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GE Garages to build tech, business skills in Kenya

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GE Africa and Gearbox have launched a ‘GE Garages’ manufacturing program to help build a skilled workforce and drive entrepreneurial development in Kenya in order to support the development of a manufacturing ecosystem and build skills in the region.

The GE Garages – Nairobi would contribute to bridging the technical skills gap in Kenya. According to the National Manpower Survey, the percentage of vacant posts in the transport sector is 2.8%. While the Oil and Gas Sector will create between 6,000 and 15,000 new jobs over the next ten years with the majority requiring technical or vocational training. The GE Garages space, which will be hosted at Gearbox’s premises, will support classes and workshops, for students, entrepreneurs, makers and others to learn more about advanced manufacturing processes, software programming and business development. It will feature advanced manufacturing innovations like 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC mills for the industrial world to encourage entrepreneurial disruption and a skilled workforce for the future.

Speaking at a media event to announce the initiative, Dr Kamau Gachigi, CEO of Gearbox said Gearbox is very excited about this relationship as it central to their objective of democratising access to opportunities in industrialisation. Gearbox is in the process of assembling a formidable arsenal of modern machines and CAD/CAM software for digital fabrication, alongside more traditional but essential technologies, all under one roof to be made accessible on a membership basis to people who currently have no such opportunity. They will need to be trained on the use of this state-of-the-art equipment, but also in the soft skills that are necessary to leverage the tech-knowledge so as to successfully launch businesses. This partnership serves both needs. The provision of a GE Garage at Gearbox is essential to developing a continuous pipeline of people skilled in modern technologies and prepared to deliver tech solutions through business, who will serve as the “army” that will enable industrialisation on the scale that is required for our national development. The proposed Garages training facility will be within the Nairobi location of Gearbox. GE would provide the necessary equipment while University of Nairobi, Technical University of Kenya and Seven Seas Technologies will provide input to program as well as training facilities.

“We are delighted to collaborate with like-minded establishments on an initiative that aims to make more Kenyan youth employable in a fast changing technology-driven world” said President & CEO, GE Africa, Jay Ireland. “I’m looking forward to seeing great ideas that come to the GE Garage being transformed into practical business models that ultimately create more jobs in Kenya.

GE created the Garages experience in March 2012 to reinvigorate interest in invention, innovation, and manufacturing in America. Programs have included custom projects, curated speaker sessions and workshops amidst a fully equipped advanced manufacturing space, including hardware such as CNC mills, laser cutters, 3D printers, injection moulders, Arduino kits and much more. This program went global with a workshop in Lagos Nigeria in 2014 and has since grown to include several countries in Europe and the Middle-East.

Professor Lucy Irungu, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Nairobi, welcomes this collaboration which she sees a great opportunity for engineering students, supervised by the engineering faculty at the University, to gain access to modern equipment and methods that will ensure their undergraduate and post-graduate projects have greater impact on the region’s economic needs.

The GE Garages -Nairobi program truly brings to life the ‘Empower’ pillar of GE Africa’s CSR platform ‘GE Kujenga’  said Patricia Obozuwa, Director of Communications and Public Affairs, GE Africa. She stated that GE’s approach to investing in our communities is to empower people by building valuable skills, equip communities with new tools and technology, and elevate ideas that help solve Africa’s challenges.  We will continue working with Government, institutions, communities and private-sector peers to help bring sustainable and transformative development.

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Africa gets broadband boost

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ITU and Nexpedience, a supplier of proprietary point-to-multipoint broadband infrastructure, are partnering to bring broadband access to Africa.

Under the terms of the deal, Nexpedience will provide 180 new Expedience base stations worth USD 1 million, to be deployed in six nations across the continent. The first nation to benefit from the new infrastructure is Burundi, with deployments also planned for Djibouti, Burkina Faso, Mali, Rwanda and Swaziland.

Designed to withstand extreme meteorological conditions and capable of providing up to 32 kilometres of sector coverage, Nexpedience’s base stations have been specifically designed for rural deployment.

ITU’s Wireless Broadband Network in Africa project aims to develop and implement wireless broadband connectivity and applications that will provide free or low-cost digital access for schools, hospitals, and under-served populations in rural and remote areas Africa-wide.

At the signing of the agreement in Geneva, Brahima Sanou, Director of ITU’s Telecommunication Development Bureau (BDT) emphasized the need to make developing countries part of the global broadband revolution: ‚”This partnership represents another important element in ITU’s efforts to bring broadband technology to the world even in the poorest nations. I am confident that this new partnership will accelerate broadband uptake right across the African continent, bringing the power of high-speed connectivity to users everywhere, from big cities to small villages.‚”

Kiriako Vergos, CEO of Nexpedience said: ‚”Giving access to broadband technology to underserved populations in Africa is of great importance to us. There are enormous benefits to be derived from a ‚’broadband-seed’ deployment strategy, and we decided to partner with ITU because we know that the organization has the team in place to get it done.‚”

ITU Secretary-General Dr Hamadoun Tour√© said the new agreement is a ‚”major step forward in getting Africa connected‚”. Dr Tour√© led the establishment of the Broadband Commission for Digital Development in 2010, which has the aim of putting broadband at the heart of the global development agenda.

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Nokia backs tech hubs for developing world

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Nokia, AppCampus and infoDev are collaborating with mobile innovation hubs across Africa, Asia and Latin America to act as scouts for local talent.

Nokia, AppCampus and infoDev, a global innovation program of the World Bank, have announced a collaboration with mobile innovation hubs across Africa, Asia and Latin America – a move that will empower these hubs to act as scouts and agents for local talent, fast-tracking their access to AppCampus funding.

AppCampus was established in 2012 as a mobile application accelerator program managed by Aalto University in Finland. With an 18 million euro joint investment between Microsoft and Nokia, the aim is to foster mobile application development on Windows Phone and any other Nokia platform.

The announcement earmarks part of that investment fund for twenty six awards per annum for the best mobile innovation ideas to be made via the mobile innovation hub network, starting with infoDev’s mobile application labs in South Africa, Kenya, Armenia and Vietnam, as well as mobile application laboratories in Egypt (TIEC), Nigeria (CC Hub) and Mexico. The value of each award ranges from 20,000 Euro (US$ 26,000) to 70,000 Euro (US$ 90,000) depending on the complexity of the solution or business model behind the idea.

‚”By working jointly with the mobile innovation hubs, we are able to connect more effectively with local developers in emerging markets and provide support in terms of funding, especially for locally relevant innovations,‚” says Pekka Sivonen, Head of AppCampus. ‚”Although the criteria to access the AppCampus funding remains the same, with ideas needing to be original, competitive and scalable, the advantage is faster processing and the mentorship provided by these innovation hubs.‚”

The hubs and mLabs will be responsible for scouting talent and vetting ideas to be submitted to the global pool. infoDev’s mLabs foster regional entrepreneurship, employment and competitiveness by providing open spaces where developers can find training, mentoring, technical expertise and access to financing. In a short time, mLab-supported startups have brought over 120 commercial apps to market The best new entries from this network will compete against each other each quarter for the available awards.

‚”Nokia, working closely with infoDev, has supported the establishment and operation of a number of mLabs across emerging markets in support of local developers,‚” says Jussi Hinkkanen, vice president corporate relations for Nokia Middle East and Africa. ‚”The AppCampus collaboration showcases our commitment to strengthening the growing mLab network around the world and infoDev’s vision of supporting emerging market entrepreneurs in conquering local, regional and global markets‚”.

The official launch of the program took place during the mobile stream at the Global Forum on Innovation & Technology Entrepreneurship in East London, South Africa, organized by infoDev and the South African Department of Science & Technology. A key theme of the Forum is how innovation can lead to high-growth entrepreneurship which creates sustainable jobs. Valerie D’Costa, infoDev’s Program Manager says, ‚”The AppCampus initiative fits with the philosophy of infoDev of supporting innovative entrepreneurs from developing countries. We want to support those who can excel with some level of mentorship, skills training and seed financing. We provide potential job-creators better access to markets, which is what we are all about.‚”

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