Author: VOA Contributor

9 great apps out of Africa in 2014

African app developers are getting more creative by the year, and a number of exciting apps emerged in 2014 across a variety of sectors. Major corporations are also increasingly developing their own applications, but the most innovative solutions continue to be produced by entrepreneurial developers. Here are nine of the most innovative African apps that launched this year.


Available on Android and iOS, Nigeria-developed location-based app Find-A-Med allows users to find the closest health and medical centres to them, and provides turn-by-turn directions to that centre. It also stores and tracks the basic health information of a user, and allows people to write reviews of centres they have visited. Users can also add health centres to the Find-A-Med database, which currently lists more than 5 000 medical facilities.

The app aims to makes all healthcare facilities – including dentists and pharmacies – across Nigeria accessible and searchable from a mobile, and recently won best app at the Mobile Web West Africa event in Lagos. Co-founder Emeka Onyenwe says the app is designed to help Nigerians pick and choose between the country’s many medical centres, which vary in quality.



Looking to make the Cape Town tourist circuit more personal, VoiceMap allows storytellers to plan, narrate and publish their audio walking routes, which can then be purchased and downloaded by users.

A smartphone’s GPS receiver tells stories on the move, automatically starting new tracks once a user enters a radius around a certain landmark. Upon purchase, all audio files, maps and GPS data are downloaded to the phone, meaning there is no need for a mobile data connection on the walk. The app seeks to provide more personal, localised audio content for tourists, while also allowing storytellers to make money out of their stories.



PesaCalc, released by Kenyan mobile app developers Mobile Matrix, is a free Android app that streamlines the use of mobile money services in the country, drawing contacts from both phonebook and SIM card. Compatible with all three of Kenya’s mobile money services, the app allows users to prepare exactly the right amount of cash to send including the fees, both to registered and unregistered users. Anytime there is a tariff change, users receive an automatic notification.



South African app WumDrop is Uber for deliveries, with a user able to request a courier, track them on a map and receive notifications of delivery, all for R7 per kilometre. The app is looking to improve the efficiency and transparency of the country’s deliveries market, and uses both professional drivers and students. Fees are split between the driver and the company. WumDrop is available via web, Android or iOS.

Safari Tales


Released in Kenya earlier this year, Safari Tales aims to solve the problem of book shortages in the country through mobile, making African children’s stories available through text, audio and visual elements. The app is interactive, and also includes stories in local languages.

The developers claim SafariTales is an education and entertainment mobile application made for Africa by Africans, aimed at children between the ages of two and nine. The company has partnered with professional storytelling organisation Zamaleo Act, experienced script writers, illustrators, animators, content developers, designers and software developers to offer a true African oral narrative experience.


South African cross-border trading app moWoza looks to simplify the way informal cross-border traders buy and sell products, allowing traders to source products through a network of suppliers through the app.

It also allows the streamlining of the supply chain through an SMS service, while users can also negotiate bulk discounts. A taxi distribution network delivers purchased consignments. moWoza celebrated two award wins recently, winning competitions hosted by BiD Network and the Southern Africa Trust.



Egyptian app Mapture is a free photo and video verification tool which aims to prevent the proliferation of misinformation and falsified images online. The app tags the location of photos through it from the phone’s GPS, making time and location of the content unalterable and verifying the source and authenticity of photos and videos. The information is then watermarked on the content, ensuring the veracity of the photo or video.


Kenyan app FarmDrive aims to provide farmers with new financing options by connecting them with investors interested in funding local producers. Aimed at enhancing value addition, the app looks to improve the business practices of smallholder farmers and improve their bids for financing. The app requires farmers to form groups of five in order to collectively provide “security” for investments made into their farming unit, with each member of the team registered via their mobile phone number.



Ghanaian app Suba is a location-based, group photo album app, that allows for the creation of a group photo stream in which people can add pictures and invite others to do so. The app is a kind of family photo album for mobile, allowing multiple people to contribute and save their favourites for safe-keeping. It is available on Android and iOS.

Tom Jackson is a tech and business journalist and the co-founder of Disrupt Africa

I’m an African African-American

(Pic: Flickr / CPOA)
(Pic: Flickr / CPOA)

The term “African-American” is controversial and highly debatable. I have stood on the sidelines firmly glued to words that sprang up from Africans and African-Americans (or Black Americans as some prefer) as both groups expressed their opinions in regards to the term. “African-Americans are classless”, “I cannot trace my roots back to Africa, hence I am Black American” are only two of the countless sentiments that chronicle the tension between Africans and African-Americans. As inciting as the discussions we can derive from these perspectives are, I will focus on another dimension: African African-Americans; my generation who has quickly embraced this American culture which permits me to dare say that although I am African-born, bred and raised sans ever gracing the Land of the free and Home of the brave, I am African-American.

I and my fellow equals to whom this identity can be attributed to, can be labelled as such by virtue of having adopted the African-American culture. Let us have a brief look at the definition of culture.

In eighth grade during a lesson of Arts and Culture presented with the task of defining culture using the minimum words possible, we agreed that “culture is a way of life” and it is upon this very definition that I present my opinion and concept here today.

We know that The Media is a powerful tool and plays a vital role in not only shaping but dictating our world during this Information Age era. It is also no secret that America is a giant in this arena and has its culture being consumed worldwide through the various platforms of mass communication.

What are the implications? The perception is that as we consume American culture more and more, we forget and occasionally disdain our own.

As a Black woman, let me talk about my personal relationship with Afro-American culture specifically.

I grew up with Afro-American influences from art to religion, and despite having a strong sense of my African identity due to leaving my home country and being prompted to mix with other Africans for the camaraderie of being foreigners, I loved African-Americans. I loved them more than me, I knew them more than me.

I discovered hip-hop and it was my daily bread. The genre exposed me to ideals, sentiments, names and to the lives of Black Americans and although I was conscious of my African identity I was oblivious to it. The walk and the talk of the African-American was what I esteemed to be the epitome of “cool” and “Black success”. The likes of Will Smith and Bill Cosby graced my screen before I was convinced to trust the African film industry. With arguments like “Why so much witchcraft?” and “Why is the quality awful?” I boycotted our industry. I was not only drawn to mainstream culture and entertainment but also to less general aspects so do not deduce this to be a mere result of the Afro-American culture epidemic. It was a choice, a preference and now reflecting, I am sorry I knew Malcom X before Patrice Lumumba, James Brown before Miriam Makeba and even my beloved Maya Angelou before Wole Soyinka.

I knew them more than me due to Africa’s failure to talk about Africa. Our inability to narrate our history and our incompetence to document, chronicle and praise our identity and reality.

Now in my young adulthood a self-titled unapologetic Pan-Africanist, I vividly see the challenges and feel both Africa and African-America in my spirit. We preach the same gospel thus I identify, although I witnessed no Middle Passage I am Kunta Kinte, my heart bleeds for Sharpeville and Ferguson with the same intensity. This spirit not only certificates me to stand in solidarity but also outlines my interpretations. And conflicts arise confronted with the “conservative African ideals” versus the “modern African ideals” fundamentals. This in addition to the incapability to wholly connect to my African roots due to the “de-africanisation” of Africa during colonial rule.

I grasp the little identity left and to the horror of my elders pollute it with African-American ideals that are intertwined with diverse and vast philosophies from the melting pot that is America.

And so here lies the dilemma: We are proud of our roots and connected to it within our capacity but shy away from it due to our ignorance birthed from not knowing and comprehending enough, defensive about our alterations as we consider our adaptations to be “progression” and “modernism”. Then we are left with teaching our children that they are African and telling our parents that we are American. African-American…

I treasure the philosophies of the yesteryears that shaped me and simultaneously uphold the enlightenments of the todays that mould me.

If culture is indeed a way of life, then my days that were packed with Black American thoughts, Black American music, Black American dance, Black American clothing, Black American mannerisms and Black American talk among other Black American things do not dismiss me without a label.

I am African but I am “also” African-American.

Clenia Gigi is a a student, avid reader, poet, spoken-word artist, Pan-Africanist, feminist and eternally a child at the face of education.

‘Verbal lynching’ of journo reveals the dangers of reporting in Lesotho

The barbs are flying at me faster, flung by a hostile crowd.

Here I am, the lone Western correspondent in this tiny African kingdom that still feels volatile since the August 30 attempted military coup that sent the nation’s prime minister scurrying next door into South Africa.

I am suddenly on trial, as a kangaroo court deals me a harsh lesson – and reveals what a minefield Lesotho is for journalists covering this crisis.

Specifically, I’m forced to defend my reporting on the latest, Hollywood-worthy claims: “Lesotho hunts foreign ‘mercenaries’, fears assassination plot”.

A top government official alleged that Nigerian and Ghanaian soldiers-for-hire had slipped into the country, armed to the teeth, to hatch a plot to assassinate Lesotho’s leaders – to throw the tiny nation into even deeper crisis and harpoon the February 2015 elections, already moved up two years earlier by South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, who is mediating to restore some semblance of “lasting peace” here.

For the “mercenaries” claim, I’d asked two people if there was any clue on the identity of these alleged assassins.

Thesele Maseribane, the third leader of the ruling tripartite coalition (who’s also the minister of gender and youth, sports and recreation) floated two nationalities: Nigerians and Ghanaians. Then I spoke to the police’s assistant commissioner of police, Sello Mosili, who confirmed this. So that’s what I reported – their allegations:

Some online media – in Lesotho, too – focused on the nationalities. Even worse, one weekly here turned my story’s allegation into their story’s fact: “Police hunt Nigerian, Ghanaian mercenaries.”

That sensationalist twist unfortunately sparked anxiety among the hundreds of Nigerians and Ghanaians living in Lesotho. They say it’s led to unkind comments from Basotho and feeling threatened on the streets.

When I’d heard about the “unintended consequences” of my reporting, I met a police official and leaders of the two expatriate communities. To help make things right, I suggested a press event: I’ll explain what happened. Maybe the police could discuss the lessons learned – about revealing too much, too soon?

I’m also a journalism trainer here, so I saw the potential for a productive discussion about the dangers of incitement (another real concern) – and choosing words carefully during these tense times.

But I would regret this. Unwittingly, I organised my own public lynching. My good intentions were trampled on.

At this moment, some 30 leaders and members of the two communities have filled the room to debunk the claim.

Even a Nigerian diplomat from Pretoria is here to defend his country.

My defence – that I published allegations, attributed to highly credible sources, and identified the police source by name – isn’t enough.

Indeed, it’s the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) spokesperson seated beside me who pours oil on the fire. He stands to read from an authorised, one-page statement. The police are still pursuing reports of foreign mercenaries, he says, with no nationalities named. Then his final paragraph, with its inflammatory kicker: “The LMPS distances itself from the information appearing in the AFP newspaper [sic] dated 13-19 November 2014 that the mercenaries are from Nigeria and Ghana.”

Comfort the afflicted
Not deny the substance, mind you, but distance itself. A vague, carefully chosen term, it seems.

Even worse, the police appear to have confused the article I wrote for Agence France-Presse – a round-the-clock international news agency, not a “newspaper” – with the article that appeared in the November 13-19 edition of that Lesotho weekly, which reprinted my allegations as fact.

“That doesn’t exonerate your actions,” says one Nigerian community leader-turned-prosecutor, facing the crowd, his voice filling with emotion.

From the audience, a community member eyeballs me: “If someone is attacked for this, their blood will be on your hands.”

A third chides me: “You should just apologise – but you seem unwilling to.”

That’s right. I stand by my reporting. In front of this crowd, though, I do pause to reiterate my sincere regret for the “unintended consequences” of my reporting.

I have a conscience, after all, and abide by the journalistic creed: afflict the comfortable, comfort the afflicted. I’d never want a story of mine to harm innocents. Especially not a minority, given my affinity for them.

Was this a show trial? An inquisition? Verbal vigilantism? I’m still struggling for words to describe what happened to me last week. Was it just a traumatic professional incident?

More importantly, a great revelation slaps me in the face: this whole ordeal illuminates just how dangerous this environment is. Not for me – because I can leave. Even flee.

Instead, imagine my Basotho journalism colleagues, who are woven into the fabric of this monoethnic, monolingual society, perched in a remote mountain enclave completely surrounded by South Africa.

The Basotho need a robust, confident media. Yet if one local journalist were to dare to “get to the bottom of things,” but then angers the wrong person, who would protect them? (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko)
The Basotho need a robust, confident media. Yet if one local journalist were to dare to “get to the bottom of things,” but then angers the wrong person, who would protect them? (Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko)

I can handle this public assault adequately. Yet how could a local colleague weather such intimidation? How to cope in this climate? Where the homes of public figures are attacked at night – by grenade or bullet – yet no one is arrested? Where an adversarial radio station is trashed, yet no one is held to account? Where police arrest a prominent editor and reporter for a day – for accurately reporting a criminal case?

A few weeks back, a leading local reporter called me to describe how she was publicly accused of taking bribes from one political faction to report negatively about another. She broke down, crying: “I’m scared, I can’t go anywhere.”

Now, for the first time, I feel this intimidation.

Why does all this matter? Because Lesotho is the latest crisis mediated by the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Stabilising this little tinderbox is in South Africa’s interest – and SADC’s too.

Sandbag the messengers
However, Basotho society is highly polarised, with duelling accusations of what one side is doing to the other.

Yet there’s no neutral arbiter to separate fact from fiction. What’s true, what isn’t. Who’s telling the truth and who isn’t.

In short, the Basotho – and Southern Africa itself – need a robust, confident media, to help connect the dots. Yet if one local journalist – or any member of civil society – were to dare to “get to the bottom of things,” but then angers the wrong person, who would protect them?

Don’t get me wrong: even after this public assassination of my character, I’m still enjoying the adventure of living on the continent the past three years, especially among the Basotho.

Yet the fact remains: at that moment, all three communities needed a scapegoat. To “refute and debunk” the damage purportedly done to the reputations of Nigeria and Ghana, and duress caused for their diaspora communities. From any diplomatic fallout, perhaps the police also felt compelled to deny responsibility.

So I was fingered as the culprit. The true outsider. The foreign correspondent. So expendable. If not shoot the messenger, then sandbag him.

“These were just allegations,” my most vocal defender, Tsebo Mats’asa, director of the Media Institute of Southern Africa’s Lesotho chapter, tells the crowd. “We should thank Ntate [Mr] Jordan for being brave to come explain what happened.”

Brave? No, I was foolish.

The most absurd part of this event is that I actually co-organised and invited many of the people – to witness my own public lynching.

As the meeting ends, and they clear the room, several young journalists approach me.

“You see? This is what they do here,” says one. “They’ll tell you something, and you publish it. But if others don’t like it, they’ll deny they told you that. They’ll blame you.”

I’ve learned many lessons from this experience, but there is one worth underscoring: it’d be irrational for my colleagues ever to put their necks on the line. Their trepidation also drives me forward, to continue probing the reality.

Foolish to speak out
Then, as I lick my wounds the next day, I get a call that lifts my spirits. From a Nigerian who has lived here for years – and observed my inquisition, in silence.

“I wanted to tell you that I was very proud of you, that you didn’t chicken out,” he says. “I see you’re a man who believes in what he has done, who knows he was right, and no amount of pressure will make him surrender.”

I listen, speechless. Then express my gratitude for some of the most meaningful and fortifying words of my career.

The Nigerian continues. “Unfortunately, this is quite common in Africa. In this environment we live in, some people, but not everyone, lack integrity and principles. The Basotho journalists would tell you they weren’t surprised like you were, to see what happened to you yesterday. It’s almost a continuous way of life here.”

Then I ask him, respectfully: Why didn’t you speak up? And are you now willing to be quoted in this piece, by name?”

No, he prefers anonymity.

“Because you see the way they came after you,” he says. “That same angry display would be turned against me.”

Indeed, I finally understand. The sad reality is, it would require rare courage – or foolishness – for anyone to speak out. Just when Lesotho needs them the most.

Michael J Jordan is a freelance journalist based in Lesotho. Visit for his coverage of the three-month Lesotho crisis.

Here’s what’s wrong with voluntourism in Africa

In 2012, a spoof music video calling on Africans to donate radiators to Norway as part of a charity drive went viral on social media and made headlines across the world. The campaign, created by the Norwegian Students’ and Academics’ International Assistance Fund (SAIH) on a small budget, aimed to challenge the stereotypes people have of Africa and create a new conversation about the global south.

A few days ago, the SAIH released a second video that’s bound to draw as much attention as the first did. Who Wants To Be A Volunteer? is a provocative and hilarious take on voluntourism in Africa and the well-known stereotypes of the “white hero” and “exotic other”. It’s already received over 90 000 views since being posted on YouTube on November 7. Part of the video mimics a reality TV show: think Western aid workers competing to come ‘to Africa’ to save us all, without having a clue about the continent. Go on, watch it.


West Africa Ebola outbreak grabs attention of UK

Lagos health commissioner Jide Idris (centre), Nigerian Centre for Disease Control director Professor Abdulsalam Nasidi (left) and special adviser to Lagos state governor Yewande Adeshina discuss the Ebola outbreak during a briefing in Lagos on July 28 2014. (AFP)
Lagos health commissioner Jide Idris (centre), Nigerian Centre for Disease Control director Professor Abdulsalam Nasidi (left) and special adviser to Lagos state governor Yewande Adeshina discuss the Ebola outbreak during a briefing in Lagos on July 28 2014. (AFP)

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa poses a “very serious threat” to Britain, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said on Wednesday, as England’s public health authority warned that the virus was out of control.

Hammond was to chair a meeting of Cobra, the government’s crisis response committee, to assess Britain’s preparations to cope with any possible outbreak of the disease.

The department of health confirmed that one person in Britain has been tested for Ebola, but the tests proved negative. Reports suggested he had travelled from West Africa to central England.

Health professionals have been warned to be vigilant for signs of the deadly virus.

“As far as we are aware, there are no British nationals so far affected by this outbreak and certainly no cases in the UK,” Hammond told Sky News television.

“However, the prime minister does regard it as a very serious threat and I will be chairing a Cobra meeting later today to assess the situation and look at any measures that we need to take either in the UK, or in our diplomatic posts abroad in order to manage the threat.

“We are very much focused on it as a new and emerging threat, which we need to deal with.”

There have been 1 201 cases of Ebola and 672 deaths in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone since March, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ebola can kill victims within days, causing severe fever and muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhoea and, in some cases, organ failure and unstoppable bleeding.

Dr Brian McCloskey, director of global health at Public Health England, said the body was closely monitoring developments in West Africa.

“It’s clear the outbreak is not under control,” he said.

“The continuing increase in cases, especially in Sierra Leone, and the importation of a single case from Liberia to Nigeria, is a cause for concern as it indicates the outbreak is not yet under control. We will continue to assess the situation and provide support as required.

“We have alerted UK medical practitioners about the situation in West Africa and requested they remain vigilant for unexplained illness in those who have visited the affected area.”

But he added that “the risk of a traveller going to West Africa and contracting Ebola remains very low, since Ebola is transmitted by direct contact with the blood or bodily fluids of an infected person”. – AFP