Tag Archives: Africa

Building a fairer, healthier world

With the current average global population increase estimated at 81 million people per year, enabling access to healthcare continues to be a priority. One of the key strategies is obviously to train more doctors and nurses, but a surprisingly overlooked – yet crucial – factor lies in technology businesses that are enabling healthcare providers to reach people more effectively by increasing efficiency. The onslaught of Covid-19 has brought the necessity for a robust health tech industry into sharp relief – it has been vital as the world has had to rethink how it enables access to, and delivery of, an efficient healthcare system during a pandemic.

As a result, capital for African health tech startups has increased by 257.5% from 2019 to 2020, according to a report by Disrupt Africa. One company that had already been making headway before the pandemic is African digital health company Helium Health, which initially set out in 2016 to transform hospitals on the continent by improving how records are kept and operations managed. Backed by international investors including Y Combinator and Zenith, the company has developed cutting-edge technology specifically designed for healthcare providers in Africa to accelerate efficiencies in health systems. By providing a robust electronic health record and hospital management system (as an alternative to typical paper-based systems), Helium Health enables African healthcare facilities to reduce waste, improve their accounting and record keeping, build medical intelligence and become more efficient caregiving operations.

In the UK, Visionable has been transforming healthcare by significantly improving patient outcomes using technology. Visionable’s Connected Ambulances allow paramedics to link up digitally with specialists so that they can deliver rapid stroke diagnoses before patients reach A&E. These vitally swift judgements mean that patients spend less time in hospital and have faster recovery times, with fewer long-lasting health effects. Using Visionable, the duration of hospital stays is cut from 17 days to two days. You can read more in this article from the Financial Times.

Meanwhile, Boston-USA based telehealth start up Patient Discovery was in a prime position to virtually support cancer patients as Covid accelerated the adoption of telehealth. Already a trusted resource for 30 of the country’s leading hospitals, it has used its engagement platform to create the best remote appointment and care experience for cancer patients during the pandemic.

Today is World Health Day with a focus for 2021 on building a fairer, healthier world. As health tech companies continue to source ways to drive efficiencies to improve healthcare systems, we are reminded that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on the fight against many preventable diseases. Simon Bland, CEO of the Global Institute for Disease Elimination (GLIDE) – which works with partners to accelerate progress towards disease elimination – reminds us in this article on Global Health Newswire that “despite its challenges, COVID-19 offers us the opportunity to think more synergistically… As past outbreaks have shown, deaths from preventable diseases increase dramatically when healthcare systems are overwhelmed and fragmented.”

How important then that – now even more so than ever – we use technology to do this and make efficient improvements within our global healthcare systems to find time and cost savings and build a healthier, fairer world for all.

Solving societal bias with innovative engineering

Engineering makes a difference in places you wouldn’t always expect. One of the biggest problems in facial recognition systems is bias in the artificial intelligences (AIs) behind them. Incredibly powerful AIs tend to be designed to do a single task, such as predict which of your friends’ posts you will want to see or to identify you in a photo, but an AI can only be as good as the data it is trained on.

Give a new AI a million photos of kittens and it might be able to learn what a kitten looks like from every conceivable angle and identify one in a photo. But AIs designed to recognise and identify human faces have generally been trained using databases containing predominantly white people and far fewer people of other ethnicities. This has led to an inherent bias in the programmes, and a great variety in reliability in identifying people from different backgrounds. This can cause a multitude of problems.

Fortunately, there are people and organisations working to address this imbalance. Take Charlette N’Guessan, for example. This 26-year-old from Cote D’Ivoire and her team have come up with software that uses a phone or computer’s built-in camera and, and in contrast to global AI systems, has been developed specifically to identify Africans. Her initial aim was to solve cybercrime and identify fraud for Ghanaian banks, but like any good feat of engineering, there’s potential for its applications in addressing societal bias globally.

Back in September, it won her the prestigious 2020 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation from the Royal Academy of Engineering, making her the first ever woman to win the Africa Prize.

Given that Gong’s mission statement is “to help purposeful organisations communicate their positive impact”, we are proud to be able to showcase the Africa Grants work of our client, The Royal Academy of Engineering.

And it seems apt to highlight it as World Engineering Day on 4th March celebrates the role of engineers and engineering in delivering the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and encouraging more young people to become engineers – especially women, in a bid for greater sector diversity and inclusion.

The Academy nurtures talented engineers by training, supporting, mentoring and funding innovators, researchers and leaders, helping over 7500 professionals enhance their leadership skills. In Africa, its Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation supports 16 African entrepreneurs by accelerating their businesses, with a final prize of £25,000. Its Higher Education Partnerships in Sub-Saharan Africa (HEP SSA) programme aims to address the engineering skills shortage and showcase engineering’s role in driving economic development in the region. Similarly, its GCRF Africa Catalyst programme aims to support professional engineering bodies in sub-Saharan Africa so that they can share best practice and strengthen local engineering capacity.

By 2025, the Royal Academy of Engineering will have helped a million young people – from every background – to explore a career in engineering. They’re investing £180m in engineering talent, innovation and policy advice over the next five years.

We look forward to showcasing the stories of the impact made by Africa’s engineers, as they innovate towards a more sustainable, brighter future.

The 13th Annual AVCA Conference

THE 13th ANNUAL AVCA CONFERENCE

Dates: 25th – 27th April 2016

Location: Sheraton Addis – Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The AVCA Conference is the flagship event for the African Private Equity and Venture Capital industry and provides an important platform for GPs, LPs and investors interested in the continent to discuss the most pertinent opportunities and issues of the year.

The 13th annual conference focused on making the business case for private equity in Africa by highlighting the wide array of investment opportunities, strategies employed and success stories. It also saw the launch of two AVCA research reports, the AVCA/EY Exit Study, providing valuable data about the exits landscape in Africa, coupled with key information on how fund managers create value and deliver commercial returns; and finally the AVCA Sustainability Study which examined how private capital is helping to drive ESG standards across the continent.

Gong was on site managing all communications requirements of the conference.

https://www.avcaconference.com/

 

 

Concern Universal on how to make phone calls using a mud oven

CONCERN UNIVERSAL ON HOW TO MAKE PHONE CALLS USING A MUD OVEN

Narda Shirley

 

I often find myself banging on to clients about the virtues of bite-sized video as a story telling medium. But I was reminded again of its power when I watched a video about a Concern Universal project called ‘how to charge your phone with a mud oven’. At just 1 minute and 30 seconds long, with only captions to explain what’s going on, the film has had over 20 million views and inspired 62,000 comments.

The ‘Flower Pot stove’ is bucket-sized and made of mud. It is made locally to a tested template, and runs on just a few sticks of wood, roughly a third less than a fire would use. It also produces much less harmful smoke which is an important innovation as the simple act of cooking kills 4.3 million people each year.

Approximately 2.5 billion people living in the developing world burn biomass as a primary energy source; this number is expected to grow to 5 billion by 2050.

Thanks to the clever little thermo electric generator that attaches to the stove, and produces electricity from its heat, people living in rural locations without access to the grid, can generate enough power to charge a phone or power a torch. Mobile phones, now very cheap, can help relieve poverty in so many ways. Remote farmers can get better access to fair market pricing and selling time for people to make phone calls can be a means of generating additional income in a community. Torches mean children can study after dark making more of education opportunities.

Concern Universal, (CU) the charity behind the initiative has a sweet spot for innovation where it improves the lives of women in particular. Its resourceful new Global Head of Communications & External Affairs, John O’Brien has masterminded an event on Tuesday 22 March at the fashion and design emporium, Clerkenwell London. The event, called ‘fashionUP’ will raise awareness and money for the work of the charity which has been going for 40 years and whose work extends beyond Africa into Latin America and Asia.

I’m shamelessly shaking down my friends (and theirs) to stump up the donation price to come along to ensure that Concern Universal gets a great turnout and raises the money it needs to continue with its work. While we are chomping on canapes, downing a few drinks, and taking in the stylish surroundings of the Clerkenwell emporium, it’s affecting to think that all over the undeveloped world, rural families are watching the last glimmers from their cooking fires go out, sinking them into complete darkness. Well done CU for shedding some light on all the issues and with such a clever solution. See you on the 22 March! And check out that film here.

Photo credit: Toby Richards

Running the Numbers: Chinese Social Media and Dangote Industries

 

Tom Griffiths

Last week, we at Gong were treated to a lunchtime talk by Jonathan Smith of Hot Pot Digital. Jonathan runs a bespoke service, representing a number of the UK’s brands on Chinese social media sites like Sina’s Weibo (China’s Twitter-equivalent in both micro-blog format and number of users). His talk raised a question in my mind: what share of voice does African business news have on Chinese social media channels, as compared with Twitter?

China-Africa trade receives a lot of attention, both positive and negative, in English and French social media. Simply search for the words “China” and “Nigeria” on Twitter and receive a stream of news, statistics and viewpoints. This is of little surprise given China’s perceived importance in many of Africa’s economies. I was interested if a similar ‘conversation’ exists on Weibo.

The story I decided to test my hypothesis on was this week’s news that Dangote Industries, a Nigerian Conglomerate, intends to invest US$9billion in building the country’s biggest oil refinery along with petrochemical and fertiliser plants. Dangote Industries’ founder, Aliko Dangote, announced that his company will be putting up US$3 billion and seeking US$6 billion in loan capital.

My admittedly less than rigorous method of investigation was to compare mentions of “Dangote” on Twitter with mentions of “Dān gē tè (丹格特)” on Weibo over the 5th of September. Before going into the findings I would like to note that I recognise Twitter is widely used in Nigeria when compared with Weibo. I have looked at geo-tagged tweets from users outside of Nigeria to try to negate this bias however I realise any findings were always going to be heavily weighted towards Twitter.

The results: Weibo had only two posts that mentioned the story. Both simply stated the facts without commentary and provided a link to a longer write up. Both posts were made by petroleum industry trade publication’s Twitter accounts. Twitter, on the other hand, held a huge number of tweets on the news. Many of these came from Nigeria, however there were also many hundreds from Kenya, the US, Britain and Indonesia. Most tweets simply restated the facts, however a number commented on the potential job creation of the new factories.

The results were striking, even with the obvious bias in the experiment: 2 Weibo posts compared with thousands of tweets. It seems that the new Nigerian refinery just wasn’t a talking point on Weibo, despite the resource trade between China and Africa being so well publicised. However, as many African countries’ economies rise, will we see an increase in discussions on African business on Weibo?

It would be interesting to repeat the test on a piece of news that directly involves both China and an African country: an experiment for a later day.

 

Homestrings wins at Africa Diaspora Awards 2013

 

Sarah Caddy

Pride of heritage was the flavour of the evening at the Africa Diaspora awards, held in London’s West End on 2 May 2013.

The continent had much to celebrate, with awards presented to the brightest and best from the worlds of Business, Academia, Entrepreneurship, Media and Community. Her Excellency Ms Thandi Modise, Premier of North – West Province, Republic of South Africa, set the tone for the evening with a moving speech on the role played by the African Diaspora in securing the continent’s successful future. “The spirit of internationalism has sustained humanity” she proclaimed, vocally grateful for the benefits that a global perspective can have not only for the individual Diasporans, but also for the separate countries within the continent. Her vision was for a continent that works with its neighbours and international allegiances to build an ever more promising future.

A prime example of her vision in practice is Eric Vincent Guichard, who secured the Entrepreneur of the Year award for his online initiative, Homestrings – an investment platform that facilitates Diaspora investments into their own communities.  It was an award we thoroughly toasted, as well deserved of our client!

 

President Mahama’s message at The Times CEO Summit Africa was very clear: Invest in people and infrastructure

 

Isabelle Alenus-Crosby

Africa’s future as the world’s economic engine rests on investing in its one billion people, President Mahama of Ghana said in a speech at The Times CEO Summit Africa today. “Investments should focus on people, providing them with jobs”.

Mr Mahama delivered his keynote address at the third CEO Summit Africa, which is held every year in London. The two-day summit which was held on April 29th and 30th this year, brought together Chief Executives of Africa’s biggest businesses with International Investors. The President’s address also focussed on Ghana’s readiness for business and the opportunities available for partnership with its private sector to expand the infrastructure base of the country.

Most of the continent is going through an unprecedented period of stability whilst an economic revolution is sweeping across it. With more investors coming in every day, Mr Mahama shouldn’t worry. Africa’s equity markets are hot and a virtuous cycle has already emerged. And the good news doesn’t end there. The Economist reported at the start of 2013 that a rapid increase across the full investment spectrum is expected within the next couple of years. People across Africa therefore have good reason to be optimistic. According to the IMF, 84% believe that they’ll be better off in two years.

Another possibility, of course, is that they’ll be much better off.

African GDP – growing faster than previously thought?

 

Isabelle Alenus-Crosby

There have been various reports in the news lately that the impressive GDP statistics posted by countries across Africa may actually be underestimations, and that the continent’s outlook could be even better than previously thought.

GDP growth is correlated to a variety of data, and if this data is sparse (which is still very much the case across Africa), whole swathes of economic activity can be overlooked. Simply put, growth is measured by comparing current data to the base year. But without sufficient data, many “new” sectors, such as mobile telephony, have nothing to be compared to. And these new sectors have been growing quickly and steadily across the entire continent for almost a decade.

Until 2010, Ghana was using a 1993 base year. When it was finally revised by the statistical office, GDP estimates rose by over 60 %, translating to approximately 13bn USD of economic activity. Nigeria’s base year is still set at 1990. An upward revision is therefore imminent and likely to be even more impressive than Ghana’s. In fact, economists are predicting that the GDP for the whole of sub-Saharan Africa will rise by at least 15 % in the next couple of years! Where’s the champagne?