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African Startups Win FinTech for Agriculture 2015 Competition

Two African startups have emerged winners of a regional competition organised by Village Capital:

Village Capital today announced the first winners of its innovative program, East Africa: FinTech for Agriculture 2015. The program supports entrepreneurs in making financial services more affordable and accessible for smallholder farmers and other underbanked individuals in East Africa. It is supported by the DOEN Foundation, The MasterCard Foundation, and Duncan Goldie-Scot.

Over 65% of Sub-Saharan Africans do not use financial institutions or mobile money accounts to save or borrow money. Access to financial services can be especially difficult for smallholder farmers, often far from a financial access point. Furthermore, many promising early-stage entrepreneurs addressing this issue cannot find the resources they need to get off the ground.

Village Capital East Africa: FinTech for Agriculture 2015 provided these resources to 12 high-potential, early-stage entrepreneurs from across East Africa. The program also supported them through business development training, mentorship, and opportunities to meet potential customers and pitch to investors. At the end of the 12-week program, the entrepreneur-participants ranked each other on six criteria, and chose two companies to each receive a 50,000 USD investment. The two top peer-ranked companies are:

Atikus Insurance (Rwanda); expands access to credit by increasing the capacity of MSME lenders via reimagined insurance and technology risk solutions.

Farmerline (Ghana, expanding to East Africa); provides accurate and timely agricultural information to farmers and also provides technology to stakeholders to work better.

Documentary ‘Too Black To Be French’ Wants to Start an Honest Conversation on Race in France

Screen capture of the trailer of the documentary "Too black to be French"

Screen capture of the trailer of the documentary “Too black to Be French”

Too Black to Be French” is a documentary made by Isabelle Boni-Claverie, a French-Ivorian writer and filmmaker. Boni-Claverie's goal is to provide unexplored ideas and start a conversation on French society's inequalities and discrimination.

The documentary includes commentary and analyses from renowned Francophone thinkers such as Eric Fassin, Pap Ndiaye, Achille Mbembe, Patrick Simon and Eric Chalaye, along with testimonies from anonymous people of color. Some of the main arguments in the documentary are the conspicuous lack of minorities in the public media sphere, the lack of acknowledgment of colonial history in the fabric of the nation and the absence of quantitative data on discrimination at the workplace.

The documentary ignited a trending hashtag #TuSaisQueTesNoirEnFranceQuand (Translation: You know you are black in France when…) on Francophone social media.

Angani: First Operational Cloud Service in East Africa

Last month, Angani launched first operational cloud service in East Africa:

Angani, the first fully automated cloud infrastructure company in the region, today officially launched their cloud and hosting services. Angani also announced their partnership with local data center operators that will make it safe and cost effective to provision cloud solutions. With Angani’s cloud platform, users can have a new server operational in a secure, reliable datacenter within 15 minutes.

Angani also offers the following services
• Virtual office includes E-Mail, data backup and PABX
• CCTV Storage and Backup
• Media Storage and Playout

Tracking Infrastructure Damage in the War in Yemen

Hundreds of people have been reportedly killed in fighting in Yemen since Saudi Arabia launched a military campaign against the country on March 26. Backed by its Gulf Arab allies, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco,and Sudan, Saudi Arabia started an airstrike operation, dubbed Decisive Storm, against Houthi fighters who took control of Yemen in January.

Reports from the ground say that a refugee camp, schools, airports, a bridge, factories and homes have been destroyed so far.

Yemeni blogger Noon Arabia explains:

She adds:

We are tracking news and stories on the infrastructure damage in Yemen in this war at Global Voices Checkdesk, a partnership project with Meedan.

Checkdesk is a liveblogging tool for journalists, with built-in tools to allow citizen journalists and staff journalists alike to make and verify reports. Anyone from the newsroom community can submit a report — a Tweet, a photo, video or other type of media — and add details that bring important context to the report. Staff journalists can then add these reports to a developing story.

Email us here to join our team.

Bermuda's 99%

The economic gap appears to be widening in Bermuda and one blogger has been paying attention. A week ago, after the Bermuda Telephone Company announced that it was considering introducing new – and more expensive – residential high speed broadband internet products and a high-end restaurant launched a $1000 per plate “private dining experience”, BeachLime.com noted that “the disconnect between big-ups and the common man remains steadily high.”

In a follow-up post at the beginning of this week, the blogger suggested that “once again, the less well off have to make up the slack.” He was referring to the government's decision to increase bus and ferry fares in an effort to take a bite out of the national debt, saying that it has “the undesired effect of targeting the people least able to handle further dents to their savings or earnings”:

Yes, on the surface it's probably not a substantial cut; a 5 dollar increase in a book of 15 tickets isn't a killer move, but when it comes to who gets to pay more, think about it. Who catches buses on a regular basis in Bermuda?

According to the blogger, the rate hike will have the greatest impact upon students, the elderly, the disabled and low income earners:

The people who are more likely to be able to afford a small dent in their earnings are the ones less likely to use that service!

Sad situation all around. Meanwhile the politicians continue to find ways to inconvenience Bermudians just a little bit more, every time.

Here is Why Nairobi is Africa's Most Successful ICT Hub

Elvans Kidero explains the secrets behind Nairobi's success in ICT sector in Africa:

Where is Africa’s ICT hub? Is it South Africa, Nigeria or Nairobi, the capital of Kenya? By growth, it would have to be Nairobi, with my county’s ICT sector expected to grow by 15 per cent this year, compared to around 6 per cent for the economy as a whole.

Kenya and Nairobi – dubbed the “Silicon Savannah” – has boomed in recent years through international partnerships and home-grown products, the most famous being M-PESA the mobile money transfer service that has revolutionised financial transactions for hundreds of millions across the world. Innovation spaces such as iHub have helped spur growth for young tech entrepreneurs offering opportunities for co-working and incubation. Other products such as M-Farm, an app providing an online marketplace and real-time prices for agricultural buyers and sellers and iCow, an SMS-based service for farming information – just to name a few – have seen Nairobians’ technology spread far beyond city borders.

Only this month, in a real boost for Nairobi, IBM opened a new big data research centre in our city, underlining our new front-runner status. This body will assist in analysing big data, support the decongestion of traffic and improve accessibility and speeds for accessing information and services.

So why has Nairobi been growing so fast?

Kenyan Blogger Defamation Case Highlights the Need for Education

Shitemi Khamadi argues that a case where a telecommunication provider, Safaricom, has sued a Kenyan blogger Cyprian Nyakundi for defamation highlights the need for education on the law and Internet in Kenya:

The Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) in whose mandate is to promote online local content has been running a project called ifreedoms. The project seeks to enlighten Kenyans of all walks of life about the law and the internet in Kenya. It conducts these training’s in various locations around the country. So far, these training’s have been held in Nairobi, Kisumu and Nyeri. It intends, in the long run, to go nationwide.

It is in the interest of BAKE that Kenyans know how they should conduct themselves online so that they responsibly, accurately and consistently tell their own stories online through blogs and social media platforms. Certainly when a blogger has a legal issue, BAKE may intervene when the cause is genuine and especially when it involves its members. It does these by assisting with legal counsel, popularizing the issue on social media and documenting it.

This Nyakundi court case validates what BAKE is doing. Nyakundi is still innocent until proven guilty. However, if he knew his legal rights and obligations, he probably would not be in the situation he is today. More importantly, more Kenyans should take queue from this to learn how they should conduct themselves online.

Your Post-Election Guide to Cashing in on Nigeria's Oil Wealth

In March 2015, Africa's most populous country held its third general election, an historic vote that saw power change hands democratically for the first time since independence. The new government means the coming months will see a reshuffling of political offices, including key positions in the oil industry. Not on the appointment list? Not to worry! Tolu Ogunlesi has a funny, informative guide to how you too can cash in on Nigeria's oil wealth.

Here's step four:

Lower the Bar. This is simple common sense. If you want it easier, you’ve got to make it easier. Again, let’s go back to 2011. Pre-Jonathan, the requirements for qualifying to be issued an oil import licence were quite stringent. You had to prove that you had the capacity to pay upfront for a minimum shipment size of 5,000 metric tonnes of product. You also had to prove that you owned retail outlets for the distribution of the imported product.

Mapping Vietnam's Socio-Economic Indicators

vietnam_world_bankThe World Bank has launched mapVIETNAM, an interactive map that shows various socio-economic indicators in Vietnam such as poverty rates, employment, and electricity connectivity. The photo above shows the number of households living on $2 dollars a day. Using the map, we can see that poverty rates are high in the northern and central parts of the country.

Russia's Internet Ombudsman Advocates for Storing User Data Abroad

Dmitry Marinichev. Photo by Vpetrov-71 on Wikimedia Commons.

Dmitry Marinichev. Photo by Vpetrov-71 on Wikimedia Commons.

Internet Ombudsman Dmitry Marinichev has written a letter to President Vladimir Putin, proposing amendments to the new data retention law and suggesting that Russians’ personal data could be stored abroad with the permission of the owners.

Russian Legal Information Agency (RAPSI) reports:

Marinichev has proposed allowing foreign online companies to store Russians’ personal data in a country that is a signatory to the Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data, according to Izvestia.

A total of 46 countries have ratified the convention, including Russia, the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain, as well as post-Soviet countries including Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova and Ukraine.

“We don’t want to lose global online services, which will be unable to operate in Russia unless the law is amended. I suggest that amendments be discussed with the expert community,” Marinichev said, as quoted by Izvestia.

The data retention law that requires social networking sites and foreign companies providing Internet services (like airline tickets and consumer goods sales) in Russia to store Russians’ personal data on servers inside the Russian Federation, will come into effect on September 1.

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