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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.

Africa News

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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Africa News

Africa start-up ecosystem can drive blockchain

Through nurturing and technical support, Africa’s tech start-up ecosystem can be a major driver of Blockchain-based innovation says BEN ROBERTS, Liquid Telecom’s Group Chief Technology and Innovation Officer.

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African communities have always come-up with inventive solutions to local problems. Take Somalia as an example. The country is said to have one of the largest diaspora populations in the world. It has few commercial banks and relations with international creditors remain fro­zen due to debts incurred in the late 1980s. 

So its population uses Hawala; an infor­mal value transfer system based on the per­formance and honour of a large network of money brokers. For example, it would mean a Somali based in the US would give money to a local branch agent, where it is sent to a cen­tral country clearing house, then onto a clear­ing house based in another country (typically somewhere in the Middle East). From there it goes to a Somali agent, before the funds are finally collected by an individual in Somalia.

Much like blockchain, the Hawala system is built on trust – but that’s where any similarities end. In fact, cryptocurrencies – many of which are blockchain-powered – may eventually be­come a replacement for Hawala and other exist­ing forms of international remittances. Cryptocur­rencies can enable people to exchange currency online without any middleman – even banks. 

International remittance is one of many compelling use cases for blockchain. The technology’s ability to digitise trust makes it a unique fit for many African countries, par­ticularly those where processes and supply chains remain poorly designed and susceptible to corruption.

At Liquid Telecom, we’re excited about the potential for blockchain technology across the region. Along with other emerging tech­nologies, we recognise this as another major new digital opportunity for businesses that utilises our network infrastructure and servic­es. The rise of blockchain innovation will rely on the skills and talent of the region’s soft­ware developers, who themselves rely on a high-speed internet connection and access to cloud-based tools. Our fibre footprint – which will soon stretch all the way from Cape Town, South Africa, to Cairo, Egypt – is providing the foundations for digital innovation, while our partnership with Microsoft is enabling access to the cloud-based services and tools needed to create digital solutions for local problems.

Last year, with support from Microsoft, we set-up our Go Cloud initiative, which is helping to provide the region’s start-up communities with technical support, training and access to software. Using Azure Cloud, start-ups can cut development time and experiment easily with modular, preconfigured networks and infra­structure, enabling them to iterate and validate blockchain scenarios quickly by using built-in connections to Azure.

We’re starting to see the first crop of African start-ups experimenting with blockchain and cryptocurrencies. Take Rwandan start-up Up­lus, which is utilising blockchain to secure all transactions on its digital crowdfunding plat­form. The technology also allows the platform to take contributions from any country and covert it to the local currency.

A lot of existing applications in Africa tend to fall short when it comes to user experience, and blockchain could certainly help address some of these issues – be it by creating a new trusted way to make payments or verify user identification. During this early stage of block­chain experimentation and proof of concept, it will be crucial for start-ups and businesses to develop solutions that are relevant for Afri­can communities. Without that, the technology won’t gather momentum.

Regulation can nurture or constrict the tech­nology and will have a role to play in being a ‘make or break’ for blockchain. Living in Ken­ya, I’m proud to see how proactive the gov­ernment has been in seizing the blockchain opportunity. The creation by the President of a taskforce earlier this year dedicated to blockchain – led by the former permanent secretary for Ministry of Information and Com­munications, Dr. Bitange Ndemo (see page 7) – shows how committed the country is to being a leader in emerging technologies. As more African countries follow Kenya’s lead, blockchain should hopefully find itself reso­nating more powerfully with local businesses and consumers.

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