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techpoint-750x400A little over a decade ago, a young Nigerian spending time in a cyber café’s was presumed to be a “yahoo boy”, an internet scam artist. Indeed, there was a joke then of how if you were yet to receive a scam e-mail from Nigeria, you may not own an email account at all. Today, however, the situation is markedly different. Every young Nigerian you see with a laptop, most likely with an internet modem dangling from it, is easily a startup, a potential billion dollar business.

And this is the story all across Africa, a continent that was as recently as ten years ago described by The Economist as hopeless but which today, is experiencing a revolution led by her youths who are maximizing the power of the internet and mobile phones to inspire a new kind of hope, creating new streams of income that is pulling millions out of poverty and announcing clearly to the world that Africans can also do it.

The transformation has been phenomenal. Today, over 600 million Africans have mobile phones. From almost nonexistent broadband capacity, the continent today has in excess of 40 terabytes of capacity delivered by undersea cables berthed on her shores. These twin services, mobile phones and broadband Internet have caused a rapid transformation, positioning the continent as the fastest growing region on earth for the telecoms industry. With this, has come recognition among African governments and people that an opportunity exists to leap the development gap through the implementation of technological solutions to some of the challenges facing the continent.

Young African techies have seized on this opportunity and are daily churning out new apps and launching new startups that are changing how the rest of the world views the continent. The excitement is palpable. Codeathons, hackathons, portathons, developer booth camps which were strange words a few years ago are now normal parlance, presenting platforms for the expression of creativity and innovation across African cities, from Lagos to Nairobi to Johannesburg,

In June of 2014, Nigerian developer Editi Effiong and his team at Anakle created a buzz that reverberated across the globe, a lot of it pure hilarity, through their Brideprice app. This web app which the developer in an interview said was a joke perhaps in reaction to some groups who were critical of the apps portrayal of the African woman, used popular jokes and stereotypes common among various Nigerian cultures in calculating the bride price of users. The idea according to Effiong was to create a wildly engaging app and generate viral conversation to show it can be done.

And indeed we are doing it. The bride price app, the ingenuity and creativity of it, tells the story of what is APPening in the African technology and startup space. And it is by no means a joking matter. Not with the amount of venture capitalist funding chasing after these efforts. Worthy examples are the likes of Jobberman.com a leading job website on the continent, recognized by Forbes as “West Africa’s most popular job search engine and aggregator.” The company is backed by a NY based venture capital firm and has grown rapidly to over 9 million monthly unique users, with more than 50 Million monthly page views.

In 2007 following post-election violence in Kenya a group of young techies in Nairobi created Ushahidi, a data-mapping platform to collate and locate reports of unrest sent in by the public via text message, e mail and social media. Ushahidi which means testimony in Swahili has become the world’s default platform for mapping crises, disasters and political upheaval. As at May of 2011, Ushahidi, which is free to download, had been used 14,000 times in 128 countries to map everything from the earthquake in Haiti to the 2012 tsunami in Japan and the Arab Spring.

A discussion on how Africa is shaping technology globally will not be complete without mentioning its marked influence in mobile banking. Kenyan operator Safaricom became the first-ever telecom company to create a mass mobile-banking service, setting industry standards now being replicated across the globe with its M Pesa service.

To develop these apps however the developers require creative spaces and incubation hubs. Nigeria for example has seen the rise of such spaces in recent years. Popular among them is the Co-Creation Hub, a multi-functional and multipurpose incubation space for tech enthusiasts, social entrepreneurs, and hackers to co-create new solutions to social problems. The center has among its partners such companies as Google, Microsoft, MTN, and Samsung and has successfully incubated viable and thriving Start-ups as BudgIT, and Efiko, among others.

Also in Lagos is the recently launched Leadpath Nigeria $1.5 million accelerator fund and startup workspace focused on startups doing business in software applications, mobile applications, electronic payments and big data. It had three startups, Simer, Afriqbuy and Enreach in its portfolio at launch in February.

Perhaps most inspiring is the interest by Government to support such initiatives. The Nigerian Government has for example, announced a $15million dollars venture fund dedicated to high potential ICT businesses which will be sourced from the National Information Development Agency (NITDA) and the private sector. NITDA has also since set up the iDEA Hub in Lagos, to accelerate the development of the software industry in Nigeria by nurturing and helping Nigerian software businesses. The intention of the Government is that the Hub will assist ‘techpreneurs’ build software skills, solutions and businesses critical to their success thereby creating wealth and employment opportunities for Nigerians.

These developments have not been without challenges. For example, power remains a problem. More so, the lack of relevant skill sets and entrepreneurial competence which is not a usual feature in the formal school curriculum impacts on the speed with which these startups scale and become profitable. These challenges notwithstanding, it can be said without doubt that it will not be long before the rest of the world will look to Africa for solutions of the future.

This piece was originally written in 2014 for an online Magazine

Photo credit: Techpoint.ng

IMG_20150304_170846You hit me and you ran off. You approached from behind, like someone chased by a monster and bumped into me…a rude shock, like an unexpected punch to the face. By the time I was done obeying Newton’s law of motion, I had spurn some 180 degrees, struck the side of the bridge and was now facing South, the direction I had been coming from. The screeching had hardly come to an end, when you zoomed off, the cry of your engine as you furiously stepped on the accelerator my first assurance of being alive. I only caught a glimpse of your tail light and the frame of your car as you ran off into the darkness…into the prison of your conscience.

It was about 8.30pm. I remember because I had just switched to Nigeria Info fm, for the sports crew, Femi and the Gang to lead me home with their commentary on that night’s mid-week EPL matches. Graciously, traffic was light because of the fuel scarcity and I looked forward to the welcoming smile of my wife and our daughter Kamsiyonna when I got home. She, Kamsi will giggle, wiggle her legs in the air as I lift her up and smack me across the face as if saying where have you been all day.

In a second, you attempted to take all that away from me…from them.

You hit me and you ran off. The scene of your cowardice was Falomo Bridge, Ikoyi. In the days that followed, I will wonder what could make any one scamper away like you did from a scene they created. Maybe you panicked…thought you had killed someone or perhaps it was the cost you would be made to bear for the damages that made you run away. Perhaps still, you were simply exhibiting the death to the humanity in all of us…a total lack of conscience in both high and low places that the world seems to be cloaked in these days.

The impact, the screeching and the final halt could not have lasted for longer than a minute. But it seemed like ages. Every now and again, I get flashes of it like I am hallucinating and it makes me shudder. So this is how people die? Chest slammed against the steering, head against the windscreen and my obituary would have been all over social media by now. But I was pinned down by my seat belt. That was my saving grace. And as an added proof that it was not yet time, no car was approaching on the lane you had dumped me. It is not hard to imagine what could have happened if there was one.

I will imagine later what kind of person you are…where you might have been running to that night? I would wonder if you were going home to a wife and a child and how you can find peaceful sleep knowing the mess you left on the way. Perhaps still, you ended up in a beer parlour somewhere with torrents of high-fives from drunken friends congratulating you for escaping in 007 style. I have imagined you being someone I knew, one of my facebook friends or readers of my blog and I played around with thoughts of what your reaction would be to news of my death in an accident. Once, on a lighter note, I even imagined what your politics is like, who you were rooting for in the coming elections, what kind of holier than thou opinions you express in your space on social media…but I digress.

You hit me and you ran. Much has been said by sympathizers since that night…how it will not be well with you, of how you will never find peace; of how God will…Personally, I have not been able to conceive my own wishes for you, good or bad. Instead, I have focused on what you gave me; a whole new appreciation of life and the ones I love. For what you took from me, can be fixed with time and money but what you gave me, only come from such scary encounters that herald a new beginning. For when I finally got home that night, shaken as I was, to my wife’s reassuring hug and my baby’s smile oblivious of what had happened, I knew for a fact that I lost nothing at all.

So I say to you wherever you are, I forgive you and I hope you finally escape from whatever it is that is chasing you in life.

And to all who read this remember: your next second is a promise no one has made you. So make the most of each moment and please, use your seat belts.

ka udo di. ka ndu di.

A piece I wrote for the year book of the 2012/2013 Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) Graduating class of the University of Nigeria.

Congratulations! That is one word you will hear in excess today and in the next couple of days or even months. It is an acknowledgement of the feat you have achieved, for successfully passing through and graduating from Vet School. You deserve it, and all the high fives and shoulder slaps that come with it. It is no mean feat. I know, because I have been there and on this day of your Oath Taking, I join your teachers, friends and family in saying “Congratulations.”

When the cameras have stopped clicking away, when the last bottle of beer has been drained, when the party to celebrate you and your achievement today has long ended and all is quiet again, I implore you to carry out this brief exercise which in many ways will determine how the rest of your life pans out.

Take a second to grab hold of your future and begin to realize it. Close your eyes and imagine yourself ten years down the road. Imagine every aspect of your own life. Your job, your spouse, your kids, your friends. Don’t simply imagine the future towards which you are heading, but rather the future which you consider ideal. Forget the expectations which your parents, friends, teachers and relatives have for you, as well as the one’s you have for yourself. Ignore, for just a second, all those expectations and concentrate on what you want. Now visualize the road that will take you there. That is your path.

A couple of years ago a mentor of mine shared with me seven questions the answers to which will help you in the exercise above. I strongly suggest that you take a pad of paper and write out your responses remembering  that anything that isn’t written “hasn’t been said!” or as in this case thought or desired….”

Question Number One:

What are your five most important values in life?

This question is intended to help you clarify what is really important to you, and by extension, what is less important, or unimportant. Once you have identified the five most important values in life for you, organize them in order of priority, from number one, the most important, through number five. Not three or seven but five!

Question Number Two:

What are your three most important goals in life, right now?

This is called the “quick list” method. When you only have thirty seconds to write down your three most important goals, your subconscious mind sorts out your many goals quickly automatically prioritising them based on your previous thoughts and actions. Your top three will just pop into your conscious mind. Even with only thirty seconds, you will be as accurate as if you had thirty minutes.

Question Number Three:

What would you do and how would you spend your time, if you learned today that you only had six months left to live?

This is another value question to help you clarify what is really important to you. When your time is limited, even if only in your imagination, you become aware of who and what you really care about in life.

Question Number Four:

What would you do if you won ten million dollars cash, tax free, in a lottery tomorrow?

How would you change your life? What would you buy? What would you start doing, or stop doing? This is really a question to help you decide what you’d do if you had all the time and money you need, and if you had virtually no fear of failure at all.

Question Number Five:

What have you always wanted to do, but been afraid to try doing?

Answering this question honestly will help you see more clearly where your fears could be blocking you from doing what you really want to do.

Question Number Six:

What do you most enjoy doing? What gives you your greatest feeling of self-esteem and personal satisfaction?

This is another values question that will help indicate where you should explore to find your “heart’s desire.” You will always be most happy doing what you most love to do, and what you most love to do is invariably the activity that makes you feel the most alive and fulfilled. The most successful men and women in the world are invariably doing what they really enjoy, most of the time.

Question Number Seven:

What one great thing would you dare to dream of doing if you knew you could not fail?

Imagine that a genie appears and grants you just one wish. The genie guarantees that you will be absolutely, completely successful in any one thing that you attempt to do, big or small, short or long-term. If you were absolutely guaranteed success in just one thing, what would be that one exciting goal that you’d set for yourself?

Next Steps:

Study the pad of paper that you used to answer these questions. This paper represents your future goals. Look at what you wrote every day and shape your life the way you see it on that paper. You’ll be amazed at how far you get towards them in very little time.

Let me add here that you are of a special mettle having trained as Vets but that fact alone does not secure for you that life you’ve always dreamed of. Indeed the practice of our profession in this clime as you must have been reminded over and again by your tutors presents some additional unique challenges. There is the pressure from society on you to perform on the one hand and also the impediments presented by the same society which doesn’t seem to have come to the realisation that it needs your expertise. Through all these, you must show yourself worthy by digging deep and making informed decisions along the lines of both your education and the path outlined in notepad exercise above.

Good luck, fellow doctors, as you cross the line between the safety of Vet School and the brutal reality that is life. Make your life a conscious decision. Don’t confuse fun with happiness. And remember that in the real world, it is your hard work, resilience, and creativity more than what your certificate reads that makes you fulfilled.

Dalu nu!

Dr Sylva Nze Ifedigbo DVM Nigeria (2007)

@nzesylva on twitter.

This guest post by Dagogo Karibi-Whyte is dedicated to celebrating the life and achievements of successful businessman and accomplished politician, Senator Dan Etete as he clocks 70. 

Dan Etete

Dan Etete

The headmaster was once a school boy. True. Sometimes we really don’t want to remember. Probably because of some memories we want to let go. Don’t forget that what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger (please be informed that it might leave you with a scar too). We most times remember through the eyes and lips of our elders for things that pre-exist us.

I therefore remember the birth of a baby boy on the 10th of January, 1945 into a humble background and his name is ……………..Growing up, he had it good and he had it rough, life’s mixed fruity.

We remember that he has the Bishop Dimieri Grammar School, Yenagoa as his Alma Mater. He was also a staff of the Federal Civil Service. The civil war came and went leaving behind a stronger man determined to make a difference in his country, considering the opportunity for national rebirth. He voluntarily resigned from national service and delved into commerce in a bid to emancipate his people from hardship, by creating opportunities. His only godfather was God and his kits were brute determination and hard work. By this, he became one of the first generation of entrepreneurs in Nigeria after the civil war. The man began to prosper, and continued to prosper until he became very prosperous. His business interests spanned from Shipping to Agriculture (he had farms and ranches) with presence in Brazil, parts of Europe and Africa.

We also remember that as at 1979, the net asset of his business empire (Tarri Int’l Group of Companies) was well over N 500,000,000 (Five hundred million naira) at a time when the naira had more value than the US Dollar. A powerhouse in the maritime industry with ships hoisting the Nigerian flag. Warehouses littered around the country contributing to the national GDP. An employer and colleague to thousands.

Many of us still remember his people begging him to represent their interests nationally and lift them out of their desolation. Hence he was voted as a Senator representing the Rivers West Senatorial district during the second republic. At the National Assembly, he was the Chairman, senate committee on Petroleum. I believe you remember how this sojourn was abruptly terminated.

We still choose to remember his achievements in the political league despite the efforts of many to give it a room in oblivion. The 13% derivation formula for resource control that is currently in existence is a product of a struggle he solidly participated in. How can we forget his role in the constitutional conference of 1994/95 which was aimed at promoting national unity, and development. I bet you have seen the recommendations. A true believer in federalism and was instrumental in the creation of several states including Bayelsa State, his home state; all in a bid to bring the Government closer to the people.

Today, the country is littered with indigenous Oil and Gas companies harvesting the fruits of her natural national heritage. This is why we remember that day in 1996 in Globestar Yard, Warri where he made the pronouncement   “From today, foreign suppliers will have to bid and supply through a local subsidiary” because of the Marginal Field Decree 23 of 1996 which he made a reality to benefit the Nigerian Middle Class and create job opportunities for the Nigerian Youth.

We remember the detribalized Nigerian called Senator Dan Dauzigha Loya Etete who is a graduate of St. Andrews University, Australia. A Fellow of the Petroleum Institute, Warri and the list goes on. He has proven that the superior man is indeed modest in speech but exceeding in action. We remember.

Article by Dagogo Karibi-Whyte

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Guest posts are the opinions of the writers only. Be social, share!

Negotiating a Better Deal

nzesylva:

Interesting thoughts here.

Originally posted on Ken Etete:

I woke up this morning feeling great, happy to be alive and surrounded by wonderful people. The actors and reason for every action. Looking around me, I saw all the gadgets and appliances birthed by technology (the dreams of people in reality) and reached for my favourite- the cell phone. Some decades ago, it would take me about a week to be informed of happenings in the US or even Mali with only sketchy details and a lot of embellishment. Today, with the touch of a button, I have news real time.

View original 683 more words

2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 39,000 times in 2014. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 14 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Biz club 2

So a few weeks ago, October 25th to be precise, the delectable Joy Isi Bewaji invited me to read at the “Business of Writing Event.” Award winning travel writer Pelu Awofeso already did a blog post about the event here and you can find a whole lot more by searching the hash tag #WritingBizNG.

So I read one of my Sabi News #WhatIf series pieces, Dear OAP, What If your accent is confused? 

But that is not the news. The gist really, is that my reading was recorded by IfooAfrica, an audio based online platform that aims to bring back the African art form of storytelling, and it is available on their platform here. You can also listen by clicking on the link below. Do well to share :)

Dear OAP, What if….?

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