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Balloons will provide internet to Kenya’s most inaccessible regions

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Technology is truly amazing. A few years ago, internet speeds in Kenya were laughable by today’s standards and wireless internet didn’t even exist yet. No one had dreamed of 4G LTE speeds, let alone being able to use the internet on your phone; you were lucky to even have it in the house. Now, cell phones and smart devices have gone from being a luxury to the point of being so ubiquitous that there are more mobile devices than people. However, there are many Kenyans without internet access. Installing fiber networks or building cellular mast sites is expensive, and not particularly cost effective for companies to do in some of Kenya’s most inaccessible areas. In a world that’s increasingly digitized, how can technology be leveraged to help these populations? The answer seems to come from Balloons.

Google’s sister-company Loon has announced its first commercial deal: partnering with Telkom Kenya to deliver connectivity to the region.

The firm’s antennae-dangling fleet will ride the wind high above parts of the African country.

But experts have warned that the partnership could lead to a communications monopoly.

Originally known as Project Loon, the technology behind the internet balloons was developed under parent company Alphabet’s experimental division, X.

Earlier this month, the business “graduated” to become a fully fledged subsidiary in its own right: Loon. As part of its first commercial agreement, Loon has pledged to bring internet access to some of Kenya’s most inaccessible regions.

The specific terms of the deal have not been disclosed.

“We will work very hard with Loon, to deliver the first commercial mobile service, as quickly as possible, using Loon’s balloon-powered Internet in Africa,” said Aldo Mareuse, chief executive of Telkom.

How Loon Balloons Work

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Business and Development

Pan African eCommerce Giant Jumia Makes History with NYSE listing

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Jumia

Jumia Technologies made history on 10th April 2019 following the approval of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) allowing the pan-African e-commerce giant to sell its shares on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE). Consequently, Jumia started trading its shares at $14.50 using the ticker symbol JMIA. This makes Jumia Technologies the first African startup to secure major global exchange listing.

Jumia is currently active in fourteen African countries including Nigeria, Ivory Coast, and Tanzania. The e-commerce platform has 81,000 active sellers with over 5,000 direct employees. According to a statement contained in its recent SEC filing, Jumia Technologies added three hundred thousand new active customers in the first quarter of 2019.

Through the sale of its American Depositary Shares, the company can raise up to $316. According to the Corporate Communications officer, Lisette Kwong, Jumia initially set its IPO at $14.50 but it opened and closed at higher prices.

Jumia’s Brief History and Growth

Jumia was co-founded in 2012 by Sacha Poignonnec, Jeremy Hodara, Tunde Kehinde and Raphael Kofi Afaedor. The company was an outgrowth of the Rocket Internet Company. However, its rapid growth allowed it to secure funding from investors like Millicom group, MTN, Orange, Goldman Sachs, and CDC. According to The Guardian, MTN is the largest shareholder with 29.7%. Rocket Internet is second on the log with 20.6%. Other investors and their stake include AXA Africa holdings (5.8%), AEH New Africa eCommerce (8.4%), and Millicom (9.6%).

The two Nigerian co-founders, Raphael Afaedor and Tunde Kehinde are credited with the creation of some of the company’s components including JumiaPay. However, they left the company in 2015 to build other startups.

What Next For Jumia?

Jumia’s share price was up by 61% in early trade. Inasmuch as NASDAQ is traditionally for technology companies, Jumia decided to list on NYSE. The Head of International Capital Markets at the NYSE, Mr. Alex Ibrahim said the company did so because they saw the benefits. According to Ibrahim, the volatility of NYSE is higher than its competitors. Speaking on the listing of the company on NYSE, the co-founders said,

“This achievement has been made possible thanks to the hard work of our teams, the trust of our consumers, as well as the commitment of our sellers and partners. All stakeholders deserve credit for this milestone, and we are just at the beginning of a long and great journey. We are going to continue to focus on our mission and to work even harder to help consumers, sellers, partners, and all stakeholders benefit from this technological revolution.”

Previous Awards

Jumia is attracting lots of attention but the pan-African eCommerce giant is not a stranger to accolades. Some of the awards on Jumia’s archive include;

  • Best New Retail (World Retail Awards 2013)
  • Online Retail Brand of the year (Brand Journalists Association of Nigeria (2013)
  • The innovative business of the year (Success Digest 2013)
  • Leadership ICT company of the year (2013)
  • Best use of Mobile App (Rima Awards)

E-commerce website of the year (Beacon of ICT Award)

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African Ingenuity

Ephraim Banadda is First African to Win Pius XI Medal

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Professor Banadda receiving the Pius XI Medal from Pope Francis.

Prof. Noble Banadda (R) receives his Pius XI Medal from His Holiness Pope Frances at the award ceremony on 12th November 2018 in the Vatican

Makerere Professor Ephraim Banadda has become the first African to win the Pius XI medal, scooping the 2018 award. The Pontifical Academy of Sciences gives the award to recognize outstanding scientific research.

Ephraim Banadda

Professor Banadda is a Ugandan scientist born in 1975. He was the first African to get a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium. The institution is one of the oldest universities in the world—established in 1425. Professor Banadda also holds MSc in Processing Engineering from the same institution.

The professor took his undergraduate studies at the Sokoine University of Agriculture in Tanzania and holds BSc Food Science and Technology from the Tanzanian institution. At the age of 37, Noble Banadda was appointed a full professor at the University of Makerere.

The professor is the current Chair of the Department of Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. In 2013, the Professor became the youngest fellow to join the Uganda National Academy of Sciences. In 2015, Professor Banadda was among the seven Africans who qualified for the Next Einstein Fellowship.

The Pius XI medal recognizes Professor Banadda’s contributions in scientific research. The professor’s research interests are in biological systems, mathematical modeling, and renewable energy. In addition, the professor has authored over 80 peer-reviewed scientific papers and has over 1,1395 citations on Google Scholar.

Some of Professor’s Banadda’s known works and innovations include making diesel from plastic materials. The Professor also developed a solar irrigation system. In 2015, Professor Banadda launched the first Makerere University MV Mulimi, a cost-effective farmers’ tractor. A year later in 2016, the professor unveiled organic pesticide made from agricultural waste. These achievements demonstrate that the Professor has been at the forefront of agricultural innovation in Uganda.

The Pius XI Medal

The Pius XI medal was launched in 1961, and the academy has awarded 28 winners since the inception. The academy itself, however, was found in 1936 by the Holy Father Pius XI. In 1961, Pope John XXIII established the Gold medal to recognize young scientists under the age of 45. The award recognizes scientists who work free of economic, ideological, or political interests. Professor Banadda received his medal on 12 November 2018 at the Papal Wing at the Vatican.

The selection process for the Pius XI medal is a well-kept secret. The Vatican is the venue for the award ceremony, and the Pope himself awards the medal to the winner. Professor Banadda received his medal on 12 November 2018 at the Papal Wing at the Vatican. The 2018 Pius XI Medal recognizes Professor Banadda’s outstanding scientific research and publication.

The professor aspires to one day join the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, whose alumni include Galileo Galileo and several Nobel Prize winners in the fields of Physics, Medicine, Space engineering, Stem Biology, and Mathematics.

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Business and Development

Microsoft Wants To Promote Digital Transformation in Africa And Here Is How

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South Africa is the home for Microsoft’s first data centers in Africa. The two data centers are located in Cape Town and Johannesburg. The new data centers are serving Azure, with Dynamics 365 and Office 365 scheduled to be added by end of 2019.

The company had, in 2017, announced that it plans to have data centers in South Africa. Overall, the multinational technology company has 54 cloud regions announced around the world.

Data Centers and Digital Transformation

The location of the new data centers in Africa

Map showing the location of the new data centers in South Africa

The new data centers in South Africa make Microsoft the first global provider to offer cloud services from data centers in Africa. The company aims to help in promoting digital transformation in Africa.

The location of the data centers in Africa means regional users are guaranteed of resilient cloud services, enhanced security, compliance needs, and data residency. Furthermore, the new data centers will help promote global investment, improve access to the Internet and cloud services in Africa, and increase business opportunities in the region.

Projections from IDC–International Data Corporation–indicate that adoption of the cloud services will generate around 112,000 jobs in South Africa—by end of 2022. The data centers will facilitate improved environment for building digital businesses. Nedbank for instance, plans to utilize Microsoft Azure to increase its agility, customer focus, and competitiveness.

Furthermore, Azure provides companies with data privacy and security. This makes it a suitable service for banks like Nedbank. The Peace Parks Foundation and eThekwini Water have also signed up with Microsoft for computing services.

Microsoft Azure

Microsoft Azure is a cloud computing service. It can be used for building, testing, managing, and deploying services and applications through Microsoft data centers. The service supports different tools, frameworks, and programming languages.

Users of Azure can enjoy instant computing resources on demand. In addition, businesses or individuals using the service do not have to build on-site data centers or have server cooling environments. Also Azure users do not endure maintenance costs, electricity costs, and use of floor space. As such, Azure brings down the costs of computing.

Microsoft’s Investment in Africa

Microsoft has a 30-year history of operations in Africa. With over 10,000 local partners on the continent, the new data centers in South Africa add to the company’s long list of investments in Africa. The expansive investments in Africa took a new direction with Microsoft’s launch of 4Africa Initiative in 2013.

The initiative seeks to facilitate the company’s engagement with startups, partners, and governments. The aim of these engagements is to help the youth develop locally relevant technology, 21st-century skills, and affordable access to the Internet.

Other global tech giants with plans to open data centers in Africa include Huawei and Amazon. Facebook announced it will set up a content review center in Nairobi, Kenya.

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