Africa Gathering London – Saturday, presentations 1

Notes from the Africa Gathering London – “sharing ideas about positive change” – an event about business, IT, social causes and Africa.


Glen MehnAppfrica Labs

Not many technology incubators in Africa


  • In business since about one years
  • 5 start ups founded
  • Active in Uganda
  • founded by Jon Gosier
  • 11 months old
  • 12 employees

Recruiting young developers

Encouraging developers – fail early, fail often and learn from these errors

Learning by doing

  • effort
  • persistence – push people forward
  • relationships

Q & A:

What’s the secret in getting investment?

  • Mostly a track record – we’ve done work with the UNICEF, … – or networking


Ben Lyon – Credit SMS – is now FrontlineSMS Credit

New tagline – the goal is to make every financial service available by 160 characters, in every area, how remote it may be

There’s 54 money transfer systems on the continent, there’s more to come

Mobile money

  • There’s 4 people involved in the process
  • sender, cash-in agent, cash-out agent, receiver

47% of money transfers take place via M-Pesa

There’s obviously a need for that

  • People found ways to transfer money with the devices they have
  • but generally in Africa there are many areas with virtually zero such services

Initial idea: integrating the functionality of FrontlineSMS and a financial model has huge potential

  • A Nation wide bank run from a single laptop
  • Hardware: connecting a laptop to a mobile phone, carrying out the mobile payments via sms
  • Adding microfinance

Q & A:

What about security?

  • Security is huge – we had trouble for months, but two coders in Kenya fixed it
  • Some transactions can be encrypted, this functionality is used
  • Other groups look into secure sms or fingerprints and biometry

How about marketing?

  • We give the software away for free
  • Getting pilots out there and make people share the information about them
  • It should sell itself


Molly MatessichAfrica Rural Connect

What are we doing?

  • Trying to find solutions to the agricultural challenges in Africa
  • Connect those who live(d) and work(ed) in Africa in the agricultural sector

Working in global collaboration – National Peace Corps Association

  • Cultural exchange and technical corporation
  • Active in 180 countries all over the world
  • People in the Peace Corps can connect with the people and are therefore targeted in this program

Created a platform, collaboration between different projects

  • ARC was launched in July 15th 2009
  • over 65 nationalities are represented

Many projects were added to ARC

  • e.g. Jon Gosier, CreditSMS
  • there is a contest in “best projects”
  • but any project gets displayed and can be contacted from anywhere
  • give a voice to people who didn’t have a voice before

  • create an account
  • add an idea or browse the ideas
  • comment on ideas, vote for ideas
  • it’s also possible to “improve” ideas

Spread the word – social media, traditional media, connections, always looking for partnerships

Q & A:

Seems like a big bottom up approach – why has it taken us so long to find out that we have to ask the “ordinary” people on the ground

  • There is no infrastructure, sometimes people speak different languages we don’t understand
  • People have a sense of control, they want to do their project, not anybody else’s

How do you make sure qou can implement the ideas which are on the top?

  • During the next year we want to make our peacecorps volunteers check the projects
  • We just work on the ideas until they are good enough for real world impact

How do you handle big organizations buying in the idea?

  • We are trying to get people from every side involved, we are trying the best we can

Does it help democratize communities as well – do communities come together at non expected places?

  • Our goal is for that to happen
  • A lot of communities still happen offline

The failure of many projects is that they don’t have a community buy-in & participation

Tags: , , , , ,
Africa Gathering London – Saturday, presentations 1
was published on 10.10.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
No Comments AddThis Feed Button

Comments are closed.