Tag: technology

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

Nigeria’s tech-savvy response to Ebola pays off

(Pic: Reuters)
(Pic: Reuters)

When an Internet message announcing a salt water solution for Ebola went viral in July, many Nigerians were quick to take heed. Twenty people were hospitalised and two died, reportedly from an excessive intake of salt.

Madam Franca was among those ready to believe in the power of salt water. “My niece, who happens to be a nurse, sent me an SMS that early morning, and I obeyed it,” Franca explained. “I had to do anything to stop Ebola from coming close to me. I bathed with salt water, morning and night for two good days, but I did not drink. I am hypertensive. I also sent all my family and close friends the SMS.”

Nigerians watched with growing unease as the Ebola outbreak spread through Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Few believed the creaking health infrastructure or the government’s managerial skills would be able to survive such a test. So when Ebola-positive Liberian Patrick Sawyer stepped off a plane in Lagos airport on 20 July, collapsed and died, social media exploded.

But it was not just the salt water claims and bogus pastors promising salvation that made the running: government agencies and proactive individuals also took to the internet to quickly debunk the rumours and offer proper advice. The authorities also threatened to arrest anyone spreading falsehoods, starting with the salt water “cure”. There was, after all, a plan in place.

A mass audience for messages
At 67 million users, Nigeria reportedly has the eighth largest Internet population in the world. It also had close to 166 million mobile subscribers as ofJune. (The country’s population is 175 million.)

With so many Nigerians online, portals like ebolalert.org set up by volunteer doctors, and the public/private ebolafacts.com initiative, have become important channels to provide accurate information to help people stay safe. They complement telephone hotlines and more traditional public health approaches.

The UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) has also taken a role in the communications work on Ebola, using the SMS portal UReport. UReport Nigeria is a free SMS platform designed as a community-based two-way information exchange mechanism. According to Unicef communications specialist Geoffrey Njoku, over 57 000 people received more than 3.6 million SMSes containing key messages about Ebola and how to stay protected over a six-week period.

Comfort and confidence
For some who have used the service, like Dr Adoara Igonoh, an Ebola survivor, the advice given offered reassurance and quelled fears. “I began to think about my mother,” Igonoh recalled. “She was under surveillance along with my other family members. I was worried. She had touched my sweat. I couldn’t get the thought out of my mind. Hours later on Twitter I came across a tweet from the WHO [World Health Organisation] saying that the sweat of an Ebola patient cannot transmit it at the late stage [after the incubation period]. That settled it for me. It calmed the storms that were raging within me concerning my parents.”

Nigeria has won praise from the international community for its response to the outbreak. While Ebola continues to burn in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, in Nigeria it appears to have been contained with only 21 confirmed cases and eight deaths – with the last case reported on 8 September and tracing having proven effective.

“A key issue in the fight against Ebola after the provision of the necessary human and technical infrastructure is information management,” said Tochuwu Akunyii, an online writer on public policy and international development. “In information management, the dissemination of accurate information is crucial; social media can be vital in this process.” Akunyii pays particular tribute to Nigerian youth and its use of forums and platforms like Twitter and Facebook.

Social media complemented traditional media
Nigerians who do not have access to the Internet and mobile phones have not been left out of the Ebola campaign. Traditional mediums like radio, flyers, posters, village meetings and announcements by town criers are all being used. Priority is given to local languages.

Comparing the traditional methods of campaigning to social media and SMS campaigns, Nwokedi Moses, better known as Big MO, a vernacular language broadcaster with Wazobia FM, said the two approaches worked well together. “The social media Ebola campaign was massive, but it complemented the traditional media. This is due to social media’s limited reach within rural areas.”

Local authorities have also taken the initiative. The Lagos State and Rivers State governments – the only two states where Ebola emerged – incorporated traditional awareness-raising campaigns like road shows, radio and TV jingles, distributing flyers, and educating the public on basic hygiene. Since Ebola first emerged, there has been a roaring trade in hand sanitizers and a corresponding collapse in the “bush meat” market.

As Nigeria gradually returns to normal, signalled by the slightly hesitant reopening of schools on 22 September, health campaigners are moving to tackle the new challenge of ending the stigmatisation of those who have recovered from Ebola – backed by a government warning threatening action against those that discriminate.

Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola recently met survivors to confirm that an Ebola-free certificate means what it says. Health Minister Onyebuchi Chukwu has declared survivors the “safest people to be around”, given their new immunity to the virus.

Role reversal as African technology expands in Europe

Africans have long used technology developed abroad, but now a Kenyan cash transfer network which bypasses banks is being adopted in Europe.

The M-Pesa mobile money transfer system which allows clients to send cash with their telephones has transformed how business is done in east Africa, and is now spreading to Romania.

“From east Africa to eastern Europe, that’s quite phenomenal when you think about it,” Michael Joseph, who heads Vodafone’s Mobile Money business, told AFP in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

“I think that this is something the rest of the world can look at, to say that there are ideas that can emanate out of the developing world, and take it to the developed world.”

M-Pesa – or “mobile money” in east Africa’s Swahili language – was introduced in Kenya in 2007 by Safari.com, the country’s largest mobile telecommunications company, in partnership with British giant Vodafone.

(Pic: AFP)
(Pic: AFP)

Since then the service has grown exponentially, with about $40-billion flowing through the service in Kenya alone.

Part of daily life
In Kenya, the system has become a part of daily life, with more than 18-million customers, and is used by almost two-thirds of the population with more than eight million transactions daily.

The network allows customers to bypass the traditional banking system, using an application available on the simplest of mobile phones to pay utility bills, buy a drink in a bar, or send cash to family and friends.

Romania is the latest nation Vodafone is tapping, with its first European launch last March.

For Michi Carstoiu, an engineer in the capital Bucharest, M-Pesa complements established online payment services.

“Most importantly, I save time – plus I think the transaction fees are smaller,” Carstoiu told AFP, shortly after activating his mobile phone account at one of the 1 000 outlets already open.

The number of distribution points is expected to triple by the end of the year.

“Everyone has a mobile phone, and it is very simple to send and receive money or make payments,” he added.

Users can charge up their phones by paying in cash at mobile-money agency points, and often at one of the points where they are doing a transaction.

Similarly they can withdraw cash against mobile-money credits at an agency, or when settling a bill, much in the same way as customers in Europe can obtain cash at some supermarkets when using bank cash cards.

Agents are often found in the form of shops or street kiosks.

The outstanding credit can be sent via a special text message to others for a small transaction fee.

African countries using the system include Egypt, Lesotho, Mozambique and Tanzania, and it has also been rolled out in India.

A savings version has been set up as well, allowing those without access to formal banking systems to earn interest on their savings.

The scheme has largely succeeded in Kenya because it meets the needs of millions of people without a bank account who would otherwise operate strictly within a cash economy.

They benefit from a network of M-Pesa agents spread across the country.

Romanians reliant on cash
Officials said that Romania was chosen as the European launchpad because many people in the eastern European country still rely on cash.

“The majority of people in Romania have at least one mobile device, but more than one third of the population do not have access to conventional banking,” Joseph said.

He is targeting seven million potential Romanian customers who operate in cash alone, and the company aims to reach 300 000 customers by the year’s end.

More than $1.2 billion worth of person-to-person transactions are sent on the system each month worldwide, according to Vodafone.

In Kenya, transactions can be as small as a single cent or as much as $1 600, while in Romania up to $9 000 can be sent each day.

Moving beyond emerging markets means adapting to fresh challenges however.

The operator will face different regulatory environments, and consumers who already have access to a wide range of financial services.

For Kenyans, where the network is used for everything from paying for grocery shopping and restaurant tabs to sending cash to relatives in remote regions, the spread abroad has given some a sense of pride.

In a way, the M-Pesa system has taken banking full circle, back to the founding principles of Venetian banking when money changers began keeping ledgers of credits and debits for traders who did not want to carry gold and silver with them.

These money dealers set up networks of correspondents, or agents, who ran parallel ledgers, enabling traders who otherwise had no “banking” system, to settle accounts, paying in or drawing out cash only when necessary.

“Technology that started out in Kenya is being exported to Europe,” said 24-year-old Rhoda Kibuchi, who runs an M-Pesa outlet in Nairobi. “It’s good news.”

T2T: Three friends, 24 countries, 165 days and 30 901km

Despite Africa’s impressive economic growth, it’s clear from the way people talk about and do business on the continent that views of Africa have not changed dramatically in the past 20 years. Some views are excessively positive, others overly negative. Both are equally harmful. We – that being me, my husband Matt and our friend Ishtar Lakhani – think it’s high time that changed. And so an idea was born – to do something to make people see Africa differently.

The aim of the T2T Africa expedition is to help people see Africa differently. (Supplied)
The aim of the T2T Africa expedition is to help people see Africa differently. (Pic: Supplied)

Having lived in three African countries – Ghana, Kenya and South Africa – and traveled or worked in another 20 between us, we learnt the hard way how narrow our view of the continent was. We now know that different size and colour condoms are required in even neighbouring countries. We know that a marketing campaign that was successful in one country can fail in another simply because the model wasn’t wearing shoes, and in that country only prostitutes don’t wear shoes.

We’ve learnt that differences go deeper than belief systems and languages, and similarities are not neatly contained within the arbitrary lines on maps. The treasure chest of cultures that exists on the continent requires more understanding and respect.

But what would be the best way to share these lessons? The most obvious way would be to illustrate that Africa is a continent of 54 diverse countries and to show as many countries as possible in as much detail as possible. We believe achieving this could be as simple as getting in a car and driving as far as time and money would allow.

This would give us access to some of the many unsung, self-funded projects that sustain thousands of people each day, allow us to learn about some of the cutting-edge technology that is helping to push the continent forward and, best of all, meet lots and lots of people. It’s these details that we believe could help all of us see Africa differently.

So that’s what we’re going to do: three friends, 24 countries, 165 days and 30 901km.

From the 5 October 2013 Ishtar Lakhani, Matt Angus-Hammond and I will be driving from Tsitsikamma in South Africa to Tataouine in Tunisia, via the southernmost and northernmost points of the continent with detours to the east and west coasts.

Along the way we will share as many pictures and stories as we can of the things we will see and learn, whether it be the story of a start-up entrepreneur, a trail blazing eco-tourism initiative or an incredible human being whose name we should all know.

The trip will take the three South Africans through 24 countries in 165 days and 30 901km. (Pic: Supplied)
The months-long trip will take the three South Africans to the four corners of the continent. (Pic: Supplied)

We’ll send updates via Twitter, our Facebook page, website, a weekly blog here on the Mail & Guardian’s Voices of Africa site and through as many other channels as we can along the way.

We also hope that our journey will make a difference to the people we meet along the way. One of our team is doing a master’s degree in food security and the other two have been part of a successful food garden in Orlando West, Soweto for eight years, so it made sense to take advantage of this experience.

So in addition to our #seeAfricadifferently campaign we will be planting 45 food gardens – an average of two per country – en route. The seeds and water-carrying equipment for this initiative will be purchased with R61 050 raised via Thundafund, Africa’s first crowd-funding platform, over a 60 day period.

Volunteers are being sourced via social media and experts all over the continent are generously giving us their time to make sure this has the best chance of succeeding. We know the gardens won’t all survive and that if we go back in two years some may no longer exist. But we also know that with the right people involved, within five years a single garden could be feeding an entire school of 60 staff and children daily.

Preparing for this trip has already taught us many lessons and the only thing we now know for sure is that while we don’t know what we’re in for it’s sure to be one heck of a journey. We hope you’ll join us for the ride

Tracy Angus-Hammond is a disabilities activist and social researcher with a passion for convincing others to see Africa differently. She volunteers at Nkanyezi and occasionally contributes to Africa: The Good News. She is also the owner and manager of a research consultancy, Angus Hammond Africa. Tracy has lived, traveled worked in more than 20 countries in Africa. Follow her on Twitter or visit the T2T website for more details on the trip.