Tag Archives: Africa

Where are the changemakers?

Crises – like the current Covid-19 pandemic – take a significant social and economic toll, yet they contain the dynamics for disruption from which new business models emerge. In a June 2020 survey by McKinsey, more than 90 per cent of executives said they expect the fallout from COVID-19 to fundamentally change the way they do business over the next five years. 

But where are these game changers, the companies challenging convention with the ability to open up new avenues of social, economic and financial growth? Here are three of our favourite examples of companies which are challenging convention and transforming industries right now. 

Dive In Festival – adapting to a virtual platform to broaden reach of D&I issues 

Despite a visible year-on-year growth for the insurance industry’s festival on diversity and inclusion – which Gong has worked to deliver since inception in 2015 – the Dive In Festival team’s swift response to physical events disappearing during the pandemic resulted in record-breaking attendance in 2020. By taking the event online, and running it virtually, Dive In recorded 30,153 attendees (three times that of the previous year), at 144 events globally, in 33 countries. The event has already proved to be award-winning, at the 2021 Africa SABRE awards, and the format will be replicated for the event in September 2021, when it will once again inspire discussion around important discussions such as racial equality and gender diversity in the workplace. 

Visionable – changing how we access healthcare 

Visionable is the first video collaboration platform designed especially for healthcare teams’ specialist clinical needs. It’s reimagining health and social care as we become more and more digitally connected. This article in the Financial Times outlines its success in improving results for stroke victims by allowing treatment by consultants via video link before they reach hospital. Even more recent though, is its Visionable Connect video calling app, allowing Covid patients to remain in contact with loved ones whilst in lockdown and professionals to support patients without having to visit their bedside, while PPE was in short supply. You can read the case study on this here. 

DPO – encouraging financial inclusion via ecommerce in Africa 

DPO Group is a home-grown Kenyan technology champion headquartered in Nairobi. Established 14 years ago, it has built and scaled electronic payment solutions that are now used by 50,000 merchants across Africa. It has a history of successful innovation – notably (according to this Forbes article on the company) because of the way it “respects the cultural differences that exist across Africa markets and builds products and local teams suited to each market”. DPO responded to an accelerated structural shift away from cash to online payments during the early stages of the Covid-19 outbreak by offering many of its small firm customers the opportunity to process electronic payments in order to expand. One example is Artcaffe – a coffee and bakery chain with no previous online presence – which was able to become a much larger food ordering marketplace, using a DPO-powered website. Artcaffe now sells products on behalf of its suppliers and supports the livelihoods of many offline businesses during the crisis.  

Africa Day: Celebrating luminaries in the creative sector

 

By Janet Ndugire, Senior Account Manager

Africa Day is an annual celebration of African unity, to commemorate the founding of the African Union. This year’s theme, “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa we Want”, presents a unique opportunity for the continent to celebrate great individuals who have played a key role in promoting the creative industries.

To celebrate this day, we are shining a light on the work of some outstanding creatives in East Africa. The work that they do within the creative economy acts as a major contributor to Africa’s growth transformation and stands as testament to the outstanding talent within the creative sector in Africa today.

Eugene Kavuma, Co-Founder Kampala Design Week

Through Kampala Design Week, Eugene Kavuma has provided a platform that inspires, equips and engages individuals and institutions to design sustainable solutions for East Africa’s challenges. He is an alumnus of the British Council’s Creative Hubs Academy and has been supporting young entrepreneurs in the arts and culture sectors in East Africa. In this Invest in Africa podcast, he commended organisations supporting the creative industries:  “The British Council, for example, are doing a great job for the sector. The idea that you can bring people together and help them structure businesses in a much more profitable manner is a great contribution to the creative sector.”

Chao Tayiana, Founder, Africa Digital Heritage

Chao Tayiana is a Kenyan digital heritage specialist and digital humanities scholar. With a life-long passion for history, her work primarily focuses on the application of technology in the preservation, engagement and dissemination of African heritage and culture.

Her organisation, African Digital Heritage, is a non-profit organisation that seeks to encourage a more holistic approach to the design and implementation of digital solutions within African cultural heritage.

Faith Aweko, Founder Reform Africa

In 2019, Faith Aweko emerged as the winner of the Social Impact Award. Unafraid to get her hands dirty (literally), Faith (who was also an alumnus of the British Council’s Creative Hubs Academy) started Reform Africa, an organisation that transforms plastic polythene waste into durable, sustainable and water-proof bag packs and artistic accessories.  According to Faith, waste is not waste until you waste it.

Arnold Mugaga, Founder Zetu Africa

Arnold Mugaga is the founder of Zetu Africa, a social enterprise based in Uganda. His design-led company creates innovative bags that pupils can use to carry books and convert into seats during class sessions – inspired by a 2016 report stating that 95 million children in Africa study without classroom furniture. Innovating throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, Arnold and his team now use locally sourced bamboo to create a lightweight, affordable chair and bag (with a mobile writing board) that is also waterproof.

George Gachara, Managing Partner HEVA Fund

Under George’s leadership, HEVA, Africa’s first dedicated finance, business support and knowledge facility for creative industries, has been at the forefront of supporting young businesses and entrepreneurs in the creative sector to build high-value profitable businesses to increase their potential and also create more jobs for the sector.

HEVA has invested in more than 40 creative businesses and directly supported over 8,000 creative practitioners in the fashion, digital content and television, live music and gaming value-chains.

As he opined in African Business, “Africa’s cultural and creative industries present an excellent opportunity for long-term growth, but they need to be nurtured and protected, especially in the wake of shocks from Covid-19.”

Labdi Ommes, Musician

Labdi is a visionary and a revolutionary Kenyan singer-songwriter and African single-stringed fiddle (Orutu) instrumentalist. She is a vocal powerhouse whose vision is to popularise African music culture, sounds and instruments and to re-introduce them to the world. Labdi represents the growing population of young African artists taking up indigenous instruments and re-introducing them into the current music scene. She is currently the only female Orutu player in East Africa which was taboo for women to play. The Orutu is a single-stringed fiddle which originates from Western Kenya, among the Luo Community.

For a taste of her sound, click on this link as she performs with Extra Soul Perception who were grantees of the British Council’s new Art new Audiences (nAnA).

Gong named among winners of 2021 Africa SABRE Awards

Gong was delighted to be named among the winners of the 2021 Africa SABRE Awards, which recognise superior achievement in branding, reputation, and engagement, during a virtual award ceremony.

Since 2015, Gong has helped to deliver the Dive In Festival, the insurance industry’s festival for diversity and inclusion, which was celebrated in a record-breaking 35 countries last year.

As the effects of the festival continue to be felt around the world, Gong was named the winner of two categories (Research and Planning and Public Education) and also received a certificate of excellence (in the Financial and Professional Services category) in the awards ceremony (which is run by PRovoke Media) for its work in delivering this iconic festival in Nigeria, alongside its African partners Phyllion & Partners Limited, Aon and Lloyd’s.

To learn more about the Dive In Festival – which will run this year from 21 – 23 September – please see www.diveinfestival.com.

DPO Group

COMMUNICATIONS SUPPORT FOR AFRICAN DIGITAL PAYMENTS COMPANY

DPO Group has developed the technology to allow businesses across Africa to process payments, on and offline. Headquartered in Kenya, with presence in 19​ African countries, DPO works with businesses of all sizes, supporting the growth of small local businesses, as well as working with large corporations, such as Uber, Booking.com and DHL. ​

Gong was tasked with supporting DPO in developing its corporate profile and raising awareness of its suite of products to businesses locally, regionally and internationally, with coverage secured in Kenya, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, the UK, the US, China and France, amongst others. ​

In August 2020, Gong supported DPO Group in the announcement of its planned acquisition by Network International, in what is a landmark deal for the African payments landscape and one of the largest exits in Africa’s tech sector. ​

With a modest investment we are delivering outsized results, securing 50 pieces of coverage of DPO’s acquisition alone, including in top tier international titles such as Forbes and Quartz. The estimated reach of this single announcement was over 1.5bn readers.

African Infrastructure Investment Managers (AIIM)

CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS FOR AFRICAN PRIVATE EQUITY INVESTMENT MANAGER

African Infrastructure Investment Managers (AIIM), one of Africa’s leading private equity investment managers dedicated to African infrastructure, has been a retained client of Gong’s since 2016.

Our corporate comms brief with AIIM focuses on talking about its extensive infrastructure experience in targeted press, concentrating on positioning AIIM as one of the leading renewable energy investors on the continent.

Activities also included announcing deal news, drafting LinkedIn content and carefully targeted op-ed writing on issues such as: the outlook for renewable energy in Africa, reform priorities in Nigeria’s power sector, the role of the private sector in plugging the infrastructure spending gap, and the importance of renewables in a greener recovery post-Covid.

Coverage has been achieved in international titles such as the Financial Times and Bloomberg, energy trade publications such as Energy Voice, Renewable Energy Magazine and Power magazine, as well as several target investment publications. Potential readership of Gong’s media coverage reaches an average of 55 million people each month.

Our work with AIIM resulted in Gong winning the global corporate communications brief for AIIM’s holding company, Old Mutual Alternative Investments.

Coverage for AIIM private equity

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 per cent 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 7,500 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.