The green shoots of Africa's start-ups
A report released in August last year appeared to debunk the myth that many of the jobs created by start-ups disappear within a few years thanks to the high failure rate of startups.
According to the Ewing Marion Kaufman Foundation, the employment created by start-ups had a lasting impact on the US economy.
The research found that the additional jobs created by the successful companies went a long way to balancing out any jobs lost – when the foundation tracked groups of startups, it discovered that after five years employment levels were 80 percent of what they were at the beginning, thus creating an extended impact on the US economy.
Without wanting to simplistically parachute these findings onto the African continent, in which start-ups operate in various differing environments, it stands to reason that start-ups are key to creating wealth, employment and general upliftment.
Its ultimate objective is to transform the African economy from one based on mineral and other primary resources to a knowledge economy. With this in mind, we take a quick snapshot of some of the current developments and the business leaders involved.
Kenya’s Ushahidi (Swahili for ‘testimony’) is driving a quiet storm around the world. Founded in 2008 to track postelection violence, the platform has been used as far afield as Haiti, the US, and Pakistan to consolidate fragmented information collected at grassroots level to create a big picture. The service uses technology such as text messaging to gather data from eyewitnesses creating a powerful citizen journalism vehicle.
Ushahidi’s co-founders are Erik Hersman, international technology influencer, blogger and speaker; Ory Okolloh, who has recently been appointed Google’s policy manager for Africa; David Kobia, and Juliana Rotich. Its development team is based in Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, and Malawi.
The not-for-profit organisation recently launched Crowdmap, a hosted version of the Ushahidi platform that can be set up in minutes.
Geofeed.me founder Cameroonian Ebot Tabi took a look at location-based services such as Foursquare and Facebook Places and realised they simply did not meet the needs of an African audience - so he set out to fill the gap. Geofeed.me intends giving users reliable information about businesses and locations in Africa.
Users interact with Geofeed.me via their mobile phone or the website to share reviews and their locations as well as to read recommendations. On its site, Geofeed.me learns about the user and personalises those recommendations so one user might see a good rating for a bar, another user a bad rating for the same bar, depending on the taste of that user.
Despite being based in bandwidth-constrained South Africa, the Zoopy team has successfully run a video-sharing online and mobile social media platform since March 2007.
In late 2007, the company was chosen as Nokia’s regional imaging partner and in 2008, it received investment from Vodacom.
Founded by Jason Elk, the service allows members upload their videos, including high definition (HD), and connect with other users. It also offers Zoopy TV, which broadcasts semi-professional content sometimes produced in collaboration with partners.
With bandwidth qua increasing in South Africa, Zoopy appears poised to capitalise on the global trend towards increased video content online.
Nairobi, Kenya based Mocality has put tens of thousands of small and large businesses on the internet for the first time. The mobile and online business directory is based around the mobile phone rather than a computer recognising the primacy of the phone as an internet device in most of Africa. The service gives companies the ability to promote and advertise themselves to customers and is very often a company’s only online presence.
Headed by Stefan Magdalinski, formerly of European start-ups moo.com and theyworkforyou. com, there are plans afoot to expand the service to other cities and countries in Africa. Magdalinski says he aims for Naspers-backed Mocality to be the most successful business directory on the continent and make profits by helping hundreds of thousands of other businesses become successful.
However, despite these examples being the tip of an iceberg with vibrant start-up communities carrying out clever innovations across the continent, the reality is that a country like South Africa still only ranks 35 out of 54 countries on the Global Entrepreneur Monitor report for 2009. And despite the international success of companies such as Yola, Mxit and Clickatell, clearly there is still work to be done.
Encouragingly however, major centres across the continent are vying for the title of Africa’s Silicon Valley, the bandwidth situation is improving slowly but surely, and mobile innovation continues to power ahead.
G7 Summit guide: What it is and what leaders hope to achieve
Unless you’ve had your head buried in the sand, you’ll have seen the term ‘G7’ plastered all over the Internet this week. We’re going to give you the skinny on exactly what the G7 is and what its purpose on this planet is ─ and whether it’s a good or a bad collaboration.
Who are the G7?
The Group of Seven, or ‘G7’, may sound like a collective of pirate lords from a certain Disney smash-hit, but in reality, it’s a group of the world’s seven largest “advanced” economies ─ the powerhouses of the world, if you like.
The merry band comprises:
- The United Kingdom
- The United States
Historically, Russia was a member of the then-called ‘G8’ but found itself excluded after their ever-so-slightly illegal takeover of Crimea back in 2014.
Since 1977, the European Union has also been involved in some capacity with the G7 Summit. The Union is not recognised as an official member, but gradually, as with all Europe-linked affairs, the Union has integrated itself into the conversation and is now included in all political discussions on the annual summit agenda.
When was the ‘G’ formed?
Back in 1975, when the world was reeling from its very first oil shock and the subsequent financial fallout that came with it, the heads of state and government from six of the leading industrial countries had a face-to-face meeting at the Chateau de Rambouillet to discuss the global economy, its trajectory, and what they could do to address the economic turmoil that reared its ugly head throughout the 70s.
Why does the G7 exist?
At this very first summit ─ the ‘G6’ summit ─, the leaders adopted a 15-point communiqué, the Declaration of Rambouillet, and agreed to continuously meet once a year moving forward to address the problems of the day, with a rotating Presidency. One year later, Canada was welcomed into the fold, and the ‘G6’ became seven and has remained so ever since ─ Russia’s inclusion and exclusion not counted.
The group, as previously mentioned, was born in the looming shadow of a financial crisis, but its purpose is more significant than just economics. When leaders from the group meet, they discuss and exchange ideas on a broad range of issues, including injustice around the world, geopolitical matters, security, and sustainability.
It’s worth noting that, while the G7 may be made up of mighty nations, the bloc is an informal one. So, although it is considered an important annual event, declarations made during the summit are not legally binding. That said, they are still very influential and worth taking note of because it indicates the ambitions and outlines the initiatives of these particularly prominent leading nations.
Where is the 2021 G7 summit?
This year, the summit will be held in the United Kingdom deep in the southwest of England, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson hosting his contemporaries in the quaint Cornish resort of Carbis Bay near St Ives in Cornwall.
What will be discussed this year?
After almost two years of remote communication, this will be the first in-person G7 summit since the novel Coronavirus first took hold of the globe, and Britain wants “leaders to seize the opportunity to build back better from coronavirus, uniting to make the future fairer, greener, and more prosperous.”
The three-day summit, running from Friday to Sunday, will see the seven leaders discussing a whole host of shared challenges, ranging from the pandemic and vaccine development and distribution to the ongoing global fight against climate change through the implementation of sustainable norms and values.
According to the UK government, the attendees will also be taking a look at “ensuring that people everywhere can benefit from open trade, technological change, and scientific discovery.”