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Business and Development

The Tech Revolution Is Digitizing The African Way Of Life

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Digital revolution is happening in Africa in exceptional scale affecting almost all facets of life. Innovators on the continent are using technology in a manner that is disrupting even established institutions. A case in point is the mobile money technology that provides financial services to those even without bank accounts. Despite this being a revolutionary technology, there are many that trace their “origin” to the African way of life. For this reason and in significant ways, digital revolution is repackaging traditional African practices to make them more effective today.

What practices were there in those pre-internet days? What made African life meaningful in those days? These are some of the questions that innovators are asking in order to come up with ingenious innovations. What does this mean? This means that traditions that held together and helped communities live a meaningful life are still important for innovators today. Technology is coming up with solutions that meet the needs of the older members of African society and the smartphone-generation in areas such as finance, entertainment, and communications.

Digital Revolution for Personal Finance

An example is the story of Wemimo who grew up in a financially-challenged family in Nigeria and lived through a challenging school life. His family was often unable to pay his fees. For this reason, his extended family started pooling their monies into an account with friends and making it possible for each member to draw from the pool in turns. This is how Wemimo was able to get an education in Nigeria and later pursue further studies in the US.

This problem brought about a digital revolution in the form of Esusu, a mobile app that Wemimo (and his colleague Goel) tout as a “digital platform that makes personal finance easier than ever”. The app digitally revolutionizes the traditional African practice of pooling resources together for mutual gain. It functions more or less in the same way as his parents used to do in the past. The process is simple; download the app and register, invite your friends and family to do the same, Save money as a group regularly and then allow each member to make withdrawals. For this one, you can save together for different reasons other than just pay school fees!

Digital Revolution on Stokvel and Bitcoin for Camels

Similarly, this revolution is happening to a savings model and practice called stokvel in South Africa. Stokvel has existed for many centuries in South Africa has been digitized. It appears in the form of the Stokfella app that makes collective pooling of resources possible. For this one too, you do not just pool resources, but also learn financial literacy.

From West Africa to South Africa and the digital revolution story is the same in Eastern Africa. Somalia grapples with and subdues the effects of instability and few banking institutions with digital revolution. People here are digitizing their hagbad (ayuuto) social lending and financial traditions leading to a cashless society. This social lending model allows them not only to pay schools fees and weddings but also medicine. What more? The camel commerce in Somalia has been digitized by a startup called Ari.Farm (that has been re-branded as Agrikaab). Is there anything else surprising? Yes, you can use bitcoin to buy a camel.

Do you have an African tradition that you would like to digitize? Tell us in the comments below!

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Business and Development

Sustainable Growers Rwanda Improving The Livelihood Of Female Coffee Farmers

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Sustainable Growers Rwanda (SG-R) is a local non-profit. The organization is offering training to low-income female coffee farmers to improve their livelihood. Majority of the low coffee yields are due to wrong farm practices. Some of the farming techniques SG-R are teaching the female farmers are mulching and timely application of fertilizers and pesticides.

The program SG-R is teaching the female coffee farmers has topics like cooperative management, agricultural practices, governance and leadership, home coffee roasting, and gender mainstreaming. The training happened in the Huye District of Rwanda. The female coffee farmers were also trained in quality control and cupping. These are necessary to increase their access to bigger markets. The Regional Director at Sustainable Growers, Christine Condo, said,

“We have a heavy agenda to enrich women’s potential with skills and means. Their focus and discipline inspire me greatly. These initiatives impact positively on the entire life-cycle of their respective families and Communities. We believe that 60 percent of coffee quality is achieved from the farm. That is why we have been training them to take care of coffee from seedlings to roasting, to cupping and marketing.”

Impact of the training to female coffee farmers

Sustainable Growers Rwanda is training female coffee farmers

A lot of Rwandan female coffee farmers are already reaping the benefits of the training. For example, Prisca Mukamurenzi has been suffering from low yield. The 46-year-old female coffee farmer used to harvest one kilogram of coffee from one tree. However, since attending the training, her fortune has changed for the better.

Mukamurenzi was one of the graduates of the SG-R training program comprising of about 3700 female coffee farmers. In attendance were farmers from the districts of Nyamagabe, Gisagara, Nyaruguru, and Huye. Last year Mukamurenzi was able to generate Rwf460,000 (approx. $510) from 250 kg of coffee. She also increased the coffee trees in her garden from 185 to 250.

To ensure the farmers implemented what they learned, SG-R also developed a reward scheme. The reward scheme called “Wakoze neza Muhinzi”, Premium Sharing Rewards was worth Rwf17 million (approx. $19,000). Depending on their level of performance, the women were rewarded with phones, radios, fabrics (ibitenge), mattresses, solar lights, pruning saws, pruning shears, sprayers, goats, pigs, and cows.

About Sustainable Growers Rwanda

Sustainable Growers Rwanda started its training in Nyaruguru District three years ago. However, the training has spread to other districts in the past years. The aim of their training is to improve the quality and prices of coffee as well as enhance transparency in coffee trading. Female coffee farmers in Nyaruguru are now reaping 100 percent increase in yield.

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Business and Development

Tanzanian Government Wants Visitors To Accept This Minor Inconvenience

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Plastic accumulation is becoming a menace around the globe. Marine life often consumes these plastics which eventually get into humans. Many countries around the world are exploring alternatives to plastic use. However, Tanzania is the latest country to officially place a ban on the use of plastic bags. The ban will take effect from the 1st of June 2019. On Thursday 16th of May 2019, the government released a statement titled “Notice To Travelers Planning To Visit Tanzania” which read in part,

“The Government of Tanzania wishes to make an official note to travelers planning to travel to Tanzania that from 1st June 2019 all plastic bags, regardless of their thickness will be prohibited from being imported, exported, manufactured, sold, stored, supplied and used in mainland Tanzania.”

Consequently, the government is planning to set up a special desk at entry points to ensure total compliance. With the announcement, Tanzania joins about thirteen other African countries that have either introduced levy or banned plastic bags. However, the Prime Minister, Kassim Majaliwa is calling on plastic bag manufacturers to find alternative technologies for bags.

The problem with plastic bags and exceptions to the ban

Tanzania bans plastic waste

The major problem with plastic bags is the length of time it takes to decay. Some researchers are speculating it can take up to 1,000 years. Consequently, their accumulation can lead to flooding when they block drainages. Also, they can prevent rainwater from penetrating the soil leading to low crop yield.

However, the government understands the importance of plastic in packaging and makes exceptions for a few. According to the statement, plastics or plastic packaging for sanitary and waste management, foodstuff, agricultural sector, construction industry, industrial products, and medical services are exceptions to the ban. “Ziplo Bags” used for carrying toiletries are also permitted for travelers since they are unlikely to be disposed of in the country. Another part of the statement reads,

“The government does not intend for visitors to Tanzania to find their stay unpleasant as we enforce the ban. However, the government expects that, in appreciation of the imperative to protect the environment and keep our country clean and beautiful, our visitors will accept minor inconveniences resulting from this plastic bags ban.”

Commendations for the new law

The international community is sending their message of congratulations to the Tanzanian government for the historic move. One of such messages came from Dr. Amani Ngusaru, the WWF Country Director. Ngusaru lauded the move as a boost to environmental and natural resources protection.

“Plastic is a number one polluter of environment and a silent killer of our natural environment and resources than most people understand. This is because it takes more than a hundred years for a single plastic bag to decay. We are happy that Tanzania is among the very few African countries to ban the use of plastic bags and we will work hard toward supporting the government in the fight against plastic pollution”.

Other African countries with a plastic control

In 2007, Uganda placed a ban on lightweight plastic bag. However, the ban was never implemented. In August 2018, Kenya introduced a total ban on the use of plastics. Consequently, those using plastics illegally in Kenya risk 4 years in prison or a fine of $40,000. Also, it is illegal to import, produce, use, or sell plastic bags in Rwanda. Currently, there are over 40 countries around the globe that banned, restrict or tax the use of plastics including Italy, France, and China.

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Business and Development

Tanzania Electric Train Commence Trial In July

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Tanzania electric train

Tanzania is reaching for another economic milestone. The government announced that it was it will be testing its maiden self-funded electric train. The train which will run at 160 km/h will be one of Africa’s fastest high-speed trains. The train will also provide a cheaper means of transport to the citizens.

Further details show that the phase running from Dar es Salaam to Morogoro which has 6 in between stations and stretches 300 kilometers will commence operation in December. The trial trains in phase one will be three passenger trains. However, these trains will conduct daily round trips covering the two cities. Each passenger train will be making a minimum of 9 trips per day.

Difference between Tanzania electric train and regular train

The speed train will make use of concrete sleepers. This allows the railway network to carry as much as 35 tonnes of load per axle and increase its durability. Consequently, the rails should be able to last up to 40 years before any major repairs. However, the train bridge can last up to 100 years.

Speaking at the historic launch of the flash butt welding of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) at Soga, outside Dar es Salaam in Coastal region, Eng. Issac Kamwele, the Minister for Works, Transport and Communications said the trial of the speedy electric train will happen in July. However, the trial will only cover a section of the SGR. In comparison to other country’s SGR, Tanzania’s will be fasters. Kenya and South Africa’s SGR can only reach a speed of 120 km/h

The impact this project will have on the economy

Tanzania government is making great strides to boost the economy of the nation. Recently, the government proposed plans to build cable cars for Mount Kilimanjaro. This is projected to double the current 50,000 annual tourists. However, not many think it is a good idea. A few groups think it will lead to the loss of thousands of jobs.

ALSO READ: Tanzanian Government Considering Cable Car For Mount Kilimanjaro And Here Is How People Reacted

The $1.9 billion (Tshs 4.3 trillion) project has already created over 26,000 job opportunities. However, the government is optimistic that the second and subsequent phases will create more opportunities once fully functional.  The first railway lines in Tanganyika (previously German East Africa) were built after Zanzibar’s first tramway. The Ethio-Djibouti SGR project is currently the longest and first trans-boundary electric railway in Africa.

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