Month: January 2019

How a team from Kenya built world’s first plastic dhow

The traditional dhow is made from wood, but an ambitious new project is making waves in the waters of East Africa. A dhow made entirely from recycled plastic aims to go on at least two expeditions this year. Its first voyage from the Kenyan island of Lamu to Stone Town in Zanzibar, Tanzania, began this month.

Dubbed the FlipFlopi Project, the dhow will make several stops in towns and cities along its 500 km route to spread a “plastic revolution” to the coastal communities of Kenya and Tanzania, according to Dipesh Pabari, the project’s team leader. Pabari said the FlipFlopi Project aims to engage and raise awareness to local communities along the route on the dangers of single-use plastics and to teach them how to recycle their plastic.

“The main aim is to build on the story of this plastic revolution and to continue to highlight to the world that single-use plastic items are dreadful,” Pabari told UN Environment.

How the dhow is made.

The rainbow-colored FlipFlopi dhow is 9 meters long and made from discarded plastics picked up during regular clean-ups of the ocean. It is the first dhow made entirely from recycled plastic.

The boat was built on Lamu Island in its entirety by Ali Skanda, the chief boat builder who also works as a project leader alongside Pabari, and a crew of volunteer crew members.

Pabari says this makes the project distinctly African.

“It is so important that this is an African story because Africa is one of the few continents left that hasn’t necessarily gone the whole way towards a consumption-led society yet,” Pabari says.

The FlipFlopi Project is supported by the UN Environment and the Kenyan government in its latest effort to combat plastic pollution. In 2017, the government imposed the world’s most stringent ban on plastic bags, with anyone caught producing, selling, or using them, risking imprisonment for up to four years or fines of $40,000. Kenyans use about 24 million plastic bags monthly, according to an estimate by The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Many of these plastics end up polluting the oceans and filling the stomachs of sea animals with waste until they starve to death.

More plastic pieces than fish.

According to the UNEP, the fish in the oceans will be outnumbered by pieces of plastic, threatening marine ecosystems, wildlife, and tourism by 2050. The Kenyan government imposed the ban to protect the beach resorts along its coastlines that are popular among tourists.

Tourism is a top foreign currency earner for Kenya, with almost $3 billion in direct contribution to the country’s GDP according to a 2018 forecast by The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).

Pabari says the FlipFlopi Project team will hold events in towns along their routes, meeting with schoolchildren, government officials and people in the local communities. “We’ll be holding recycling workshops, teaching people simple things, like how to make rope out of plastic bottles using very rudimentary technology,” he said.

Aanu Adeoye, CNN

Collaborating through networking and technology for improved healthcare in Africa

The West Africa International Health Summit is an international health gathering that creates the platform for hospital leaders, policy makers and healthcare professionals across borders to meet and share practical experiences and best practices in healthcare.

The summit also provides an opportunity for the leaders and decision makers to interface with manufacturers of the latest healthcare technologies, products, equipment and services.

The 2019 event, which is under the theme “Collaborating through networking and technology for improved healthcare in Africa” will host 691 manufacturers and suppliers, and over 30 sessions in various disciplines ranging from Health Finance, Health Management and Administration, Telemedicine, UN SDGs, Public Health, Nursing, Herbal Medicine, Diagnostics, etc.

GreenTec invests into SuperFluid Labs

GreenTec has announced its investment in SuperFluid Labs, a SAAS provider or data analytics and artificial intelligence solutions.

SuperFluid has developed a comprehensive data analytics platform that can assess credit scores and provide business intelligence more effectively through Big Data and artificial intelligence.

The SuperFluid team consists of data scientists, engineers, and mathematicians; who have built a proprietary technology platform that has customer transactional data to automatically reveal customer behaviors and trends (eg credit risk and defaults), as well as helping to reduce engagement, reduce churn risk, and increase overall profitability. The company’s mission is to bring AI to businesses and consumers to economic growth and opportunities.

The company has already established a successful consulting business providing their analytics services to MFIs such as responsAbility, as well as traditional banks like Fidelity Bank (Ghana) and NIC Bank (Kenya) to name a few.

Next, SuperFluid plans to expand their offerings targeting e-commerce clients, helping businesses to offer their own credit services to qualified customers. Capturing transactional data from multiple sources will allow SuperFluid to develop robust market-focused credit scoring models.

This will provide the company with a competitive advantage on international agencies that are limited by African regional and regional scoring companies.

By providing bespoke analytics to banks, eCommerce platforms, and MFIs the company plans to sacrifice a Pan-African credit scoring solution help expand financial integration to African Africans as well as empower.

Akosua Afriyie –Kumi’s Weaving Designs Tells A Unique Story.

AAKS was founded by entrepreneur Akosua Afriyie-Kumi with the goal of introducing the world to her favorite weaving techniques done by the women of Ghana while also creating and igniting sustainable jobs within Africa. Handcrafted in Ghana, AAKS creates bags in styles that maintain the spirit and durability of their ancestral counterparts characterized by bright exuberant colors. The essence of AAKS design philosophy is a complex combination of thoughts, design element which come from a critical attention to craftsmanship, authenticity and ethical values in their production; while having a strong sense of identity and quality. Each collection silhouette is unique and tells a different story through detail, color and shape. Akosua is connected to every stage of the design and production process to oversee and ensure that the end result is imbued with the spirit and soul worthy of the AAKS stamp. 

The AAKS Spring/Summer19 Collection of exciting accessories includes:

COMO BLOOM – An elevated take on a summer essential, our Como Bloom bag is crafted in a rectangular silhouette with contrasting soft tones of reds and pinks. It features an interior pocket and topped with dual handles.

PELKA – An elevated take on a summer essential the Pelka clutch bag has a fold over silhouette which comes in a natural colour with orange and navy with a tribal edge. It comes with a long shoulder strap that can be detached and double up as a clutch bag.

SINSI NATURAL – The Sinsi Natural is your new ‘must have’ for the summer. This perfectly sized bag is crafted in a two tone stripe detail of natural and navy. The effortless shape will keep all your little essentials in place.

Sharing my story behind AAKS is always exciting and hearing sound advice and feedbacks from people with different backgrounds is a real bonus. I also had the chance to chat with the other designers and entrepreneurs invited to showcase their work. Telling our stories as African women entrepreneurs and being allowed to do so in front of a receptive audience is genuinely beneficial. They say the future is female, don’t they?

Other Products


Elselund Ewudzie-Sampson is the founder and executive director of BIG SAMPS MARKET a Ghanaian enterprise that is into a smart innovative approach to grocery and farm products to its customers. She talked to Africa Innovates about the enterprise’s business model, the growing clientele base as demand soars and her aspirations moving forward.

What is Big Samps Market?

Big Samps Market is an online food market and grocery delivery service. We shop and deliver groceries from local markets and farms to individuals, families and businesses in the comfort of their homes and offices.

Where is it located? (Country, City, Quarter, Office?)

Big Samps Market is located in Accra, Ghana.

When was it founded and by who?

Big Samps started by Elselund Ewudzie-Sampson (Adwoa Agbogbloshie Sampson) operating officially in August 2017.

How is the enterprise funded?

The company has been funded through personal savings, and financial support from family.

What are the competitive advantages of your business?

 Identifying that web based food shopping is a struggle for most people, we on the other hand have made access to our service very user friendly. Placing an order for your groceries is Just like text chatting with a friend because clients place their orders via WhatsApp.

How has the market responded to your products/services?

The response and feedback has been impressive. Though the grocery delivery industry is a baby industry in our part of the world. The business which started with no clients now serves 130+ families, individuals and businesses.

What have been your business milestones over the past 2 years?

 Gaining recognition through published articles, client recommendations and winning the maiden Lux Supergirl Empowerment Clinic Award for young innovative female owned business in November 2018

Who are your clients?

 Women (Nursing mothers, working and business class, students) businesses in the food industry then few men.

Who are your main competitors?

Other startup grocery delivery services, shopping malls, community foodstuff vendors.

What are the future plans for your venture?

Create mobile markets in the city to serve clients faster whiles widening our clientele. Strengthening supplier driven linkages with market women and farmers to also aid in faster and efficient delivery whiles helping market women and farmers achieve less loss but more earnings. To gain prominent web/online presence to gain us more recognition both in and outside Ghana. We look forward to serving clients with same day order and delivery.

What does your company need to grow, scale and prosper?

We currently need funding to help us acquiring a truck for transporting goods and a bigger working space. We also look forward to including more human resource to aid in marketing and general operations.

What message would you like to convey the readers of AFRICA INNOVATES who are thinking of investing in Africa?

There are several opportunities to look out for in Ghana and Africa. It is not easy executing business ideas in our part of the world with all the irregularities but with determination and consistency, we strive and stand tall in our local setting. To the investors/mentors/VCs, there are many innovative ideas/startups here in Ghana/Africa that are not getting adequate mentoring, coaching and funding to commercialize. We need to open up the spectrum for inclusive African startups growth and investment. 

BizMerlinHR enters Ghana market

Innovative human resources management company BizMerlinHR announced it has expanded into Ghana.

“We are thrilled to expand our global presence,” said BizMerlinHR President Robert Cofod. “In today’s highly competitive global business environment, managing human capital is key. Industry leaders excel at attracting, onboarding, managing, and retaining the best talent. We help them do that.”

Bayports Savings and Loans in Accra, Ghana was the first of many businesses in Ghana to implement the intelligent HR system. Bayport’s Chief People and Culture Officer, Doreen Baffoe, said BizMerlinHR helped redefine her company’s strategic positioning. The system allowed Bayport to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and improve productivity while improving organizational communication.

When Baffoe started at the financial institution last spring, she noticed administrative tasks were consuming valuable time. “It quickly hit me when I joined that I needed to first fix the administrative matters in my unit to free the team up to focus on the most important aspect of our work – people,” said Baffoe. “I was committed to finding a human resource management software that relieves the administrative processes in my team. I didn’t want to use a spreadsheet to track leave, performance management, or organizational capacity.”

When she learned how BizMerlinHR precisely applies artificial intelligence to develop industry-leading HR management, data handling, and analytics capabilities, she knew she found the answer to her resource management concerns.

Baffoe said, “Our journey towards building a high-performance culture started with our ability to track and measure individual and team performance. The difference for me in the first six months has been like day and night. I was fortunate enough to select a partner like BizMerlinHR that is responsive and professional. I am ready to soar.”

African Innovators Shine during Zayed Sustainability Prize’s 2019 Awards Ceremony

African innovators excelled at this year’s Zayed Sustainability Prize annual awards ceremony on January 14 2019, winning in three out of five categories including Energy, Food and Global High Schools.  

The 2019 Zayed Sustainability Prize, which is the UAE’s pioneering global award in sustainability, honoured leaders whose work and spirit of enterprise has resulted in working solutions across communities around the world. With over 2,000 submissions from 130 countries, the highest number of applications came from Africa, which is a testament to the growing role African innovators are playing in global innovation. Their technologies addressed real-life social, environmental, health and economic challenges, as well as reflected the aspirations of a new generation of innovators within a continent that has one of the world’s biggest youth populations.

In congratulating the winners, Dr. Lamya Fawwaz, Director of the Zayed Sustainability Prize, said: “In a world of changing climate, and a rapidly growing population, developing sustainable solutions to meet rising food demand and provide energy access to people in remote areas is a global priority. These worthy winners among many strong candidates, are perfect examples of how to meet the Prize’s criteria of being innovative, inspirational and offering tangible impact within communities.”  

Picking up the Prize in the Food category was Tanzania’s Sanku, for its flour fortification machines that equip and incentivise small-scale, local millers to fortify their flour with life-saving nutrients. Sanku has currently installed 150 fortification machines in flour mills across five East African countries, impacting the lives of almost one million people daily by providing them safer and healthier food sources. Commenting on the win, Felix Brooks-Church, co-founder and CEO of Sanku, said: “16,000 children die every day from illnesses that are absolutely preventable. We have a solution, and so we have the duty to keep fighting in order to reduce that number to zero.”

The winner in the Energy category was BBOXX, which has developed a plug-and-play solar device offering users an on-grid experience in an off-grid setting – a truly transformative solution that is changing hundreds of thousands of lives in Africa. The company has so far installed over 150,000 solar systems across 35 countries many of which are in Africa and has connected over 675,000 people globally with clean, affordable energy solutions. Mansoor Hamayun, CEO and co-founder of BBOXX, commented on winning the Prize saying: “We are passionate about harnessing pioneering data and technology to power economic growth and transform the lives of underserved communities living off-grid. Winning this award is an important milestone along our journey.”

Within the Global High Schools category, the African Leadership Academy in South Africa won for its proposed creation of a water treatment machine called ‘The Living Machine’; a device they designed to treat greywater for use in greenhouses. Their proposal also included the implementation of solar power to reduce electricity costs; savings that will be used to fund additional renewable energy projects, waste management and best agriculture practices. Commenting on the win, Jesse Forrester, Project Lead of African Leadership Academy’s Living Machine Project, said: “I am immensely pleased with the announcement. It is quite humbling for us as a team and even more so as an institution. Being recognised as the winners of the Global High Schools Category, for Sub-Saharan Africa, is a testament to the belief that we are stronger together.”

In the other categories, ECOSOFTT was awarded in the Water category for its decentralised community water management standard, which outlines a set of solutions for source management, water use, water recycling and discharge. In the Health category, ‘We Care Solar’ received the award for its Solar Suitcase, a portable maternity device to assist with childbirth and related medical services in off-grid rural areas.

The other five recipients of the 2019 Global High Schools category were: The Impact School (Guatemala), representing The Americas; Gymnasium Goethe (Tajikistan), representing Europe & Central Asia; American School of Dubai (UAE), representing the Middle East and North Africa region; SECMOL (India), representing South Asia; and Muntinlupa National High School (The Philippines), representing East Asia  Pacific.

Winners of each category receive US$600,000 in prize funds to enhance and develop their existing solution. In the Global High Schools category, six schools from six world regions receive up to US$100,000 each, to create or enhance a school or local community project.

Visa launches ‘’She’s Next, Empowered by Visa’’ initiative to support female Entrepreneurs

As part of its ongoing commitment to support female entrepreneurs, Visa has announced that it is launching a global initiative – She’s Next, Empowered by Visa – to encourage women small business owners as they build, sustain and advance their businesses.

The global rate of female entrepreneurship has been increasing more quickly than that of male entrepreneurs, with more than 163 million women around the world starting a business since 2014. She’s next will champion this growing trend, with additional support from leading small business advocates, including square and Yelp. 

“Starting and growing a business can be both incredibly rewarding and daunting. That is why Visa is committed to empowering women business owners through a year-long program of education, cutting-edge digital payment technology and a powerful peer network,” said Suzan Kereere, global head of merchant sales & acquiring Visa. “There is never enough time or enough resources, but when we work together to support each other, amazing things can happen.”

She’s Next, will be supported by the Female Founder Collective (FFC) – a network of businesses led by women, supporting women – that launched in 2018 and quickly grew to over 3,000 members. From streamlining payment methods to linking women small business owners with like-minded peers and experts, Visa and FFC will together offer unmatched resources and opportunities for female entrepreneurs. 

“As women, we have the power to shape and transform our communities—through our purchasing power and also through the leadership and employment opportunities we offer as business owners,” said Rebecca Minkoff, founder of Rebecca Minkoff and the Female Founder Collective. “By joining forces with Visa, we will help build awareness of women-owned businesses, provide them with more opportunities and invest in women across the socioeconomic spectrum around the globe.”

Over the course of 2019, Visa will create pop-up events around the world that offer a range of practical tools, resources, insights and networking opportunities for female entrepreneurs, including when it comes to money.

She’s Next builds off the success of Visa-supported programs focusing on small businesses, as well as female business owners.

Susan Mulikita CEO Liquid Telecom Zambia

Pan-African telecoms group Liquid Telecom has appointed Susan M’kandawire Mulikita as CEO of Liquid Telecom Zambia to accelerate growth and market penetration across the country.

Based in Zambia, Susan joined the company on 14 January 2019 and becomes the first female to join Liquid Telecom’s Southern Africa regional executive leadership team as CEO. Susan is also the first female CEO responsible for ICT in Zambia.

“This senior appointment marks an exciting new step in Liquid Telecom’s strategy to build Africa’s digital future,” said Wellington Makamure, CEO of Liquid Telecom’s Southern Africa Region. “Susan’s exceptional talent and experience will bring greater synergy to the Southern Africa region, and enable more customers to capitalise on Liquid Telecom’s connectivity, hosting, co-location and digital solutions portfolio – driving innovation and growth across the region. Susan’s appointment is particularly significant as it demonstrates Liquid Telecom’s continued focus on diversity and inclusiveness, especially at a regional level.”

Susan has more than 20 years’ ICT experience, operating at a senior level for both private sector and public organisations. This includes Airtel where she was responsible for telecommunications and ICT law, policy, regulation and stakeholder management.

Susan is a graduate of the University of Zambia having attained a Bachelor of Laws Degree there and a Master of Laws (ICT) from the Buckinghamshire New University (UK). Susan is also a qualified practitioner of Telecoms/ICT Policy, Law, Regulation and Management.

“This is an exciting time to be joining Liquid Telecom Zambia,” she said. “The company offers a superior service at both carrier and retail level and is poised to compete successfully in the Zambian ICT and telecoms landscape. I look forward to working collaboratively with our partners, government and other stakeholders to deliver innovative and compelling ICT and telecoms services. I am also very pleased to join a brand that promotes equal opportunities and inclusive leadership at the highest levels of the organisation.”

Tony Idugboe, Vice President, Itanna, Nigeria

Tony Idugboe is Vice President, Head of Investments at Itanna, an investment vehicle that drives and supports Nigeria’s most promising tech-enabled startups through Honeywell Group’s business acumen, investment and mentorship. 

Could you introduce your company?

Itanna is a Corporate Venture Capital platform backed by the Honeywell Group. The platform is conceived to be a place where Africa’s top talent can bring their ideas, visions, expertise, and resources to create a new wave of businesses. At Itanna, we invest in early stage and growth stage technology enabled businesses across Sub Saharan Africa. We do this in two ways. The first is through an Accelerator Programme where selected investment companies receive both financial investment and hands-on advice from business experts to accelerate their business growth. The second way is through a Direct Investment scheme where we provide strategic investments to growth stage companies.

Why was Itanna created, and to what extent is it achieving its purpose?

Itanna is a core component of Honeywell Group’s innovation and sustainability strategy, and was created out of a recognition of the impact of technology on businesses. We just concluded our pilot cohort which was a huge success. The pilot cohort was very impactful to these startups, as they were able to validate their business models and strategy, grew their businesses by reaching more customers and increasing revenue. During the program these startups received training and mentorship in form of UI/UX Sessions, legal and HR workshops, classes on technology enhancements, business and marketing, and reviews of revenue/pricing model and operational metrics. During the course of the Programme, the startups had industry experts and entrepreneurs like Interswitch’s Mitchell Elegbe, TLCom’s Omobola Johnson and VGG’s Bunmi Akinyemiju, come share their success stories and lessons with them. Furthermore, several of these startups are currently having conversations with investors they met on Demo Day.  We at Itanna are happy to see the impact we have made on these startups. I will also note that through Honeywell’s network, the accelerator’s inaugural cohort has secured eight partnerships which are expected to have positive impact on the startups’ top line.

How is Itanna funded?

Itanna is currently funded off Honeywell Group’s balance sheet. However, our future plan, once we have built a track record, is to seek other funding partners (both investors and corporate).

What criteria must a startup meet to merit support from Itanna?

For the Accelerator Programme, we have 2 sets of criteria – primary and secondary. Our primary criteria are public, while our secondary criteria are private. We view the secondary criteria as our secret sauce. Our primary criteria are:

Pan-African Market Potential: Startups with potential to scale across multiple African countries.

 Strong Founding Team: Strong founding teams with a clear vision, technical capability, domain/sector knowledge, executional skills, and strong sense of integrity.

MVP with traction: Startups with a Minimum Viable Product (MVP) that have been launched. Also, Startups should be able to show traction either in the form of user growth/adoption or partnerships.

For our Direct Investment Scheme, where we focus mainly on growth stage startups. We like to see startup companies with over 10% month-over-month growth, high lifetime value / customer acquisition cost (LTV/CAC) ratio, large target market, Pan-African market potential, and strong management teams.

What area most needs improvement in the Nigerian ICT startup sector?

There are 4 key areas we have identified, they are talent, funding, regulatory oversight and infrastructure improvement.

One of the most difficult challenges ICT startups face in Nigeria is attracting and retaining talent. Most seasoned talents prefer to avoid the hassle of the startup life by working for larger corporations that can pay more for their services. The implication of this is that it is expensive for most ICT entrepreneurs to find good, quality talent that they can rely on to run their businesses. To improve this, the benefits of digital entrepreneurship needs to be taught in both our secondary and tertiary institutions.

Despite recent efforts by the government, the regulatory environment remains challenging for Nigeria’s ICT startups. The regulatory framework for many tech startups is yet to catch up with the impact of technology in businesses. Regulators will need to get a better understanding of technology and create a framework that properly enables growth while continuing to protect all stakeholders.

Funding is one of the major challenges inhibiting the growth of startups in Nigeria’s ICT sector, particularly seed and pre-series A funding. Honeywell is trying to solve this problem via Itanna. However, there need to be more players in the space providing support to early stage ICT startups via funding.

The cost of doing business in Nigeria remains high due to lack of basic infrastructure such as power, good roads and the high cost of internet. We need to do more to improve on our existing infrastructures and create new ones.

What does Itanna need to grow and reach more startups needing support?

A key thing we need to do is expand our outreach outside of Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt. We plan to do this by partnering with other incubators and hubs outside these regions. Also, we want to broaden our Pan-African outreach to attract startups outside of Nigeria. Lastly, we want to source and invest in more growth stage companies via our direct investment scheme and plan to close our first direct investment before the end of the year.

What is the latest news from the company?

We recently held our first Demo Day (on the 30th of November) at our Enterprise Factory. The day saw our four pilot cohort startups (Accounteer, KoloPay, PowerCube, & TradeBuza) pitch to Honeywell Group’s extensive network of high net-worth investors for investment, corporate banking and strategic partnerships, for their companies. The Demo Day also hosted a panel of leading players in the Nigerian tech and business ecosystems, who discussed the role of corporate Nigeria in achieving win-win collaborations with tech startups. Panellists included Deji Oguntonade, Head Fintech & Innovation, Guaranty Trust Bank, Lola Ekugo, Head Digital Innovation Lab, First Bank, Obi Emetatom, Managing Director, Appzone and Seun Faluyi, Managing Director, Uraga Power Solutions.