A Taste of the Davos Buffet…

Feb7

Afroes Founder and Schwab Social Entrepreneur 2013, Anne Githuku Shongwe, travelled to Davos for the World Economic Forum as part of the Social Entrepreneur finalists. Here are some of her thoughts from the conference:

A taste of the Davos Buffet

This was my first opportunity to visit Davos – the home to the annual WEF where global business, governments, philanthropists and the various exciting New Champions communities of the WEF: Social Entrepreneurs, Young Global Leaders and Global Shapers, Technology Pioneers gather.

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So what were the different flavours at the Davos table?  It was truly refreshing to see that, though very poorly represented here, the Africans are at the global table of big business and global governance and the world recognizes – finally – that we are relevant. Mind you, we could do ourselves a big favour and arrive in numbers from every corner and come prepared to claim our stake at this table as equal and powerful members of the global family.

Like the Nigerians! What a show of confidence and economic possibility. They came in full force led by President Goodluck Jonathan and Africa’s no 1 billionaire Aliku Dangote. They shared their story, their plans, they fed us all and coloured the otherwise mostly grey WEF with green and white scarves everywhere and they flew in a fantastic band to woo us all and they sang ‘ …I am an alien, I am a Nigerian in Davos.’ Wow! Watch this space.

The South Africans were also there – the biggest flag in town over the Kirchner Museum and many, many were engaged in key discussions. The economists may be suggesting that the BRICS star is fading and it is time for the MINT (Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey) but whatever the outlook they are here in full force led by the most competent and articulate Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan, other Ministers, the Mayor of the City of Johannesburg who was quoted severally for his contribution at the International Business Council. And proudly South African business and in particular women business leaders – from the CEO of Anglo American mining house – the only female mining Chief in town – to the Chair of the Industrial Development Corporation, Madame Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, former Deputy President and now Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UNWOMEN is here too.  Go Sisters!

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President Ellen Johnson-Sirlief of Liberia, President Kagame of Rwanda and President John Mahama of Ghana were all truly eloquent in their addresses and demonstrate strong leadership in Africa. But where was Kenya? And Senegal?  And all the other rising stars?

That said, I am truly disappointed at the glaring absence of women in most of the significant conversations taking place at the WEF! Sure there have been some great women speaking here and there but certainly hardly enough! Many men and women are here with their spouses but alas, all I see is a dominance of a sea of grey and black suits! I can only wonder if this is a sign that Women Leaders are shrinking in their numbers in Business and Government around the world? The WEF reports a drop in women’s participation to 15% from 17% last year.

It’s not all bad news though. I attended a great conversation ‘Women Empowering Women’ that had both business leaders like Sheryl Sandberg COO of Facebook and Founder of the Lean In Foundation, political leaders  from South Korea, Mexico, Botswana and Norway and all of us. It was somewhat an insider’s story and strategy conversation, so I can’t share too much but suffice to say that women at the table committed themselves to leveraging one another and the other 51% women of the world to claim equal participation at the WEF from 2015.

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So here are the issues that resonated with me and for which I draw hope for the future. The theme of this WEF 2014 was The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business.

On the very first day, as I attended plenaries, IdeasLabs and side meetings, I was pleasantly surprised to hear  leaders lament about how inequality and unemployment, in particular youth unemployment is the greatest challenge of our time.  Not to oversimply the issue, but for the first time I recognized the significant impact of the Arab Spring on the world. In the globalized world that we have become, no one wants another fateful and expensive uprising upsetting the economic cart for something that we can collectively do something about – like create jobs and livelihoods!

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The coolest thing about the WEF are the New Champions Communities but in particular the youth communities – Young Global Leaders and Global Shapers. We learned that the International Business Council – a group of the most powerful business communities from across the world (with shinier badges then the rest of us) invited some of these youth to have a serious chat about youth unemployment. I am told that the Youth did come to the party and put their experiences and innovative ideas on the table for business to consider and urged them to do so quickly. It remains to see how serious business and governments are on this issue. But yet other communities had serious conversations about youth unemployment.  I attended a conversation where Microsoft who have already invested significantly on this issue through their YouthSparks programme and the Rockerfeller Foundation who invest across Africa on Digital Jobs pulled together social entrepreneurs, business and NGOs to explore how to strengthen this work even more and reach many many more youth in innovative ways.

The other big ticket conversation was about investing heavily on entrepreneurship as a clear alternative to jobs. Big business like Coke shared their initiative 5 by 20 Initiative (5 millon women by 2020) to ignite entrepreneurship amongst women along their supply chain, Goldman-Sachs their 10,000 women entrepreneurship initiative and numerous others including governments.

I left Davos with the honest belief that a Jobs and Enterprise Compact compelling every single business in the world to commit significant resources – as you would Corporate Social Responsibility – to enabling jobs, enterprise and skills development is a no-brainer investment because the alternative – more Arab Springs everywhere – is unthinkable and preventable.

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The other big and related conversation was on Education and Skills 2.0: New Targets and Innovative Approaches as a report released at Davos this week is called. As a start there was a strong criticism of the MDG 2015 goal of education focusing only on primary education. While many countries have seen some improvement in primary school enrollment and completion, the greatest gaps are in the secondary level that is required to prepare youth for jobs and enterprise. There were several key conversations about the importance of investing in girls and women for all the reasons that are incapsulated in the famous quote “Educate a man and you educate one person; educate a woman and you educate a whole nation.”  Again this is a no brainer that all governments, business and philanthropists must heed. Former Prime Minister of the UK Gordon Brown is a passionate leader on this issue and led several conversations about initiatives around the world including in Malawi and Pakistan that are already showing great promise

And then there was a most exciting conversation around innovation and the use of technology in education and skills development. The MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) led by Coursera, Edx and Udacity were there in full force participating in conversations alongside Universities and discussing how blended learning is becoming the norm in the US. A few of us social entrepreneurs are working in this space in African countries and in Mexico.

Now I find this conversation quite fascinating for two reasons. The first is that entrepreneurs and innovators have disrupted the University learning norm and forced a new standard and way of learning giving students more control and input into their own learning. Watch this space for more disruption. The second is that the conversations at the WEFs on blended learning et all are very focused on the US and a little in Europe excluding the contexts elsewhere. For Africa where less than 15% of students ever go to Tertiary institutions of any kind, the question is not so much should learning be blended. But rather can mobile and online learning revolutionize skills development and education by extending it to potential students who would otherwise not stand a chance to go to a physical institution for myriad of reasons.  Khan Academy is already blazing the trail in this area with online courses available for free on all kinds of important skills and curricula. Innovators in this space have the opportunity to significantly impact on this space and close that inequality gap that is driven significantly by access or not to education and skills.

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And there was so much more that was really inspiring at the WEF. The President of Mongolia shared his radical approach to stem corruption in government, business and society and I believe he needs to become a roving Ambassador to persuade his peers to do the same.

And what fun to bump into Matt Damon, Eric Schmidt of Google or Bill Gates or The Queen of Belgium and simply stop to have a chat because we all had an – almost – equal place at the table.

For those of us coming from the warmer south, I so get why the meetings are held in that beautiful, picturesque but oh so so cold skiing resort town of Davos. Now how else would you get us all to sit through 4 very full days of conversation after conversation knowing full well that we won’t sneak out to bask in the sun or go shopping. The cold and falling snow outside made sure that we all walked briskly to and from the Congress Centre determined to keep our bodies and brains warm with all that great and passionate sharing and exchange of ideas. Nice!

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Click here to watch Anne’s video from Davos

 


Afroes wins 3rd Prize at Dragon’s Den

Jun6

The 5th Global Forum on innovation and technology entrepreneurship saw Afroes scoop the 3rd prize in the Dragons Den competition. Afroes was chosen from 50 companies, which had entered the Dragon’s Den Pitching Competition. The Dragons’ Den was one of the highlights at the three-day Global Forum, organised by the World Bank’s infoDev, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and the Eastern Cape Province.

Derek Hanekom, South African Minister for Science and Technology was full of praise for the company headed by Anne Githuku Shongwe. “African innovators like Afroes are increasingly receiving global recognition in important technology areas. Such success stories clearly illustrate the impact innovation can have,” said the minister.

Afroes creates uniquely African mobile applications and tools for social development agencies and corporate enterprises keen to spread educational and branded messages across the continent. Hanekom said that Africa was embracing its role in advancing the global innovation agenda, at the same time empowering citizens, creating jobs and growing the economy.

Apart from the award competition, the Global Forum was a platform to connect entrepreneurs with mentors, financiers and partners from around the globe, and to exchange ideas of how to create the right ‘eco-system’ for innovative firms.

To read the full press release click on the link below:

http://www.sanews.gov.za/south-africa/science-minister-congratulates-sa-company-innovation

https://infodev.org/press-releases/media-release-5th-global-forum-innovation-and-technology-entrepreneurship-awards-five

 

 


Anne Githuku-Shongwe wins Schwab Foundation Social Entrepreneur of the Year 2013

Apr17

Anne Githuku-Shongwe, founder of Afroes, along with twenty-three other social entrepreneurs, has been acknowledged by the Schwab Foundation as Social Entrepreneurs of the Year 2013. The winners were selected in recognition of their innovative approaches and potential for global impact. was one of the winners

“Now that the terms social entrepreneurship and social innovation are well known, it is easy to forget that even a few short years ago they were virtually unheard of,” says Hilde Schwab. “For decades and in relative obscurity, social entrepreneurs have been doing the hard work of building trust with the poor, finding solutions to their problems and creating entire business models and organizations that take their needs into account.”

For more information go to: http://www.weforum.org/news/schwab-foundation-social-entrepreneurship-announces-social-entrepreneurs-year-2013


The Greatest Return of Investment Is Investing in the Mindsets of the Future Generation of Leaders

Mar8

“I have been guilty of the belief that the deep and complex challenges we face in Africa are insurmountable and the responsibility of governments or the United Nations. Of all the challenges, it worried me most that the youth in countries like Kenya, the country of my birth, or South Africa my adoptive home would continue in this vicious cycle. Yet we hear about the phenomenal growth of African economies and in particular, the story of the growth and reach of the mobile phone — connecting Africa in new ways previously unimagined. I felt challenged to play my part and contribute to the change in Africa.”

Read all about the Afroes story in the Huffington Post Blog

Direct Link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/anne-githukushongwe/afroes-anne-githuku-shongwe_b_2819045.html


Haki 2 gets Honourable Mention from UNAOC

Mar5

Haki 2: Chaguo Ni Lako was given Honourable Mention by The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC), the MIT Education Arcade, and Learning Games Network during their international competition for app and game developers to produce apps and mobile games that enable new avenues for intercultural dialogue, spanning a range of relevant topics and applications. http://www.unaoc.org/create/honorable-mentions/

 

The United Nations Alliance of Civilizations (UNAOC) is an initiative of the UN Secretary-General which aims to improve understanding and cooperative relations among nations and peoples across cultures and religions, and to help counter the forces that fuel polarization and extremism. It works at the grassroots level promoting innovative projects that build trust, reconciliation and mutual respect. Create UNAOC is a global competition co-organized by the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, the Learning Games Network, and the MIT Education Arcade in search of mobile apps and games that can enable new avenues for intercultural dialogue.

Haki 2 was designed by Afroes and the Tuvuke partnership to inspire players through critical information placed in a fun way, encouraging dialogue and contemplation about the contentious issues on forms of leadership; the rights and responsibilities of Kenyan citizen; access to and distribution of productive resources; and of livelihoods.

 

Haki 2 challenges the user to reflect on the choices they make and the consequences of such choices on peace in Kenya. The game, which is available on both Java and Android phones, is focused on ensuring that millions of young Kenyans (between 18 and 35) are encouraged to make a commitment to peace and tolerance and also raise their hands to the Tuvuke slogan NIMEJIANDIKISHA!


Afroes at TEDx Soweto

Dec10

Did you miss Afroes at Soweto TEDx – the independently organised global TED talks?

Well fear not! You can watch the video right here:

And read all about it on the TEDx Blog here.


Musings from Montreal by Nathan Masyuko

Nov19

Afroes Conquers the World Summit Youth Awards in Montreal

The WSYA 2012 Collective

After a long, long trip I finally land in Montreal and like clockwork meet with Mxolisi (whom we fondly call Mx around the office) and get a taxi to the apartment we will be staying at. By the way, even though Mx and I had worked together for a couple of years, this was the first time we actually met each other in person. I still find it amazing how the world has evolved, because up till now our work has been done via the internet and VoIP conference calls.

Both of us are visiting Montreal for the first time. We were invited to receive awards from the World Summit Youth Award (WSYA) 2012 for two games that we produced at our company, Afroes Company Ltd. Moraba which was produced out of South Africa, where Mx calls home, and Haki: Shield & Defend which was developed in Kenya, my home country.

The next day, after we manage to catch a few hours’ sleep and settle ourselves, we meet our friend, Masaud who is a resident of Montreal and he takes us on our first, amazing tour of one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited.

In my view, “Montreal is a city you can fall in love with and a city you can fall in love in.” No surprise then that I simply loved it. The buildings’ design with their French and English influences, Old Montreal, the Old Port and the most breathtaking view of the city when you ascend Mount Royal – were all quite incredible. We also got to try a couple of the dishes native to Montreal, like smoked meat and poutine. I’ll be forever grateful to Masaud for his time patience (especially when we did boring stuff like shop) and for sharing the best of Montreal with Mx and I.

Then came the reason we travelled halfway across the world, the World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT) and WSYA. The WCIT is an impressive showcase of industry leaders, government ministers and speakers who shared their experiences and goals that are setting their countries and companies at the forefront of development.

I even got to meet Larry King and participate on a panel he was moderating with 7 other high profile panelists.

We also had the opportunity to mingle and network with them. But what I will forever take away with me, is the opportunity I had to interact with wonderful young people I met who including Mx and I formed the 18 winners and 12 runner’s up of the World Summit Youth Awards.

I was impressed by the work they are doing in their respective countries and how they are helping to influence the next generation in a positive way. They say that “Social Enterprise” is a new breed of business that is a cross between Non-for-Profit and for-profit business.

So getting to interact with them and share ideas was ultimately what the WSYA stands for. This was a celebration of young people who are developing solutions using mobile and internet to realize the Millennium Development Goals.

I made new, like-minded friends and look forward to changing the world together with them in our different corners of the world.


Reflections from World Summit Youth Awards Montreal, Canada

Nov16

Moraba: The Anti Gender Based Violence Mobile Phone Game, winner in the “Power2Women” category of the World Summit Youth Awards (WSYA) 2012 has been acknowledged for it’s ability to deliver on the Afroes promise to let audiences play, be inspired and facilitate interactive in-game messages to impact players lives.

In the eyes of the World Summit Youth Awards 2012 judging panel, Moraba is an initiative and game app that epitomizes what it means for youth to take action on the Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s). And as a result, Moraba attained international acclaim and recognition at the World Conference on Information Technology (WCIT) in Montreal, Canada.

Moraba: Winning Game At World Summit Youth Awards

Moraba impressed the judges and panelists with its deliberate targeting of young males in it’s anti-gender based violence messaging. Thereby, bringing the male figure into the conversations around the violence perpetrated against women and children. Moraba’s user generated content methodology is a new take on content delivery.  Afroes is not only seeking to change mindsets of global youth but the same youth are also an integral part in developing the in-game content of the game and make it a platform to interrogate harmful attitudes, motivate action and address negative stereotypes.

It is heartening to know we are not alone in our endeavour to create a more equitable society and eradicate violence against women and children, this is evidenced by the work and efforts of fellow winners in the Power2Women category .’I heart being a girl‘, GotStared.At and The African Women Power Network are all doing inspirational and transformational work in their respective countries. The onus is now on us to take the acknowledged ‘islands of excellence’ that these projects are and fashion a global village of excellent, inspiring global citizens; all while encouraging a global network of individuals who are mindful of their rights and responsibilities towards one another in creating equitable, respectful and supportive societies.

Moraba highlighted the missing voices of youth around the issues of gender based violence. Moraba provided insights into impact in terms of what are perceived to be appropriate gender roles and behaviours amongst youth and asked the pertinent question of individuals, communities, societies, organizations and institutions: Who will change the status quo?

Call To Action: Do you want to change the status quo? Play Moraba, Share Moraba, Discuss Moraba!!!

Change Is Ours!!!

@ www.afroes.com/moraba

 


Afroes featured on infodev.org Website

Sep20

 

 

Please click here to see Anne Shongwe and Moraba featured on infodev.org’s website.

 


Afroes has been selected for the Enablis Growing IT Entrepreneurs Programme

Sep20

It has been a month of good news and the Afroes team is feeling truly blessed. Today we received some more good news – we are proud to announce that Afroes has qualified for the Enablis Growing IT Entrepreneurs Programme.

The project, which is an initiative of Enablis Entrepreneurial Network supported by NetHope Inc. seeks to transform IT Techies into successful entrepreneurs. The one-year Project running in three countries (Kenya, Rwanda and Ghana) is targeting IT Techies from universities, technical institutions, and technological incubation centers among others.

The project will support a total of 100 Techies in all three countries. The selected Techies will be trained on how to draw up a fundable business plan, receive training on how to start and run their businesses effectively and will also have access to marketing linkages and business funding platforms.

We are very happy to share this prestigious position with some very innovative and driven peers. Below is Nathan Masyuko – Afroes Business Development and Product Manager – holding up Afroes’ membership certificate.

 

 

Nathan Masyuko with the Enablis Membership Certificate