5 areas under the spotlight this year in Africa

It is becoming more and more evident that Africa is a fast growing continent and a land of opportunity for not only the economic sector, but also as a cultural influence worldwide. Based on the events in recent years, here is what is happening this year in several key areas.  

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Image courtesy of Tilemahos Efthimiadis at Flickr.com
  1. Women:
    More than half of Africa’s total population are women, most of them under the age of 25. These women have endured economic exclusion, discriminatory financial systems, limited or no participation in political and public life, lack of education, gender based violence and cultural practices that go against their human rights and life quality. However, at the 8th African Union Gender Pre-Summit held in January, the union confirmed their agenda to make sure African women have rights to own and inherit property, sign contracts in their own right, own businesses, hold at least half of the managerial positions in the public and private sectors and eradicate harmful cultural practices. There have been considerable advances in Zimbabwe on the matter, where there was a ban to marry anyone under the age of 18. And in Gambia last December, there was a bill passed to criminalize female genitalia mutilation with a penalty of up to life in prison.

  2. Education:
    The fastest growing industries in the world are healthcare, engineering, management consulting, semiconductors and circuits all tied to the development of technological gadgets and software. This means that education will definitely have to focus more on subjects such as math, science, economics, accounting and business science to keep up with these developments. Also research efforts must be made in STEM areas (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to make sure these advances are well implemented to fit the African context. The African Leadership Academy in Johannesburg South Africa has already made this change. This secondary school has a two year academic pre-university program for young leaders of ages 16 to 19 from all across the continent. Its syllabus is multidisciplinary and includes English, Mathematics, Entrepreneurial Leadership, African Studies and Writing and Rhetoric; students can also choose a combination of Cambridge-administered IGCSE, AS or A2 electives that can include courses from the Natural Sciences, the Humanities & Languages and Commerce. Outstanding students have the opportunity to join research groups in the Sciences, the Humanities or Creative Arts.

  3. Energy:
    Africa’s great amounts of natural resources make it a potential for earth-friendly alternative energy generation. Currently, about 600 million people on the continent have no access to electricity and only 7 continents have access rate to electricity of over 50% of the population (Cameroon, Cote D’Ivoire, Gabon, Ghana, Namibia, Senegal and South Africa). Thanks to renewable sources such as gas, hydro, solar, wind and geothermal sources soon 70 to 80% of Africa will have access to electricity with about 1.2 terawatts of capacity that will cost $800 billion in capital per region to generate, transmit and distribute.
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Image courtesy of International Rivers at Flickr.com

Advances in this area include the Grand Inga Dam hydroelectric project that could potentially save $32 billion in capital spending and 60 megatons of carbon emissions each year. Morocco has built a solar mega-plant in Ouarzazate city. This plant will help provide almost half of the country’s electricity from renewables by 2020. In Kenya, 300,000 households have been connected to solar energy by M-KOPA and the plan is to reach one million homes by 2017. The advantage of this system is that customers can buy a solar power home system at only $35 and then pay installments of 45 cents a month for a year.

And then we have gas which will account for over 40% of the electricity from renewable resources. The plan is to use biogenic methane which is extracted from cow manure and methanogens that eat the organic garbage in landfills that produce methane. Since agriculture and livestock are 32% of Africa’s GDP, animal manure will definitely not be hard to find.

  1. Business:
    Economists are already saying that this year is going to be one of the most challenging of all with all the startups shaping the African economy. According to a report from VC4Africa, a startup funding initiative, more than 40% of startup firms are successful in securing external capital. Among the most successful new businesses are computer software, internet and e-commerce set in Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa. In 2015, South Africa was the top investment destination, having raised approximately $54 million, followed by Nigeria with approximately $49 million and Kenya with approximately $47 million.

Thanks to Africa’s young population (70 percent of Sub Saharan Africa’s population is aged below 30), the continent will continue to house a great number of startups under the initiative of entrepreneurs attempting to provide services where they are needed.

  1. Technology:
    the sub-sector to focus on this year will be the gaming industry. According to a report by PwC, the gaming industry generated profits of around $181 million in 2013 in South Africa, $71 million in Nigeria and $44 million in Kenya.



Gates Foundation Launches New Grand Challenges Exploration Grant Round

On September 9, 2015, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced the 16th round of the Grand Challenges Explorations grant program, which calls on individuals around the world to develop innovative solutions to major global challenges. Since 2008, the initiative has awarded 1,100 research grants to innovators from 60 countries. The program welcomes the ideas of all thinkers, regardless of discipline or experience level, accepting applications from college students, tenured professors, universities, and other entities, ranging from government laboratories to both nonprofit and for-profit organizations.

Grand Challenges Explorations focuses primarily on problems facing global health and development. For its 16th grant cycle, it will accept applications on four pertinent topics: Novel Approaches to Characterizing and Tracking the Global Burden of Antimicrobial Resistance, Explore New Solutions in Global Health Priority Areas, Addressing Newborn and Infant Gut Health Through Bacteriophage-Mediated Microbiome Engineering, and Explore New Ways to Measure Delivery and Use of Digital Financial Services Data.

Applicants will submit two-page proposals outlining their potentially world-changing ideas. The initial application phase does not require preliminary data, only seeking promising and bold new solutions to global issues. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will accept applications until November 11, 2015, and will announce the $100,000 grant winners approximately six months later. Projects that leverage these resources to achieve considerable success will be eligible to receive up to $1 million in additional funding.

VCE Presents Benefits of Cloud Computing to NgREN Data Center

Cloud Computing pic Recently, the Nigerian Research and Education Network (NgREN) hosted VCE, a joint venture of the leading tech firms EMC Corporation and Cisco Systems, for a presentation on Vblock Systems, its cloud storage technology portfolio. VCE visited NgREN’s network monitoring center to discuss data center development, proposing Vblock’s cloud architecture as a possible data organization solution. The company presented the cloud storage technology and its numerous benefits, citing the simplicity and efficiency of data virtualization. VCE also noted that Vblock integrates with popular computing and network technologies by Cisco, EMC, and VMware, offering a comprehensive suite of data management resources.

VCE drew on statistics compiled by the International Data Corporation to support its recommendation. The organization recently concluded that Vblock allows for significantly accelerated data center deployment times and can greatly reduce operational and incidental maintenance costs. In addition to decreasing overall costs by as much as half, Vblock innovation has been known to reduce data center downtime by 96 percent.