Big leaps from the platform: mobile money and Ushahidi
When M-Pesa was launched by Vodafone through its Safaricom operations in 2007, little did anyone suspect that nearly a decade later it would have transformed the banking system in Africa. Today, customers use M-Pesa to send and receive money, make payments and withdraw cash from authorised agents.
Limited access to banking services coupled with the proliferation of cell phones has enabled the service to grow exponentially. It had more than 25 million active users in March, up from 17 million in 2013. M-Pesa’s success has pushed other telecom providers to launch similar mobile-money platforms.
FRONTLINE – INNOVATIVE AFRICA
FRONTLINE – INNOVATIVE AFRICA
•Green revolution: Harnessing earth, wind and fire
•Big leaps from the platform: mobile money and Ushahidi
•The fightback against HIV/AIDS
•Partnerships give chances to more students
•Culture: Soaraway success on a shoestring
•Employment: Take these broken wings and learn to fly
Airtel Money, MTN Mobile Money, Tigo Cash and Glo Xchange are just a few of these. M-Pesa is currently available in nine African countries and has operations in India, Afghanistan, Romania and Albania.
In 2015, Vodafone Group and MTN Group inked a deal to allow MTN’s customers to use the service, thereby giving M-Pesa access to more than 19 African countries.
More than simply a mobile telephone payment system, the innovation’s colossal reach has drawn millions of people into the mainstream financial sector, providing them with a platform to access a host of related spin-off services such as micro insurance, lending and savings schemes.
Kenya’s Ushahidi, on the other hand, pioneered crowdsourcing technology to map emergencies, starting with the violence following the 2007 Kenyan elections. Kenyans across the country used mobile phones to share in- formation and contribute eyewitness reports about events through texts to an Ushahidi crowdmap.
Since then, Ushahidi has transcended Kenya’s borders and has been used around the world for crisis mapping. In 2010, following the earthquake in Haiti, volunteers translated text messages from Creole to help search-and-rescue teams find survivors.
The 2009 Gaza war, the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami, and the 2011 Nigerian election are just some of the events that have benefited from the crowdsourcing platform.
The creators of Ushahidi went on to create iHub in 2010, a co-working space for the technology community in Nairobi. In 2016, it raised $3m for its BRCK device: the innovative self-powered mobile Wi-Fi router enables users to get on- line without electricity and in areas of limited internet connection. ●
Drones High in the sky
Kibuye, on the eastern shores of Lake Kivu in Rwanda, will house the world’s first droneport. The project is due for completion by 2020 and will host cargo drones that can deliver 10kg of medical supplies at a time to almost half of the country’s remote areas. Drones capable of carrying 100kg are planned to follow by 2025. This is just one of the advances transforming the landlocked country into a regional information technology hub.
Medicine – A text that save lives
With an estimated 2,000 people dying from fake drugs every day across the globe, in 2007 Ghanaian Bright Simons launched mPedigree, a mobile telephony shortcode platform,
to spearhead the fight against the counterfeit drug trade. The platform connects phones to a registry that enables consumers to verify the authenticity of products. mPedigree now operates in 12 countries – 10 in Africa as well as in India and Pakistan.
Innovators – The younger, the better
Little did 10-year-old Panashe Jere know that winning the Smart Kid Category of the TNM Smart Challenge Competition in Malawi for his Talk to Me app was going to propel him to stardom. Jere’s app converts input text into voice so children can always have someone to talk to. He was invited to the Facebook F8 Conference in April, where he met Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Zuckerberg praised Jere in a post, saying: “This guy started coding earlier than I did.”