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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.

How a Young Kenyan Doctor Fell in Love With Medicine

Dr. Claire Kinuthia, a Kenyan doctor and blogger, writes about how she fell in love with medicine:

How it all began.

Medicine found me when I was about 6 or 7 years old. I have a particularly vivid memory of hearing my dad get up in the middle of the night to go attend to an emergency in the hospital. Dad was already a hero in my little beating heart but that night, lying in bed imagining what he’d been called to do and how many lives he’s get to save, he was elevated to superhero status. I remember trying hard to stay awake and wait for him to tell me all about his “adventures”. Sadly, sleep won that battle. However, the seed had been sown and I always knew I’d be a doctor one day, a superhero who saved lives

Will Topless Women Save Kenya's Tourism Industry?

Is going topless an effective strategy for reviving the Kenyan tourism industry following attacks from militant group Al Shabaab?:

Nominated Senator, Mbura allegedly asked women in the coastal region to go topless so that more tourists can visit the region. This has raised questions as to what the value of the coastal woman is. Is that all she is worth- An object of trade?

Voting Underway in Kenya Blog Awards 2015

The voting phase of the Kenyan Blog Awards is ongoing and will continue until April 30, 2015:

The Kenyan Blog Awards seeks to reward bloggers that post on a regular basis, have great and useful content, are creative and innovative. These awards represent BAKE’s efforts in the promotion of quality content creation. Organizer The Kenyan Blog Awards are an initiative of the Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE). BAKE is a community organization that represents a group of Kenyan online content creators and that seeks to empower online content creation and improve the quality of content created on the web.

Here Are Kenyan Technology Companies That Were Funded in 2014

Do you know Kenyan technology companies that got funded in 2014? Erik Hersmann lists them in this blog post:

Early stage capital

Angani – Public cloud computing provider
BRCK – Rugged, wireless WiFi device
CardPlanet – Mobile money payment system aimed at business and NGOs
iProcure – Software for optimizing rural supply chains
OkHi – Physical addressing system for logistics solutions
Sendy – Motorcycle delivery service
Tumakaro – Diaspora driven education funding
Umati Capital – Factoring for farmer cooperatives, traders and processors
GoFinance – Working capital finance to distributors of FMCGs
BuyMore – Electronic student discount card
TotoHealth – SMS technology for children’s health
BitPesa – Bitcoin for African remittances

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.

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

#JesuisKenyan Trends in Francophone Social Media to Show Support for Garissa Victims

Twitter users show support for Garissa victims via Arnaud Seroy on twitter

Twitter users show support for Garissa victims via Arnaud Seroy on twitter

On April 2, 2015, at least 147 people were killed by gunmen on the campus of Garissa University in Kenya, according to Kenya's National Disaster Operation Centre (KRCS). The center also reports that 79 people were injured and 587 people were evacuated at this stage.

The suspected mastermind of the massacre is the Somalia-based Al-Shabaab militant group, which claimed responsibility for the attack.

The tragic accounts of the shooting by survivors triggered a show of solidarity worldwide. The francophone world, still weary after the Charlie Hebdo attack, responded by showing solidarity with the Garissa victims on social networks with the hashtag #JesuisKenyan (to mirror the hashtag #JesuisCharlie). It was the second most trending topics on Twitter in France on April 3.

Here are a few of those posts:

147 died in the horrific #terrorist attack against education and our future. Let's show solidarity #JesuisKenyan

Not enough talk in the media about the terrorist attack at the university in Kenya, are 147 dead not enough ?! HORRIBLE #JesuisKenyan

14 Open Source Products Based in Africa

Despite many problems facing the African continet, African open source innovators are not lagging behing. Here is a list of 14 open source projects coming out of the continent.

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