[Africa Tech Week] Of blockchain baby and bridging digital divide
Technology has for another week been at the center of the continent’s most highlighted activities with both governments and private sector reaping from commitment to the sector.
Blockchain technology has featured predominantly as it continues to make impressive inroads in Africa.
In a significant milestone for mobile technology and healthcare access, the first baby “born on the blockchain” is due to be delivered this week in Tanzania. The announcement comes after a trial-initiative called Chain of Trust (CoT) has been monitoring digitally guided pregnancies through blockchain technology.
This, as data points to a growing spend on blockchain in Africa in 2018. Major economic sectors including agriculture, banking, mobile money transfers and land management are already actively driving this spend.
To bridge the continent’s digital divide, the Africa Code Week is happening in Madagascar. More than 200 local teachers and parents are set to receive hands-on training on the open-source Scratch learning interface, which will enable them to introduce and sustain digital skills development in their respective classrooms. This comes at a time when 40% of Sub-Saharan Africa face digital divide especially over broadband access according to Commonwealth Telecommunications Organization report.
In Uganda Winch Energy and iWayAfrica is set deploy a remote solar kiosk, The Winch Hub (WH®), with integrated VSAT equipment to provide high-quality and affordable broadband connectivity.
Still in the spirit of growing the ICT market in Africa, Afrilabs, a network of technology and innovation hubs across Africa has admitted 40 new hubs; its largest hub admission to date into its network making it a total of 100 hubs across 30 African countries. It is already in partnership with US-based innovation workspace for the local and African Diaspora startups I/O Spaces to provide startups with office space and classes at Washington DC.
Freshworks Inc, a provider of cloud-based business software, has announced an aggressive growth strategy to propel the ambitious expansion of its evolving South African footprint. This comes weeks after it set up base in Kenya with the same target.
And in what could open the continent to further international investments, Ethiopia has announced it is opening the state-owned telecommunications company and airline to foreign investors for the first time.
Ethiopia will sell minority stakes to foreign and domestic investors in state monopolies such Ethio Telecom and Ethiopian Airlines Enterprise. The decision follows a recent directive to issue international visitors electronic visas as a way of encouraging tourism and foreign investment.
In Cameroon the Commonwealth is working with the government to put in place effective legal, policy and regulatory frameworks for e-commerce that would help to diversify the economy. Already Kerawa.com, one of the fastest growing online businesses in the country has welcomed the initiative saying it will open real trade opportunities in and out of the country. The education sector is already reaping the benefits of digital economy following the signing of an agreement between MTN and the Ministry of Secondary Education for the use of mobile money solutions for the payment of school fees.
Down South Vodacom Group, its existing BEE partners and a newly formed staff scheme have announced a broad-based BEE transaction of up to R17.5 billion that will see the BEE partners exchange their current shareholding in Vodacom South Africa for a shareholding of between 5.8% and 6.25% in Vodacom Group as enlarged by the transaction.
The company has recently entered into strategic partnerships including with Microsoft to launch suite of Azure services to customers and with Intelsat S.A to expand enterprise broadband networks throughout West Africa. The telco recently became the first African mobile network to exceed 80% population coverage on 4G.
Nigerian Communications Satellite has upgraded its iDirect network to the latest Evolution 4.1 software to achieve significant gains in bandwidth efficiency and enhance customer experience.
In Kenya Mastercard has appointed Salah Goss as Head of the Mastercard Labs for Financial Inclusion. In her new role, Salah will oversee the development of digital solutions that positively impact low income households in Africa, and other developing markets.
It is one of the latest commitments the company has announced to reach the underserved customers including an initiative to create greater payment consistency by making “tap and go” standard in the next five years. Its partnership with banks and mobile network operators has so far reached 7.2 million new digital financial services users.