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How Africa tech meets Africa demands

By MVELASE PEPPETTA, freelance writer

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From Facebook to Google, the world’s largest tech companies are increasingly looking to Africa and other developing economies as key markets where to ensure the continued growth of their businesses. Policy makers in African governments are also making sure their economies are preparing for a tech-focused future.

For instance, in South Africa the government has indicated its goal of ensuring its economy is geared to answering the needs of the “fourth industrial revolution” and Malawi’s Reserve Bank announced a policy to have all local businesses offer at least one method of digital payment. But while much can still be untapped from the African tech ecosystem it is a very active scene. According to the 2018 venture investment report by WeeTracker, African startups raised a record US$725.6 million across 458 deals in 2018.

Imagining what is on the way is on the way is certainly exciting, it is also just as important that we keep an eye out for what already is out there in terms of African tech developed to provide solutions for uniquely African demands.

Abalobi Marketplace

A South African service, Abalobi Marketplace is a particularly unique service in that it is designed to ensure that small-scale fishers are supported within the fishing industry. The app which currently services 140 restaurants allows chefs to source fish directly from small-scale fisher who load what they have caught onto the app. Chefs can also place requests on the app for a particular catch. Launched in 2017 by Abalobi, a non-profit working to empower small-scale fishers, the app services restaurants primarily in the Cape Town region but has already started working with restaurants in Johannesburg. For chefs, it provides them with the ability to source far fresher fish than can traditionally be provided. But for the 200 odd fishing families who use the app, tackling decades of entrenched inequality in the South African fishing supply-chain, the app allows them to receive fair price for their catch. 

SweepSouth

Similar to Abalobi, while its most commonly referred to as a “Uber for domestic cleaners” SweepSouth is another service that also touts itself as looking to tackle decades of inequality in South Africa. At its most basic, SweepSouth is a service that allows people looking for domestic workers, whether for home or office, to book them using a mobile app. However, according to SweepSouth’s founder Aisha Pandor the service is also committed to the women finding work opportunities through the app. In that regard, SweepSouth not only provides them with benefits like accidental death and disability cover at no cost to the domestic worker but at a far more basic level, also pays domestic workers who find work through the app at a far higher rate than South Africa’s legislated minimum wage. While currently operating in South Africa only, SweepSouth has mentioned plans to scale their services into the rest of the continent. 

Mama Money

Using the internet and cell phone technology to answer the needs of immigrants working in South Africa, Mama Money looks to undercut traditional financial services by allowing its users to send money across borders at far lower rates. Described as Africa’s first completely cashless money transfer system, when answering why they launched the business, Mama Money’s founders Raphael Grojnowski and Mathieu Coquillon have said, “We wanted to get into business to help others and we knew that there were millions of migrant workers in South Africa who send money home to their families, but battle with the transfer fees. We thought this presented a perfect opportunity to disrupt and help people get more money home.”

Quicket

Established in 2011, Quicket has transformed how event organisers and ticket buyers engage with a range of events – from concerts and sports to yoga and fashion shows. Unlike traditional ticketing companies, Quicket allows organisers to create an event and start selling tickets without needing a website and imposing onerous contracts, or big fees. The company’s offerings have resulted in seven years’ of exponential growth with James Tagg, Quicket co-founder explaining that today the platform has widespread adoption from some of the continent’s largest festivals through to micro gatherings, and everything in between, including fundraising drives and school related events and funds collections.. What sets Quicket apart from its competitors is that it gives event organisers complete control, whether they are planning to host 10 or 10 000 people.  

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Tech promotes connections across groups in emerging markets

Digital technology users say they more regularly interact with people from diverse backgrounds

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Smartphone users – especially those who use social media – say they are more regularly exposed to people who have different backgrounds. They are also more connected with friends they don’t see in person, a Pew Research Center survey of adults in 11 emerging economies finds.

South Africa, included in the study, has among the most consistent levels of connection across age groups and education levels and in terms of cross-cultural connections. This suggests both that smartphones have had a greater democratisation impact in South Africa, but also that the country is more geared to diversity than most others. Of 11 countries surveyed, it has the second-lowest spread between those using smartphones and those not using them in terms of exposure to other religious groups.

Across every country surveyed, those who use smartphones are more likely than those who use less sophisticated phones or no phones at all to regularly interact with people from different religious groups. In most countries, people with smartphones also tend to be more likely to interact regularly with people from different political parties, income levels and racial or ethnic backgrounds. 

The Center’s new report is the third in a series exploring digital connectivity among populations in emerging economies based on nationally representative surveys of adults in Colombia, India, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Mexico, the Philippines, Tunisia, South Africa, Venezuela and Vietnam. Earlier reports examined attitudes toward misinformation and mobile technology’s social impact

The survey finds that smartphone and social media use are intertwined: A median of 91% of smartphone users in these countries also use social media or messaging apps, while a median of 81% of social media users say they own or share a smartphone. And, as with smartphone users, social media and messaging app users stand apart from non-users in how often they interact with people who are different from them. For example, 52% of Mexican social media users say they regularly interact with people of a different income level, compared with 28% of non-users. 

These results do not show with certainty that smartphones or social media are the cause of people feeling like they have more diverse networks. For example, those who have resources to buy and maintain a smartphone are likely to differ in many key ways from those who don’t, and it could be that some combination of those differences drives this phenomenon. Still, statistical modelling indicates that smartphone and social media use are independent predictors of greater social network diversity when other factors such as age, education and sex are held constant. 

Other key findings in the report include: 

  • Mobile phones and social media are broadening people’s social networks. More than half in most countries say they see in person only about half or fewer of the people they call or text. Mobile phones are also allowing many to stay in touch with people who live far away: A median of 93% of mobile phone users across the 11 countries surveyed say their phones have mostly helped them keep in touch with those who are far-flung. When it comes to social media, large shares report relationships with “friends” online who are distinct from those they see in person. A median of 46% of Facebook users across the 11 countries report seeing few or none of their Facebook friends in person regularly, compared with a median of 31% of Facebook users who often see most or all of their Facebook friends in person. 
  • Social activities and information seeking on subjects like health and education top the list of mobile activities. The survey asked mobile phone users about 10 different activities they might do on their mobile phones – activities that are social, information-seeking or commercial in nature. Among the most commonly reported activities are casual, social activities. For example, a median of 82% of mobile phone users in the 11 countries surveyed say they used their phone over the past year to send text messages and a median of 69% of users say they took pictures or videos. Many mobile phone users are also using their phones to find new information. For example, a median of 61% of mobile phone users say they used their phones over the past year to look up information about health and medicine for themselves or their families. This is more than the proportion that reports using their phones to get news and information about politics (median of 47%) or to look up information about government services (37%). Additionally, around half or more of mobile phone users in nearly all countries report having used their phones over the past 12 months to learn something important for work or school. 
  • Digital divides emerge in the new mobile-social environment. People with smartphones and social media – as well as younger people, those with higher levels of education, and men – are in some ways reaping more benefits than others, potentially contributing to digital divides. 
    • People with smartphones are much more likely to engage in activities on their phones than people with less sophisticated devices – even if the activity itself is quite simple. For example, people with smartphones are more likely than those with feature or basic phones to send text messages in each of the 11 countries surveyed, even though the activity is technically feasible from all mobile phones. Those who have smartphones are also much more likely to look up information for their households, including about health and government services. 
    •  There are also major differences in mobile usage by age and education level in how their devices are – or are not – broadening their horizons. Younger people are more likely to use their phones for nearly all activities asked about, whether those activities are social, information-seeking or commercial. Phone users with higher levels of education are also more likely to do most activities on their phones and to interact with those who are different from them regularly than those with lower levels of education. 
    •  Gender, too, plays a role in what people do with their devices and how they are exposed to different people and information. Men are more likely than women to say they encounter people who are different from them, whether in terms of race, politics, religion or income. And men tend to be more likely to look up information about government services and to obtain political news and information. 

These findings are drawn from a Pew Research Center survey conducted among 28,122 adults in 11 countries from Sept. 7 to Dec. 7, 2018. In addition to the survey, the Center conducted focus groups with participants in Kenya, Mexico, the Philippines and Tunisia in March 2018, and their comments are included throughout the report. 

Read the full report at https://www.pewinternet.org/2019/08/22/in-emerging-economies-smartphone-and-social-media-users-have-broader-social-networks.

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Nokia to be first with Android 10

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Nokia is likely to be the first smartphone brand to roll out Android 10, after its manufacturer, HMD Global, announced that the Android 10 software upgrade would start in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Previously named Android Q, it was given the number after Google announced it was ditching sweet and dessert names due to confusion in different languages. Android 10 is due for release at the end of the year.

Juho Sarvikas, chief product officer of HMD Global said: “With a proven track record in delivering software updates fast, Nokia smartphones were the first whole portfolio to benefit from a 2-letter upgrade from Android Nougat to Android Oreo and then Android Pie. We were the fastest manufacturer to upgrade from Android Oreo to Android Pie across the range. 

“With today’s roll out plan we look set to do it even faster for Android Pie to Android 10 upgrades. We are the only manufacturer 100% committed to having the latest Android across the entire portfolio.”

HMD Global has given a guarantee that Nokia smartphone owners benefit from two years of OS upgrades and 3 years of security updates.

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