Author: One Young World

Ipaidabribe: Fighting corruption in Zimbabwe

I will admit that I paid a bribe at a roadblock just hours before launching an anti-corruption site. In May last year, I was pulled over by a police officer. He inspected my car for “vulnerabilities” and then asked if I had a fire extinguisher. He said I could be fined $20. When I told him that I did not have that much on me, he quickly gave me a way out. “Give me what you have and I will look away.” The alternative was that he would detain me until he knocked off duty – and I didn’t have time for that. I paid him a bribe.  I didn’t like it and my conscience weighed me down. Frustrated, I brainstormed, decided to create a website and by the end of the day was up and running, thanks to the beauty of open source software.

The site got over 3000 visits in the first two days. It was clear that many Zimbabweans were as frustrated as I was about corruption and now we had a chance to do something about it.

What is all about:

The idea behind is to fight corruption by empowering the crowd. If anyone in Zimbabwe can report corruption (even anonymously) and if the reports are available for everyone to see, a solution to the problem should become obvious to at least somebody. The reason why crowdsourcing the fight against corruption works is because it tackles the three biggest conditions that are conducive for corruption to thrive:

  • Opportunity: People get involved in corruption when systems don’t work well and they need a way to get things done regardless of the procedures and laws.
  • Little chance of getting caught: A lack of accountability comes when there is little transparency (for example, public officials who don’t explain what they are doing, how and why), and weak enforcement (law agencies who don’t impose sanctions on power holders who violate their public duties).
  • Certain attitudes or circumstances that make average people disregard the law. They may try to get around laws of a government they consider illegitimate. Poverty or scarcity of key goods such as medicine may also push people to live outside the law.

What we’ve achieved so far:

The site is now a popular way of reporting corruption in Zimbabwe. It’s been successful in:

  • Getting people to start speaking out when they see corruption around them.
  • Getting people to talk about how they refused to pay bribes. This gives the crowd a good example of how people can achieve things on the basis of personal integrity.
  • Establishing partnerships with media houses and using these to escalate some of the reports

Admittedly, there are areas where I need to improve:

  • Verification of reports. One person can only do so much here so I am happy to talk to people and/or organisations that can help with verification of reports. This aspect is difficult to crowd source.
  • Escalation of reports. There are still many reports that have not been properly escalated. My idea has always been to have the crowd handle the escalation of reports. We are clearly still a long way from this.
  • Marketing. Scaling up too fast was a concern for me because it would increase the chances and number of reports that are not verified and escalated. But it goes without saying that scaling up is an absolute necessity.

From running ipaidabribe, I learnt the following lessons:

The future of fighting corruption
It is on this basis that I have decided to focus my efforts to fighting corruption on road-blocks. Working with a colleague, we are building what could be the future of the fight against corruption Kombi.

We know that the fight against corruption can be more effective if we change mindsets rather than try to attack specific incidents. Because of this we have decided to build a video game which will be targeted at younger people. The video game is called Kombi, named after a vehicle for public transport that’s an essential service throughout the continent. It’s called a taxi in South Africa, matatu in Kenya, dala dala in Tanzania, tro tro in Ghana,  the list goes on.

We chose to go for a video game was because we know that people love games. With a game we potentially engage many people simultaneous because they have a lot of growth potential. The legendary Angry Birds, for example, took only 35 days to reach 50-million people. Compare this with the 3.5 years it took Facebook to reach that same number or the 75 years it took the television to reach the same number of people.

It will be a few months before Kombi hits the market but here is a sneak peek of how it’s going to work:

  • Every players starts at the bottom but depending on the points they earn in the game, they can graduate from being a conductor (the lowest level) to being a driver, then kombi owner, then police officer, then ultimately, police commissioner.
  • Every player is in a situation similar to that of the average Zimbabwean where they may have to pay/take bribes meet their daily targets or get through the day but every time the pay/take bribes, they lose points and hence take longer to become a police commissioner. The result is that players learn that although corruption can seem to help in the short term, it hurts in the long run.
  • The game will be real-time and online – you will be competing with other players to get passengers, fuel, reach the destination faster, etc.
  • Third party Developers in different areas can build their own routes and add them to the game. They can also earn money for themselves on the permit fees paid by players to drive on the routes they have developed.

I’d like to invite any game developers (especially those based in Zimbabwe) who would like to get involved in Kombi to send me an email. We don’t care about the platform you develop on for now.

Tawanda Kembo is interested in finding innovative ways to meet social needs. He explore existing methods to see if he can remake or modify them to serve today’s society. He is one of 10 young Africans shortlisted to be a One Young World delegate at this year’s summit. At this event, the M&G’s Trevor Ncube will be chairing a session on African media and what Africans think of their journalists. To share your views, complete this short survey.

The story of mPharma

It was an early morning in downtown San Francisco a few months ago and I was sitting in a Starbucks, thinking about what next to do with my life. After two successful interviews with Google, I had a good feeling that I would receive a job offer, but something just did not sit right with me. Around 9am, I received an email from a friend which had a link to an investigative article titled “Dirty Medicine” on CNNMoney. It tackled the issue of criminal fraud in Ranbaxy Laboratories, an Indian multinational pharmaceutical company. This article marked my return to Africa and my quest to use big data to help African governments develop better drug surveillance and monitoring systems.

The piece on Ranbaxy outraged me. The author writes that in a conference call with a dozen company executives, one brushed aside fears about the quality of the Aids medicine Ranbaxy was supplying for Africa. “Who cares?” the executive said. “It’s just blacks dying.”

At that moment, all I could think about were the 84 children who died in Nigeria in 2008 after consuming adulterated baby teething mixture and the many other families who have lost a loved one due to substandard/fake drugs. I was frustrated by the silence on the part of drug regulators in Africa. Why were they not dragging executives of Ranbaxy to court? Why was no one in prison for betraying the trust of consumers? Why? Why? Why?

I moved from asking myself why to thinking how. How do we develop technology solutions to address the challenges with pharmacovigilance in Africa? Out of the 46 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, only four have proper drug monitoring systems in place. The reality is that African drug regulators have limited to no means of monitoring medicine use or effective pharmacovigilance capabilities at hospitals. Doctors in turn are unfamiliar with the practice, overburden due to the low doctor to patient ratios and wary of admitting liability. Pharmaceutical companies also lack the incentives to adhere to them. Only 17% of countries in Africa mandate pharmaceutical companies to conduct post-marketing surveillance.

(Pic: Flickr/hitthatswitch)
(Pic: Flickr/hitthatswitch)

We need a better way to collect, store and process data on adverse drug effects. We need to develop a population based approach to drug monitoring. Luckily, the tools to build these solutions are right in front of us. A few decades back, not only would we not have known what data to measure, we also would have lacked the tools to record the data we measured. Today, with Africa leapfrogging the world when it comes to mobile technology, we can turn every individual into a data collector. mPharma is building an integrated drug monitoring system that connects hospitals, patients and pharmacies to a cloud-based software for the easy collection, and analysis of adverse drug reports.

Currently, mPharma is collaborating with the Zambian health ministry and the Food and Drug Authority in Ghana to pilot the system in their respective countries. I am inspired to see other African innovators develop tools to fight counterfeit drugs. My friend Bright Simmons pioneered the concept of serialisation and built mPedigree to enable consumers check the authenticity of their drugs through simple SMS messages.

Since returning to Ghana, I have been inspired and encouraged by the enterprising character of Africa’s millennial generation. Out of the many challenges the continent faces are massive opportunities to build disruptive technologies to solve these problems. Africa will soon see the birth of a massive technology economy. A lot more young people will build tools to solve problems in their communities that could turn into profitable businesses. The West shall look to Africa for answers to their problems and the continent will no longer be, in the words of Juliet Roch, “global consumers of solutions but rather creators”.

Gregory Rockson has worked in the healthcare sector in Africa since he was 16. He founded the Westminster United Way Free Health Fair to provide free health services to the uninsured in Missouri, USA. Connect with him on Twitter.

Rockson is one of 10 young Africans shortlisted to be a One Young World delegate at this year’s summit. At this event, the M&G’s Trevor Ncube will be chairing a session on African media and what Africans think of their journalists. To share your views, complete this short survey.

Nigeria: Tech for sex education and social good

As an IT professional I have always viewed technology as a unique tool for solving many of Africa’s challenges. It is a medium to express creativity and passion with limitless possibilities.

While studying at university I acquired technology skills by self-tutoring myself with the help of e-books and video tutorials. I got the opportunity to apply my technology skills early in my career by providing unique solutions to national security and defence institutions in Nigeria. I also received specialist training from military defence contractors in America.

But what about developing technology solutions to impact lives and cause positive change? There are many problems that can be solved through technology in Africa. As my vision and passion evolve towards leveraging new media and technology for social good, I constantly reach out to young individuals and organisations who are effecting positive change with technology.

Education as a Vaccine (EVA) is a youth-led NGO that successfully leverages mobile technology and digital mediums to educate young people about sexual reproductive health and HIV prevention. The organisation is co-founded by a visionary young Nigerian, Fadekemi Akinfaderin-Agarau.

In collaboration with partners such as OneWorld UK and Butterfly Works, EVA implemented the Learning about Living (LaL) project. It is based on the Nigerian Family Life and HIV/Aids Education (FLHE) curriculum. LaL uses ICT to provide information for young people, both in and out of school, about sex, HIV and health. The platform consists of two components: mobile learning and multimedia.

With “MyQuestion”, Nigerian youth send their questions via SMS to a short code and receive answers directly on their mobile phone. The service is managed by young, trained volunteer counsellors and ensures that the youth can receive accurate information without fear of being judged or stigmatised.

(Pic: Education as a Vaccine)
(Pic: Education as a Vaccine)

As we know, in traditional African society it is deemed inappropriate and socially unacceptable to discuss sex-related issues openly with young people. This innovative service creates an anonymous channel for their questions on relationships and sexual health. Even the shyest teenager would feel comfortable using the service.

Since its inception in 2007, the platform has received and responded to over 500 000 SMS queries about sexual reproductive health.

The second component involves multimedia. DVDs containing fun but educational cartoons are used to deliver the FLHE curriculum for upper primary and junior secondary school students. The multimedia clips are also accessible via a web based portal. The engaging story line and characters that young people can relate to allows for excellent knowledge transfer.

(Pic: Education as a Vaccine)
(Pic: Education as a Vaccine)

A platform for social good
One of the projects I am currently dedicated to is Aiderz, a web-based crowdfunding platform for social good.  The portal is in a development phase and I have been invited to present it to potential investors during the Rhodes Youth Forum next month in Greece.

The case of 28-year-old student Crystal Nonye Mbanugo is a prime example of how Aiderz can be used to effect real, positive change. In May 2013 we successfully crowdfunded N2.5-million for Mbanugo to undergo surgery in India to remove a brain tumour. We began a social media campaign called #SaveNonye and contacted every media publication we could think of. The response was positive, the target sum was reached and her surgery was successful. Donations were made via cash payments. Once the Aiderz platform is complete, there will be online payment options and fundraising for causes like these will be much easier.


Aiderz hopes to utilise the power of the crowd – 45-million Nigerian internet users in this case – to effect change across the continent, starting with our country. Imagine: we post a campaign on the site to drill a freshwater well in a local community that has no access to clean water. If 1000 people donate N1000 ($7) each, we will generate N1000 000 to successfully deliver clean water to that community. And this is just one modest scenario.

Oscar Ekponimo is a software developer, consultant, social entrepreneur and founder of TrainingTeam. He is one of 10 young Africans shortlisted to be a One Young World delegate at this year’s summit. At this event, the M&G’s Trevor Ncube will be chairing a session on African media and what Africans think of their journalists. To share your views, complete this short survey.


Moroccan farmers reap rewards of mobile technology

In 2011, hoping to escape the brouhaha of the city, I retreated for a few weeks to an isolated inn somewhere in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. Each morning, I was offered a basket of delicious red apples as a gift from the locals. Delighted by their warm hospitality, I insisted on meeting them and thanking them in person. Finally I was taken to Miloud, the owner of a surrounding farm. Judging from the size of the land, I expected to walk through the doors of an ostentatious residence. However, I was shocked by the deplorable state of his mud house and miserable living conditions.

Puzzled by Miloud’s situation, I mobilised a small group of students and we conducted a field survey to decrypt how the owner of paradisiac prairies receives such minimal benefits. Our findings highlighted how the market prices were five times higher than those charged by the village farmers. Miloud, who had never left his small town, totally ignored most of the market realities which in turn made him an easy prey for unscrupulous middlemen who atrociously exploited his ignorance.

I returned to the village determined to get Miloud to increase his selling prices. The notion of change terrified the man because he feared losing his clientele under the impression that all his neighbors would continue to charge low prices. After a long and heated discussion about his situation and that of his children, Miloud finally agreed to gather the farmers of the region in his house with the goal of finding a reasonable solution to put an end to the clear exploitation they were experiencing.

The feelings of fear and inexplicable dread were shared by all the farmers,  but they were  concerned about the future of their families and hoped to offer them a better life. After paying a listening ear to their insecurities, I suggested that they put their harvest in the same basket, decide together on the selling price and never let anyone exploit them again. With the help of business students, we developed an action plan for the farmers’ co-operative Rhamna, and stayed in touch with them during their first two years of operation.

Today Rhamna co-operative has developed several added-value products and benefited from the support of the NIHD (National Initiative for Human Development). As a result, in less than two years the income of the farmers has jumped substantially by a staggering 70%.

Farmers harvest barbary figs, used in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products, on August 6  2011 in the Skhour Rhamna region near Marrakech. (Pic: AFP)
Farmers harvest barbary figs, used in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products, on August 6 2011 in the Skhour Rhamna region near Marrakech. (Pic: AFP)

Miloud’s success story inspired me to start Fair Farming, an initiative that promotes fair trade and helps smallholder farmers derive maximum benefit from their products. Since its inauguration Fair Farming has partnered with several agricultural co-operatives and impacted hundreds of farmers throughout the country. Fair Farming has been awarded by the Global Changemakers program (British Council), and was adopted by We Are Family Foundation under its Three Dot Dash initiative.

Miloud’s continuous phone calls to update me on the success of Rhamna co-operative made me realise that farmers are not as isolated as I thought. They all had access to mobile phones that could serve as a door to crucial information. During the two years I worked with Miloud’s farming co-operative I continuously updated them on weather forecasts, market prices and best farming practices from the Ministry of Agriculture using SMS or the classic phone calls. The access to basic information helped the farmers take smarter decisions and thus boost their harvest and revenue.

I quickly realised the key role access to relevant information could play in curbing poverty in Morocco and other developing countries. Using a combination of SMS and voicemail we have, over the last few months, been able to reach to hundreds of farmers as a prototype for a scaling-up project that would hopefully benefit millions of farmers in the country.

Looking back at the modest initiative I started two years ago always reminds me that small actions can and will change the world around us for the better.

Adib Ayay has a passion for agriculture and business. In 2011, at the age of 17, he founded Fair Farming, a student-run organisation that seeks to help farmers boost their revenue using mobile technology. He is one of 10 young Africans shortlisted to be a One Young World delegate at this year’s summit. At this event, the M&G’s Trevor Ncube will be chairing a session on African media and what Africans think of their journalists. To share your views, complete this short survey.

Botswana: Teaching through technology

I was born outside the small city of Francistown in Botswana. Both my parents were traders so I was familiar with the concept of entrepreneurship from a young age. Like most people of their generation, my parents had never seen the inside the classroom. The only homework they knew was their family but they worked hard to ensure that we all attended school and made our way to university.

My education – from the level of primary public school to university – was sponsored by the government of Botswana. I gained my academic independence and acquired skills that allowed me to prosper in my fields. This journey included studying in  Botswana, South Africa and Germany, which is where I gained my passion for education and social entrepreneurship. Fast forward a couple of gruelling years in the private sector. I published three books and spoke publicly on education, poverty reduction, HIV and Aids, corporate social investment and medical tourism for healthcare in Botswana.

I then founded Digital Computer Labs, an initiative to set up state-of-the-art computer labs across the country to improve students’ education. It’s no secret that technology is indispensable to education. Materials accessible through the web increase students’ exposure to real world communication, motivate them to achieve more and –  the list goes on and on.

Students in a computer lab at Ngwana Enterprises in Francistown, Botswana. (Pic: Mooketsi Bennedict Tekere)
Students in a computer lab at Ngwana Enterprises in Francistown, Botswana. (Pic: Mooketsi Bennedict Tekere)

This project is not without challenges. Technology is shifting fast, therefore we must choose platforms and solutions that can actually work with different devices and in different scenarios. We in Africa don’t seem to appreciate or understand how this will change the education landscape and empower students and teachers.

None of us can stop the outburst of technology, rather we need to embrace it so we can have a better education system relevant to 21st century students.

I am doing my part to ensure that students in Botswana – in schools in both urban and rural areas –  have access to a computer with internet connectivity. But to effectively utilise the power of technology for learning, we need flexible yet robust infrastructure for data communications. We require very strong wireless networks which will have the ability to simultaneously handle communication streams  with hundreds of devices.  And since content and exercises will be more and more in digital format, the platform selected must have the capability of being accessed by the teacher and the student, from their own home through an internet connection.

I have my work cut out for me but I am confident that we will get there.

Mooketsi Bennedict Tekere is the CEO and founder of Ngwana Enterprises. He is one of 10 young Africans shortlisted to be a One Young World delegate at this year’s summit. At this event, the M&G’s Trevor Ncube will be chairing a session on African media and what Africans think of their journalists. To share your views, complete this short survey.