iAfrikan Weekly Digest Edition 140 -"The Afrikan Tech Stories We Brought You In 2016"

Edition 138
Monday, 19 December 2016

From the Editor-at-Large


Ejoka Afrika!

2016 has been a phenomenal year for tech in Africa. We have seen a lot of ups and downs, openings and closings, starts and ends, and we've been here to tell you about them. We covered stories from every region, reading between the lines in order to make sure that you're kept informed about everything that's happening in tech on the continent.

For this week's newsletter, we asked the people behind the stories - the writers - to pick some of their favourite posts from the past year. These stories have some fantastic insights, asking important questions and analyzing the insights published in various reports to give you a clearer picture of what the facts and figures actually mean. 

2016 has also seen the passing of several tech-related resolutions in African countries that have both helped and hindered the growth of the industry on the continent. Innovations such as Ghana and South Africa's election apps, for example, have shown what technology can do to advance governance and engagement in the electoral process. On the other hand, internet shutdowns have shown that some governments view tech with suspicion.

We also looked at the impact of developments such as the United Kingdom leaving the EU on Africa's tech scene, Mark Zuckerberg's trips to Kenya and Nigeria, and the gradual adoption of blockchain technologies by mainstream financial institutions.  

This year has also seen innovations that were tested in the continent debut on the global stage. 2016 has seen the debut of Facebook's OpenCellular, Amazon Go, and medical drones in Rwanda and Madagascar. It also saw the death of Kenya's cashless payment system for public transport. South Africans asked for Data to fall, Zimbabweans turned their flag into a protest symbol, Nigerians watched the naira take a series of hits and lose value against the dollar, and Kenyans went online to challenge corrupt leaders. We also looked at developments elsewhere and how they could work out (or crash and burn) here. 

We looked at all these stories and more, and our writers broke them down for you.  

We also looked at some of the people behind the startups and innovations that are making waves on the continent, telling stories that have long gone untold.

2016 has had its fair share of challenges for each of us, but we are taking what we learned from all this, using the momentum that we have gained to propel us into 2017.

How was 2016 for you? What development on the continent drew your attention? What would you like to see more of in 2017? Talk to us at [email protected]

Eric Mugendi

Editor-at-Large

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Editor's Picks

What Brexit Means For Afrika's Tech Giants

By Daniel Mwesigwa

Brexit, just like Trump, swept through. We're not dead yet. Africa's tech giants are not dead yet. There will be ups and downs, sometimes severe. But only because of the natural laws of mean reversion.

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'Innovation' Is More Than Just A Buzzword In Afrika, It Is Changing Lives All Over The Continent

By Ikwap Amos

The wave of technology innovation in Africa will not forgive anyone who chooses to remain rooted in traditional methods that are not in tune with the digital environment. Disruptive technologies are changing lives in Africa, and innovation is driving this change.

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Meet Takunda Chingonzoh, Whose Belief In Collaborative Brilliance Is The Force Behind Zimbabwe's TechVillage

By Lerato Chiyangwa

It’s great to see such a great mind as Takunda doing well at home and also being internationally recognized for his efforts.

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Kenya's Cashless Payment System For Public Transport Was Doomed By A Series Of Experience Design Failures

By Kenneth Odero

The cashless experiment was doomed by a failure in User Experience design. From the onset, this programme was designed to solve a problem that did not really exist. The public transport system in Kenya is only public in the sense that anyone can use it.

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We May Be The Most Informed Generation In History, But A New Age Of Deliberate Ignorance Is Upon Us

By Dickson Otieno

We are in The Age of Information. Any event or happening in the world can be viewed from wherever as long as one is connected to the internet. Social media now defines the daily lives of very many human beings. If you are sick, stressed, bored, travelling, doing research, learning, etc., the internet is there for explanations, suggestions, entertainment and much more. Whatever you want!

With the internet and smartphones, one would expect much more from this generation. But somehow this is the age full of misinformation, unbelievable theories and outright stupidity, which is shocking considering all the information we are exposed to.

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3D Printing Is The Future Of Manufacturing, But Can It Work In Afrika?

By Kungela Mzuku

There’s a reason why 3D printing is being touted as the next stage of the industrial revolution. It allows for distributed manufacturing. Rather than producing things on a large scale from a centralized location and having to distribute them, you can send a design to someone who can then print it out at their location.

While Africa lags behind in using this technology, 3D printing could revolutionize the future of the continent. If past innovations are anything to go by, we have a history of skipping stages in the evolution of technology and accomplishing things with limited resources. I guess it’s just a matter of time until 3D printing really takes off, and the results are bound to be fantastic.

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South African Reserve Bank Circulates First Ever Smart Contract Using Private Ethereum Blockchain

Sello Moloi

In possibly a first for Africa, the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) along with the Payments Association of South Africa, Financial Services Board, Strate and some of the country's major banks, namely Investec Bank, ABSA, Rand Merchant Bank and Standard Bank successfully managed to circulate a smart contract on an Ethereum based blockchain private network set up among themselves.

This comes after talks by the banks earlier in July 2016 to connect some parts of the South African banking system to a private version of the Ethereum blockchain. These discussions came soon after ABSA, a subsidiary of Barclays Africa, announced that it had joined the international R3 Blockchain Consortium.

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With 97 Million Nigerians Online, The Government Needs To Do More To Leverage On The Power Of The Internet

Oladunni Adetula

Internet access in Nigeria has grown rapidly, with the number of active mobile phone subscribers increasing from almost none in 2000 to over 148 million subscribers, or a 106% teledensity in March 2016, as reported by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

Despite the rapid growth of the country's telecommunications sector, the government of Nigeria has failed to create policies in favour of the ICT sector. Rather, internet freedom has been threatened with proposed policies such as the 2015 Frivolous Petitions Bill, which was meant to curtail Nigerians' freedom of expression on the Internet.

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The Internet Shutdown In Ethiopia Cost The Country Approximately $500,000 A Day In Lost GDP

By Tefo Mohapi

A recent report released on 27 October 2016 by the Global Network Initiative along with Deloitte suggests that the Internet shutdown in Ethiopia cost the country approximately $500,000 a day.

"This analysis suggests that the Internet shutdown in Ethiopia, a low-connectivity country with a population of 94 million and a per capita GDP of US$505, is costing its economy just under half-a-million US dollars a day in lost GDP." Tweet

Afrikan Countries Export Just 0.3 Per Cent Of The World’s High-Tech Products

By Eric Mugendi

While developing countries as a whole accounted for 52 per cent of global exports of high technology products in 2014 – an 18 percent rise since 2000, African countries are lagging behind, representing just 0.3 per cent of this total, the UNCTAD Technology and Innovation Report has found.

Only 4% of exports from Africa in 2012 were high-technology products. Of the US$3.2 billion worth of exports, US$2.3 billion was from South Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa's most industrialized country.

This is especially worrying, considering that Africa is a significant producer of the raw materials that go into these high-tech products, with countries such as the DRC and Central African Republic being the biggest exporters of essential elements such as coltan, gold and tungsten. Tweet

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