In 2002 I first travelled to Ghana. When I landed, I was given a Spacefon “chip” (Sim card) at the airport, and thus started my journey with mobile phones and innovation in Africa. It was only 2 years after I had started using my first mobile phone. The network wasn’t always good, and there were often 20 “hello?” said at the beginning of the call, before a conversation could be had, but it was brilliant. Being their as a young lad for the first time, it made life a lot easier. Through the years, Spacefon became Areeba, and now one of the giants MTN, and like the changing networks, so has the quality of the service provided. There are now a plethora networks to use, and during my last trip I was able to live stream the Easter celebrations from a small village in the east of the country. Quite a big step in the last 15 years!
Innovation in Africa is now big news. What is encouraging is that individuals and groups are joining hand and collectively driving forward technology and innovation in the continent. There has been a joint realisation that innovation is able to speed up the development of the continent, which has been playing catch up for decades. With the biggest youthful population, the continent can use innovative trends to gain an equal standpoint globally. Inventive Africa is one of the parts of this giant machine promoting innovation, and it is always exciting to see others that are passionate about the same things.
One such project is Mobile Africa, a movie outlining the technology revolution that is underway throughout Africa. Fortunately for Inventive Africa, Mobile Africa filmmakers Scott Gorman and Chris Larson. Support their film Mobile Africa: The Story of a Tech Revolution on Kickstarter today. Check out their teaser video below and see what they have to say!
African innovation has not received the global recognition it deserves. The continent is teeming with entrepreneurs and innovators developing new products, apps, and technology solutions that aim to improve lives, both at home, and abroad. Africa’s new generation of tech innovators have been empowered by the rapid ascent of the humble mobile phone. Mobile Africa: A Story of Tech Revolution interviewed almost 20 startups across the continent for their short documentary to highlight and promote these innovations and entrepreneurs. Here are five of the most innovative apps coming out of Africa that are featured in the documentary:
Starting in Cape Town and expanding rapidly, SweepSouth is the Uber for home cleaning. As a house/flat owner, you get on the app, schedule a time for a cleaning, and SweepSouth does the rest. Through this app SweepSouth is changing the perception of house cleaners in South Africa, providing these cleaners with a safer service by allowing them to also rate the house/flat owner. CEO and co-founder Aisha Pandor was also just named one of Glamour’s Business Women of the Year, so expect big things from SweepSouth in the future.
Kytabu is based in Nairobi, and is focused on democratizing access to textbooks by bringing them online. Kytabu saw a gap between the number of students attending school and their access to quality textbooks. With their innovative app they are changing the way education is provided in Africa.
SimbaPay Founder Nyasinga was in London working in the financial sector when he experienced the difficulty of transferring money from abroad to friends and family back home. That led him to found Simbapay, a desktop and mobile solution that works for both Europe and Africa. They are continually adding countries that can receive money from Europe, and are also beginning to work on inter-African money transfers.
Remittances are big business in Africa, and industry leaders like Western Union capture a relatively large percentage of funds transferred between individuals. Cheaper and more efficient ways of sending money are poised to disrupt business as usual in Africa. They are continually adding countries that can receive money from Europe, and are also beginning to work on inter-African money transfers.
Vula Mobile was started by Dr William Mapham to address the lack of health care access among rural residents, especially in terms of cataract treatments. His experience of encountering blindness caused by preventable issues led him to found Vula Mobile. Through an app, local practitioners and doctors can send pictures and notes to specialists in larger cities to receive referrals and other information. Vula Mobile has recently expanded into other medical issues including burn treatment.
Inventive Africa also featured Vula here!
If you watch African movies, then you know of Nollywood. The fast-developing Nigerian movie scene has taken over the country, the continent, and the diaspora, by pumping out hundreds of movies every year. iROKOtv provides inexpensive and convenient access to these movies through its app. Because downloading movies requires a large amount of data, iROKOtv recently installed kiosks where movies can be downloaded to a person’s account, for free. Nigeria’s Netflix is not only providing content to viewers, but innovating local solutions to overcome barriers to access in convenient and affordable ways.
As more and more people gain access to both smartphones and the internet, app based solutions will continue to drive Africa forward, impacting the daily lives of millions of Africans.
Thank you to Scott and Chris for both guest blogging on Inventive Africa and being part of the African innovation story. There documentary promises to be an exciting look at a continent that many do not understand, or try to understand. Whereas many think that Africa represents poverty, disease and wild animals, on the contrary it is a place of happiness, creativity, inspiration and innovation. This documentary should inspire people both within and outside of Africa to be creative and push forward with their innovations!
For a complete list of startups interviewed, head to their Kickstarter page.
If you know of any innovations in Africa, an innovation that is changing lives, or you also want to be a guest blogger, get in contact with us on Twitter @inventiveAfrica or via email. Please share the blog with your network on Twitter and Facebook.