Category Archives: People

Google’s Bunmi Banjo is Giving One Million Africans a Digital Future

Bunmi Banjo: Google’s Brand and Reputation manager

Africa’s youth population is expected to double to a staggering 830 million by 2050, such rapid growth has led to questions about how the continent will keep up in terms of resources and jobs.
A report by the International Labor Organization (ILO) into World Employment paints a dire picture of the state of youth unemployment and working poverty on the continent.

According to the 2016 report, North Africa has the second highest rate of youth unemployment in the world, while sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of working poverty.

So how do you tackle a rapidly growing population burdened with high rates of unemployment?

For Google Brand and Reputation manager Bunmi Banjo it’s teaching millions of Africans digital skills, for free.

How to train a million

After a career in banking, Banjo said she saw a need to create economic opportunities for Africans, which led her to Google.

She joined the team in 2012 and under her leadership, the company has trained a million youths in sub-Saharan African in just eleven months.

“We have trained hundreds over the years but we decided that in Africa we really needed skill,” Banjo told CNN.

“A lot of them [youth] coming online only know about social and are using the web primarily as a communication tool which is great, but [they are] not realizing that there is a lot more they can do with it especially in Africa where the jobs are not there.”

Soon after the Digital Skills for Africa program launched in April last year Banjo found it necessary to raise the bar higher, and the company decided to train one million people.

“You can connect with people, grow your skills and potentially get jobs from across the world,” she explained. “This is what we want to make sure large numbers of young people are aware of.”

‘ Not a quick fix’

The training, a free crash course in digital marketing, was delivered in classrooms, online and offline for areas with limited Internet access. Training happens in over 27 countries According to Banjo, the course will give participants a 70% chance of becoming more employable.

“We know people across the region are ingenious, with a little they do a lot and they are thirsty for knowledge,” she said.

“All our classes are oversubscribed because they are eager to learn. If they had the right tools and information they will be able to.”

While she acknowledges this training is no ‘quick fix’ for the continent’s high unemployment numbers, she stressed the importance of teaching African youth about less traditional paths to job creation.

“A lot of young people will have to figure out how to create income and opportunities for themselves and we feel very strongly that the web is a way to do that.”

Getting value out of the web

According to Banjo the program is already yielding positive results.

” 67% of the people we have trained have said they have either gotten a job or they feel better prepared for jobs because of the training,” Banjo shared. “If only a few million people are impacted by 67% that is significant.”

But Banjo is not stopping there.

“I know a million on its own sounds big but we are talking about a continent that has 500 million people that have the potential to contribute to the economy,” she said. “A million doesn’t look so big anymore.”

Google plan to train at least another million by the end of 2017 and to offer courses in local languages including Hausa and Swahili and Banjo has no plans of slowing down.

“Every aspect of my job is about helping people get value out of the web…” she said.

“Young people [in Africa] are ingenious and all they need is a little support to connect to the tools they need to improve their future.”

“It’s not every time you get to do something where you get to meet the beneficiaries of the work you do. It’s the most rewarding feeling to point at the work you do and the impact it’s having at the level of the individual.

Source: CNN Africa

This Start-up is Linking Smallholder Farmers to Banks

Rita Kimani

Rita Kimani, 25, is one of the young leaders designated by the United Nations to help promote the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) among fellow youth. Through her initiative, FarmDrive, Rita is using data analytics and mobile phone technology to connect smallholder farmers with lending institutions in rural Kenya. 

Why were you selected to attend this event at the UN?

Kimani: I am here as one of the young leaders advocating for the Sustainable Development Goals. It’s really the work I do. I co-founded a company called FarmDrive that helps local farmers in Kenya obtain credit. So, I am here to help bring the youth’s voice in designing programmes for engaging the youth, specifically in the agricultural sector.  

You said you founded FarmDrive. What really is it? 

FarmDrive is a data analytics company developing alternative credit scoring models to benefit smallholder farmers. We’ve developed a mobile phone app which rural farmers can use to track their revenues and expenses, as well as apply for loans. We combine the farm-level data we get from the farmers with big datasets – like weather, climate, economic, and satellite data – to generate a credit score which financial institutions then use to lend to the farmers.  

What made you venture into this technology?

I grew up in a farming community in Turbo, about three hundred km northwest of the capital, Nairobi, where most families grow maize. When I started university, I met my co-founder Peris Bosire on our first day on campus. We both studied computer science, but connected more because of our similar backgrounds growing up in farming communities. We brainstormed about how we could use technology to solve some of the farmers’ problems we saw or experienced first-hand. That’s how we ended up founding FarmDrive during our last year of university in 2014.

Who gives the farmers the credit?

We work with various financial institutions that give credit to small-scale farmers in Kenya. For the farmers who sign up with us, the loan application process is quite simple. They complete a short survey on the app, we analyze the complexities along with external data, and come up with a credit score for each farmer. We then give the information to various financial institutions to enable them to make informed lending decisions. We also make recommendations on how much credit we think a farmer could afford, and propose terms of payment. So in short, we’re helping financial institutions assess risk and create good products so that they can better lend to smallholder farmers.

What numbers are you working with? 

We have registered 3,000 farmers so far. Out of this, about 400 have accessed credit through us since December 2015. We have clients in 16 counties in Kenya out of the total 47. The majority of them are in horticulture, poultry, dairy or maize farming. Our goal is to reach 100,000 farmers.

What makes FarmDrive a unique product? 

You know that farmers in Kenya, and Africa at large, do not have quite a footprint in the financial sector. They are either underbanked or unbanked. We call them “thin file.” If you try to get any information about them in the formal financial sector, you will not get much, considering the methods that financial institutions use to give credit—such as requiring a credit history or bank statement, and many times collateral. But that does not mean farmers who lack these are bad borrowers. We asked ourselves, how else can financial institutions be able to profile these farmers, understand the risks and offer products that work? That is why we built this technology, to collect data on smallholder farmers and connect them to these institutions.

Where do SDGs come in?

The one thing that resonates with me for anyone pushing for the SDGs is that they talk of leaving no one behind. That is what I connect with most. But what does “leave no one behind” mean? I understand it to mean that everyone in the village will no longer go hungry or be poor. It’s a huge undertaking.

Are you a farmer yourself?

Yes, although I don’t own any piece of land, I have leased a greenhouse where I grow tomatoes and sweet peppers.   

How do you see yourself in the next 10 years?   

I’m passionate about getting involved in building programmes that actually work for farmers in Africa, specifically the young ones. Our vision as FarmDrive is to help farmers across Africa to achieve self-sustainability by accessing resources, not only to fend for themselves and their families, but also to thrive.

How do you connect the youth and agriculture?

I want to see more young people engaged in agriculture, because that’s where the opportunities are. Agriculture presents an opportunity for Africa to get out of poverty and achieve many of the 17 SDGs. We urge governments and other organizations to involve the youth by building programmes that support them.

Why is agriculture not attractive to young people?

When I listen to the youth, they are very clear that they do not want to be the ones doing the manual work like tilling the land. They do not think it is sexy, and you cannot blame them. If you grew up in a farming community, you struggled to make ends meet, yet you spent all your time on the farm after school. Even parents themselves do not wish farming on their children upon graduation. But interestingly, with technology, things are changing. Youth farmers are now digitally managing their farms from afar, connecting with other farmers on social media to get advice, and getting market prices on their phone. The technologies available to farmers are changing and we want to help youth farmers be aware of and access these technologies.

How do you think young people can be supported to become more productive citizens?   

One of the key things is to make sure that we are not just “supporting” the youth but rather we are “working with them,” making sure they are part of the conversation, being involved in designing programmes and policies that affect them, and listening to their voices. 

Source: Africa Renewal

This Nigerian American Dreams of Finding Cures for Infectious Diseases in Africa

Nigerian-born Chidiebere Akusobi has notched many impressive academic achievements in his short life.
The 25-year old studied ecology and evolutionary biology as an undergraduate at Yale, then earned his master’s in biochemistry from the University of Cambridge. Now he’s three years into a joint PhD/MD program researching cures for infectious diseases at Harvard and MIT.

Akusobi, who had moved from Nigeria to the impoverished New York City neighborhood of the South Bronx when he was two years old, was accepted into the rigorous New York City Prep for Prep program.

The program is an educational boot camp that selects roughly 225 promising students a year from the poorest New York City neighborhoods and grooms them for scholarships to attend the city’s top private schools.

For 14 months, students were assigned six hours of homework a day — on top of their normal workload — and they were expected to read one book a week.
“I remember July 4th, 2001, everyone was outside and there were fireworks. I was inside and my mom was keeping me awake as I read,” he said.
But Akusobi was determined to complete the program.
“I was taught that [education] was our shot of the American Dream,” he said.

When he was done, he had won a full academic scholarship to Horace Mann, one of the most prestigious prep schools in New York City.
Once Akusobi enrolled, finding his place in the school’s rarefied halls became his next big challenge.
Related: My American Dream – Offering legal help to other immigrants
He was only 12 and the stark contrast between he and the other mostly white, wealthy students was striking.

At the time, Akusobi’s father was working three jobs while also studying to become a nurse. His mother, who was also pursuing a nursing degree, worked as a home health aide.

Akusobi took full advantage of what Horace Mann had to offer. He became head of the dance team and even wrote and acted in a one act show.
“I just took advantage of all the opportunities that I could and did well enough that I got into Yale,” he said.
But his true passion was medicine.

Even though he had left Nigeria at a young age, Akusobi remained close to family members who still live in the country. “When I go to Nigeria there’s a sense of being home because that’s where my folks grew up,” he said.
But the attachments have come with heartache each time he receives news of a family member or friend who has passed away from an infectious disease, like malaria or HIV.

“It’s shocking the toll that infectious diseases have. I could work on fixing that. There’s real impact that has to be made,” he said.

And Akusobi is getting closer to that goal. Recently, he was granted one of the Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans, which will pay up to $90,000 for his joint PhD/MD program at Harvard and MIT.

Besides his research at Harvard/MIT, Akusobi has advocated on a variety of issues, especially those dealing with racial equality and diversity in medicine.
He helped organize the WhiteCoat4BlackLives movement on Harvard Medical School’s campus to commemorate Eric Garner and Michael Brown, two black men whose deaths at the hands of the police spurred a national movement against police brutality and highlighted the issue of racism in America.

He has also taken a leadership role at the Student National Medical Association, which seeks to help get more minorities like Akusobi involved in the practice of medicine.

“From what I’ve seen there are so many students that have potential,” he said. “But there is systemic injustice and institutionalized racism that doesn’t allow people to get to where they need to be.”

While he believes in the American Dream, Akusobi says he realizes it isn’t a reality for many people, especially those who didn’t get the opportunities he did.
“The American Dream for a lot of people is a fantasy. I have experienced sub par schools with sub par teachers,” he said. 

“An elementary school student attending those schools and living in a neighborhood without quality food or after-school opportunities and surrounded by people in that situation. For a kid in that situation it’s easy to see how they might feel like the American Dream doesn’t exist.”

Source: CNN

​The general attitude towards science and the usage of the word “scientist” in Nigeria.

I remember in the days of my undergraduate industrial training in SheSTCo – a research institute in the capital of Nigeria, a professor rebuked a fellow trainee who referred to himself as a scientist during a seminar presentation. He said, “even with a master degree you are not even a scientist”.  
In Nigeria, if you call yourself a scientist you are scolded. You are quickly attacked with questions like “you call yourself a scientist what have you discovered?” but the irony is that you hardly get this question if you call yourself a chemist, biologist, physicist or mathematician. probably only because they think you are only telling them what you studied in school. 

As student and graduates of pure sciences, we ‘proudly’ call ourselves chemists, physicists, biologist or mathematicians depending on our disciplines because we have friends who call themselves economist, sociologist, accounts etc., but we barely call ourselves scientists. The word is too heavy for us.

In this society, the word, scientist can best be compared to words like astronauts, spaceship, or snow. Nigerians mostly use these words when referring to white people, advanced counties, or Hollywood movies and hardly when referring to the next Nigerian or Nigeria as a country because whatever these words represents are alien and transcendent to the majority of the Nigerian society.

When average Nigerians hear the word, scientist, the picture that comes to their mind is that of a white man in a white lab coat making big magical discoveries like time travel or a syrup that can make someone invisible. This is what Hollywood – the only teacher smart enough to tell them who a scientist is, taught them. With these picture in their head it becomes very difficult to see a Nigerian next door as a scientist.

Here, the most tangible science is seen as very abstract if not as magic hence the word, “oyibo magic”, meaning white people’s magic. Many Nigerians even beleive dicoveries and inventions by the advance world come from knowledge gotten from witchcraft. There is disconnect between the Nigerian culture and modern science.  One of the reason for this is that Nigerians are nurtured not to ask questions as children. They discourage curiosity making the saying, “curiosity killed the cat” very popular in the country. Secondly they hardly engage in endeavors without direct and immediate benefit. 

They can’t relate well with the pure sciences because they can’t see any direct and immediate benefit in engaging in them. It is common to hear even a university graduate asking questions like, “why would anyone in his/her right senses attend a university to study chemistry”, biology, physics or mathematics? To them if is not medicine, engineering, computer science,  pharmacy or nursing, it is a waste of resources and a shortcut to poverty. 

The Nigerian society relate well and better with science related profession like medicine, pharmacy, engineering, piloting etc. because these professions come with direct and immediate benefits. This mentality has resulted to a system whereby pure scientists are mostly trained to be teachers so as to train doctors, pharmacists, engineers, pilot etc. For this reason when an average Nigerian looks at those in the pure sciences all he or she sees is a secondary school teacher. 

Education in Nigeria has too little to do with curiosity, hunger for knowledge or the need to solve problem. It is all about statues, tittles and earning a living. Even the pure scientists in Nigeria are guilty of this. Most of them are in pure sciences today because they couldn’t get into medical or engineering school even after several try. After grumbling through school, may Nigerian graduates with science degrees find themselves in a dilemma. They learnt too little science in school and so cannot compete to become a lecturer or a researcher, and they don’t have the qualification for a non-science job. 

Before coming to conclusion let’s have a look from another angle. By international standard are most Nigerian lecturers or researchers qualified to be referred to as scientists? That is the question many nigerians are asking. Lecturers and researchers in Nigeria are known to carryout research mostly for the sake of publishing articles required for job promotion. They are not driven by hunger for knowledge or desire to solve a problem. Like the policy makers and bureaucrats, the pay so little attention to science development. Some would argue that the science practiced in the country is obsolete and insignificant. There is hardly any discovery from universities or research centers.  

If Science is discovery, then where there is hardly any discovery there is hardly any science and where there is hardly any science there is hardly any scientist. 

The Nigerian Pharmacist Who Invented Alabukun Powder Almost 100 Years Ago

Jacob Sogboyega Odulate aka Blessed Jacob was a Nigerian pharmacist, inventor and entrepreneur. He invented Alabukun powder

ALABUKUN is an indigenous brand that has persisted for almost 100 years in the most unlikely sector of trade for the average Nigerian: pharmacy. Alabukun powder a very popular drug in Nigeria, the world’s most populous nation and in other West African nations. Almost 100 years after, the brand remains one of the most resilient in Africa. Alabukun gained acceptance and wide spread use without any considerable adverts. It is cheap, easily recognizable and available in most chemist shop in Nigeria. 

This popular drug is an invention of Jacob Sogboyega Odulate aka Blessed Jacob (1884-1962), a Nigerian pharmacist, inventor and entrepreneur in 1918. He was originally from Ikorodu in Lagos State but later moved to the neighbouring Ogun State.  He was just 14 when he left Ikorodu, he trekked for three months before reaching Abeokuta to establish himself.

The 1910s was a period of British colonialism. In spite of all the obstacles the English imperialists placed before the ‘natives’, Blessed Jacob was able to create this brand from what served as his consulting room and laboratory in Abeokuta, Ogun State, south-western Nigeria. Without any government support and facing immense obstacles from the British colonialists who controlled all the economy, Blessed Jacob managed to create a brand that has lasted a century.

Blessed Jacob also produced other brands like Alabukun mentholine, other preparations and an annual journal called Alabukun Almanac which was widely distributed in Abeokuta and eventually all over Nigeria between the 1920s and 1950s.

Alabukun Powder contains acetylsalicylic acid and caffeine as its active ingredients. A packet contains 760 mg of acetylsalicylic acid and 60 mg of caffeine making a total of 820 mg. Although many Nigerians use it as an over-the-counter drug primarily as a mild analgesic for headache and other simple infirmities, the application of Alabukun powder is actually more diverse than that. It is used for a host of ailment and these include migraine, prevention of blood clots, myocardial infarction, transluminal angioplasty, ischaemic attacks and stroke. It can also be used in the treatment, management or prevention of these conditions: toothache, sore throat and Neuralgias.

The pharmacodynamics of Alabukun powder show that it functions by preventing the production of platelet aggregation and inhibits adenosine in the body. These functions reduce pain and allows the user to breath better by stimulating the brain and the heart.

Like every drug, Alabukun powder must not be used for any of these conditions without recommendations from a medical doctor. And like order drugs too Alabukun can have side effects. The possible side effects that can result from taking Alabukun are swelling due to fluid accumulation, asthma, vomiting, nausea and vertigo.

The MIT grad building Africa’s first STEM school in Nigeria

Most graduates of the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Boston have their choice of six-figure-salary jobs after graduation.

But for one graduate, a different calling has meant he’s sacrificed a comfortable life and taken a big risk to follow his dream: to open Africa’s first STEM (Science Technology Engineering Mathematics) school in Nigeria.

Nigerian-American Obinna Ukwuani, who grew up in Washington D.C., went back to Nigeria for eighth and ninth grades as his family felt it was important for him to know his roots. He had a revelation when he returned during his freshman year at MIT.

“I met up with my peers, the friends and classmates I’d met during my time there and it was shocking to see how far behind me they were. It was a very real experience for me,” says Ukwuani. The edge, he realized, was due to his schooling in the United States. The imbalance he recognized, he says, “was an injustice.”

“In the U.S., if you work hard, you’ll be fine in this life. So I had that moment where I knew I wanted to improve things in Nigeria.”

Obinna Ukwuani is following his dream of opening a STEM school in Nigeria. Robotics boot camp Ukwuani’s sudden realization eventually led to the launch of a robotics summer school in Lagos for high school students from 2012 to 2014. The Exposure Robotics Academy taught 113 boys and girls from 17 states around Nigeria how to code and build robots.

The five-week residential program hired MIT students to mentor Nigerian high school students in a program sponsored by Shell Oil. Recently, a documentary based on the program, “Naija Beta”, won “Best Documentary Film” at the Roxbury International Film Festival. He’s hoping on repeating the experience with a new STEM school.

Taking risks
It’s early days but initial investment for the school, to be called Makers Academy, is happening, and Ukwuani’s sleepless nights are starting to pay off.
“I really believe in what I’m doing,” he says.

After writing a business plan, Ukwuani spent five months shopping it around before four investors came forward, each offering a $50,000 investment.”It’s a long-term model. It could be a decade before they get their money back,” he says.

Makers Academy
Ukwuani believes Nigeria’s biggest issue presently is that the country doesn’t produce anything. “We import everything, and it comes back to education. We’re not doing a good job,” he says. He’s hoping to change that. When the school opens in Abuja (he projects this will happen in 2018 or 2019), Ukwuani is aiming for 600 students living on the Makers Academy campus.

Similar to himself, the students will possess a certain proficiency in mathematics and an aptitude for building things. “I was taking things apart when I was 10 years old. If you had purchased a remote control car, I would rip it apart and put it back together,” recalls Ukwuani.

The current economic situation in Nigeria could be a benefit, he says. The recession is forcing people to bring kids studying abroad back to Nigeria. “Now more than ever we need more options — and we don’t have them.” Hopefully Makers Academy will be the first of many for Nigeria’s youth.

Source: CNN

26 African Science and Tech Innovators To Watch

This list of 26 African science and tech innovators helps to reposition how we consider science and tech innovation in Africa and by extension what it means to be a science or tech innovator. Each of the individuals spotlighted, share a commitment to something simultaneously infinite, yet quantifiable: change.

1. Tonje Bakang
Afrostream, Cameroon

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Tonje Bakang
Afrostream, Cameroon

‘You have to live in the present but have the vision for the future’

What started as a dream to promote black heritage on film and television screens led Cameroon native, Tonje Bakang, to create Afrostream, a video-on-demand platform designed to distribute ‘Afro entertainment’. His goal is to impact black communities in every continent in the world by sharing stories they can relate to, while also providing them with on-and-off screen heroes that they recognise. He hopes that this initiative will create a shift in how black people are depicted in film and television.

While Tonje agrees that Afrostream is thriving. For him, real success will be visible in the next ten years.

Afrostream’s plans for the future centre around developing and transforming how Africans can tell their stories.

2. Afua Osei
She Leads Africa, Ghana

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Winners of the 2014 She Leads Africa Entrepreneur Showcase. Image courtesy of SLA

As one of the founders of She Leads Africa (SLA), Afua Osei is driven by a goal to create the ‘go-to’ community for smart and ambitious young African women. 

SLA offers young African women coaching, online guides, classes, and on-the-road tours and programmes, where each offering is strengthened by building direct engagement between women in SLA’s various communities.

For Afua, along with her partner Yasmin Belo-Osagie, SLA is a space that is for African women, by African women and about African women. According to her, SLA expands through customer engagement, and understanding what young African women need to help them achieve within their careers as they develop.

‘This year, we’ll be in seven different cities. We’ll also be launching a new and accelerated programme for women startups in Nigeria. The main focus is growth and how to reach more women.’

3. Evans Wadongo
Greenwize Energy, Kenya

‘I’m happy to solve problems and then see the impact of the solutions.’

Growing up without electricity turned out to be one of the best things to happen to young Evans Wadongo. After graduating with honours from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in 2009, Evans combined his passion for clean energy solutions to what he learned from his degree in Electronics and Computer Engineering to make the LED lamps he became famous for, at the impressive age of 19.

He is currently the Co-Founder of GreenWize Energy Limited and the Executive Director and Founder of Sustainable Development for Africa (SDFA) in Kenya. Since its formation in 2014, Greenwize’s revenue has increased by 100 percent each year and the employee count has tripled. By 2019, the energy company is set to serve 300,000 clients with renewable energy solutions through a “pay as you go” model.

By 2019, the company hopes to develop ‘EnergieRapide’ an all-in-one solar and wind energy hub. Evans finds being an innovator both ‘tiring and fulfilling’ but for him, it’s all about hard work.

4. Nkem Uwaje-Begho
Futuresoft, Nigeria

‘You always have to figure out what works in the environment that you’re in.’
Nkem Uwaje founded FutureSoft Software Resources Limited (Futuresoft) in 2008, driven by a desire to change Nigeria’s technology space. FutureSoft, an IT solutions provider focused on online solutions, e-learning and IT security, has garnered Nkem respect and recognition as a leader in her industry, where she remains one of the few women occupying the space.

Nkem is also an expert speaker on Information and Communications Technology (ICT) in Africa. She received the Jim Ovia Prize for Software Excellence and the Etisalat Prize for Innovation, for her efforts in improving access to technology in Nigeria and Africa-at large.

Presently, Nkem is focused on expanding Futuresoft into other markets in Ghana, South Africa, and Kenya within the next five years.

5. Sara Menker
Gro Intelligence, Kenya

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Sara Menker of Gro Intelligence talks data for farmers at the Africa Innovators Summit in Nairobi. (Quartz)

‘The process of creation can be a weird one. For some time, you’re creating in a vacuum.’

When Ethiopian native Sara Menker’s nine-year trading career at Morgan Stanley stopped motivating her, then the Vice President of the New York Commodities Group, she turned her attention to fixing a problem in Africa that impassioned her – agriculture. Starting out, Gro Intelligence was primarily concerned with agricultural data issues and commodities on the continent, but soon Sara and her team realised that the scale and technical complexity of the product that they were dealing with, was in fact global.

Currently, the 28-man team of Gro Intelligence is split between Nairobi, Kenya and New York in the United States. “We’re a really odd company… it’s basically a melting pot of engineering, data science, design and domain expertise around markets and actual science. We do have full-time scientists that work on environmental problems alongside the engineering and design teams. It’s a big shift from when I started Gro.”

For Sara, being an innovator is about constant discovery and uncertainty as well as being able to remain comfortable in a world where everything – including your ideas – is constantly shifting. Gro is presently working on improving ‘Clews’ and the overall delivery of the company.

‘Our product (Clews) helps users find connected paths between information and the shortest path possible to an end goal to the questions that they have around agric.’

Sara is a Trustee of the Mandela Institute for Development Studies, a member of the Global Agenda Council on Africa at the World Economic Forum and an Advisory Board Member of Shining Hope for Communities. Sara was named a Global Young Leader by the World Economic Forum and is also a fellow of the African Leadership Initiative of the Aspen Institute.

6. Chief Obi
Comedy, Nigeria

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‘It’s not about the money… Anyone can stand in front of the camera, but it takes true passion to be different.’
As a sophomore in college in 2012, Henry Obiefule – Chief Obi – incidentally started a comedic career in the United States by making and posting videos on social media media platforms, Keek and YouTube.

With a fair amount of nudging from his friends who liked his videos and encouraged him to do more, he kept on, while extending his content to Vine, and finally Instagram. Today, he has 172,000 followers on his Instagram page and his full-time career includes stand-up comedy with hosting and MC-ing duties.

Chief Obi’s videos were inspired by growing up around his Igbo relatives, the “die hard ones that you see in Nollywood movies”, and the experiences of the popular character from his skits – Obinna is actually loosely based on his own experiences living with those relatives.

“I stay relevant by being motivated to do my videos, because I love doing what I do.”

Sometime in 2011, an aunty sent me an audio message on Whatsapp. It was the singsong voice and accent of a middle aged woman from the South East admonishing the youth to avoid being what she termed ‘a waste’- except that she pronounced it ‘weist’, or something like that, with a thick heavily-inflected tone infused with Igbo ‘ethnic interference’. The recording had just the right dose of playfulness and wit to make me reply to her text with ‘LMAO.’

7. Rapelang Rabana
Rekindle Learning/Yeigo, South Africa

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After selling her first company, Yeigo, to South African communications company, Telfree, in 2009, Computer Scientist and entrepreneur, Rapelang Rabana, remained with the company for two more years before starting another equally brilliant company – Rekindle Learning. The 2014 Entrepreneur for the World and World Economic Forum Global Shaper started Rekindle with the hopes of transforming how we learn and utilising digital technology to better facilitate that process.

“Being an innovator comes from the things that you are subliminally aware of which frustrate or annoy you and believing that you can change them.”

Rekindle Learning focuses on the methodology behind learning and how young individuals in Africa can quickly and competently reach mastery levels while also seeking to develop their skills and capabilities. The technology company uses tools such as personalised learning which checks your learning performance by helping you master your weak areas, and ‘real time guide’, a GPS-like tool that helps individuals without experience navigate through organisational processes and rules to help them add value to whatever organisation or corporation they find themselves in.

‘The real-time guides give you contextual advice. Essentially, you can behave as if you’re an expert. Just as you do in a new country with the help of GPS.’

Rapelang hopes to use Rekindle to achieve more within academia and education in the future. In the near future they plan to establish an English learning platform to address the poor quality of written English found amongst youth who are secondary school graduates, with other subjects to follow.

‘We’re still finding out what works and what doesn’t as we go along. The outline is to reduce the time to competency, and whatever can assist with that is what will be part of the plan.’

8. Samuel Otukol
Water Distillation System Process (DSP), Uganda

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Trekking up to three kilometres in search of water as a young boy in Uganda, Samuel Otukol could not believe that there was so much water in one place when he moved to Canada. The difference between his hometown where there was a constant water shortage and his new country of residence inspired him to eventually create the Water Distillation System and Process (DSP), an alternative source of viable drinking water, after years of research.

“Some realities [in Uganda] have not changed much… There are boreholes now, but some of them are tapping into brackish water which could be harmful to health.”

Because of Dr. Otukol’s research, drought-stricken areas or those that only have access to seawater, commonly found in Eastern Africa, can now boast of clean water and improved agricultural practices. The DSP also works with solar energy which is an added advantage in areas that witness electricity shortages in addition to periods of drought.

9. Prof. Lesley Erica Scott
Smartspot TBcheck, South Africa

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Smartspot TB Check by Prof. Lesley Erica Scott

As a professor of Applied Sciences, Prof. Lesley Erica Scott is using her knowledge to transform medical diagnoses in Africa with Smartspot TBcheck technology. The technology checks the accuracy of the results from popular rapid Tuberculosis tests, of which incorrect diagnosis of the deadly disease can put individuals at a risk of going through unnecessary treatment. Smartspot is the first technology of its kind developed by Africans, for Africans, to be endorsed by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

‘This is an idea that can be commercialised and impact health in Africa and the world,” says Prof. Scott.’
With Smartspot, Tuberculosis diagnosis and treatment which has saved over 37 million lives between 2000 and 2013 will significantly improve, allowing laboratories to safely and economically diagnose the disease which is the third leading cause of death in Africa. Smartspot was awarded the Special Prize for Social Impact ($25,000) at the 2015 Innovation Prize for Africa awards which held in Morocco.

10. Jean Bosco Kazirukanyo
Oil Spill Cement, Burundi

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Oil Spillage Cement developed by Jean Bosco Kazirukanyo

Last year, Burundian Chemical Engineer, Dr. Jean Bosco Kazirukanyo, shone at the Innovation Prize for Africa awards with Oil Spill Cement (OSP). His ground-breaking innovation, which was also borne out of climate change activism, mitigates the poisonous effects of oil spillages and lubricants by containing them in lumps suitable for adequate disposal and ecological recycling.

Dr. Kazirukanyo, who is also known for his work with the Advanced Cement Training and Projects Institute (ACTP), which produces highly trained and qualified cement engineers and chemists, is on his way to helping the continent manage potential ecological crisis.

11. Dr. Edward Mabaya
Genetically Modified Crops, Zimbabwe

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Born to a Zimbabwean family that lived on a small farm and made ends meet by growing food crops such as, cabbage, maize, yam and potatoes, Dr. Edward Mabaya grew up appreciating some of the rewards of subsistence farming.

Years later, and armed with a PhD in Agricultural Economics from Cornell, he began to work with the Rockefeller Foundation on seed access in Africa. He then set up an organisation to help African seed companies market and distribute seeds.

Dr. Mabaya’s research and technology helps small farm owners in the rural areas of most of the English-speaking countries in Africa to access maize, cassava, sorghum and other types of seeds.

The African Seed Access Index (TASAI) provides a diagnostic tool that helps farmers, investors, agricultural companies and policy makers in Africa uncomplicate the process of seed systems and supply. Since its launch in Nairobi last year, it has spread to 12 countries in Africa and promises to cover the entire continent in the next two to three years.

‘I’m trying to make seeds ‘sexy’ again. People have forgotten how powerful seeds can be in transforming the lives of small-holder farmers…This very small technology can be the key to improving food security in Africa. It’s simple yet complicated.’

Dr. Mabaya, whose life has been directly impacted by agriculture, believes that it is one of the answers to the eradication of poverty in Africa. As the Associate Director of the Cornell International Institute for Food and an Archbishop Desmond Tutu Leadership Fellow (2007) amongst other notable achievements, Dr. Mabaya credits his current status to his firsthand experience with seeds as one of ten children on a small farm.

‘[Seeds] transformed my own life. I’m where I am now, partly because I saw the power of seeds in rural Africa. What keeps me motivated is making sure that more people get the access that I was able to get.’

12. Paulo Miki Akpablie
Kadi Energy, Ghana

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The Kadi Energy power bank Ray 10.

Paul-Miki didn’t like struggling to study because there was no electricity or seeing his grandmother give her phone to a driver who had to journey miles out of rural Ghana, just to charge it. Years later, his concern for energy in Africa and passion for entrepreneurship, witnessed a boost after he won the United World Scholarship in high school to study in Hong Kong, after which he moved to Colorado College in the United States where he is currently a senior.

Paul-Miki established Kadi Energy during his sophomore year in Colorado; the young innovator believes that energy is the difference between those at the ‘bottom of the pyramid’ and those in the developed world, and is devoted to unsettling the inequality that obstructs equal access to energy around the world.

‘As an innovator you’re constantly thinking about the things around you and what could be made better. It’s also about empowerment and leaving a legacy. It shouldn’t start and stop with one person.’

Kadi, which in ‘Ewe’ (a language from the Volta region in Africa) means “light”, hopes to become one of the major players in energy in the world by producing energy storage systems and launching unique 50-port charging stations for micro-enterprises. The prototype for the charging stations was manufactured and assembled in Nigeria and the company hopes to expand manufacturing to other African countries.

In Ghana, Paul-Miki’s is building a ten megawatt solar farm to provide energy for 10,000 homes with plans to achieve completion in the first quarter of 2017. Haiti and Sierra Leone are also posed to witness the launch of the charging stations in the near future.

13. Rachel Sibande
MHub, Malawi

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Rachel Sibande (Twitter: @rachelsibande )

It is no surprise that Malawi owes its first and only technology hub and incubator space to Rachel Sibande, CEO and founder of mHub which identifies, nurtures and incubates young technology entrepreneurs. A PhD candidate in Computer Science at Rhodes University in South Africa, Rachel’s research focuses on the use of mobile technology for citizen engagement.

When she was young, Rachel was curious about gadgets, and would break old radios and move parts from one gadget to another to learn how they worked. Earlier on in her career, Rachel taught Information and Computer Technology (ICT) at an elite high school in Malawi and was a Statistics lecturer at the Mzuzu University.

With a membership of over 120 young technology enthusiasts, mHub has championed the development of local technology solutions in Malawi. The company intends to become a leading software development house in the East African country and penetrate global markets. Also, mHub plans to nurture and mentor more than 40 technology startups by 2021 by establishing a formal training institute for practical and dynamic technology-related courses that respond to the fast changing world of technology.

Rachel’s passion for enhancing female participation in Science and Technology led her to establish a ‘Girls4Code’ initiative and a ‘Children’s Coding club’, where children and girls between the ages of 9 and 18 are taught the basics of computer science and mobile application development skills in order to take up careers in science and technology.

“I find satisfaction in creating change that unravels new value. For me, not even the sky’s the limit…it is about being creative and dynamic.”

14. Winnifred Selby
Bamboo Bicycles, Ghana

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Winnifred Selby

At just 20 years old, Winnifred Selby is a 2016 New African Woman in Science, Technology and Innovation Award winner, a 2015 World of Children Honoree, a 2014 Set Africa Fellow, an Anzisha Fellow 2014 and a Global Shaper of the World Economic Forum. The Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative, of which she is a co-founder, is at the centre of these achievements.

The Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative  employs 35 people and is focused on the afforestation of degraded lands and exportation of bamboo bike frames to generate revenue for the Ghanaian economy.

The initiative also serves as an empowerment scheme for women as bamboo briquette (making a type of charcoal from bamboo residue to use as a cooking fuel) entrepreneurs with added training on leadership and entrepreneurship. More than 100 women have been trained in professional technical courses since the programme’s inception.

The outstanding leader and serial social entrepreneur dedicates her life to the economic empowerment of young people in her community and as the President of the EPF Educational Empowerment Initiative, her varied abilities are directed toward a single purpose: the ever-widening implementation of her mission to keep school children, especially young girls from deprived communities in Ghana, in school.

‘Moving forward, we seek to position the Ghana Bamboo Bikes Initiative as the number one bamboo bike manufacturer and exporter in Africa, creating employment opportunities for hundreds of young people. We also want to go into large scale commercial bamboo plantation as a means of creating employment opportunities for the youth while encouraging processing of the bamboo by adding value to it and exporting them to earn foreign exchange for the country.’

Winnifred has travelled extensively worldwide, shared platforms with notable international figures such as the Executive Director of the World Trade Organization, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon whom she was able to convince to take a ride on one of her bamboo bikes.

15. Damola Taiwo, Tola Ogunsola, Dolapo Taiwo
MyMusic.Com.Ng, Nigeria

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Mymusic founders Damola Taiwo, Tola Ogunsola, and Dolapo Taiwo

In 2014, three friends teamed up to start a company using their extensive backgrounds in web development, digital design and their love of music. In June 2015, MyMusic was launched in Lagos offering Nigerians the opportunity to download music in a cheap and easy manner.

According to Dolapo Taiwo, one of the co-founders, “we had an idea for people to download music in one click…we didn’t know how it was going to pan out.” Damola and Dolapo returned to Nigeria in 2008 to start Unitech Media (which is still in operation) and later joined forces with Tola in 2014 to start the company. Today, MyMusic is integrated with all the telecommunication companies in Nigeria and about 60 million Nigerians with a phone and internet connection can download music.

“Our lives are action packed and unpredictable. Sometimes you work till 2am and other times it’s for 24 hours,” says Damola who is also the CEO of the company, and Dolapo echoes this sentiment. “As an innovator you’re on a quest to solve a particular problem, and until you solve it you never really sleep. You have to never take no for an answer.”

Damola, Tola and Dolapo have plans to make MyMusic Pan-African with a short-term plan to expand into five other African countries through an aggressive marketing plan. In time, the company hopes to go global, as they note “African music is very dynamic and big all over the world.”

MyMusic currently partners with Facebook on the social network’s ‘Facebook Music Stories’, as Facebook’s first African partner in this capacity.

16. Ify Aniebo
African Health Magazine, Nigeria

‘The passion of trying to save lives, imparting knowledge and creating change is what drives me.’

Nigerian-British Geneticist and Scientist, Ify Aniebo, is on a mission to find out why malaria drugs are failing by exploring drug resistance. According to her, Africa is living on its ‘last life’ for malaria drugs and the medical community is not working quickly enough to develop new solutions. Ify’s dedication to these issues was born from her experience with malaria as a child and a desire to educate people about science and health.

Ify founded African Health Magazine to provide better information around health and science, particular to health concerns facing people around the continent. Her work is centred around trying to stop the spread of malaria drug resistance in Africa with detailed research which serves as a surveillance tool for clinical scientists.

In order to do this, the molecular geneticist spends most of her days and nights in the laboratory. “Sometimes I’m not aware of the time. It’s tough and it also gets lonely for scientists. You’re in your own world a lot. If things don’t work out you try to find why. But when you do get a little bit of progress it gives you the energy to carry on.”

While the award-winning scientist admits that her PhD candidacy at Oxford University (which is almost over) doesn’t afford her the energy to invest in her magazine as much she would like, she plans to move back to Nigeria in September and make the magazine and initiative more programmatic with outreach strategies in addition to the use of mobile and internet technologies.

“Education is empowerment. People need to know the signs to look out for. However, not everyone can access the internet. I plan to go into the rural areas to provide information to those who need it the most.”

17. Takunda Chingonzo
Saisai, Zimbabwe

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Takunda Chingonzo speaking with U.S. President Barack Obama during the U.S.-Africa Business Forum on the sidelines of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, D.C. AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES

Takunda Chingonzo’s passion for technology and entrepreneurship led him to create Neolab Technology P/L at the age of 19. Neolab Technology provides free internet to the public through Saisai Wireless and other similar startup networks. These other startups include Neo Effect (empowering underprivileged youth in southern Zimbabwe through Information Technology (IT) literacy), MX Project, and BOOT Africa (promoting student startups in tertiary institutions).

The award-winning 23-year-old university student believes that any business can thrive with access to the internet. He is committed to technological innovations that bolster a vision of revolutionising entrepreneurship in Zimbabwe’s economy and the rest of Africa.

Saisai is going to become a gateway for local developers, content creators and curators to reach their targeted customers.

Takunda also plans to establish 100 sustainable companies on the continent by 2020 with the launch of 20 per year. His business model for Africa is investing in products with visible potential in order to guarantee lasting success. For Takunda, innovation is an extension of ourselves as humans and must be practiced with frugality. He believes an entrepreneur should create and transfer value to the end user using the least amount of resources.

18. Adnane Remmal
Livestock Antibiotics, Morocco

Last year, Moroccan researcher, Adnane Remmal, won the Innovation Prize for Africa’s $100,000 cash grand prize for a patented alternative to livestock antibiotics. A professor of Biotechnology at the Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah University, Remmal’s innovation seeks to address the health problems that antibiotics in livestock feed can cause humans.

Professor Remmal directed his research towards studying the quality and strength of livestock antibiotics and replacing them with the most natural and harmless compositions for livestock, which offer the same antimicrobial results and prevent resistance. This way, livestock remain healthy, the agricultural sector receives a tremendous boost, and people can consume livestock products without fear of transmitted germs or carcinogens.

He currently runs a small company that manufactures and distributes the product with hopes to attract investment in order to increase production levels and expand into other countries in Africa and the world.

According to Professor Remmal, innovation is the most important means to contribute to African development.

19. Bilikiss Adebiyi-Abiola
WeCyclers, Nigeria

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Plastic bottle home developed by D.A.R.E / Photo credit: Andreas Froese for ECOTEC

In 2012, Bilikiss Adebiyi left a five-year-long job as a Software Programmer at IBM in the United States to return home to Nigeria and execute an idea that came to her while she attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT): A recycling company now called WeCyclers.

WeCyclers collects waste from low-income communities and rewards the participants with points that can later be exchanged for prizes.

The generated waste materials – which are also collected with help from the Lagos State Waste Management Authority (LAWMA) – are then sold to recycling companies, making WeCyclers both a social and economic enterprise.

Before founding WeCyclers, Bilikiss attempted to establish a scrap metal venture with her brother which didn’t quite pan out. However, that failure led her to an even better innovation. Bilikiss hopes to turn WeCyclers into a movement that will change the way Nigerians and Africans view waste.

According to Bilikiss, “Waste management is one of the main problems for poor populations in Nigeria. We want to create a system that would change how people see waste from a problem to a solution.”

20. Madiba Olivier
Kiro’o Games, Cameroon

Young Madiba Olivier always thought he was going to end up working as a game developer in either the United States or Europe, but it turned out his home country of Cameroon had much more in store for the game lover. Upon realising the lack of dynamism and African characterisation, as well as mythical and cultural representation in games, Madiba decided to make games that would address these issues while entertaining game players both home and abroad.

To this end, Madiba began developing Aurion: Legacy of Kori Odan, a Role Playing Game (RPG) inspired by one of his favourite games ever – Final Fantasy. He launched Kiro’o Games, which is now the first gaming studio in Central Africa, in 2013. Last year, Kiro’o Games received $50,000 from a Kickstarter campaign to fund its projects.

“As an innovator, you’re a little bit alone. A lot of people don’t understand how you see things or how you see the world”, Madiba says. The Computer Scientist also thinks that while some people are born with the gift to come up with great ideas, others are trained. For Olivier, it’s 50-50 and the key is to keep an open mind and learn how to process ideas better. Kiro’o plans to organise with other games studios in Africa to make the continental market one of the best in the world.”

‘The video game industry is moving towards virtual reality/augmented reality. In ten years, Africa can invent the next way to entertain. America already invented sight cinema and video games. I want to have a team ambitious enough to invent the next step.’

“We’re in the last stages of trying to release the game. This is the end of the road of a 12-year dream. We will decide on the future of the industry in the region if Aurion is a success. If we succeed, we will pave the way for other games to be produced in Cameroon. If we don’t, we may have closed it for a long time for investment and giving others a shot. That gives us a lot of pressure and equal motivation.”

21. Oluseun Onigbinde
Budgit, Nigeria

A Co-Creation Hub Hackathon set the stage for public finance analyst, Oluseun Onigbinde, to launch one of the best ideas that Nigeria has seen in some time – BudgIT. Because of BudgIT, Nigerians now have access to federal budgets while they are being drawn up.

BudgIT uses SMS, infographics, interactive applications and games, amongst other tools, to bring transparency and accountability to civil society while aiming for a more socially and economically evolved Nigeria. According to Oluseun, BudgIT simply aims to provide budget access, which both he and his team believe is the key to civic engagement and institutional reform.

Oluseun is presently working on international partnership to advance BudgIT’s vision. The Africa Transparency Initiative, a Pan-African initiative, USAID, Ford Foundation, and the Knight Foundation are some of the partners that the company has managed to make progress with over time. Additionally, BudgIT has developed tools such as ‘Tracka’ and ‘Fitila’ to monitor local community projects.

The idea is that rather than having reports just being entirely narrative, we want them to be backed by data. We don’t want 1000-word opinion pieces not backed with data guiding the thoughts.

BudgIT currently employs 22 people and has future plans to build “sustainable cities” that are data-driven. To do this, Oluseun is ready to “pull the old order down and rebuild a new experience for stakeholders” while strengthening access to citizens in digital and offline communities.

“We want to publicise finance data in the hands of citizens, raising their ability to ask questions and demand service delivery. But we don’t want to do this with heavy dependence on donor funding, so we want to ensure that we fully establish a thriving business segment that focuses on private clients and development agencies in areas of data science, visualization and civic technology.”

22. Dr. Chrystelle Wedi and Dr. Kopano Matlwa Mabaso
The Ona Mtoko Wako Initiative, DRC/South Africa

The Ona Mtoto Wako (See your baby) social initiative was founded by South African Rhodes Scholars, Chrystelle Wedi and Kopano Matlwa Mabaso. It was developed in order to tackle the leading causes of maternal and newborn deaths in rural and low-income areas in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) by identifying high risk pregnancies with the use of mobile clinics offering ultrasonography and health screenings to expectant mothers.

The aforementioned exercises are aimed at drastically reducing the numbers of preventable deaths in mothers caused by complications such as pregnancy-related anaemia, hypertension, HIV and malaria. At the screenings, the phone numbers of these ‘high risk women’ would be collected in order to stay in touch and connect them to healthcare facilities in their area.

This thoughtful initiative won the first ever Aspen Idea Award in July last year with a cash prize of $25,000 to bring the idea to life. Dr. Mabaso is an award-winning author, a pioneer of the World Economic Forum Global Shaper – Johannesburg Hub and a 2015 Fellow of both Tutu and Aspen New Voices.

Dr. Wedi is currently the Secretary General of Vandelo NGO and co-managing partner of Watoto Hospital & Karibuni Hospital, based in the DRC, as well as a 2016 Aspen New Voices Fellow.

“I am passionate about issues affecting the African continent especially those relating to socio-economic, public health and gender inequalities. I hope to play a significant role in improving quality and accessibility of healthcare for women and children in Africa and plan to coordinate research which can be translated into effective and efficient health policy in African states.”

23. Dr. Thumbi Mwangi
Livestock Systems, Kenya

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Thumbi Mwangi about to examine livestock in Western Kenya

Dr. Thumbi Mwangi’s research focuses on the link between livestock health and human health. His research in East African rural households helped to inform the 300 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa, at risk of falling ill following the consumption of sick livestock.

A trained veterinarian and member of the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI), Dr. Mwangi carried out a study which tracked 1,500 households and their livestock in Kenya in March 2015, and has since been documented in an open journal Plos One.

Presently, Dr. Mwangi is focused on researching the human-animal interface in East Africa and investigating the relationship between livestock health and productivity, human health, nutrition and welfare in order to improve health and welfare among livestock-dependent households by improving animal health and productivity.

24. Priscilla Hazel, Cassandra Sarfo, Esther Olatunde
Tress- Beauty App, Ghana/Nigeria

Ghana and Nigeria combined forces to provide a basic service to black women- hair styling. Priscilla Hazel, Cassandra Sarfo and Esther Olatunde created Tress – an application which provides Black women with information on how to style their natural hair, where they can find salons, and what products to use for various hair textures.

Hazel, Sarfo and Olatunde met at the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology in Accra, Ghana and instantly connected based on their shared frustrations with their hair and options available to them. Last month at the Lagos Social Media Week, the three friends launched Tress amidst rave reviews.

CEO Priscilla Hazel agrees that it can get awkward for women to approach strangers and inquire about their hairstyle and this is a barrier that the application is helping women overcome.

‘For us at Tress, after identifying the challenge that we faced we wanted to find an easier and convenient way to solve the challenge of finding details of amazing hairstyles we constantly see online.’

Tress is available for download on the Google Play Store with more versions to come. The founders have disclosed plans to expand into e-commerce, as well as make Tress active on various media platforms by partnering with “likeminded organisations and individuals”.

“We envision that in the near future, Tress will be the go-to app for black women looking to find hair inspiration, hair-stylists and high quality hair products. We believe that Tress will continue to evolve and grow into a multi-faceted global brand.”

25. Yahaya Ahmed
Development Association For Renewable Energy (DARE)- Architecture/Eco Friendly Homes, Nigeria

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Eco-friendliness takes an amazing architectural form in plastic bottle houses, constructed by the Developmental Association for Renewable Energies (DARE) in Nigeria. DARE constructed these homes from thousands of recycled plastic bottles which are filled with sand, cement, and mud. These components form a highly formidable wall which is 20 times stronger than brick walls, fireproof, bulletproof, and earthquake resistant.

DARE CEO, Engr. Yahaya Ahmed, co-founded the Kaduna-based non-governmental organisation, which seeks to promote the understanding and use of renewable energy resources as well as promote clean indoor air through energy autonomous plastic bottle houses and other environmental projects. The houses are fitted with energy saving stoves with little or no emissions which mitigate desertification and climate change, urine filtration fertilization systems and purification tanks.

Yahaya Ahmed’s environmental projects seek to aid Nigeria’s issues with deforestation and pollution, in addition to other forms of environmental degradation. The energy efficient kitchen stoves were recently made available for purchase in Kaduna and plans are in the works for nationwide availability.

DARE currently trains young people in Kaduna to assemble the stoves in order for them to become future entrepreneurs. Additionally, the organisation is training local masons in the bottle building technique with the help of Andres Froesse, the founder of Eco-Tec Soluciones Ambientales.

26. Zim Ugochukwu
Noire – Travel App, Nigeria

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Travel Noire (TN) founder Zim Ugochukwu has been listed as one of the “10 Amazing Black Women Changing the Game” by Teen Vogue given her role in dismissing the age-long myth that black people don’t like to travel.

Born in the United States to Nigerian parents, Zim worked as a Biologist and community organiser (she was among the organisers of the Obama campaign in 2008) before her love for travel led her to establish Travel Noire in 2013. In less than three years, her establishment has become the go-to guide for young black people who want to travel around the world.

‘It’s challenging but rewarding. As an innovator, you need to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.’
Travel Noire presently employs seven people who “live wherever they want, are productive and very happy.” The brand offers two major products at the moment; the Travel Noire Experiences, which curates a group travel experience, and the community based product.

According to Zim, the experience is about connecting with the local environment, more than mere sightseeing. The TN experience package is available in Italy for now but will include six to seven other locations by summer this year. Next year, Travel Noire plans launch another product to teach people how to work while on vacation, to encourage people to travel more. Zim believes that “you can be in Fiji or Darfur and still have your ‘nine to five’.”

Source: Venture Africa

Elon Musk is an African American and a Genius

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At age 43, Elon Musk a scientist is already the entrepreneurial and visionary mastermind behind Tesla Motors, PayPal, Space X, Solar City and the envisioned high speed Hyperloop from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The scary thing is that he’s just warming up.

Despite countless comparisons to Apple’s genius inventor Steve Jobs, it is the analogies to Iron Man’s alter ego Tony Stark that have stuck to South African-born billionaire Elon Musk like a super-powered exoskeleton. Hailed as a true 21st century industrialist, who has shaken up three established industries, 2012 saw Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket’s successful return from its first commercial space flight to the international Space Station. His electric (Tesla S) luxury sedan was hailed as the 2013 Motor Trend Car of the Year and his SolarCity solar power company is at the forefront of the solar Industry.

To understand Elon Musk’s contribution to humankind, one needs to look a little deeper at what he is about. What is his ‘one thing’?It’s certainly not clear from his varied business interests. Yes, to the outside it appears his new focus lies in the field of energy, but what is really turning Musk into the next great saviour of humankind. And, when he talks the world is starting to listen intently.As recently as last Friday, he warned that probably the biggest threat to humankind is the latest trending towards ‘artificial intelligence’, where man is looking at computers to do tasks that normally require human thinking.

Musk’s strategic outlook on life is pure potential power, ready to be unleashed. It reflects a man who is constantly looking to find out what is, and what is going to affect mankind the most, to then find out what is not working, and to then go and fix it. He is certainly not one who avoids life’s big challenges. So far, he has done some pretty amazing things and is warming up ‘to musk the world’! Mr Fixer par excellence in his chosen fields of greatness – space, internet and green technology.

Who is Elon Musk?
My answer:  Elon Musk is a man who is fast changing the way of the world. A man who is even making Bill Gates look pedestrian. South African born Elon Musk, who must probably rank right up there as Africa’s greatest export.

‘Beautiful Mind’ Mathematician John Nash Killed in Crash

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US mathematician John Nash, who inspired the Oscar-winning film A Beautiful Mind, has died in a car crash with his wife, police said.

Nash, 86, and his 82-year-old wife Alicia were killed when their taxi crashed in New Jersey, police said.

The mathematician is renowned for his work in game theory, winning the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1994. His breakthroughs in maths – and his struggles with schizophrenia – were the focus of the 2001 film.

Russell Crowe, who played him in the film, tweeted: “Stunned… My heart goes out to John and Alicia and family. An amazing partnership. Beautiful minds, beautiful hearts.”

Alicia Nash helped care for her husband, and the two later became prominent mental health advocates.

The two were thrown from their vehicle, police said. Media reports said the couple may not have been wearing seatbelts when they crashed. Their taxi driver, and a passenger in another car, were also injured.

Nash married Alicia Larde in 1957, when he was a rising star in the maths world. But he developed severe schizophrenia soon after, and Alicia had him committed several times. The couple divorced in 1962.

They stayed close, and his condition had begun to improve by the 1980s. They remarried in 2001.
Earlier this week, Nash received the Abel Prize, another top honour in the field of mathematics.