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Policy hackathon explained: How an all-society approach can engage entrepreneurs and governments to develop better policy in West Africa

Alexandre Laure's picture
Also available in: Français
Brainstorming session at the Bamako Policy Hackathon
Brainstorming session at the Bamako Policy Hackathon. Photo: World Bank

What would happen if you put all the relevant players for the entrepreneurial ecosystem — startup founders, policymakers, developers, students, investors — into one room and facilitated an open dialogue on improving the business environment? This is exactly what is taking place in West Africa through a series of policy hackathons supported by the World Bank.

We all have a stake in development and this multifaceted process – local, top-down, bottom-up – is a great example of African innovation. Civic engagement in policymaking is not happening elsewhere so it’s not just about importing knowledge and best practice but generating lessons we can export to the rest of the world,” said Sebastian Molineus, World Bank Director of the Finance, Competitiveness and Innovation (FCI) Global Practice about policy hackathons taking place in West Africa, at a recent World Bank Brown-Bag Lunch in January.

So what is a policy hackathon?

What did 200 African incubators learn from our webinar on open innovation?

Alexandre Laure's picture
Also available in: Français
 Niger Digital.
Entrepreneurs participating in the e-Takara competition to address specific challenges expressed by Nigerien public administrations. Credit: Niger Digital

The training has completed my knowledge about open innovation. I can now go and talk to potential clients to identify their needs and show what we can offer them.” -- Mariem Kane, Hadina RIMTIC incubator
 
Distributive, participative and decentralized, open innovation programs can pave the way for start-ups to access larger markets and business opportunities. They also allow corporate partners to respond quickly to changing market dynamics and test out new products or target new audiences.

Does the digital economy provide tourism opportunities for local communities in Africa?

Hermione Nevill's picture
tribe-traditional
The authentic travel experience should be a boon for Africa, but its missing the mark.

Since 2016, tourism market trends have shifted away from “get-a-way” travel to traveling for ‘authentic’ experiences.  This transformation is driven by the world’s largest consumer group—millennials—and amplified by digital platforms and social media but is also echoed across other segments. Destinations and entrepreneurs are catching on and developing ‘off-the-beaten-path’ products that provide travelers greater interaction with local people.

African countries, with their abundant wealth of natural and cultural assets, are perfectly positioned to capitalize on this shift, just as the rise of digital platforms are reducing market access barriers for such products. However, in our new World Bank Group report, we found that while demand for experiencing ‘life like a local’ in Africa is set to outpace growth of arrivals, there are still many supply-side challenges that need to be addressed.
  • Standards: Africa’s market share lags other regions, and many products are not of sufficient standard. 
  • Exclusion and the digital divide: Marginalized groups, often best placed to deliver the product, are at risk of further exclusion. 
  • Community Impact: Bringing tourism into communities also brings other risks which need to be managed. 

Leveraging finance for the Nigerian off-grid solar market

Jonathan Coony's picture
When I asked a table of Nigerian bankers whether corporate debt to finance solar off-grid and mini grid companies would find favor in local capital markets, they literally laughed at the idea. No, they said very clearly, there’s no mandate for green here, certainly not among the funds they represented, and off-grid solar was new and untested anyway.

Such reluctance of many local financial institutions (FIs) to invest has been a major impediment to the Nigerian solar off-grid market which lags compared to other African countries such as Kenya.
Nigerian solar companies discuss finance models
Nigerian solar companies discuss finance model

Social entrepreneurship in the toughest circumstances

Alexandre Laure's picture
This page in: Français
Group picture outside SankoréLabs

“The empowerment of young people and women lies at the heart of our organization,” declares Fatouma Harber — human rights activist, teacher, blogger and CEO of SankoréLabs. SankoréLabs is an incubator that also provides training and co-working spaces to young entrepreneurs in Timbuktu in northern Mali. Named for the city’s world-renowned historical university and 14th century mosque, SankoréLabs provides aspiring entrepreneurs with support and a space to work. Along with meeting incubees’ IT, internet and networking needs, the incubator is also a vehicle to promote better local governance and enhance citizen engagement in a region that desperately needs both.

Social entrepreneurship begins at home: how one incubator is generating social change in Madagascar while supporting start-ups

Alexandre Laure's picture
Also available in: Français
Small group event at Incubons branch office

Founded in January 2016, INCUBONS provides access to co-working spaces and free services to social enterprises and start-ups including intensive technical assistance, mentoring and 24/7 coaching. The incubator has an extensive outreach program, including events, debates and concerts, as well as networking opportunities to connect their incubees (10 companies a year) to each other and to potential partners and investors. INCUBONS also provides pre-incubation counters where people can present their ideas and projects are diagnosed free-of-charge and then referred to affordable training courses.

Can Social Enterprises improve the agriculture value chain for farmers

Elaine Tinsley's picture
E-soko provides mobile farming tips, pricing and weather alerts to subscribers at a low monthly fee. The photo captures the crop performance difference between an E-soko user (left) and non- E-soko farmer (right) in Kenya. 
Photographer: Elaine Tinsley, World Bank


What are the key pain points smallholder farmers face? Gaps across the agriculture value chain—lack of access to affordable financial products, limited knowledge of high-quality inputs, low usage of technology and market data, and poor market links. Social enterprises (SEs) in the agriculture sector are successfully closing these gaps, believing that the cost of their services or products will be recuperated by the benefits and income gains that smallholders will achieve.
 
For example, SEs implement innovative solutions through information and communications technology (ICT) platforms. Esoko’s text alerts on weather conditions and crop market prices saves smallholders in Ghana both time and money. Shamba Shape Up is a “makeover” style farming reality show that gives advice on improving farms and increasing yields to Kenyan farmers. Digital Green recruits local, established farmers to share their farming techniques—from pest-control to seed treatment—in over 3,500 videos for peer smallholders in Africa and India.

How Technology Centers can help clients meet the challenges of Industry 4.0

Justin Hill's picture

The Picard leather goods factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh produces bags, purses and wallets that are sold in upmarket stores throughout the developed world under various well-known brand names, and in their own chain of stores in Germany.  The factory is clean, efficient and goods are produced under all the relevant international standards.  

Picard leather factory
But Picard are a rarity, and most Bangladeshi manufacturing looks just like it did 50 years ago.  They produce cheap goods for the local market, but are a huge distance from producing at global standards.  Unfortunately, this is also the case with most manufacturers in emerging economies. And all manufacturing is being changed by a range of new technologies known as Industry 4.0, with manufacturing becoming more global, more automated, more highly skilled, more infused with technology and more integrated with services. Whole manufacturing sectors, but in particular Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) face real challenges if they are to adapt rather than be left behind. 

Making marble from bottles: plastic waste’s second life in Kenya

Justine White's picture
It is estimated that every day Nairobi generates 3,000 tons of waste; 12% is plastic. At the same time, the demand for new houses is growing at a rate of 600 per day. Innovative climate technologies can offer solutions that tackle both the challenges of plastic recycling and the increasing housing demand. But what is an effective approach to introducing technologies that can impact a critical number of companies in the value chain?
 
“From plastic waste to building materials,” a partnership supported by the World Bank Group gathering six private sector frontrunners in Kenya, is testing exactly this.
From plastic to marble. Photo © Better Future Factories
From plastic to marble. Photo © Better Future Factory

De-risking and remittances: the myth of the “underlying transaction” debunked

Marco Nicoli's picture
Also available in: Español | Français
Societé Genérale Mauritanie bank branch in Nouakchott, Mauritania.
Societé Genérale Mauritanie bank branch in Nouakchott, Mauritania. ©️ Arne Hoel

This Saturday, June 16, we celebrate International Day of Family Remittances to recognize “the significant financial contribution migrant workers make to the wellbeing of their families back home and to the sustainable development of their countries of origin.”

Which is why it is the perfect time to talk about a trend facing remittance service providers who migrants rely on to transfer their money across borders and back home.
In recent years, the international remittance services industry has been subject to the so-called “de-risking” phenomenon. Banks believe that anti-money laundering and counter financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regulations and enforcement practices have made serving money transfer operators (MTOs) too risky from a legal and reputational perspective. For banks, the profit of serving MTOs is not considered sufficient to justify the level of effort required to manage these increased risks.
 

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