Africa’s Smartphone Future

English: Mobile phone evolution Русский: Эволю...

English: Mobile phone evolution Русский: Эволюция мобильных телефонов (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | Editor At Large | December 27, 2013

 Africa’s future as things look will undoubtedly unravel on the screens of smartphones, mobile phones built on a mobile operating system, with more advanced computing capability and connectivity.

In the not so distant future, the smartphone’s screen will play a greater role in the trajectory of the continent. Though feature phones largely dominate the market, the continent is increasingly becoming ripe for a disruption. Feature phones contain a fixed set of functions beyond voice calling and text messaging; they may offer Web browsing and e-mail, but they generally cannot download apps from an online marketplace.

Increased connectivity and a drop in the price of smartphones is making it possible to build a content ecosystem on mobile phones that has potential to radically reshape the way African do things from commerce, health, education and – even finding love. Whoever will succeed on the African market has to think of how to deliver a smart ecosystem to complement devices.

While traditional mobile phone giants – think Samsung, Nokia, Blackberry – have a grip on the market – whoever will deliver a mobile specifically designed to address Africa’s unique challenges will emerge the winner.

According to the World Bank, Sub-Saharan Africa is now home to approximately 650  million mobile phone subscribers, a number that surpasses the United States  and  European Union, and represents an explosion of new communication technologies  that are being tailored to the developing world.

Mobile phone adoption on the continent from 2000 to 2010 accelerated at an  impressive 30 per cent compound annual growth rate powered by affordable feature phones sold at mass market price points.

While just 16 percent of the continent’s one billion people are online, that  picture is changing rapidly.  According to International Data Corp (IDC), a  tech  research group, smartphones account for 18 percent of all mobile phones in Africa.

The continent’s smartphone market is expected to double in the next four years and device manufacturers who dominated the narrative over the past decade such as Nokia are making big bets on the continent’s smartphone future.

Falling wireless data prices, the extension of high-speed networks and a burgeoning middle class are driving a sharp rise in smartphone use.

According to IDC, 52 percent of all smartphones sold on the continent in the second quarter of 2013 were Samsung phones and the company  has quickly ascended in a short period of time to become Africa’s smartphone leader.

As mobile broadband infrastructure continues to develop and as the cost of  smartphones and other technologies continues to fall, new technologies will have an even  greater economic and social impact on the lives of Africans.

A key challenge will be developing applications that improve and simplify the daily lives of Africans. As smartphone penetration grows, more people will increasingly using their mobile devices to manage their lives on a daily basis – anytime, anywhere. The good news is that the marketplace is open (well, not exactly, you’d still need to have the skills and knowledge) and whoever is creative enough to satisfy needs will emerge the winner.

The mobile revolution is taking off. And a lot of work needs to be done to determine what services Africans prefer on their smartphones and that could be via an app, SMS text or mobile browser. In a word, it’s open game. But Africa’s smartphone is coming, and coming fast.

Zimbabwe’s AIDS Success Was Doubted: UNAIDS Executive Director

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha | iZiviso Global Editor At Large

HARARE, Zimbabwe – UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibe, said that no-one believed that Zimbabwe could succeed in responding to the AIDS epidemic at the inaugural GlobalPOWER Africa Women Network conference held recently in Harare, Zimbabwe.  Image

According to UNAIDS, Zimbabwe has achieved one of the sharpest declines in HIV prevalence in Southern Africa, from 27% in 1997 to just over 14% in 2010. With 10 times fewer resources for AIDS per capita than other countries in sub-Saharan Africa, Zimbabwe has expanded coverage of antiretroviral treatment among adults, from 15% in 2007 to 80% in 2010. At the end of 2011, nearly half a million people in the country were receiving lifesaving HIV treatment and care.

“No-one was beliving that Zimbabwe could be a success story with all the difficulties the country was facing but Zimbabwe managed to demonstarte that they can reduce by 52 percent the adult infection rate during the last ten years. Zimbabwe managed to increase the number of people in need of treatment by 50 percent during only the last two years which is important for us to underline,” Sidibe said

He added that Zimbabwe was also a success story because it introduced innovative ways to mobilize internal resources. Zimbabwe’s AIDS Levy, a tax on income to increase domestic resources for the national HIV programme has enabled the country to diversify its domestic funding for its AIDS response, raising an estimated US$ 26 million in 2011. This year the levy is expected to raise US$ 30 million.

However, the majority of people on antiretroviral drugs continue to be supported by the donor community: 76 percent of the 347 172 people on treatment are supported by donor funding.

“In general, any data, you put out is questioned. When we mentioned in our report for the first time that Zimbabwe was making progress, they were reducing the number of new infections and increasing the number of people on treatment, death was going down, people questioned us how that could happen. Many aspects about the country pointded otherwise,” he said.

He said that question surrounding the fact that the country was undergoing serious economic problems made people question the results.

“We asked the one of the best institutes in the world, Imperial College, to come and validate our data. They did all the epidieological analysis and caem up with the validation of the dats. Any place where HIV has success response record, its about leadership at all levels. Secondly, what happeend in Zimbabwe is change in behaviour.

He said that the AIDS levy had played a key part in the Zimbabwean AIDS response, and UNAIDS used it as best practice in raising locals resources for the AIDS response.

“Today, its only 13 percent of the formal sector paying for the levy. We could really look at the informal sector, it will even bring more resources. Zimbabwe’ efforts during the last two years to increase treatment in the past two years is one of the best practices,” he said.

“The Zimbabwe AIDS Levy is an excellent example that demonstrates to other African countries how to generate domestic resources to maintain and own their national AIDS responses. I encourage the Government of Zimbabwe to explore how this initiative could be expanded to tap into the informal sector to boost the resources of the trust fund.”

GlobalPOWER Women Network Africa Conference Opens in Harare

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwashs | iZiviso Global Editor At Large

HARARE, Zimbabwe – Women parliamentarians, leading African women entrepreneurs, civil society leaders, and development partners from Africa are meeting in Harare over the next two days for the inauguration and launch of the GlobalPOWER Women Network Africa.

Image

The conference, being attended by approximately 300 participants, is aimed at providing a strategic political platform to accelerate game changing approaches to HIV prevention and sexual and reproductive health and rights responses for women and girls. The idea to create an Africa-specific GlobalPOWER Women Network stemmed fom a September 2010 meeting in Washington DC that saw prominent female decision makers come together alongside their US peers to discuss how to accelerate the implementation of the UNAIDS Agenda for Women and Girls.

Participants at the conference are expected to address the key issues affecting girls and women in Africa including eliminating new HIV infections among children, keeping mothers alive and maternal and child health. The meeting will result in the “Harare Call to Action” to advance women’s empowerment and gender equality through HIV and Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights responses.

President of the GlobalPOWER Women Network Africa and Zimbabwe Deputy Prime Minister, Thokozani Khupe said that women must take an active role in ensuring their empowerment.

“To achieve the vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths, it is critical to recognise women and girls as key agents in making this vision a reality – society has to invest in the health of women and girls,” Khupe said.

Addressing the conference, Zimbabwe President Robert Gabrial Mugabe said the launch of the network will take the issue of women’s emancipation and empowerment a step further.

Äfter the launch, the real work will begin and call for the same passion, unity of purpose and consistency in pursuing the goals which have characterized this Women’s Network thus far. Of particular note will be the challenge of giving unstinting support to women candidates of every hue and cry; of varying professional qualifications, driven by different talents and capabilities to realise their potential in the collaborative work of Global Power Women Network, the Africa Union and UNAIDS,”said Mugabe.

In Africa, women and girls carry a disproportionate burden of the HIV epidemic – they constitute 59 percent of all people living with the disease. To make matters worse, gender inequality compounded by gender-based vioence, increase women and girl’s risk of HIV infection.

Ëmpowering women and girls to protect themselves against HIV infection and gender-based violence is a non-negotiable in the AIDS response,”said UNAIDS Executive Director, Michel Sidibe.

Africa’s Growing Mobile Market

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – Africa is the fastest growing mobile market, according to a new report released by the industry group GSMA, or Groupe Speciale Mobile Association. 

The report titled, Africa Mobile Observatory 2011, states that for each of the past five years, the number of subscribers across Africa has grown by almost 20 percent and is expected to reach 738 million by the end of next year. It further stated that voice service is predominant but the use of data service is increasing steadily.

Nigeria now has the most mobile subscribers in Africa, with 93m connections. This represents 16% of the continent’s total. SA, with its more developed infrastructure, leads the way in terms of broadband penetration, at 6%, followed by Morocco at 2,8%.

The mobile ecosystem in Africa generates about US$56bn or 3,5% of total GDP, with mobile operators alone contributing US$49bn. The report says the mobile industry contributes $15bn in government revenues

“In releasing its report, GSMA called on African governments to allocate more mobile broadband spectrum and cut taxes on mobile operators to further spur expansion. Citing studies by the World Bank and others, GSMA says that in developing countries, for every 10 percent increase in mobile penetration there is a 0.81 percent increase in GDP,” reported the Associated Press.

“The mobile industry in Africa is booming and a catalyst for immense growth, but there is scope for far greater development,” said Peter Lyons, a GSMA policy expert.

According to the Associated Press, Africa has been described as the Silicon Valley of cell phones because of the innovative ways they are used on the continent.

“Cell phone networks have been set up to help health care workers in remote villages consult with doctors in cities. Researchers have used cell phone technology to track animals for wildlife studies. Africans use cell phones to make payments across borders,” it reported.

The benefits that mobile services have already brought to hundreds of millions of Africans can be extended to those who have yet to connect. By so doing, the African continent can continue to bring not only communication services, but also improved financial services, healthcare and education to its people and drive an increase in the economic wealth and development.

Zimbabwe: Seeing Beyond Politics

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – Zimbabwe’s trajectory since it attained independence from British colonial rule in 1980, and more critically its development over the past decade has been defined by politics as if that is the only factor of life that matters.

The political approach to shaping our nation has obviously scored some successes, markedly the massive investments made into the social sector during the early years of our independence. Despite that there have been setbacks in recent years, we are still reaping benefits from this investment, albeit, many of our talented people have opted to seek greener pastures in far shores.

Looking at the trajectory of Zimbabwe, however, it’s not far fetched to say that seeing politics as the be all and end all of everything will not necessarily fulfill all our aspirations as a people. Given the self-serving nature of politics, it is time that the citizenry begins to adopt a new attitude and see that there is a greater life outside the realm of the political.

Like Godots, politicians are often not in a position to come and deliver, and with their sugar-coated words, they always manage to hoodwink us into waiting for promises that are never deliver. Politicians and politics in general feeds off keeping us hoodwinking to never ending cycles of plastic promises, campaign rallies, empty speeches and grand state rigmaroles that are all much ado about nothing and barely move our lives and livelihoods an inch. It has already been argued that politics being one of the highest paying opportunities attracts a lot of people, especially the crooks.

AS Zimbabweans, it is time that people should offer up solutions themselves, rather than calling on political leaders to provide them. The circus that politicians have subjected us to over the past three decades has induced a sense of  helplessness among the citizens. As citizens, we need to take our power back and begin to be the change that we want to see.

Throughout the world, innovation – which in essence can push the boundaries of being – has never been known to be a function of politics. If we are going to be able to unleash our extraordinary potential, and spark a dynamic that will influence a shift, it is essential that we look more and more inside ourselves to unlock the talent that we have which the politicians are only putting to waste. Getting the old idea that politicians are our saviours must therefore be a constant aspiration of every Zimbabwean today and forevermore.

The good fortune that we assume must come from politicians must emerge from within ourselves; the challenges that politicians have created for us must serve as a basis for our self-renewal.

Achievement is built when conditions are difficult. Achievement is built when the direction of the economy is uncertain, and when there’s no guarantee of success. Indeed, there will be obstacles, excuses, distractions, frustrations and disappointments that will push back against our desire to fashion a new perspective but we must not give up for the sake of our children and their children’s children.

Letter to Africa: Why African Pessimism Now Sucks?

By Chief K.Masimba Biriwasha

Harare, Zimbabwe – One of the toxic after-effects of colonialism in Africa coupled with the failings of its post-colonial leadership is that it gave rise to a language and psychology of self-deprecation among Africans themselves.

Forget the images constantly flighted in the world’s media. Forget the negative stories that Westerners are often accused of writing about the continent. Among many Africans, the recurrent story of Africa is that Africans and Africa will always fail.

Africans themselves are at the vanguard of demeaning and denigrating their own selfhood, injecting doses of pessimism into their psyche. They appear stuck in what Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie describes as the “danger of a single story.”

Now, the danger of a single story exists because its perspective of the world exists in a single frame to the exclusion of all other frames that can help to make the story whole. That single frame becomes the defining factor of how to interpret and react to people and experiences. Any detail that does not confirm to the dictates of the single story is conveniently ignored.

Undoubtedly, African still has much work to do; self-serving leaders at all levels of our societies on the continent have certainly not helped matters. Indeed, throughout our history, we’ve suffered pain and heartache from war, state brutality, corruption, crime, injustice, poverty, sickness, and the death of loved ones. Ever so many terrible things have happened in our continent, resulting in great sorrow, many tears and a sense of hopelessness. All these factors combined have given to the rise of rueful tales of doom and gloom.

As Africans, we’ve internalized these tales of gloom so much and melancholic conclusions that nothing good will ever come out of Africa. Listening to some Africans speak about their homeland, you’d think that we on one hell of an edge of any abyss. That we’re so hopeless and misdirected and lacking a vision to steer ourselves progressively into the future.

It is not surprising; as we are so stuck with the single story model of Africa, it is only natural that we’re so obsessed about harping on about the dysfunctional nature of the Africa state and society.

Many Africans openly ridicule their continent without proffering any alternatives or committing their lives to a new way of living that will propel their motherland to a new plane. They enthusiastically cackle at the demise of their motherland. You’d think that from their spew of putrid rhetoric that the continent is on a deathbed but nothing could be futher from the truth.

Then there’s another class of Africa that is so obsessed with  only putting out highly polished images of the continent. They’re determined to whitewash all the evil, to sweep it under the rug, so to speak, and only show a beautiful face to the world. But such Africans are also hostage to the danger of a single story.

What gives rise to African pessimism is empirically verifiable, some have argued. But our struggle, as we go forward, is to begin redefining our perspective of the continent. There’s so much to the continent that merely seeing it through the lens of despair only tells a quarter of the story. Africans need to abandon the idea of being eternal victims whether to history or their present circumstances. A new future and possibilities can be opened up if we begin to transform the way we perceive ourselves. We have to be courageous to step out of the stereotypes that have forever hung over our heads like heavy loads.

Africa’s Quest for a Green Revolt

EARLY in the morning, Mary Kanyaire, 33, collects water and firewood, and then prepares a meal for her two school-going children before she heads out to the fields, approximately 3 kilometers away from her homestead.

Alone, under the hot sun, she weeds groundnuts in a sandy field with a hoe. Although she knows she will not get a good yield, she strives on, buckets of sweat pouring down her face. Continue reading