Innovate Africa

Technology pays

Using mobile phones to run small businesses, bringing women into tech workplaces in Rwanda, and a solar-powered kiosk.

Kenya is Africa’s market leader when it comes to mobile money. MPESA, Africa’s simplest and cheapest way of transferring money, has resulted in around 11.5 million Kenyan adults using cell phone technology to pay their bills.

Kariuki Gathitu and his team at Zege technologies have taken MPESA a step further. Their small team has designed a successful platform to facilitate small businesses. The charges are minimal, payments made and received are recorded and company records updated; all on a simple mobile phone.  The charges are minimal, payments made and received are recorded and company records updated – all on a simple mobile phone. Kariuki believes that pioneering mobile cash platforms like MPAYER are challenging the traditional banking system and will continue to forcing down the cost of paying bills and moving money for millions of Africans.

Clarisse Iribagiza was named in Forbes magazine as one of the outstanding ’30 under 30′ tech entrepreneurs in Africa. While still at university in Rwanda, she started her company with a small group of friends. Together, they were determined to use their skills to make money while adding value to their country. Their first mobile application was designed to help Rwandans find their way around Kigali. “Hehe” is the Kinyarwanda word for “where” and the app soon took off. Since then, Clarisse has grown her business and is creating everything from scooter-safety apps to agricultural online markets. She is committed to bringing Rwandan girls into the tech workplace and is behind the five to make Rwanda a mobile information society.

Henri Nyakarundi is a Rwandan who left his country to study, with one idea in mind – to come home with the skill and expertise to create business opportunities for other Rwandans. He has designed a small, solar-powered kiosk which can be towed by a bicycle to the required destination. It is able to charge a variety of mobile phones for a very small charge. He has also created a business model for people eager to own a kiosk. For a small investment, owners have an instant business. He is currently developing a range of lights and other solar powered products that will be available for sale at the kiosks.

In South Africa, Ludwick Marishane has created the “Dry Bath Gel”, a chemical concoction which can be used to take the place of washing or showering. About 2.5 billion people around the world live without reliable access to water, and the gel makes it possible for people to sterilise their hands and faces, preventing the transmission of many diseases. Ludwig developed the product through trial and error and wrote his entire business plan on his cell phone.


Innovate Africa can be seen on Al Jazeera English at the following times GMT: Tuesday: 2230; Wednesday: 0930; Thursday: 0330; Friday: 1630; Saturday: 0530.