It’s been yet another interesting week on the continent; what are our neighbours doing in the tech world and how can we pay compliments to them by emulating their work? (These stories are culled from various news outlets).
Traffic offenders in Kenya won’t have their cake and eat it: the judicial system has partnered with Telecom giant Safaricom to introduce a system that forces drivers to pay traffic fines using a mobile payment system dubbed ‘Faini Chap Chap’. Just last Friday I witnessed a driver kneel before three police officers pleading for forgiveness; assuming the officers denied him mercy, it would streamline the police system’s work if they just made him pay the fine using his mobile phone. We are way behind our East African neighbour and could pick a leaf or two from them.
Elsewhere, in Algeria, a plan is in works to open a research sector to the experience and proficiency offered by foreign scientists. Attracting international talent, fostering brain ‘gain’, and creating partnerships with international universities will serve to produce solutions tailored to Algeria’s needs whilst bolstering the local science and tech sector. The efforts in Algeria (that include raising the budget for research to 1.2 percent of their GDP) come at a time when the European Commission has put in place a strategy to increase the European Union’s involvement in Research with developing nations. Rwanda has already taken steps in Algeria’s direction with the induction of the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University; more can be done along those lines to foster research on the local scene, and like our North African neighbors, proactively seek international talent to compliment work being done here.
In Nigeria, it was not enough to create an electronic wallet programme under the auspices of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development; ten million lucky farmers across the country will receive mobile phones (a colossal figure given Rwanda’s population stands at eleven million). Farmers will receive fertilizer and seed support through their phones. Rwanda is not far off: with the e-Soko project, farmers are able to make market pricing decisions, for example. Rwanda’s mobile penetration rate is 45 per cent, in rural areas the percentage has gone from 4.3 per cent in 2005 to 55.6 per cent in 2011. Clearly, we have the devices; we are left with the homework of creating an ‘app economy’ that shapes and changes how business is done here in Rwanda.
The KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute in South Africa is set to inaugurate an $8 million HIV, TB research facility with a goal of driving innovation to control these killer diseases. This highlights a recent movement on the continent to take matters into our own hands: the research institute will create an alliance between South African and American scientists, creating a stage for skills transfer and opportunities for young scientists in South Africa. 3.1 per cent of Rwandans between the ages of 15-49 are infected with HIV/AIDS; given our ambitions to become a knowledge based economy, human capital is key, and its initiatives like those at the KwaZulu-Natal institute that we need on ground to deal with the epidemic as well as equip the Rwandan medical landscape to proactively find cures for different diseases. Preventive methods that drive down the HIV/AIDS percentage are paramount to steering a healthy population towards the common vision that we have set before ourselves. Have a great week folks!
By Alline Akintore