Samsung Electronics Africa has announced that it will bolster its corporate citizenship efforts in Africa in a bid to help the continent achieve its sustainable development goals.
“As a global citizen, we felt it was important to use our technology to give back to society,” said Abey Tau, Corporate Citizenship and Public Affairs Manager, speaking at the recent 2016 Samsung Africa Forum. “We do this in four ways: by creating new learning opportunities so that young people can enjoy access to better education; by using our technical expertise to develop and provide access to new healthcare solutions; by supporting youth employment through vocational training and skills development; and by reducing our impact on the environment.”
According to the World Bank, Sub-Saharan Africa accounts for more than 50% of all out-of-school children worldwide, which affects their future employment opportunities. The dire situation faced by many African countries is a result of a number of factors, including civil unrest, cultural beliefs and a lack of schooling infrastructure and resources.
It is against this backdrop that Samsung Electronics Africa has adopted an attitude of innovation by introducing technology where it previously has not existed. The aim is to make sure that every African child has access to education no matter where they are on the continent, using state-of-the-art digital technology enjoyed by children in developed countries.
Education as seed of innovation
Samsung says it believes that digital technology can completely transform the learning process, as well as the nature of teaching and learning, to create inclusive environments for everyone. Its Solar Powered Internet Schools, Smart Schools and E-Learning Academies provide solutions that are intended to deliver on this vision and improve the quality of learning, enhance teaching effectiveness and allow administrators to run institutions more effectively.
The company works with educators around the world to improve learning experiences through the use of technology, facilitating a classroom environment that is limitless and gives students access to a world of knowledge from their desks or on the go.
Through these education initiatives, Samsung hopes to instill a love of learning in students so that they may have equal access to opportunities and go on to become active participants in the economy. This can help to reduce the number of out-of-school children, giving them a chance to succeed.
Earlier this month, Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari, attended the launch of a Smart School in the state of Ogun.
Samsung will continue to drive access to education by launching a number of education initiatives in Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda and DRC in 2016.
Skills of the future
However, it takes more than simply providing access to education. As a result of the work Samsung continues to do across the continent, alongside governments, private sector partners and communities, it has come to light that many graduates leave institutions of higher learning with strong theoretical knowledge but lack the practical skills needed by industry.
Samsung’s Engineering Academy and Air-conditioning and Refrigeration Academy aim to change this by providing free, intensive, hands-on training to graduates. The Academies seek to develop skilled young African leaders who are adequately prepared for the world of employment. The programme forms a core part of Samsung’s vision to fast-track the entry of African youths into the electronics job market and to reduce the shortage of scarce skills in the IT industry. Zimbabwe will be a recipient of one of these academies this year.
“Investing in the skills of the youth also benefits Samsung – the more young people we can develop with skills in the electronics industry, the more we can be assured of our ability to provide excellent service to our customers,” says Tau.
Access to quality healthcare
According to the World Bank, more than 60% of people in Sub-Saharan Africa live in rural areas and are unable to access clinics for proactive medical care.
To help alleviate this, Samsung Electronics Africa has put initiatives in place through public-private partnerships.
In 2013, Samsung introduced the Solar Powered Health Centre, a solution housed in a shipping container fitted with the most advanced medical equipment and Samsung solar panels. Patients can be screened at the centre to diagnose conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, tooth decay and cataracts. They can also access information on health issues.
Samsung’s Mobile Health Centre, which uses technology to remotely connect to specialist doctors anywhere in the world to get expert opinion and diagnoses, communities quick access to primary healthcare, screening, mother and child facilities, dental care, eye testing and emergency care This year, Samsung will be establishing a Mobile Health Centre in Togo.
Samsung’s Digital Village, which focuses on the challenges in underserved and rural communities, provides access to new experiences by bringing advanced Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to under-resourced areas. This helps to bridge the digital divide and serves as a catalyst for local business and government service delivery.
The Digital Village is a hub where community members can access educational and health solutions.
Within a Digital Village set-up, Samsung also offers a Mother and Child Unit, which is equipped to offer comprehensive pre- and post-natal screening, care and education in an effort to reduce Africa’s high infant mortality rate.
In 2016, Samsung will be launching Digital Villages in Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania.
“These multi-purpose offerings provide a sustainable solution to challenges faced by African people, while improving their standards of living. The model addresses one of Africa’s largest economic challenges – electrification. The scarcity of electricity results in limited access to education, healthcare and connectivity – all of which are key to socio-economic development,” adds Tau.
Corporate Citizenship that makes a real impact
“Collaboration with communities is key to finding the correct remedies to societal challenges,” says Tau. “At Samsung, we have a vested interest in the communities we operate in and, as a result, we have come up with solutions that directly address the everyday challenges most people encounter. Over the years, our collaborative efforts – guided by our strategic focus in the areas of education, health, the environment, and skills and employability – have seen us collaborate with different communities, NGOs and governments. These collaborations have given us insights that we have used when designing the solutions we have installed in the different communities across the African continent. 2016 is another year we build on these progressive partnerships and ensure that we positively impact the lives of more people.”
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.
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.
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.
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.