Africa’s New Frontier – Afternoon Sessions

2010 February 4
tags: ,
by Ismail Dhorat

13:30 – Society

Topic: Educating Generation Next: Expanding higher education for future African leaders

  • What are the connections between higher education and long-term economic growth
  • How can international partnerships expand access to higher education in African countries, and for African students
  • What kind of higher education is most relevant for Africans and Africa
  • How are old and new broadcasting mediums used to expand access to education


  • Boubakar Barry, Coordinator, Research and Education Networks, Association of African Universities, Ghana
  • Neil Turok, Director, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, Canada and Founder of the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), South Africa
  • Olu Ajakaiye, Research Director, African Economic Research Consortium, Kenya

Boubakar Barry is speaking about the challenges in Africa with relation to education.

In order to meet the challenges, we should have a holistic approach. ICT has an important role to play in meeting educational challenges. Education and research networks are important. They create an environment where experimentation can occur and drive innovation. Researchers feel isolated as there is no critical mass in specific fields, it does not allow them to participate globally. Co-operation should be promoted amongst African universities and universities globally.

Examples of networks:

  • UbuntuNet Alliance,  which links educational and research networks in 12 African countries.
  • Another initiative  is WACREN, for west and central Africa
  • KENET –  Kenya, which links 500 institutions
  • TENET – South Africa

The goal is to change the landscape and link the African research community with the global community. In the near future, Africa will be fully integrated.

Next up is Olu Ajakaiye He is presenting stats on the state of higher education, Africa lags behind in most areas. Looking at examples like number of pc’s per 100 people, access to TV’s, access to the Internet etc. Knowledge intensive services are not strong, South Africa is an exception. Only 2 countries are advancing towards a Knowledge economy, South Africa & Mauritius.

  • In the beginning, ROR was used as yard stick to measure. This was bad as it switched the focus from HE.
  • New analysis takes into account broader impacts of HE such as spill over to wages and increased quality of life

Modalities for international support

  • Overseas scholarships, the result is many people left but did not come back
  • Centres of excellence
  • A network of local and international scholars
  • AERC is an example of a network which combiners International and African scholars
  • Brings african scholars and their institutions together with international scholars and insitutions

Neil Turok is up next, speaking about AIMS for Africa.

We are all Africans….

He is showing us some serious physic equations, and links the formula to how these principals have been used in technology such as mobile phones.

Scientific knowledge is our most important knowledge, we will need it to meet the challenges we will face in the future. Advanced science is making enormous strides, it’s important that Africa takes it’s place in the global scientific community.

They created AIMS (African Insitute for Mathematical Sciences) in 2003, to enable the best students in Africa to become researchers. They faced challenges with funding.

  • Currently 54 students, just as many women as men
  • Only the best lecturers
  • A 24 hour learning environment


  • Relevant
  • Innovative
  • Cost-Effective
  • High Quality

in 2004 28 graduate students, now 254 students have graduated. He is currently speaking about the next einstein initiative and creating 15 AIMS centers. He also showed us a truly inspiring video of a South African student who went through AIMS. Niel ends with:

Africa’s is the worlds greatest untapped pool of scientific & technical talent It is also the continent in greatest need Developing Africa’s brightest mind is vital for Africa Only Africans can fix Africa Smart AID proposal for G8

Time for questions, this post will be updated with the next sessions details.

15:30 – Media

Topic: The cellular evolution: How mobile phones make markets work better

  • How is cell phone banking relieving poverty and stimulating growth
  • What new business opportunities are created by the proliferation of cell phones
  • What are the second-order effects of expanded cell phone use (niche economies, etc.)


  • Vincent Kadar, CEO, Telepin, Canada
  • Julius Juma, Lecturer at the Department of Agricultural Economics, University of Nairobi, Kenya
  • Heloise Emdon, Program manager, Communities and the Information Society in Africa

First up is Heloise Emdon, who is giving us an overview of Acacia who will be speaking on the mobile revolution.

  • 12 years ago when the IDRC started the model was to provide internet connectivity to rural communities.
  • Livelihoods have improved for the BOP
  • Mobile phones catered to the pentup demand for communication services in Africa
  • Created side industries that were capitalized on
  • MPesa is being used as an example, financial regulations in most countries do not allow this model
  • Mpesa reduces the transaction fee from 15% to 5%
  • M-Health, example is JavaRosa that is used as a decision support system and to capture information
  • Sub-Saharan Africa, has the lowest fixed line density, but mobile density is on Par
  • Internet users per 100, is only 6.47 in Africa
  • More users have mobile phones then bank accounts in Africa
  • Mobile internet will never replace fixed line internet, its personal
  • in 1995 Latin America was on par with Africa in tele density, 8 years later Latin America has a totally different picture far exceeding Africa.
  • Almost half of African countries are landlocked, so the new fibre links coming in will take a while before it reaches these countries.
  • South Africa has the highest number of fixed lines
  • Countries that have achieved high growth rates, have invested 5-7% in communications infrastructure
  • We will only see growth once there is investment in this infrastructure (Communications)

Next up is Julius who will be speaking on “Linking smallholder farmers to markets an experience from Kenya”

Characteristics of these farmers:

  • Volumes traded are very small
  • It’s costly to sell

The market has failures which results on costly retail prices of seeds and fertilizers and poor prices for producers amongst other things. This leads to farmers being trapped in subsistence farming.

Small holder farmers are important, and it’s important to ensure that they efficient linking them to markets. Mobile phones are being used to address the constraints of Small holder farmers.  Examples:

KACE provides market information and prices for different markets via mobile phones. Prices provided are wholesale pricing. The prices are extremely timely, and also shows you the prices of markets closest to you.

DrumNet  links Input Dealers, output buyers, farmer groups and the banks. Drumnet also assists farmers with SMS reminders guiding the farmers for example “It’s time to harvest”. A farmer is linked to a Bank as well as a buyer, all transactions were enabled via mobile phones. Transactions were cashless.

Before drumnet there were several intermediaries, the farmer only ended up with 65% of the total price payed by the eventual buyer.

After drumnet, replaced most of the intermediaries, brokerage, provided finance. Farmers now earn as much as 86% of the final price payed by the buyer.

Question was asked to farmers: How much food did you borrow or receive as gifts? They found that drumnet farmers were less likely to borrow food or receive gifts. They were also more likely to give food to others, its clear from the results that farmers using the drumnet system seem to be more well off.

Better markets = Higher Margins for farmers

A new project has been started together with the IDRC, eARN (eAgricultural Research network), to figure out what has worked and what has not worked in the different projects around Africa.

Now we have Vincent Kader speaking, who will be speaking on mobile money.

  • Mobile phones have a higher impact then even broadband internet
  • Second highest growth in the world is from Africa
  • Mobile money is a tool for financial inclusion and growth
  • 200M International migrant workers remitting to dependaents
  • 70% of mobile users are prepaid
  • Stores in canada sell prepaid vouchers for an operator from the philippines, used to transfer cash to dependents.
  • The road to mobile money: Top-Ups, Airtime balance transfer, mobile financial services, domestic transfer, international transfer

We have come to the end of the formal program for the day, and just in time my laptop says i have just 17 minutes left. It was a packed day, all in all some very useful information. Check back tomorrow for more reports on the sessions here.

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