The African Family


(B) “AFRICA IS A PARADOX. It is one of the richest continents on the planet, endowed with oil, precious stones, and metals, forests, water, wildlife, soil, land, agricultural products…(but) any examination of the challenges of Africa, one natural resource often goes under-appreciated: Africans themselves…In all of their incredible diversity, Africans share common bonds that tie them together, and that they must cherish in their communities, nations, regions, and across the continent. It is fundamental that Africa’s leaders create the conditions under which their peoples gain confidence, dignity, and a sense of self-worth – with the citizens themselves actively participating in this effort.”

Those words are the beginning of the last chapter of “The Challenge for Africa” from Nobel Peace Prize winner, and founder of the Green Belt MovementWangari Maathai.

If Professor Maathai were still with us today, she would certainly be delighted that while not all her dreams for Africa are taking shapes into reality, some of them definitely are, furthermore where she used to live! For proof…

Africa has now African technology start-ups, African entrepreneurs, African accelerators, African demo days, and African investors. In Palo Alto? No in Nairobi, and in many other parts of Africa. Following is a sample of all of that:


Last month, Pivot East, the mobile start-ups pitching competition was held in Kampala, Uganda. Pivot East 2013 had five competitive categories for Mobile Finance, Mobile Enterprise, Mobile Entertainment, Mobile Society, and Mobile Utilities. Each category featured five finalists who pitched to key industry players from East Africa. Finalists were able to secure business incubation for their start-ups, virtually or physically at m:lab East Africa.


Nairobi has a tech center iHub which provides an open community workspace, incubator for start-ups, and opportunities for investors. iHub has “a number of initiatives designed to build an ecosystem around the Kenyan tech entrepreneur: iHub Research, iHub Consulting, iHub Supercomputing Cluster, and the iHub User Experience (UX) Lab. We’re trying to create the place where seeds are planted and are easily found by the people with money to help them grow.” iHub received funding from the Omidyar Network and Hivos.

Venture Capital

Subsaharan Africa has a VC firm: Savannah Fund “a seed capital fund specializing in US$25,000 – US$500,000 investments in early stage high growth technology (Web and mobile) startups in sub-Saharan Africa. Initially focused on East Africa, the fund aims to bridge the early stage/angel and venture capital investment gap that currently exists in Africa. The Fund expects to achieve this objective by combining capital with mentor networks both in the region and from Silicon Valley via an accelerator program (that leverages iHub), and a follow-on independent seed fund.”

Mobile Start-Ups

Following were the presenters at Pivot East 2013:

Mobile Finance Category:

GO Finance Company Ltd: GO, leverages business value chains & technology to provide MSMEs at the base of the pyramid (Tanzania)

Inforex Africa: Inforex,platform enabling communication and forex trading between Forex Bureaus and offers current Forex information to the public (Uganda)

M-Duka Ltd: M-Duka, an online virtual products platform that allows users to purchase or retail virtual products using their mobile phones (Uganda)

DEPHICS Ltd: TiME, a mobile application aimed at enhancing purchasing and payment of tickets from any location and at any time (Tanzania)

intelworld Ltd:  A solution that integrates into major payments providers to enables businesses to transact online, using feature phones (USSD and SMS) and offline using POS

Mobile Enterprise Category: SleepOut, SMS-driven booking process connects both commercial and peer-to-peer hosts with guests and agents (Kenya)

SchoolMaster Solutions: An information portal for parents and school administrators, available as a web application as well as a mobile app for Android devices (Uganda)
echorest Technologies Ltd: echorest, an android application that is a real-time,proximate-based buyer-powered market place that tries to connect buyers and seller through SMS and email (Kenya)

Mank and Tank: Virtual Classrooms on mobile devices that allow users to access educational material,create digital content,present & share info (Kenya)

Binary Logic: Meka, a mobile and web product and price reference platform that gives you information about anything you would like to buy, capability to order online, as well as GPS direction to the store (Uganda)

Mobile Society Category:

Kytabu: Kytabu, is a micro-leasing textbook subscription application that enables students to get just the material they need to learn, when they need it, wherever they are and pay for just that piece of content while they have it (Kenya)

iDaktari Ltd: iDaktari,a multi-platform healthcare system tailored for doctors with private practices that simplifies information management and security (Kenya)
Skoobox: Skoobox, an academic-networking platform for students that provides them with a platform to share and make the learning process more connected and open (Kenya)

Ecademy Africa: eShule, a mobile app that will offer career and college counseling, and alternative eLearning via online courses and exams for high school students (Kenya)
Code Vision Ltd: BrainShare, a mobile and web application that enables students to easily access academic content such as past papers and simplified notes (Uganda)

Mobile Entertainment Category:

Jooist: Jooist, a social gaming network for mobile phones. It enables users to discover, download and play free games, compare scores & achievements with friends (Kenya)

Kola Studios: Matatu, is a two-player card game based on the popular Ugandan game played with a pack of cards.The game can be played on Mobile (Android) and on Facebook (Uganda)

TiVi: TiVi,delivers program guides, gossip, reviews & spoilers direct to your phone (Kenya)

254Events: 254Events, a mobile and web platform that gives  information regarding events and purchasing of the event’s tickets (Kenya)

Tokelezea: Tokelezea, a mobile application that provides a dynamic guide to your neighborhood fun list, it enables you to find out what your friends are up to and also brings relevant reviews and related news (Kenya)

Mobile utility Category:

Ma3Route: Ma3Route, crowd-sources for traffic and transport information from locals in order to provide users with up-to-date information that can inform their movements (Kenya)

SmartShop: Smart_Shop, allows supermarkets to be able to offer shopping via the mobile phone by offering a platform where customers can view real prices from and enhance their shopping experience (Kenya)

TrueDine: TrueDine, restaurant recommendation and reservation app that helps you discover restaurants, explore menus and make instant table reservations (Uganda)

The Diet Assistant Ltd: The DietAssistant, a mobile diet solution that recommends healthy and affordable meals composed of locally available and accessible foods (Uganda)

Habari App: Habari app, lets you read the news that matters to you when it’s convenient (Kenya)

And, the winners were…Pivot East 2013 Winners.

Note: The picture above is Wangari Fahari singing at Palo Alto World Music Day on June 16, 2013 with guitarist Paul Thibeault. You can find more about her music @

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