pittsburgh, New York, Anchorage, London, Florence, Aberdeen, The Hague, Dubai and Nairobi, Kenya which is serving as the hub for Africa.

“Kenya is honored to serve as the hub for Africa in this global event and recognize the challenges in the energy & extractive sectors must be analysed from a geo-political standpoint. HERWorld is imperative as we showcase women setting the pace in these sector. The energy challenges from a Sub-Saharan Africa(SSA) standpoint lie in its access, generation, production, management and distribution,” explained Lucky Ogutu Okudo, CEO and Founder, Women in Energy and Extractives Africa (WEX).

The Nairobi event will feature a wide range of speakers from the classroom to the C-Suite. The key speaker for the occasion is Eke Ugbaga Eke former Vice President and Group Managing Director of Schlumberger Oilfield Services, West Africa and CEO of the SpringRock Group as he shares his experience within the oil and gas industry over the last 25 years.

The event will feature panel discussions touching on topics around: Leaning into the Energy Transition and the NextGen Skillbuilding, the Fourth Industrial Revolution & Digital Transformation, Managing Career Transition & Attracting the NextGeneration and a Call to End the Gender Gap in the industry.           

A total of 23 speakers have been confirmed including Brian Muriuki (Country Head of SHELL), Susan Munyori (Local Content Tullow Oil), Jacinta Okwaro (UNWomen Extractive Advisor for East and Southern Africa) and Dr. Connie Martinon – Mumma – Total E&P.

The event further signifies the world’s belief in harnessing women’s power to drive change and the immense amount of potential they have to change the continent.

WEX Africa and Pink Petro will enable WEX Africa members to join and be a part of the Women Global Petroleum Club: Pink Petro for FREE.

South Africa’s remittance firm Mama Money launches in Nigeria, Ghana & Tanzania

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Mama Money, South Africa’s money transfer firm has expanded its money transfer service into Nigeria, Ghana and Tanzania and is eyeing expansion into Mozambique, Malawi and Kenya by April this year.

The firm also plans to expand out of Africa later this year.

According to Mama Money co-founder, Raphael Grojnowski, “Our platform, software and service solutions are developed for African and emerging economies where the rise and growth of mobile money is coupled with increasing demand for affordable legal money transfer. Mama Money has developed a sophisticated platform capable of processing money transfers reliably and securely.”

Mama Money’s technology and innovative social business model cemented its market position as an inexpensive and trustworthy money transfer operator for the SA-Zimbabwe corridor. This experience provided a solid launch pad to extend Mama Money into other countries.

The firm is now banking on its cost and trust as its biggest differentiators as its fees are charged on a sliding scale with a maximum fee of 5% – dramatically less than the industry average of 12%. There are no clearance periods or delays. Exchange rates and commission fees are completely transparent.

In South Africa, Mama Money has over 650 agents and PEP as its primary retail partner allowing users to transfer at any of its retailer partners which at 32 000 cash-in points or via bank transfer using a computer or mobile phone.

In Zimbabwe, through Mama Money’s integration with financial institutions we are reaching 6 million mobile wallets and 2 million bank accounts.

Mama Money is a gold member of AlphaCode, a Rand Merchant Investments (RMI) club for fintech startup entrepreneurs.

“MamaMoney’s rapid expansion is testament to its ability to service a fundamental need of migrant workers in South Africa. We are making significant strides in the area of financial inclusion by lowering the costs of financial services. It has a real impact on real people’s lives,” said RMI’s senior investment executive and head of AlphaCode, Dominique Collett.

Mama Money is licensed by The South African Reserve Bank, so people do not need a bank account or a SA ID document to use it. No smartphone or internet is required – the platform can be accessed without airtime.

At the moment, Mama Money is with 25 biggest banks in Nigeria and VKash, a mobile wallet. While in Ghana, it’s working with MTN Mobile Money and Airtel Money. Vodacom M-Pesa, EzyPesa and Airtel Money are its launch partners in Tanzania.

 

 

FunKidz Scoops Women4Technology Award Through Advertising On Facebook.

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FunKidz is an Innovative children’s brand opened 5 years ago. FunKidz provide high quality children’s furniture designed and manufactured in Kenya founded by Owner Ciiru Waithaka and started advertising in 2013 with great success. Since then, Funky expanded into export markets such as Uganda and Rwanda, as a direct result of Facebook.

Facebook announced that there are over three million businesses the vast majority of which are small and Medium Business – actively advertising on Facebook, up 50% in just one year. Seventy percent of these three million companies are from outside the U.S. Currently more than 50   million small businesses use Facebook’s free Pages product to grow.

Facebook is the bridge to the new mobile economy for small business, helping them communicate with customers anytime, anywhere. More than one billion people on Facebook are connected to at least one business.  And, in the U.S., over 80% of people of Facebook are connected to a small business.

FunKidz, and Eat out Kenya are the small and medium businesses showcased rapid growth in market share accelerated by Facebook business page in Kenya.

Glomo Awards, the industry’s leading stage for innovation, excellence and achievement, are presented at Mobile World Congress.This Category recognizes best practices in terms of initiatives, programmes and policies by organisations and companies.

The GSMA Women4Tech – Mobile Industry Leadership Award, was presented to both an individual and organisation, who have demonstrated outstanding contributions to closing the gender gap. FunKidz for Kidz Go Tech, was announced as the winner of the GSMA Glomo Awards Women4Tech category. Among the nominated Organizations in this category, was Safaricom’s Women in IT and Digital Leadership Institute.

Speaking at the event, Michael O’Hara, Chief Marketing Officer at GSMA said “Our congratulations to all of the winners and nominees of the GSMA’s Glomo Awards at Mobile World Congress this week. The Glomo Awards truly showcase those companies and individuals that are driving innovation in the rapidly evolving mobile industry. We thank all of our entrants, judges, sponsors and partners for supporting the 2017 Glomo Awards.”

Last year, First Lady Michelle Obama delivering remarks at The United State of Women Dinner, as part of The White House’s The United State of Women Summit, at the U.S. Department of State. The dinner, co-hosted by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women were highlighted women’s economic empowerment and the government-wide efforts surrounding Let Girls Learn. During Michelle remarks ciiru was recognized for her success and funding of a program for kids from struggling families to teach them about innovation and technology of which she has reached more than 350.

Orange’s Go Ignite Global Call seeking growth stage startups

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Following the success of its inaugural global call for start-ups last year, Go Ignite, an alliance of four leading telcos, has launched its second global call at the Four Years From Now (4YFN) technology and start-up event at the Mobile World Congress 2017 in Barcelona.

Go Ignite comprises hub:raum, Orange Fab, Singtel Innov8 and Telefonica Open Future_, the open innovation arms of Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Singtel, and Telefonica.

Mr Bertrand Rojat, Start-up Ecosystem Director, Orange said: “Following the success of our first call for start-ups last year, both in terms of the response we had and our ability to work together seamlessly across our accelerator programmes, this years’ call will see us putting our collective support behind some key areas for our business units: consumer experience AI, Connected Homes, IoT security.”

The Go Ignite Second Global Call is seeking growth stage start-ups that have market-ready solutions in Consumer Experience Artificial Intelligence (AI), Connected Homes, or Internet-of-Things (IoT) Security. Consumer Experience AI refers to the use of new technology to provide personalised customer support or new forms of customer interaction. Connected Homes are solutions that use software or hardware to enhance smart living or connectivity, while IoT Security leverages new technologies to keep vehicles, industries, smart homes and smart cities safe.

The application window is open from 1 March 2017 to 30 April 2017 for up to five winners to be selected. The alliance members will provide the winners with mentoring expertise, contacts, office space, event support and access to a combined market of more than 1.2 billion customers across Africa, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, South East Asia and Australia.

The alliance members will provide them with a two-day training session with experts in telco innovation, technologies and investments practices, to help them refine their solutions and sharpen their strategies.

Through exclusive meetings, the winners will be given the opportunity to form business partnerships with the four telcos. They will also be introduced to the telcos’ key decision makers and’ venture capital teams where successful start-ups will receive funding to grow their business.

The inaugural Go Ignite global call last year was very positive for Contiamo, a German start-up. Its cloud-based data analytics proposal was selected as one of the five winners.

Another winner was Blueliv, a Spanish cyber security start-up set to work directly with several international clients of Orange Cyberdefense.

Five DEMO Africa 2016 winners join global startups for Startup Grind Conference

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The five DEMO Africa 2016 top startups will be part of the 2017 edition of the [email protected] Innovation Tour in California organized by the Silicon Valley based African Technology Foundation.

The trip is part of the fifth edition of [email protected] Innovation Tour aimed at fostering knowledge sharing, networking and initiating deeper engagements with partners and startups in Silicon Valley.

The startups incliude Sortd,   SolsticeMediaBoxStrauss Energy and ConnectMed.

According to Aliesha Balde, Communications Manager for the [email protected] program, “These five startups have been prepared for the tour through a series of learning activities over a two month long virtual bootcamp. We want them to engage the Silicon Valley ecosystem on their own terms, but armed with the right tools and equipped with the necessary resources”.

Launched in 2013,  DEMO Africa has seen twenty-five (25) African startups raise around $16 million in funding and gained mentorship from  top Silicon Valley VCs. Some of the startups that have already participated in the tours include SokoFlowgearSpacepointeZuvaa and Chura.

“After emerging as winners from an application pool of over six hundred startups on the continent, we are eager to ensure that these five companies successfully assume an ambassadorial role for African innovation”, said Stephen Ozoigbo, Managing Partner of the [email protected] Program. “They are re-inventing Africa’s future, and we are supporting their strategic actions to increase their likelihood of success”.

About the companies

ConnectMed

ConnectMed  is an online medical practice that allows patients to seek treatment from General Practitioners over video for common ailments directly through a web & mobile application.

Country of Origin— Kenya

Key Executive

Melissa McCoy

MediaBox

MediaBox  is a video-on-demand content aggregation platform that gives viewers the easiest way to watch international and local content, both on demand and live over the internet.

Country of Origin— South Africa

Key Executives

James Muir

Roeland Van Nieuwkerk

Solstice

Solstice Home Energy Solutions offers a simple multi-energy source management and energy control system for homes and buildings. Solstice uses data from their integrated hardware/software system to provide clean, reliable and affordable energy solutions.

Country of Origin— Nigeria

Key Executives

Ugwem Eneyo

Cole Stites-Clayton

Strauss Energy

Strauss Energy is a solar energy and manufacturing company that produces innovative BIPV Stima solar roofing tiles. Strauss energy offers a cost-efficient alternative to modern solar roof panels and distributes and sells energy at a significantly reduced price.

Country of Origin  — Kenya

Key Executives

Tony Nyagah

Charity Wanjiku

Sortd

Sortd is a Gmail smartskin that expands the functionality of an email inbox by providing users with the option of organizing emails as a flexible set of lists or tasks.

Country of Origin— South Africa

Key Executives

Rodney Kuhn

Tala Raises Over $30 Million to Expand into New Markets

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Tala, the Los Angeles-based mobile technology and data science firm using credit scoring to provide financial services to people in East Africa and the Philippines has raised more than $30 million in Series B financing to accelerate product development, expand into new markets, and build its internal team.

The round was led by IVP and joined by Ribbit Capital with participation from existing investors Lowercase Capital, Data Collective, Collaborative Fund and Female Founders Fund (F3).

As part of the financing, Jules Maltz from IVP has joined Tala’s Board of Directors.

“By using smartphone data to build financial identity, Tala is pioneering a new model that can reach more than two billion people globally who have been underserved by traditional finance companies,” said Jules Maltz, General Partner, IVP. “We are thrilled to partner with Shivani and the Tala management team to help accelerate Tala’s next phase of growth and unlock capital and opportunity for millions of people across the world.”

Formerly Mkopo Rahisi (Inventure) Tala currently operates in East Africa and Southeast Asia with its main top markets being Nairobi, Kenya and Manila in the Philippines, where it allows users to access finances for personal and business use. It’s major competitor is Branch, another US-based firm operating in Africa and Safaricom’s Mshwari.

In September 2015, Inventure raised $10M series A round to launch into additional markets in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. The series A round was led by Data Collective with participation from Chris Sacca’s Lowercase Capital; Facebook co-founder and independent investor Chris Hughes; Palantir and Paypal co-founder Nathan Gettings and former Citigroup CEO Vikram Pandit among others.

Today, Tala’s Android app aggregates more than 10,000 different data points on a customer’s device, including financial transactions, savings, network diversity, and geographic patterns, and builds a customized credit score, or financial identity. Once a customer has been scored through the app, he or she can quickly apply for credit and receive an instant decision. The size and terms of the credit product are customized based on a customer’s risk and capacity. Credit is disbursed directly to customers’ mobile money accounts in less than 5 minutes, and customers repay their loans directly from the app.

 “From day one, Tala’s mission has been to change global financial systems so that people have more access, choice, and control,” said Shivani Siroya, Founder and CEO of Tala. “With this new round and team of phenomenal investors and advisors, we are positioned to connect millions of underserved people to financial services that can advance their lives.”

Tala has delivered more than one million loans totaling over $50 million, and more than one million individuals have accessed the product in East Africa alone. More than 95 percent of Tala’s borrowers return to Tala for additional loans, and repayment rates are above 90 percent.

“No company in our portfolio makes me prouder to be involved and has more potential for upside than Tala,” said Chris Sacca, Founder & Chairman of Lowercase Capital.

Medx.care launches to connect patients to healthcare providers in Africa

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Medx.care is a digital hospital offering a CASH2HEALTH services to empower families across the emerging countries, with initial focus on Africa.

Speaking to TechMoran, Patricia Monthe said the platform is an end-to-end, one-stop-shop covering a wide variety of healthcare services ( from self-care to primary, secondary and tertiary care in a box).

“Think of a medical professional in Africa in need of validating test results for an illness never encountered before. Should such a professional have the opportunity of getting a second opinion from a peer in a neighboring or oversea country, he or she  will be able to do more in less time, enabling other institutions to do more with less resource and ultimately the patient would benefit from cross validated results,” said Patricia.

Founded by sisters Patricia & Laetitia Monthe, who are originally from Cameroon, with a team behind them, the two said they were inspired by their own predicaments.

“I almost lost my sister to misdiagnosis,” Patricia tell TechMoran. “She was being treated for Typhoid while suffering from Malaria. Hours after starting the treatment, her body reacted severely to the administered medication; none of the medical professionals around seemed to know what was going on.”

Patricia says they were fortunate to know a nurse with a very good track record in the neighborhood and reached out to her and she intervened soon enough to  turn the situation around.
That single experience changed her thinking about the local system of care and she began to do her research into her country’s healthcare system.

According to Patricia  Medx is trying to solve a huge problem.
“We address inaccessibility, inadequacy, affordability, traceability and regulation issues in healthcare,” she said. “Think of an estimated 2 billion people across the emerging countries who can be positively impacted by our integrated health suite solution.”

Though public health policies could solve some of this issues, there are problems of affordability and implementation of health care to all hence the need for technology.

Medx is now self funded and is working with a company to attract funding to help it grow past this stage. With funding Medx aims to reach all emerging countries as they face a similar problem.

Safaricom opens up applications for its 2017 technology internship program

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Bob Collymore, CEO Safaricom

Safaricom expects to have 63 university students under its 2017 technology internship program with at least 40 of them female and four of them persons living with disabilities.

Rebranded to Safaricom Technology Academy this year, the internship program will be expanded to include five courses in addition to the hands-on internship experience. The courses under the Technology Academy will include IP Networking, Application Development, inter-personal skills, personal finances and job readiness skills.

“Our Technology Academy reflects our commitment to building local capacity and equipping Kenyans with the skills to keep up with fast changing technology. We have carefully designed the structure of the Academy to ensure participants are well prepared to tackle Kenya’s demanding technology sector,” said Thibaud Rerolle, Director – Technology, Safaricom.

In 2016, Safaricom absorbed two permanent employees from its internship program, while more than 20 other interns have been absorbed by 18 companies who have partnered with Safaricom on the Technology Academy. To date, more than 360 students have completed the program since its inception in 2012.

Safaricom’s Technology Internship program has also been credited with bridging the gender gap in the mobile operator, with female engineers now numbering 164 from 92 in 2013.

Applications for the 2017 Safaricom Technology Academy will open on the Safaricom Career Portal from Monday, 20th February 2017 and close on Sunday, 26th February 2017. This year’s program is especially targeting people living with disabilities in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics fields.