Weekly Review February 2-8: Technology Innovation in Africa

This week’s articles cover news on technology innovation in Africa. There are many opportunities for organizations of all sizes, both public and private, to respond to the diverse needs on the African continent.

 “2013 and the Emerging Market Potential” on IT News Africa
The potential for growth in emerging markets is going to be driven by “fast-paced technological advancement.” In Africa in particular, we’re seeing the development of technological hubs and centers such as Ghana Cyber City and the planned “silicon” city of Konza in Kenya. Such areas are providing incentives and opportunities for large companies to set up shop and grow in Africa. More frequently, large companies such as Safaricom (discussed in the next article) and Samsung in the telecom sector, are finding significant new opportunities to build products for the needs of Africans at the business, government, and consumer level.

The Art of Discovery:  Incubating Mobile Money Ideas in Uganda” by Olga Morawczynski on CGAP
Many are trying to meet the demand for short-term credit in Africa. Safaricom’s new M-Shwari does this, with over 1 million customers signed up since launch about one month ago. Thanks to Safaricom’s large customer base and strong market presence, the uptake of the service has been excellent. The Grameen Foundation’s App Lab Money project in Uganda is investigating how to help large organizations like Safaricom “discover” ways to innovate and meet product needs like short-term credit faster and more effectively. Check out the article for the six key steps organizations should take to improve “the art of discovery.”

Igniting the invisible:  African Tech Innovation Index” by Gladys Kitony on the iHub Blog
The African Innovation Foundation is funding a project to develop a standardized measure of innovation in Africa. The team consists of iHub Research team members along with Masters and PhD candidates from the University of Nairobi.  In addition to compiling an index with African-specific indicators and metrics of innovation, the team will also trace the path of innovation and study what fosters and what hinders it. We’re looking forward to seeing the first iteration.

When Worlds Collide:  Platform Technologies for Social Benefit” by Thane Kreiner on The Huffington Post ImpactX
Software/mobile technology is the largest single sector for traditional VC investment. On the other hand, traditional VC for clean tech is decreasing, likely related to its high capital intensity. At ID, we focus on both largely due to their significant potential for impact both separately and when combined. With regard to investment in clean tech, Kreiner makes a fair point: both private and public sector investment are necessary for renewable energy technologies to be a feasible alternative. This is why we closely follow the energy policies of the countries and regions we invest in (examples on the blog include Kenya and India).

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