The Microsoft Africa Development Centre (ADC) and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), Department of Computing have reviewed the university’s Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science and Bachelor of Computer Technology curriculum to make them more relevant to industry demands.
The new curriculum will impact the delivery of 128 units within the university’s Computer science and Computer technology courses. The curriculum is expected to start with the September 2023 students intake.
The updated curriculum will assist in preparing students for the demands of a rapidly changing technology industry by emphasizing practical skill development and simulating real-world experience within the classroom. In addition to a refreshed approach to traditional technological concepts, the reviewed curriculum will introduce new and innovative concepts, including Applied Machine Learning, Virtual Reality, Quantum Computing, and User Experience Design, as well as industry-standard tools at the education level to improve student’s familiarity with them as they enter the workplace.
Catherine Muraga, the Managing Director at Microsoft ADC said that they are delighted to have partnered with Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) in the curriculum review process and have their experts contribute specialized knowledge that will allow for tech industry-ready students and use of improved standards of teaching. Globally employable Kenyans boost Kenya’s attractiveness as a destination for technology companies looking to invest here. The startup ecosystem, local businesses, and entrepreneurs working on transforming technology will also benefit.
The curriculum review process is part of the ADC’s larger goal of catalyzing digital transformation by providing opportunities for skill and practical knowledge acquisition to equip Kenyans to be competitive in the global digital landscape.
“The review process has been extensive, with invaluable insights and recommendations from experienced industry experts that will add significant value to classroom instruction. We look forward to providing our students with best-in-class education that integrates practical skills building and theoretical understanding as they prepare for success in the technology industry,” said Dr Lawrence Nderu, Chairman, Department of Computing at JKUAT.
Similar curriculum review initiatives will be implemented at other institutions of higher learning as part of efforts to bridge the ever-present gap between industry and academia, particularly in the technology sector.
“We believe that by partnering with educational institutions, from primary school to the university level, we can help create a future workforce equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to thrive in a digital age. We look forward to working with other institutions of higher learning to develop curricula that will improve the whole technology talent pipeline and grow the pool of tech talent in the country to benefit the whole ecosystem,” added Ms Muraga.
Co-Founder and CTO of Ampersand, Alp Tilev, says the transition to e-mobility in Africa must be expedited. He shares more on why there is an opportunity to drive the adoption of electrically powered motorcycles that produce less pollution in Africa. Talking about the financial and environmental advantages of electric motorcycles for drivers and the environment.
Historically, Asia has been the birthplace of motorcycles. China, India, Indonesia, and Vietnam are the world’s four largest motorcycle markets. The continent is home to roughly 58% of all motorcycles in the world.
Africa is quickly catching up. According to a report by AMEND and the FIA Foundation, motorcycle usage in Africa has increased from less than 5 million in 2010 to an estimated 27 million in 2022. Because of Africa’s entrepreneurial spirit, 80% of the continent’s motorcycles are used for commercial purposes such as taxis or delivery services.
Although Africa’s contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions is negligible at under four percent, these petrol-powered two-wheelers contribute a significant amount of carbon emissions. As Africa joins the rest of the world in the drive to reduce pollution, there is an opportunity to drive the adoption of electrically powered motorcycles that produce less pollution.
Electric motorcycles are hardly a new concept, but they are relatively new to Africa where they are starting to gain momentum by firmly making their way into the cultural and economic zeitgeist while inching the continent’s travelers towards a lower carbon future.
Adoption of electric motorcycles in Africa has its challenges, the issue of charging batteries being one. Given that a significant proportion of motorcycles on African roads are used for commercial purposes, riders rarely have time to wait for their batteries to charge.
However, there are innovative solutions that can be deployed to address the challenge, and technology is rapidly advancing, providing opportunities for innovators to create long-term solutions to the continent’s most pressing challenges.
On the back of this, we created Ampersand, an electric motorcycle and transportation energy solutions provider that allows riders to stay on the road while their batteries charge. To make this possible, we built a network of charging stations where riders can swap out depleted batteries for fully charged ones in only 2 minutes, saving them over $500 per year by reducing downtime.
Furthermore, each battery has a range of 60-90 km and needs to be replaced less frequently than drivers typically refuel with petrol. This solution not only saves drivers money but also ensures that they have a constant source of power, making electric motorcycles a more viable transportation option.
As the business grew from the initial 20 drivers to the current 800+ vehicles in Kigali and Nairobi, one of the challenges we encountered was keeping track of the batteries and their condition. With hundreds of drivers swapping out batteries every day, being able to track them and ensure they are in good condition is critical to our ability to support more drivers. Consequently, we built AmperOps, an adaptive cloud solution built on Microsoft’s Azure platform that allows the collection of over 15,000 data points and the execution of multiple transactions per second. The system also enables seamless management of battery packs through customizable parameters such as state of health analysis and geofenced alarms for increased security.
Furthermore, the system includes smart maintenance systems that automatically notify the team of required battery or vehicle repairs before they occur. With this level of customization and real-time response, we can gain a thorough understanding of the performance of each swap station, driver, and battery.
In the long run, the advantages of electric motorcycles extend beyond financial savings for drivers and environmental advantages. As Africa continues to industrialize, so will the capacity for designing, building, and assembling motorcycle components. This demonstrates an opportunity for green job growth throughout the value chain, from design to delivery and maintenance. Given that Ampersand users travel over 1.9 million kilometers per month, there is a clear opportunity for electric motorcycles to impact Africa’s transportation industry and for electric motorcycles to become the sustainable lifeblood of public transport systems In fact, we have set an ambitious goal of electrifying all motorcycles in East Africa by 2030, and earlier in Rwanda by 2027.
Without a doubt, electric motorcycles have the potential to be a viable mode of transportation for millions of Africans. Technology will drive change by enabling innovators to create solutions to niche challenges in the adoption of e-mobility. With the right investment, Africa’s transportation industry could be transformed while also creating job opportunities, reducing pollution, and saving drivers money.
Fintech is one of the most dynamic and innovative sectors in Africa, with hundreds of startups offering solutions for payments, lending, banking, insurance and more. In 2022, African fintech startups raised over $1.4 billion in funding, according to Disrupt Africa, and attracted global attention with acquisitions and partnerships.
Africa is a continent with immense potential for innovation and growth in the financial sector. According to the World Bank, more than 60% of the population in sub-Saharan Africa is unbanked, meaning they lack access to formal financial services such as savings, credit, insurance and payments. However, thanks to the rapid adoption of mobile phones and internet connectivity, many African entrepreneurs are developing innovative solutions to address this gap and provide affordable and convenient financial services to millions of people.
In this blog post, we will highlight five African fintech startups that are making waves in the industry and have the potential to scale up and impact millions of lives in 2023 and beyond.
Okra is a Nigerian startup that provides an API platform for connecting bank accounts to third-party applications. Founded in 2019, Okra has secured partnerships with major players like Access Bank, Interswitch and uLesson, and raised $10 million in a seed round led by TLcom Capital and Accenture Ventures. Okra enables businesses to access real-time financial data, initiate payments, verify identity and perform direct debits from customers’ bank accounts.
Moove is a Nigerian mobility fintech that provides revenue-based vehicle financing to drivers and transport entrepreneurs across Africa. Launched in 2019, Moove has facilitated over $200 million in loans for more than 10,000 drivers on platforms like Uber and Bolt. Moove leverages data and technology to assess credit risk and offer flexible repayment terms based on drivers’ earnings. Moove raised $68.5 million in a Series A round led by Speedinvest and Left Lane Capital.
Tabby is an Egyptian startup that offers a buy now, pay later (BNPL) service for online and offline shoppers in the Middle East and North Africa. Founded in 2019, Tabby allows customers to split their purchases into four interest-free installments or pay after 14 days with no fees. Tabby partners with over 2,000 merchants across various sectors, including fashion, electronics, beauty and travel. Tabby raised $50 million in a Series B round led by Global Founders Capital and STV.
Wave is a Senegalese startup that provides a mobile money service that allows users to send and receive money instantly and securely via their phones. Founded in 2018, Wave aims to make mobile money more accessible and affordable by charging no fees for transactions and offering competitive exchange rates. Wave operates in Senegal, Uganda, Gambia, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast, where it claims to have over 5 million active users and process over $2.5 billion in annualized payment volume. Wave raised $200 million in a Series A round led by Sequoia Heritage and Stripe.
JUMO is a South African startup that operates a technology platform for building and running financial services for emerging markets. Founded in 2014, JUMO partners with banks, mobile network operators and fintech companies to offer credit, savings and insurance products to underserved customers. JUMO has served over 20 million customers and disbursed over $3 billion in loans across 15 markets in Africa and Asia. JUMO raised $55 million in a funding round led by Goldman Sachs.
Blockchain technology is a platform for designing financial services that can bridge many gaps in today’s virtual market system. It allows for data to be synchronized across multiple, independent stakeholders, enabling greater transparency, efficiency, and security. Blockchain technology can have a significant impact on small businesses in Africa, especially in the areas of payment solutions, access to finance, and operational improvement.
Blockchain technology can facilitate low-cost, real-time, and cross-border payments for small businesses in Africa. This can help them overcome the challenges of high fees, slow transactions, and currency fluctuations that often hamper their trade with local and international partners. For example, Stellar is a blockchain network that connects payment systems, banks, and people around the world, allowing for fast and cheap money transfers. Stellar has partnered with several African fintech companies, such as Flutterwave, Cowrie, and ClickPesa, to provide blockchain-based payment solutions for small businesses in Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Tanzania.
Access to finance
Blockchain technology can also help small businesses in Africa access more funding opportunities and build a credit history. Many small businesses in Africa face difficulties in obtaining loans from traditional financial institutions due to a lack of collateral, documentation, and credit scores. Blockchain technology can enable alternative lending platforms that use smart contracts, digital assets, and peer-to-peer networks to provide loans to small businesses based on their transaction history, reputation, and social capital. For example, Bitbond is a blockchain-based lending platform that connects borrowers and lenders globally, offering loans to small businesses in Africa without intermediaries or credit checks.
Blockchain technology can also enhance the operational efficiency and productivity of small businesses in Africa by automating processes, reducing fraud, and improving supply chain management. It can enable smart contracts that execute automatically based on predefined conditions, eliminating the need for manual intervention and verification. Blockchain technology can also provide a secure and immutable record of transactions and data, reducing the risk of tampering, corruption, and theft. Blockchain technology can also improve the traceability and transparency of supply chains, allowing small businesses to verify the origin, quality, and delivery of their products. For example, Bext360 is a blockchain-based platform that tracks the journey of coffee beans from farmers to consumers, ensuring fair trade and quality control.
In conclusion, blockchain technology can have a positive impact on small businesses in Africa by providing them with more efficient, affordable, and accessible financial services and business solutions. Blockchain technology can help small businesses overcome some of the barriers they face in today’s market system and unlock new opportunities for growth and development.
University students from across Kenya and some parts of Africa can now apply to participate in season 4 of the Microsoft Africa Development Centre’s (ADC) Game of Learners (GOL) student hackathon competition. The GOL initiative provides an opportunity for African university students, aspiring software engineers, and solution builders to improve their technical and coding abilities while creating solutions to current challenges facing the continent and the world.
GoL student hackathon Season 4
In this year’s student hackathon competition, participants will be working to develop possible technology solutions that can address different health challenges, including how to improve healthcare service provision in their localities or other parts of the world. The program runs as a 5-week hackathon with teams captained by Microsoft Learn Student Ambassadors crafting the innovations while receiving technical training from Microsoft’s professionals.
“Since we launched Game of Learners four years ago, we have seen incredible development in the learner’ skills through each season as they create incredibly clever solutions to some of Africa’s pressing problems using Microsoft technology,” said Ruth Ferland, Senior Program Manager at ADC, and the founder of the Game of Learners Program. “This year’s theme will allow the participants to plug into an area that has enormous potential to impact lives across the continent and indeed around the world.”
The students will benefit from the instruction of 32 coaches and more than 20 advisors who will guide them through the process of learning new technologies and building their solutions. The coaches, mentors, judges, speakers, and trainers will consist of volunteers from Microsoft and partners, who for season 4 will include PSI and AMREF Health Africa.
At the end of the season, the winning team will be eligible for awards, including collaboration with GOL Season 4 partners to advance their solution and entry into the Microsoft Imagine Cup, where they will present their innovation on a global stage.
“This partnership with Microsoft is part of a larger initiative to increase the talent pool of individuals working in Digital Health across Africa”, said Martin Dale, Population Services International’s (PSI) Global Director of Digital Health. “There is so much talent graduating from our universities and Game of Learners is a great opportunity for students to dig in and create solutions that make health care more accessible to all.”, he continued.
Speaking about the initiative, Samuel Weru, AMREF Health Africa Group ICT Director, challenged students to apply for the program and be part of the drive towards creating home-grown solutions for Africa’s challenges.
“As a continent that has historically had serious healthcare challenges, we need the kind of ideas that can only come from the youth to revitalize healthcare service provision. There are myriad opportunities ranging from health informatics and telemedicine to big data analysis and system security for the learners to explore. We are eager to work with the teams to create solutions that have the potential to change Africa and the world,” said Weru.
GoL Season 4
In total, Season 4 will have 16 teams, each made up of 4 learners, 2 men and 2 women, drawn from all over the continent. The virtual student hackathon competition is open to students of accredited universities and colleges in sub-Saharan Africa, who will be vetted as per the requirements after submitting an online application.
“The program is designed to provide a fun, hands-on learning experience while creating a virtual environment that transcends borders to allow young minds to collaborate and drive the advancement of Africa into a global innovation hub. Having gender-balanced teams further ties into our mission of promoting diversity and inclusion within the tech industry,” explains Ferland.
Like a sports league, each 5-week season of Game of Learners follows up with a month-long season of GOL Clinic and GOL exhibitions to accord individuals seeking deeper hands-on technical experience and specialized training from Microsoft and GOL partners.
Microsoft is partnering with OCP Africa through its Africa Transformation Office (ATO), with the goal of positively impacting smallholder farmers and Agri-stakeholders across Africa by 2025. OCP Africa, an African company that provides fertilizer solutions tailored to local conditions as well as the needs of soils and crops throughout the continent, will collaborate with Microsoft to strengthen and scale its digital agriculture platform. This platform improves farmer productivity while allowing them to better manage their businesses.
“In this time of increasing food insecurity, enhancing the resilience and livelihoods for smallholder farmers is needed to drive increased agriculture productivity, including reducing losses in the food production chain. With the increasing impacts of more frequent extreme weather events, adaptation, and resilience are of crucial importance to the food system’s transformation,” said Wael Elkabbany, General Manager for Microsoft Africa Regional Cluster.
The announcement was made in Doha, Qatar at the 5th United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries. The collaboration will enable smallholder farmers to gain access to skilling and information through Agri-digital services, leveraging OCP Africa programs such as the Farmer Hub concept to support millions of farmers. OCP Africa will also collaborate with Microsoft to explore the use of big data, machine learning, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to build their data and AI platform to improve operational efficiency and better serve ecosystem stakeholders.
On his part, the CEO of OCP Africa Dr. Mohamed Anouar Jamali said: “African agriculture is at a transformational moment in its history – and a time of incredible possibility and promise for farmers and industry alike. Digitizing agricultural practices in Africa allows smallholder farmers to optimize their decision-making, which in turn helps optimize production. The partnership between OCP Africa and Microsoft will allow us to increase the services provided and scale up our digital agriculture platform, expand our reach, and make an even bigger impact on food security across the continent.”
Collaboration with African AgriTech startups, agricultural firms, and partners to increase access to technology, skills, and agricultural knowledge is expected to optimize the industry and generate new revenue streams that will ensure global food security. The adoption and integration of technologies such as the Cloud, AI, Agri Data Platforms, and Azure App modernization into the agricultural space is also expected to deliver transformation in the form of precision agriculture.
“We believe that precision farming, brought about by the adoption of advanced technologies into the agricultural sector, will revolutionize food production and help to eliminate hunger and poverty in Africa. Technology is the key factor in enabling and increasing access to finance, equipment, and sustainability for rural farmers, empowering local farmers in Africa. Our partnership with OCP Africa will help to directly impact smallholder farmers and improve production,” added Elkabbany.