New Wave of African Entrepreneurship:
Mobile Technology for Healthcare

Many African entrepreneurs have partnered with government officials across the continent in the development of mobile and web interfaces to combat the continent’s healthcare deficiencies.  Rural regions suffer most from substandard health care due to lack of information and distance from major urban health centers, and a cadre of young African entrepreneurs are working to rectify this trend.

For example in Uganda, Kaak Yelpaala (pictured above), a former employee of the Clinton Health Access Initiative, has created a mobile tech company called “Access Mobile.” The company’s first application “Clinic Communicator” creates an innovative patient-doctor interface. Patients and healthcare providers can create and cancel appointments on mobile and web platforms. This innovation provides broader and more efficient access to healthcare throughout rural and urban Uganda. 

While in Cameroon, Alain Nteff’s mobile platform ‘Gifted Mom’ addresses women’s health concerns such as pre- and post-natal care. The application uses low-cost SMS to connect rural women to urban health centers which provide information for management of pregnancies and care of newborns. The application also sponsors teen and sex health education, child vaccine tracking, and family planning/contraception campaigns.

Also in Cameroon, IT specialist Arthur Zang (pictured left) is the creator of central Africa’s first medical tablet that revolutionizes the communication of diagnostics. The tablet comes with an accompanying kit which measures electrocardiograms. The kit also sends the results via mobile phone connection to a central service, which diagnoses the readings and returns the data with treatment plans and prescription information.

Zang’s next project will be the creation of a nationwide network of hospitals and cardiologist data-sharing services. His company also is working on developing a series of medical devices such as ultrasound equipment and medical emergency alert systems.  He asserts, “We have to think very big, we have to think Pan-African, and we have to think about how we can innovate for the world." 

Nigeria’s Outgoing President Signs FGM Ban as Part of Final Acts in Office

Last week, as one of his last acts in power, outgoing President Goodluck Johnathan signed a bill into law that bans the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) across Nigeria. Non-governmental organizations were cautiously optimistic, praising the move as a very important step to eliminating the dangerous practice of FGM on the entire African continent.

Nigerian women’s rights and health advocates who have campaigned against FGM extensively stressed the importance of implementation and enforcement of this law moving forward. “It’s not just a victory for us, for our organization, but everyone,” Nihinlola T. Mabogunje, Nigerian director of a reproductive health non-profit said.

Kavinya Makau, who works for Equality Now and is based in Kenya, told news outlets that while the law was welcome, she did not want to romanticize it and added that it was vital for the law to be backed up by initiatives that teach communities about the dangers of FGM. The practice, which is most popular in large sections of Africa, the Middle East and Asia often leads to infertility, infection and a host of other health issues in young girls.

According to a 2014 UNICEF report, about a quarter of girls in Nigeria have been victims of FGM.  As the country with the largest population in Africa, this law has the opportunity to be quite influential with other countries in the region. Mary Wandia from Equality Now, told The Guardian that “with such a huge population, Nigeria’s vote in favor of women and girls is hugely important.” She added that she hoped other countries in the region, including Liberia, Sudan and Mali followed suit.

Several states in Nigeria had already banned the practice of FGM, but the current law would bring the rest of the 36 states into compliance with a federal ban. Under the new law, which was passed by the Senate on May 5, the practice of FGM is punishable by a fine as well as a prison sentence.  However, as many advocates have said, the law is just one part to the puzzle. “Global experience tells us that ultimately, it’s through changing attitudes, not just laws, that we will end FGM,” Tanya Barron from Plan International told Reuters. 

Last week, as one of his last acts in power, outgoing President Goodluck Johnathan signed a bill into law that bans the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) across Nigeria. Non-governmental organizations were cautiously optimistic, praising the move as a very important step to eliminating the dangerous practice of FGM on the entire African continent.

Nigerian women’s rights and health advocates who have campaigned against FGM extensively stressed the importance of implementation and enforcement of this law moving forward. “It’s not just a victory for us, for our organization, but everyone,” Nihinlola T. Mabogunje, Nigerian director of a reproductive health non-profit said.

Kavinya Makau, who works for Equality Now and is based in Kenya, told news outlets that while the law was welcome, she did not want to romanticize it and added that it was vital for the law to be backed up by initiatives that teach communities about the dangers of FGM. The practice, which is most popular in large sections of Africa, the Middle East and Asia often leads to infertility, infection and a host of other health issues in young girls.

According to a 2014 UNICEF report, about a quarter of girls in Nigeria have been victims of FGM.  As the country with the largest population in Africa, this law has the opportunity to be quite influential with other countries in the region. Mary Wandia from Equality Now, told The Guardian that “with such a huge population, Nigeria’s vote in favor of women and girls is hugely important.” She added that she hoped other countries in the region, including Liberia, Sudan and Mali followed suit.

Several states in Nigeria had already banned the practice of FGM, but the current law would bring the rest of the 36 states into compliance with a federal ban. Under the new law, which was passed by the Senate on May 5, the practice of FGM is punishable by a fine as well as a prison sentence.  However, as many advocates have said, the law is just one part to the puzzle. “Global experience tells us that ultimately, it’s through changing attitudes, not just laws, that we will end FGM,” Tanya Barron from Plan International told Reuters. 

New Railway Represents the Expansion of African Infrastructure

In early June, the East African nations of Djibouti and Ethiopia completed construction on a 481-mile railway (pictured above) that connects the port of Djibouti to the landlocked Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

The railway, scheduled to be operational in October, will reduce the travel time from two days to ten hours. The port of Djibouti currently controls 90 percent of imports to Ethiopia and is considered vital to the economic vitality of Ethiopia and the region.  Ethiopia’s economy is projected to grow at 8 percent in the next five years, which will increase traffic on the route from 1,500 trucks per year to 8,000.  The electrified railway will be able to carry 3,500 tons of goods, seven times more than previously existing transport systems.
 
The railway is the latest in a series of infrastructure rebuilding projects, including a light rail system completed earlier this year, Ethiopia has undertaken to modernize its modes of transportation. The project will continue with the construction of several hydroelectric dams and 3,000 miles of new rail lines by 2020.

The government of Djibouti has also taken steps to solidify its place as the transportation hub of East Africa. The modern transportation infrastructure plan includes the construction of six ports and two airports. The improved efficiency will benefit job growth in Djibouti and further fuel the economies of East Africa.

The Chairman of Djibouti’s Port Authority aspires to create a transcontinental railway that extends into West Africa.  The project represents the continued economic momentum for the African continent; home to many of the world’s fastest-growing economies.