Africa Gathering London – Aftermath

This weekend the second Africa Gathering in London – with the tagline “sharing ideas about positive change” – took place and I was there, representing, taking notes of the presentations and shooting some blurry photos.

The event was – again – really great with presentations from different sectors and speakers with extremely diverse backgrounds. It was split in two parts with Friday as networking event with fewer attendees and Saturday with a bigger audience – although the format of the presentations of the two days didn’t differ very much.

My personal highlights of Friday were Leon Benjamin’s presentation advertising different – collaborative and self-organized – ways of organizing work, and Bill Liao’s musings on humanity – leading to such diverse things as “thrivability” and the planting of trees to save the planet. The underlying theme of both presentations was that “it” can’t go on that way – may “it” be the current “command and control” structure of society and organizations, or the destruction of the planet. The presenters showed ways how to improve the situation – and both incorporated more collaboration and leaving the current hierarchical system structure.

On Saturday, amongst other presentations there were two moving personal stories of people who now engage themselves fully in helping disadvantaged children. Kevin “Banana Man” Alan, a former martial arts trainer from Liverpool who was moved by a TV documentary in a way that he almost suddenly changed his life to dedicate all he had to helping children in Zulu Land, South Africa. His charity Banana Appeal plants fruit trees to feed the poor children and supports them to be able to go to school. The second personal story was rapper Emmanuel Jal, a former child soldier in Sudan who was smuggled out of the country by an aid worker and deals with his past by writing lyrics and making music. He also formed a charity – GUA Africa – which works with families affected by war – helping the children to receive education. Two other very interesting presentations from Saturday were one about CreditSMS – now FrontlinsSMS Credit – trying to provide banking services to as many people as possible via sms (basing on FrontlineSMS), and one about Africa Rural Connect, a platform where ideas how to improve Africa’s agriculture are shared, rated and experience is exchanged.

I would like to mention another Africa Gathering participant here which didn’t have a presentation but showcased a prototype – Simon Berry of Colalife. He is campaigning to persuade Coca Cola to open its distibution channel in developing countries, allowing the delivery of “social goods” such as medication through this channel. I really like the idea and think it’s absolutely worth supporting. He presented at the first Africa Gathering earlier this year.

All in all I am happy to have attended Africa Gathering once more, there were a lot of interesting people around with a strong desire to change the current way of things. The location – The Hub close to King’s Cross – was very nice and there was enough time to socialize and get to know each other. The mix of presentations was interesting and inspiring, thanks Ed Scotcher and team for organizing the whole event.

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Africa Gathering London – Aftermath
was published on 12.10.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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Africa Gathering London – Saturday, panel discussion

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


Panel discussion – How can Africa seize the web?

Teddy Ruge, Richard White, Mariéme Jamme, Adesina Iluyemi, Justin Lyon, Guy Collender, Charles Warren

How can Africa seize the web?


  • different angle – with mobile platforms, even without of internet
  • Possibility to take away a lot of money from Western Union by using a web platform


  • get the bandwidth in, but there’s also a lot of innovation around mobile phones
  • Voice XML extending the abilities of sms

How will the web change business, what potentials are there for Africa?


  • Africa has stories – seizing the web by telling our stories
  • we need to be critical, to blog, to embrace the web, getting visibility
  • we need to become trusted to become profitable

Are companies in the west really taking Africans seriously?


  • The multidisciplinary approach is vital – only with the combined teamwork it’s possible to get anywhere
  • It’s exciting that bandwidth comes to Africa, but technology is no silver bullet, we also have to look at the policy aspect

Is the web helping in the people’s impression of Africa & changing this picture or not?


  • Actually both, other people are already telling Africa’s story for us, 99% is inaccurate
  • In terms of business and credibility it is important to just engage with people who do business
  • The quality of production in Africa is the same as in the west – provided there are the tools

Is the web a business opportunity or an empowerment opportunity?


  • What’s exciting – African businesses being able to compete with any other business from any country
  • There is a market for products from Africa

What can be done to improve the user experience for people?


  • Stop developing your apps for the device, start developing web apps for the browser – that would be already great for Africa
  • As long as you have access to your users, it’s easier to fix things if you’re using a browser

What’s being done with open source? Is it being pushed – as it is a big opportunity for Africa?


  • It doesn’t really matter if it’s open or closed source, it’s important that it works
  • It’s more about business models


  • It’s an open market – we have a great opportunity to write our own software
  • “If it works in Africa, it’ll work anywhere” – same for apps, Africa is the best testing ground

How can IT be used to generate income – without becoming techies?


  • E.g. online gold farming


  • Why not creating mobile apps and selling them on platforms?


  • It’s about business models – most mobile apps are sold because of consumerism
  • The environment for consumerism in Africa is not given
  • So things are sold internationally

Should social media be taught in schools to encourage mutual learning?


  • Just started a project to do that
  • We have to start teaching social media – to create credibility for Africa
  • The government of South Africa has concern that Africans can’t e.g. Twitter, … so at the World Championship all comments would come from Europe


  • Waiting for the presentation where kids are pulled in to create things which are really fun
  • How to create a fun experience, teaching young people without that they know they are taught something

What about quality of content? How to make sure to make traustworthy, unbiased content? Crowdsourcing?


  • Crowdsourcing – example: following & retweeting people I already know
  • Enhancing free flowing information by personal contacts


  • Local content is important – quality comes from how it’s produced
  • Creating a network based on mobile networks alone


  • Africa has to create more content first, before talking about credibility


  • Google can sort out trustworthy when there’s enough data

Can we seperate form and function? User experience is different in Africa.


  • Representation of information should be minimized – put the content first and take design then

The biggest block for seizing the internet in Africa is a lack of ability – through corruption or otherwise. If Africa can achieve the legislative framework to prevent people from abusing the internet power coming in soon (e.g. by people wanting to make money out of others), the potential can be realised.


  • right now we squeeze every bit out of the technology we have
  • there are a lot of factors influencing internet in Africa – but it’s going to take a long time


  • Example: three weekends in a row internet usage skyrocketed in Iran
  • Cause: the local carrier was providing free internet access from a mobile on weekends
  • Cost is an important point – possibly impeding potential of internet


  • There needs to be more companies, more competition


  • In the next years there will be a big difference in that

There are two needs to be understood concerning cables – international & national law. Some cables are coming from different continents. Is there a legal framework? Internationally there is a framework which prevents a monopoly. But what about national law? Competition is a way forward in that respect. People also have to know what’s going on and how to have a say.

It’s a vicous circle – the internet brings freedom but what if internet doesn’t come?


  • There’s also a problem in content infrastructure
  • Other language content has to be considered


  • Operators in Africa claim that there’s no business model to roll out – because of poverty
  • They rely on the Western model


  • What people forget is that just because most people in Africa make few money doesn’t mean there is no market
  • Few make business models for these people
  • All the mobile companies make a lot of money – even the poorest people find a way to buy credits
  • Now taking phones away from Africa isn’t possible anymore, we can’t go back
  • Forget creating stuff for the web browser – look into the future

There’s txtEagle – crowdsourcing microtasks – there’s Google Voice sending free text messages for free, there’s the Skype business model – a lot of opportunities.

Once we’ve seized the web – where will Africa be in 15-20 years?


  • Focusing on Uganda – there will be a lot of revolutions caused by technology, even political ones fueled by the enhanced possibilities to communicate


  • A collapse of space – communication with people all over the planet
  • Explosion of small communities – even only present online


  • Global citizenship, global powerstructures changing
  • Traditional banking sector will be bypassed by other models e.g. FrontlineSMS Credit


  • African cities will be media capitals of the world


  • There will be African industry, local innovations coming from Africa
  • We need policymakers for sustainability and business


  • New African leaders will advise many governments
  • The mentality will be changed


  • Knowledge and expertise and support will come from the west instead of charity

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Africa Gathering London – Saturday, panel discussion
was published on 10.10.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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Africa Gathering London – Saturday, presentations 3

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


Noemia Bacar – ICT in Mocambique

How are doing with ICT as a woman in Mocambique?

  • I am very proud to be the leader of the ICT unit of KPMG in Mocambique
  • Only few women are in this field

How is KPMG doing today in Mocambique?

  • KPMG is the longest established consulting company in Mocambique – since 1990
  • in 2007 a new line of service – IT advisors
  • new product and new market – helping clients developing new businesses, implementation reviews

Africa has got a continuity problem – how are you dealing with that in Mocambique?

  • companies are often not ready for this
  • we are trying to convince companies that it’s important to mitigate risks


Nick Short & Andrew Hagner & Niall WintersRoyal Veterinary College

Map of the last six months

  • quite a lot has happened – Africa Gathering helped a lot
  • New partners: Bloomsbury Colleges, London International Development Center (LIDC), African partners – very important as reality check, Novoda – commercial partner, Vetaid – NGO in the field providing a different viewpoint,, SACIDS, Vodafone
  • Research funding, government funding (JISC)

Project overview

  • livestock development – NGOs replacing government services for livestock – rise of community animal helath workers, but they are isolated
  • mobile possibilities, e.g. an Android platform we are working on now
  • pilot study in Zanzibar

Undergraduate research team

  • RVC team of currently 9 students
  • project on East Coast Fever

Use of phones

  • collecting data with Google Open Data Kit – collecting many paramaters
  • recording locations
  • communication
  • updating team blog

Advantages of phones

  • quick upload
  • XML formatted
  • paperless
  • keep in contact
  • input from world experts
  • also several technical constraints

Pros vs. Cons

  • great advantages
  • but phones are not affordable – financial support?

What do the local vets want?

  • educational tool & learning resource
  • record production data
  • management tool
  • ruggedness

Mobile opportunities

  • usage is widespread in Africa already
  • affordable handsets and tariffs
  • sample projects: & Uganda health care

Perspectives on Learning – Where next?

Challenge – how to use mobile phones to support learning?

  • Can learning be a more engaging process than traditionally?
  • How to design learning experiences around the mobile device

Why is this important?

  • user generated content is more accepted – “caring and sharing”
  • students sharing content
  • emphasis on mobile learning + Web 2.0

What about an African context?

  • a lot of things emerging – mobile phone coverage, data collection tools, sms sending tools
  • mobile is the dominant technology for learning
  • next project: use mobile devices to produce content locally

Q & A:

If you help animals you help people too – do people understand that message?

  • There’s an international movement now to see the whole ecosystem – animal and human health – as one

Who are the kind of people you would like to get in touch with here?

  • People get involved in different ways, just get in touch with us and we’ll find out


Mira SlavovaMMD4D – Mobile Market Applications in Africa

Interested in markets

What would a visitor from Mars see in social structures on earth?

  • In the west – interconnected communities and companies
  • In Africa, a lot of enclosed societies, not interconnected

More and more penetration in Africa due to the business models

  • pay-and-go

impact of mobile phones

  • blurring of livelihood and lives
  • extending markets
  • strengthening households, families, communities, …

significant instances e.g. M-Pesa, TradeNet, Esoko, txtEagle

Liberia: Trade at Hand

  • civil war, poor infrastructure, lack of standardisation
  • inefficiences in food supply chain, adverse impacts on women
  • project: Trade at Hand
  • posting and receiving offers per sms

research challenges

  • use and social construction of the technology
  • impact on markets
  • adoption
  • business model

innovation challenges

  • application development
  • literacy
  • localisation

Q & A:

Are people already understanding the value of the mobile phone concerning markets?

  • Users are very enthusiastic, we are working on educating the user side

Example of Tanzania

  • Bus drivers stopped taking passengers but make the middleman for people from the village and the city to trade their offers on demand by order of sms


Emmanuel JalRapper

Former child soldier in Sudan – “forced to be a war child”

Puts his fight into the music

It’s hard telling the story but somebody has to do it – for the people who have no voice

The different ethnies and religions are no problem, the oild and the fertile land is a problem – everybody wants it

NGOs right now are only buying time, the aid has to change to fix Sudan again

  • empower the young people
  • more education

Telling his story – how he was cast away from home, recruited, trained for being a child soldier in a refugee camp, and the long and painful journey of his escape

Right now – trying to raise money for a school in his village to give the young people a chance

Link to Emmanuel Jal’s charity

Q & A:

Have you done workshops with musicians to share the experience

  • I do stuff at schools with the kids, they could be the next leaders so I try to teach them how to be good leaders

How much have you raised for the school so far and how much is your aim?

  • Aim: 1 000 000 $ from 1 000 000 people

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Africa Gathering London – Saturday, presentations 3
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Africa Gathering London – Saturday, presentations 2

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


Justin LyonSimudyne

Insights in simulation science can give insights in many things

computer simulation is creating a virtual envirmonment

  • how to take insights gained in virtual environment out of it

Tried to create a model how to create clean water

  • designed the device in the virtual environment
  • built it in real life
  • doesn’t need electricity
  • only requires that the water is stored above it

We can have something that exists in the virtual world and can be applied in the real world – that’s what we try to accomplish

Q & A:

How do you get the money to begin with? How is it sustained?

  • There’s an opportunity for the government, and for small and medium enterprises to purchase it with a loan

How about servicing?

  • the system was designed as a simple solution for a complex problem
  • the device is designed very inexpensively, the parts are available commercially and simple to maintain

Simulation is a powerful tool – it’s no problem if you mess up


Kevin “Banana Man”

Giving bananas to children in the Zulu land in South Africa – known as Banana Man there

The story as it began

  • 2005, a TV documentary on Africa, seeing the sad living conditions in Africa
  • 6 days later going to Zulu land and trying to help
  • hard decision to leave family and life behind
  • got to know taxi driver David going to Zulu land
  • journey of self-discovery
  • bought bananas to feed the children on the road side
  • incredible journey – found thousands of children that needed help
  • returned back later with money and set up fruit growing schemes
  • tried to get money, fundraise, funds
  • by 2007 many travels back to Zulu land, but quite close to giving up – working alone
  • joined a social networking site, posted stories and pictures to make people aware
  • wrote a book and published it, many copies sold, also in South Africa
  • Jacob Zuma was born in that town – a meeting was arranged
  • now there’s a charity – Banana Appeal
  • feeding children and helping them to go to school

“It’s incredible what you can do with some pence in a third world country”

Now the soccer World Cup is taking place in South Africa

  • what do we see?
  • AIDS, poverty

Zulu land is very fertile, just throw some seeds there and something will grow

Banana appeal wants to

  • grow many many fruit trees
  • create a blue print how to feed all the children for free
  • the trees take out a lot of carbon from the atmosphere

Q & A:

What did you tell your wive?

  • The only thing I did was get over the inhibition to do something
  • Huge emotional turn
  • Wive accepted it

What would you tell other people who have a good idea?

  • If you’re feeling inspired look around, there will be something to do – just get over the inhibitions


Mariéme Jamme – 10000Girls

  • Viola Vaughn  – Black American lady who decided to retire in Africa, young girl wanted her to teach them
  • Girls had no education
  • project called 10000Girls
  • social entrepreneurship education program
  • education for girls from 8-21 years
  • we want to get through education in 2038

Why do some business people go there to teach?

  • to get people in their feet
  • teaching entrepreneurship
  • lending money to start business

Entrepreneurship is the possibility to create your own future

The girls don’t want charity, they want the possibility to start their own businesses

Aid is not a tool, but education is

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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

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Africa Gathering London – Friday, presentations 2

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



The future of humanity

Where do we get our commerce from? Scarcity

  • A lot of revenue from oil and cars
  • Oil prices go up and down – which cause other people to lose money

We live in a consumer society – but what if there are no consumers?

People – the society gets older

Trustworthy people – are abundant

  • Many people are getting informed and inform themselves
  • trying to control that is hardly possible
  • it’s about the context

5 billion people of 7 billion are not engaged in enterprises

Entrepreneurs are working in relationships, not alone

  • Nintendo increased their market share by engaging the community

We all want to contribute

  • More doers
  • Less talkers
  • Globally aware, locally focused

Happy Planet Index

  • Costa Rica on top


  • you don’t want to just survive in this world, you want to thrive in it
  • starts with trust
  • find the commons – confluence of gifts and commerce
  • be vulnerable and open
  • be authentic
  • assist others & loyalty


  • idea: Company Happines Index
  • happy companies – happy ecosystems
  • happy companies make happier workers

but the 5 billions are missing in this picture which are not entrepreneurs

  • need for a happiness leapfrog?
  • we need the developing world to save us
  • the rain forests keep us alive, we have to conserve them to survive
  • rain forests create rain, not the other way round
  • reforestation of the planet is important, it’s simple, doable, sustainable – please support the movement


Sean MoroneyAITEC

Events in over 50 African countries “ICT exhibitions and conferences”

  • e.g. how to use the newly available bandwidth in East Africa

ICT events in Africa still work in isolation

  • associations & industry connections are lacking
  • people want to keep their ideas for themselves
  • top-down scenario with a strong disconnect between traditional and new developments
  • Real-life gatherings such as this Africa Gathering don’t really take place in Africa
  • it’s tough for young professionals and researchers

Professionals in Africa work in isolation and under extreme pressure

  • it’s hard for them to find people to collaborate
  • skilled people are in huge demand

Dr. Emmanuel Ekuwem

It’s beautiful that so many non-Africans talk about the future of Africa here

Internet is becoming more and more important in Africa

Dictatorships and authoritarian regimes add internet as third battlefield

What is needed in Africa

  • young people
  • mentoring
  • democracy

This event shows young people how to become part of “good gangs” – teaching how to be creative and innovative

Q & A:

How to encourage and motivate the leaders to give the mentoring?

  • the leaders can’t give what they don’t have; events like this here might help – for the lead
  • Also informing and educating people in general helps – power and responsibility

Are things getting better in Nigeria – concerning spam, identity theft, …

  • people are aware that there is a problem, there’s a project called “rebrand Nigeria”
  • many Nigerians work hard, these people do not represent all Nigeria

Maybe the reason is the crisis in leadership – same as here? What can we do to inspire business leaders?

  • more inspirational input, professional development events & networks


Teddy RugeProject Diaspora – Mobilize – Engage – Motivate

How many people in the diaspora are making a difference by investing in fellow Africans?

Project Diaspora

  • Motivate people who want to invest in Africans
  • Engage those who are doing for Africa
  • Mobilize that want to do something but don’t know how

In the US there are 4-6 millions members of the diaspora

The missions of the project

  • making sure that the money goes to community development projects
  • if the money is given to the community, everybody is better off, not only the person you had in mind

Does Africa understand the benefits of customer service?

  • a way of survival – if I please you I will eat today
  • all products salesmen in Africa sell are shaped for the community needs
  • a lost customer is a lost revenue opportunity

Customer service as path to prosperity

The word needs to be spread that African time is not fast enough & quality needs to be high enough for the West – customer service can be learned

Africa is defined by a single story only – mostly problems and poverty, but it can be so much more

Customer service as the core of Africa’s digital future

  • complaints about customer service online
  • based in Kenya

We have potential to move forward

Comments, Q & A:

How do orgaizations in the west know who / how / when to trust?

  • Get somebody who speaks the language and knows the customs, he/she will understand

Let’s start to celebrate success sories

Organizations in the west have to involve

  • don’t just throw money
  • success indicators, control

Try to give education to the people, communicate with Africans, learn from them

Education is the only thing I would ask for aid – it’s an investment

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Africa Gathering London – Friday, presentations 2
was published on 09.10.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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Africa Gathering London – Friday, presentations 1

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


Ed Scotcher – Introduction

Africa Gathering is already in place almost a year and has grown into this event – giving space for people to present their projects which might not be that big, but still innovative and important

The money which is made is going to a prize for a project which is presented

Mariéme Jamme

We are the leading platform in London today to share ideas about Africa and innovation

Africa is a great continent, a lot of things happen there, we are here to find out how to improve our continent


Leon BenjaminWinning by Sharing

Personal background – child of different cultures, coming from the IT sector

Biggest story of the 21st century – from industrial age to a networked one

The things the basic institutions nowadays needed to survive are mostly gathered around command and control

Advances in technology, prosperity, but at what cost?

The cost of command & control

  • Diabetes – e.g. appeared in India with Modern work and life models
  • Work Rage – stress, suicides
  • Inequality – no more middle class, huge wage differences, rising poverty
  • Environment – business “owns” the environment

Animals have a different way of living and have totally different needs to survive

  • Self-organization
  • Transparency
  • Trust

P2P production values

  • Open Source Software – also Google, Facebook, … couldn’t exist without it
  • P2P lending – microfinance
  • Prosperity without growth – economic prosperity other than GDP growth
  • Creative Commons – crowdsourcing
  • Open democracy

Guide for entrepreneurs

  • Different thinking about ownership structures – Visa, a chaordic model; Ricardo Semler, Semco employee contract; txteagle, separation of work
  • Different thinking about labour models – fractional work, “the future is about less”,

We need antibodies

  • we need different types of leadership
  • P2P, self-organized
  • power from the bottom, not from the top
  • Ubuntu – I am because we are

Q & A:

What steps need to happen in Africa?

  • Connectivity – the penetration of mobile phones is not yet enough


Ken BanksFrontline SMS – The business of social mobile: Mobile empowerment and the art of invisibility

Empowerment – build something, then take a step back and let other people take over

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead

Centralised vs. Decentralised communities

  • Many people have fantastic ideas, but they can’t realise them because they don’t have access to certain resources
  • We have to do something about it

Who has control over the stuff communities are producing? Who is controling?

  • The local people vs. the professionals

Long tail theory

  • High tech, expensive, infrastructure heavy solutions vs. easy, cheap, free local solutions
  • In rural, poor areas, the easy solutions tend to work, but the complex ones don’t


  • already documented on this blog e.g. at the April Africa Gathering notes
  • empowering people in various countries – e.g. monitoring elections, working with Ushahidi visualizing stuff

FrontlineSMS Medic

  • “Text messages saving lives”
  • Students in the US set it up
  • Out there and running

People run it themselves now, the community is present

Important things to think about when starting a project

  • hardware requrements
  • make it run on its own
  • make it cheap or free
  • forget the internet
  • assume there’s no technical knowledge
  • provide space to connect
  • be multi-discipliary
  • appropriate technology, low tech
  • collaboration, not competition
  • connect with your users

New concept FrontlineSMS Credit

  • One system, microcredit solution
  • Presentation tomorrow

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Africa Gathering London – Friday, presentations 1
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Future events

Just a quick note on the conferences we will attend in the near future:

mLife 2009 Barcelona – “A Platform for Socially Responsible Organizations in the Mobile Value Chain”, taking place September 2-4 in Barcelona. Confirmed speakers here are

  • Mr. Serge Ferre, NOKIA, Vice President Corporate and Head of EU Representation
  • Ms. Evelyn Rys, CISCO, Sales and Business Development Manager, EMEA Public Sector Vertical, Cisco Systems
  • Dr. Bruno Jacobfeuerborn, Deutsche Telekom  – Board Member of T-Mobile Germany and T-Home.
  • Mr. Ken Banks, Kiwanja Net

Africa Gathering – taking place October 10-11 in London. After the first Africa Gathering this April we decided to attend the upcoming second instance of this event this October as well. So far only one speaker has been confirmed – Ken Banks ( & FrontlineSMS) – but more are to come and judging from April it will be a great event again.

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Future events
was published on 31.08.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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Africa Gathering – Aftermath

Africa Gathering London is over – and it was a really great event. We (Karola, Martin & me) were only there from Friday to Sunday, but heard many interesting talks, had great discussions and met amazing people.

Our movie got great response and we were featured in many blogs including Erik Hersman’s, Ken Banks’, Mobileactive, Jürgen Eichholz’s, Putting People First, Cian O’Donovan’s and Alasdair Munn’s as far as I noticed so far.

Below you can read our sum-up of the presentations, Karola’s photos from Africa Gathering can be viewed here.

Thanks to Ed Scotcher for organizing the whole thing and all the participants for making this event an unforgettable experince. It’s really inspiring what projects there are out there – I hope my notes gave a small impression of them.

Next Africa Gathering will take place in Brussels in September – and I’m sure we will attend it again, with new projects, more members and the same enthusiasm.

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Africa Gathering – Aftermath
was published on 27.04.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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Afrca Gathering – Panel discussion

Notes from the talks of Africa Gathering taking place in London, England on 25 April.


Panel Discussion
Juliana Rotich, A J Munn, Erik Hersman, Matthew Ncube

Erik Hersman – White African, Afrigadget, Ushahidi; USA, Sudan, Kenya

Alisdair Munn – tcg The Communication Group, trying to enhance understandning social media tools; Zimbabwe, UK

Juliana Rotich – Ushahidi, Global Voices Online; USA, Kenya

Matthew Ncube – Twitter, Mathematics; Zimbabwe, UK (thanks Jürgen)

Out of the technologies we’re seen today? Are there barriers to achieve these projects we’re seen?

Erik: There’s probably a lot more going on as we see. One of the problems – a lot of these projects have been running from outside, it would be great to have more projects run by Africans.

Alisdair: The gap between we want to do, the costs is big – Africa knows best what’s good for Africa. We should have the understanding that they are able to do what they want on their own. There needs to be more participation.

Matthew: Information is not really shared. It is difficult to find out about innovative ideas in many parts of Africa. But there some big and strong ideas we are yet to find out about. It’s not the dark continent, there’s a lot of things going on we don’t know about.

Juliana: Somebody’s probably asking – why is it called Africa Gathering, why is it happening in the UK? If you want to see what African ideas look like – go to a BarCamp on the continent, there are many taking place.

Q: What technologies do yo ufind most useful to stay connected with Africa?

Alisdair: Skype, email, mobile phones, but the way I connect is different. Mobile phone has huge power.

Erik: 75% of developers of own open source main tool are Africans. Main tool to stay connected: Skype channel. Also blogs themselves. Power of blogs is immense, mobile phones of course as well.

Q: Can Africa’s economy growth of the next 5 years base on technology?

Matthew: Education is vital. A lot of young Africans have to be connected to the rest of the world, curricula all over the world have to influence education in Africa as well. Sometimes textbooks are outdated as information is changing so fast – education in Africa has to take that in consideration.

Alisdair: Technology has a role to play, use is relevant. But it has to be lead through people-centered research. Scaling things up makes them often los relevance. A lot has to be done to understand the differnet cultures & areas.

Erik: There’s many technologies for different people, a lot of tools, not the one big technology. In Africa there’s a lot of inefficiencies.

Q: What are the examples that resonate with you the most when taking mobile technology in account? What’s the next big thing?

Matthew: I think we’re quite fortunate to live in a cabled world in the UK. That technology doesn’t exist in many parts of Africa. Next big step will come in the form of WiMax. Reaching a wider audience at faster speed.

Alisdair: In Africa there’s a lot of wasted intelligence. One interesting idea: geographically relevant search, comission based microconversation platforms, there’s a lot of ways social media can be relevant.

Erik: The ability to make payments has large potentials.

Q: How far are we from direct money transfer – e.g. sending airtime internationally? How long will that last?

Q: An observation – make ICT women friendly, don’t exclude them by making ICT too masculine. Women have a great deal of inluence, especially in rural areas.

Q: We’re prototyping in Sudan with a cross border mobile based cash solution.

Q: WiMax will be very interesting also for mobile payment.

Q: Appropedia – Wiki for collaborative hardware devices.

Q: Comment – hear a lot about importance of good governance, a lot of it is about empowering poeple. Next big thing – using technology into the hands of more and more people so they have a voice.

Erik: That was what Ushahidi was built for. I think there will be more of that stuff happen.

Alisdair: Things are changing – technology enables people to be less reliant on countries – they will become more accountable.

Q: There was a mobile conference just last week, lots of interesting discussions.

Q: We have to get African artists to take part in development as well.

Juliana: list of Africa-related conferences on Whiteafrican

Ed: Is Ushahidid purely open source & free? What’s your business model?

Erik: Ushahidi will continue to be open source for all the time. Team gets money by customizing the project for companies.

Ed: What is your dream system concerning m-payment?

Juliana: An open API is vital – extending the functionality. Africa Liberation Card – coming out of Ghana.

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Afrca Gathering – Panel discussion
was published on 25.04.2009 by Florian Sturm. It files under global
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