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IoT going mainstream in Africa

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It is still early days for the Internet of Things (IoT), both here in the Middle East and Africa (MEA) and globally. But, according to IDC, signs that it will soon be mainstream are already appearing.

For retail, this is literally true. All those digital signs popping up in shopping centers and airports in the MEA region are the most visible element of a market that is taking off.

According to a recent IDC study looking at four key markets (Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, and the UAE), spending on IoT solutions among retailers will grow by an average of around 19% annually for the foreseeable future, representing nearly $1.6 billion in spending from 2014 through 2018. While this growth is a bit slower than for IoT across all industries in MEA, it is in line with global trends, where IoT spending in retail and overall is soaring by an average of around 19% per year.

Despite the visibility of the signs, the great majority of IoT projects will relate to in-store promotions and personalized promotions as well as ad-hoc improvements to supply chains, in-store inventory systems, and transportation or delivery systems. This stems from a need for basic infrastructure and process optimization. Retailers are also seeking online and mobile sales channels and customer relationship initiatives, all steps on the path towards the creation of true omni-channel shopping.

For the three Middle East markets involved in the study (Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the UAE), IoT goes hand in hand with high-end retail. While digital signage tends to be employed more equitably in terms of location, and IT more generally is working its way into lower-end shops (even if just as a PC or a mobile phone), the bulk of IoT solutions are being installed in large, midrange, and upscale shopping areas, particularly in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Indeed, IoT products can undoubtedly help convey a ‘luxury feel’, a crucial element of the region’s high-end value proposition.

For all four markets, international brands will be the driving force. While high-end brands are already spreading throughout shopping centers and airports in the region, the markets remain underserved. The great majority of retail sales still happen in small, independent shops (in Sub-Saharan Africa, this proportion can be up to 90%). But where regional and global chains are present, competition is fierce, particularly in larger cities. Anything that enhances the customer experience – such as IoT – will be essential for long-term loyalty.

Despite IoT’s uptake in retail both regionally and globally, the term is not widely used in the region’s retail sector. While forward-thinking retailers in MEA readily embrace cutting-edge technology, they do so with an eye towards streamlining operations, reducing costs, and enhancing the customer experience. A point-of-sale system integrated with a customer-relationship-management system that connects web and mobile access points may be based on cloud technology or it may be located on client servers. For the retailer running it, the task it performs comes first.

Africa News

Mastercard names 9 Africa projects for $9-million fund

The Mastercard Foundation Fund for Rural Prosperity (FRP) has announced that nine companies from seven countries will receive more than US$9 million to support projects that expand financial inclusion in rural Africa.

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The nine companies were selected from more than 300 firms competing in the first two phases of the Fund’s 2017/2018 rolling competition, which launched in June 2017 and closed in January 2018.

The 2017/2018 rolling competition was one of the Fund’s largest in its efforts to find and support providers of innovative and scalable financial products and services that improve the lives of poor people living in rural areas of Africa. Financing for another group of companies, assessed as part of the third and fourth phases of the competition, will be announced in 2019.

The latest round of financial support will extend innovative transactions, green energy, asset finance, mobile banking, agency banking, and distribution/logistics solutions to excluded rural populations in the seven countries.

Phase #1 selected companies are:

  • Equity Bank Congo SA
  • FutureLink Technologies Limited
  • Apollo Agriculture Limited
  • SolarNow Services Limited
  • Easy Solar Limited
  • Dodore Kenya Limited

Phase #2 selected companies are:

  • Farmerline Limited
  • Stewards Globe Limited
  • Microcred Limited

The nature and geographical diversity of the new projects saw the Fund expand its presence to four additional Sub-Saharan countries: Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, Sierra Leone, and Zambia. The Mastercard Foundation Fund for Rural Prosperity portfolio now includes 30 projects in 11 countries in Africa (Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia). The projects comprise a range of businesses from traditional banks and solar-energy leasing companies to agricultural off-taker firms.

“We are excited to add nine more companies to our growing portfolio that is having a positive impact on the lives of millions of people across Sub-Saharan Africa,” said Wambui Chege, Team Leader of the Fund for Rural Prosperity. “Today’s announcement reinforces our belief that there is a wide range of innovative, Africa-led projects that, with a little support, can drive financial inclusion across the continent.”

Lindsay Wallace, Director of Strategy and Learning at the Mastercard Foundation, said: “The aim of the FRP has always been to enable smallholder farmers and poor people living in rural Africa to reach their full potential by supporting new private sector initiatives that provide access to financial services. We’re very happy to see this latest round of selected firms, demonstrating the depth and breadth of ideas and action plans that will do just that.”

Continue reading about the companies on the next page.

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IoT’s answer for Africa

IoT and digitization enables us to efficiently, proactively and predictively address the sustainability challenges that are faced globally and on the African continent, RESHAAD SHA, CEO of Liquid Telecom.

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With Africa’s population set to increase from around 1.3-billion in 2018 to 1.7-billion in 2030, both challenges and opportunities are presented with regards managing issues including food production and security pose  as well the utilization of limited natural resources in a sustainable manner.

Water scarcity and quality for example are realities that negatively impact health, food production and security. Population growth rates and climatic changes place an exponential demand on this scarce and dwindling resource. These are just some of the sustainability challenges facing not just the African continent, but other developing nations and the world as a whole. In addition to this, the demand for the delivery of basic services as healthcare and sanitation also increases.

Against this background of African population growth lies the grim projection that Africa will account for more than 50% of child deaths (under 5) by 2030, while each day, nearly 1000 children die owing to preventable water and sanitation-related diarrheal diseases according to the UNICEF 2017 trends in child mortality report. It’s an alarming fact, given that while some 2.6-billion people have gained access to improved drinking water sources since 1990, 663-million people still do not have access.

The department of Water Affairs and Forestry estimate that the agricultural sector accounts for more than 50% of water use in South Africa and experience water losses of between 30 and 40 per cent. Further, the department states that around 35% of irrigation system losses, often nutrient enriched and containing herbicides, pesticides, and other pollutants, return to rivers. These are just some of the ways in which reactive, inefficient, and manually driven processes have limited us in responding in an impactful manner and timeously mitigating these risks

It is for these reasons and other socio economic and environmental concerns that the United Nations has established its Sustainable Development Goals strategy, addressing the global challenges we face, including those related to poverty, inequality, climate, and environmental degradation.

We need to look at smarter ways that leverage technology in order to addressing these challenges. The situation requires a radical response that delivers a proactive, predictive and data driven approach to addressing these issues with exponentially growing levels of speed and impact.

The IoT ecosystem, comprising of sensors, connectivity, data analytics and workflow automation platforms, and applications are at the core of acquiring, analyzing and harnessing the insights that can be integrated into agriculture, service delivery, health and resource management processer – IoT is at the core of a digitization

One such sector which has benefited immensely from technology is in agriculture pest control, with the implementation of AI and IoT by Spanish startup AgroPestAlert. The innovation makes use of “smart” traps that capture insects and analyse their wing beats to identify their species and even their sex. Placed throughout the fields, the traps communicate with the system to predict an imminent invasion. The system will send alerts to phones, tablets and computers and use an easy-to-understand visual tool to cue farmers instantly.

Around 200-million Africans use approximately 1-million manual pumps across the continent to manually access clean drinking water.  IoT applications have been utilised in assuring the delivery of water through manual these pumps, According to estimates, at least one-third of those pumps will break down at least once in its lifecycle, and up to 70% will break in the second year of operation. The impact of not having access to clean drinking water is dehydration or water borne pandemics.

In the Kenyan Region of Kyusoa, Oxford University began a proof of concept project in 2013, which made use of motion sensors) to capture the movements of the pumps’ handle which was transmitted and analysed in real time. A decision support system based on real data was  used to predict pump malfunctions, allowing for a better planning and shortening the time needed to repair broken pumps, or avoiding malfunctions altogether, directly improving the access to clean drinking water for the rural population.

Liquid Telecom realise that the future of sustainability lies in technology and innovations such as IoT. We provide high speed fiber connectivity to interconnect as well as access platforms to build IoT solutions, in addition to access to Microsoft Azure suite of platforms for analytics and algorithm driven based processing and execution. Our Pan African network enables collaboration and cross border innovation and learning, fast well as the capability to efficiently scale out these solutions on Africa’s Liquid Cloud.

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