Thursday, April 28, 2016

Kenyans Start To Roam Silicon Savannah


Kenyans start to roam Silicon Savannah

The country has had to rely on ingenuity, not commodities, to keep ticking over
Ingram Pinn cartoon depicting Kenya's Silicon Savannah
The best thing to be said about Kenya’s oilfields may be this: they don’t contain much oil. If the east African country pumped out crude at the rate of Saudi Arabia, its proven reserves of 600m barrels would vanish in 52 days. That is no bad thing in a continent where the “resource curse” has hexed many a nation. Take a look at the countries with stuff in the ground, including Nigeria, Angola, Zambia, South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Kenya’s lack of natural bounty looks like a blessing.
Instead of oil or gas, gold or cocoa, Kenya has had to rely on ingenuity to keep itself ticking over. That matches the first success stories in Asia, where Japan, Taiwan and South Korea took off in spite of, and not because of, natural riches.
Kenya has developed one of the most diversified economies in Africa with light manufacturing, agro-processing, tourism, banking, remittances from the diaspora and, most significantly, a technology hub so fizzing with youthful enterprise they call it Silicon Savannah.
Now that the commodity boom is over, Kenya, along with a few other countries in east Africa, including Ethiopia, Rwanda and Tanzania, looks better placed than nations that have failed to diversify. According to the World Bank, Kenya will grow 5.6 per cent this year and 6.1 per cent next, matching its expansion since around 2000.
On a recent visit to the iHub, a multi-storeyed building on Ngong road in Nairobi, the only sound to be heard was the tap-tap of keyboards as 20-somethings, sprawling on sofas, perching on exercise balls or lounging on bean bags, worked on their latest projects. Even the table football was not temptation enough to distract them from their coding.
Juliana Rotich is executive director of Ushahidi, a company whose crowdsourcing technology has been used to map crises around the world, from earthquakes in Haiti and tsunamis in Japan to political violence at home.
Ms Rotich, a serial entrepreneur in her late-30s, is a director of BRCK, which produces a rugged brick-shaped modem and WiFi router that provides internet access even when the power is down, an all-too-frequent occurrence in much of Africa.
Kenyans, she says, have become adept at creative solutions to daily hassles and working around infrastructure shortfalls. “It’s the sort of thing that’s not whizz-bang, but incredibly impactful.”
One example is M-Kopa, a company that sells individual solar-panel kits to villagers who can run lights, a radio and mobile phone off the power. For a downpayment of $35 and daily instalments of about 50 cents, customers are guaranteed a constant electricity supply. (Presumably it helps that Kenya is sunny.) Once they have demonstrated creditworthiness by paying off their solar equipment, they become eligible to buy other products, including fuel-efficient stoves, smartphones and M-Kopa powered televisions.
M-Kopa is a business, not a charity, which makes it sustainable. It is an example of “leapfrogging”, a favourite word among Afro-enthusiasts who believe that technology can solve problems from poverty to corruption. Ms Rotich, sensibly, makes less grandiose claims. “It’s patching up, but it’s cool,” she says.
As with much technology in Kenya, M-Kopa is enabled by M-Pesa, a decade-old mobile money system that underpins Silicon Savannah. M-Pesa serves 22m people who push large chunks of Kenya’s output over the mobile network every day.
Bob Collymore, chief executive of Safaricom, the company that developed the idea, said he knew his company was on to something when ordinary Kenyans told him they no longer used ATMs or banks. M-Pesa has brought Kenyans, from herdsmen and subsistence farmers to slum dwellers and apartment owners, into the networked economy.
Kenya might even become the world’s first cashless society were it not for politicians’ need for bundles of paper currency at election time.
There are limits to such technological workarounds. M-Kopa would be redundant if Kenya had reliable, universal power. Its success is partly a product of the state’s failure, though to be fair Kenya has a better and more diverse energy supply than many other African nations. Nor has there been a technological breakthrough with anything like the same impact since M-Pesa was introduced in 2007.
Still, there are incremental advances. General Electric is developing a tele-diagnostic health service with local start-up SevenSeas, which allows screening to take place in remote clinics and to be analysed in central hubs in real time. Safaricom has installed cameras in Nairobi and Mombasa, replete with facial recognition technology, to help state agencies fight crime and terrorism.
One must not exaggerate. Kenya is still poor, prone to ethnic violence, vulnerable to terrorist attacks and terribly corrupt. Manufacturing exports have stalled. Beyond horticulture, it has not done enough to drag agriculture into the 21st century. Income per capita, in purchasing power terms, is still only around $3,000, less than half the level of the Philippines, until recently considered an Asian basket case.
Still, Kenya, market friendly, deregulated, chaotic and entrepreneurial, feels like a country on the move. As the commodity groups of Africa pick themselves off the floor and wonder what to do next, Kenya’s economy is moving across its home-built savannah.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Cape Verde Military Barracks Shooting Kills 11

Cape Verde: Military Barracks Shooting Kills 11

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A shooting attack on April 26 at a military barracks in Cape Verde killed eight soldiers and three civilians, Interior Administration Minister Paulo Rocha said, Xinhua reported April 27. Though much remains unclear about the attack, Rocha said a soldier who was on guard duty at the time of the assault disappeared and authorities suspect he was involved. The interior minister also rejected calling the attack an act of terrorism or labeling it as drug-related violence.

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Saturday, April 23, 2016

Free Festival To Showcase Cape Town's Port Life

Long Weekend Fun: Free festival to showcase Cape Town's port life

38 minutes ago
Cape Town - Port Festivals are a widely celebrated aspect of South African ports and – in a bid to reintegrate the ports with their communities – Transnet National Ports Authority (TNPA) is once more rolling out these action-packed events across the country’s ports.
The Cape Town Port Festival:
Date: A two-day event running over a long weekend from Saturday, 30 April to Sunday, 01 May
Where: In and around the Port of Cape Town - A Berth, Duncan Dock
Time: From 10h00 until 20h00 on Saturday, 30 April and from 10h00 until 17h00 on Sunday 1 May.
Cost: Entry to the festival is free.  
What to Expect: port-goers can mingle with celebrities, visit craft stands, dance along to some of South Africa’s top DJs, enjoy a picnic with loved ones or indulge in the numerous waterside and landside activities on offer.

TNPA Chief Executive Richard Vallihu says, the port authority is pursuing the concept of ‘smart people’s ports’ with a focus on development as well as technology.
"To us, progressive and sustainable ports are those that co-exist and evolve with the communities where the commercial ports are."
These port festivals, not only uplift communities but exposes the public SA's ports in a fun and innovative way, says Vallihu.
More plans are afoot to open the ports up to promote tourism, leisure, recreation, career and business opportunities and community engagement.
The first port festival in more than 10 years kicked off last year, with a launch in one of the country’s major port cities – Richards Bay, KwaZulu-Natal. It saw thousands of people flock to the Port of Richards Bay to enjoy naval vessel tours, water sports, ocean activities, kids’ entertainment and live performances by a host of South African artists and DJs.
TNPA’s Cape Town Port Manager Sipho Nzuza says, "We want the communities around our ports to feel a sense of belonging and ownership. The two-day Cape Town Port Festival promises fun for the whole family.”

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

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Tuesday, April 19, 2016

The Best Performing Currency In The World Is In Africa

FOREX Africa: Zambia’s Kwacha Resurrects As World Best Performing Currency In 2016

By Kevin Mwanza Published: April 18, 2016, 8:31 am
Image: zambiareports.comImage:
Zambia’s kwacha has emerged from being the third worst performing currency in the world in 2015 to being the best so far this year, beating more than 150 other currencies tracked by Bloomberg.
The kwacha has climbed about 20 percent in just four month of 2016, cutting its last year’s loss by half, and ahead of the Russian ruble, the Brazilian real and precious metals like gold and silver.
The jump is on the back of a strong monetary policy taken by the Bank of Zambia and other government interventions in the economy, such as a review of fuel subsidies, the state-owned Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation reported.
The currency has also benefited from an increase in metal prices, news of increased mining investment and proposed changes to mineral royalties seen to be more investor friendly.
Zambia accounts for 70 percent of Africa’s total copper production and the metal, which is widely used in wiring and electrical devices, makes up 60 percent of Zambia’s exports.
Copper prices  have gained 11 percent on the international market from the seven-year low they hit in mid January.
“We continue to see the kwacha relocating with the copper price,” Gareth Brickman, an Africa analyst at ETM Analytics, told Bloomberg. “There is still room for several percent’s worth of gains.”
The kwacha’s slump last year was caused by a severe power crisis, falling copper prices and a ballooning budget deficit.
Some analysts and Zambian opposition members have said the rise in the kwacha could only be a flash in the pan and all indicators are that the central African currency will resume its fall by mid this year.
“We do not see value in the kwacha [even] given this rally. There’s a lot of factors pointing towards kwacha weakness towards the middle of the year,” Irmgard Erasmus, Zambia expert at South Africa-based NKC African Economics, told Newsweek.
In a statement, the main opposition party UPND said the recent gains on the kwacha were illogical since the underlying factors that made it collapse have not changed.
Some like International Trade and Business Consultant Trevor Simumba say the recent appreciation of the Kwacha was due to manipulation by the Bank of Zambia, since according to him all the key economic fundamentals are weak.
“What they have done is to remove kwacha from circulation. when you look at the dollar as a product it is bought by somebody possessing kwacha. Too little kwacha chasing the dollar brings about the drop in the price of the dollar or exchange rate,” Lusaka Times quotes Simumba saying.
Bloomberg reported that some companies were converting their dollar holdings to kwacha on fear that they could lose out on the rally, something that was helping the local currency strengthen further.
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