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Category: Change Maker Stories

Gracious Ephraim

A high school student in Tanzania who invented a solar energy powered human robot that walks, turns its head and performs a couple of tasks.

Gracious Ephraim from Ilboru high school in Arusha is the first ever student in the East African country to build a robot that actually works and moves around, according to his teachers.

“I am trying to innovate things that can solve problems because for many years, science students in the country did not want to invent, they were all focusing on getting employed but being a scientist is all about devising and making new things,” says Ephraim.

Ephraim used his pocket money to purchase locally available materials such as wires, metals etc. worth approximately 90 USD. He has been working on the robot for about 12 months inspired by movies such as Robocop and Transformers.

The human robot can bend, pick up stuff and carry loads at a high level of effectiveness and accuracy.

“Tanzania aims at industrialisation meaning that factories and other production lines must work 24 hours, but humans cannot work around the clock, so I envisage to have robots working at night and people during the day, this will also reduce the costs of paying workers overtime,” said the student.

The innovator says that he has installed a memory card with recorded voice notes that can be remotely triggered to make the home-made machine reply to specific questions or even sing some songs.

Momarr Mass Taal

Meet the 28-year-old Gambian who built a million-dollar business exporting local produce to Asia and Europe.

Momarr Mass Taal says he got into business by accident. He wanted to be a diplomat like his dad.

At the age of 17, The Gambia-born entrepreneur, printed t-shirts for fun, then for friends and gradually grew into a clothing brand, Malyka Clothing.

Within a few years he was manufacturing in Bangladesh and selling in five countries. .

“With the intention to build a business that would address the lack of value addition for our local produce, I found that most local producers, particularly farmers, had market access problems and I set about building a business which used value addition to create that market.”Tropingo Foods, a groundnut and mango processing and export company, was born.

He exports to Asia and Europe and is building a food dehydration processing facility in Gambia.

“We are a sustainable food processing company based in The Gambia with regional ambitions. Our Groundnut processing and export business in 2015 is officially the largest exporter of groundnut in Gambia,” he said.

Momarr has 140 employees, 120 of which are women.

He turned over $1.6 million in 2015.

Source: africanleadership.co.uk

The Two Sisters Reviving Ghana’s Chocolate Market with ’57 Chocolate

’57 Chocolate is the pioneer bean to bar chocolate business in Ghana defined by creativity and luxury. This venture uses resources grown within the country to create delicious, whimsical treats. The artisanal chocolate channels Ghana’s Independence Day revolutionary spirit, challenging the neo-colonial sentiment that premium chocolate can only be made in Europe. ’57 is a chocolate business pioneered in Accra, Ghana, by a dynamic duo of Pan-African sisters and it is on a mission to revive Ghana’s 1957 “can do spirit.”

Priscilla and Kimberly Addison are the creators of this luxury chocolate made in Ghana by Ghanaians, for Ghanaians. Their chocolates which come in dark, milk, white chocolate, mocha latte and bissap flavours are uniquely packaged in adinkra symbol shapes.

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’57 Chocolate with Adinkra symbols

According to an interview with these forward-thinking entrepreneurs, the journey, which started with an idea born in November 2014, but realised in January 2016, was not an easy one. Kim the youngest sister fell in love with the possibility of making chocolate when she went on a factory tour in Switzerland.  Intrigued by the fact that although Ghana was the 2ndlargest exporter of cocoa, the main ingredient in chocolate, in the world, yet produced insignificant amounts of the final product, Kim decided to embark on an adventure to make chocolate from bean to bar, in order to add more value to the cocoa bean, right at home.

Priscilla had always preferred the flavor of vanilla to chocolate, but after witnessing her sister create these titillating treats, her respect for the chocolate-making process rose to new heights. She is excited to embark on this creative journey with Kimberly. Not only does she serve as co-chef, she also brings her marketing and communications expertise to this venture.” Priscilla shared during the interview.

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From L-R, Priscilla, Ghislaine, Kim

The sisters secured most of the funding for their start- up business through savings and support from family. They have sacrificed countless friendships and modern comforts, persevered through various roadblocks in their quest to write their own story as female African entrepreneurs. Though the journey is not yet over, the results of their determination are already being realised. They were  awarded the ‘Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship programme for manufacturing 2016’ which they consider a very humbling honour.

Source: Rising Africa

Chris Kwekowe

Chris Kwekowe, a 23-year-old Nigerian entrepreneur, turned down a job offer to work as a software engineer at Microsoft in order to begin his own start-up in Lagos, Nigeria.

The Lagos State University computer science graduate proudly revealed his plans to Microsoft CEO and founder, Bill Gates during a television interview for Africa’s brightest young entrepreneurs in August 2016.

Kwekowe, winner of the 2015 Anzisha Prize worth $25,000, said he rejected the offer to build up his own startup, Slatecube– a website aimed at helping other young Nigerians find jobs.

He told NewsWeek:

“When I told him, Gates was intrigued and he smiled. After the programme, all the directors were like, ‘Dude, you mean you actually turned down a job at Microsoft and had the guts to tell Bill Gates?’
Kwekowe founded Slatecube with his brother Emerald, 20, in October 2014. The pair funded their efforts by freelancing as web designers and running a software solutions firm.

He said Slatecube seeks to solve that problem by nurturing the graduates through digital internships and so far, Slatecube has an 80% employment rate for its users. Companies that have used the platform, have saved over $100,000 in 2015 by hiring skilled, ready to work employees.

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In a Facebook post published last August, Chris narrated in details of his meeting with Bill Gates:

“Oh yeah, I did meet with Bill Gates in Durban, South Africa where we had some candid discussion about everything – from his involvement with charitable causes in the continent, to how he makes time to be a great father for his kids. My favourite moments were watching his reaction after I told him I turned down job offers from Microsoft and the likes to pursue something more defining for me, and how Africa’s development depends more on sustainable investments in innovative social startups like Slatecube that solve some of the continent’s biggest problems, rather than donating entirely to charity organisations who end up requiring more financial injection to deal with the minutest of issues. Anyways, we’d be working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to make our value proposition at Slatecube a pan-African privilege. Soon, you’d rather be in demand across the globe, and engage in companies and projects that make you better, and suits your career goals. Nothing can really be better”

Source: Rising Africa

Meet the Kenyan Furniture Maker Building the “Ikea” of Africa

Chances are that you have never heard of FunKidz, the Kenyan furniture brand that is set to take on the furniture industry in Africa and the rest of the world. FunKidz manufactures cabinets, desks, baby cots, and bunk beds for kids, targeting a niche market for children’s furniture in Kenya and the rest of Africa.

FunKidz is the brainchild of Kenyan entrepreneur Ciiru Waweru. A wife and mother of two active children, Waweru told a Quartz Africa Innovators Summit that she was inspired to start FunKidz while she and her husband awaited the birth of her first child. She recollects having trouble with finding good quality furniture for babies and children in the Kenyan market; she had identified a need and was thereafter determined to meet it.

FunKidz commenced production in 2010 with a vision of supplying Kenya and other African markets with excellent children’s furniture that can rival products from anywhere in the world. As a result, some have labelled FunKidz the “Ikea of Africa,” a compliment that acknowledges the factory’s reputation for manufacturing very high quality, mass-produced, modular furniture products that can be easily assembled or taken apart by the customers.

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But Waweru says she has encountered people who have curiously remarked that the products she makes are not authentically African:

“We need to stop putting things in a label, in a box, and saying this isn’t African enough… What does that even mean? Through our design and products we hope to bridge that stereotype gap… where you look African and therefore your furniture must also look African,” she said.

Waweru says in addition to supplying world-class children’s furniture, she hopes to use the products from her company to offer a fresh narrative about African-made goods. Waweru is one of many African entrepreneurs working hard to change the dodgy stereotypes that associate African manufacturing with what are basically eccentric cultural artefacts or craftsproduced with no need for complex modern manufacturing technology.

Source: Rising Africa

Bridging gaps in science education: young Ashesi students explore Virtual Reality labs

aIn high school, Contsant Likudie ‘18 studied Science, taking a combination of Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics. However, his first experience in a science laboratory didn’t come until late in his second year. And even on those rare occasions that he and his classmates got to use the labs, the sessions covered were designed only for tests and examination. “I had very little exposure to the practical side of science,” he said. “Most of the things we did in the lab were tailored towards examination, so we hardly got the chance to explore things we found interesting.”

Constant’s experience is sadly not unique. Several schools in Ghana have poorly resourced laboratories, leaving students to rely largely on their textbooks and lecturers to try to understand the practicality of science. Constant believes that the lack of a practical way of teaching science in our high schools is one of the reasons science is perceived as a course reserved for only a special group of students.

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In an attempt to help fill this gap and also change perceptions students have of science, Constant started Project Eureka, a low-cost initiative that gives junior high school students the opportunity to carry out scientific experiments in ‘mobile science labs’. Twice a week, Constant carries boxes of science apparatus and experiments to the Fidelity Basic Junior High School in Berekuso, where the students get to perform actual scientific experiments. “We chose to start from the basic level, from a level where we can beef up people’s interest to make science more attractive,” he says. “Eureka is about having actual science labs and changing the way science is taught.”

Source: Rising Africa

Chinedu Echeruo

Apple has acquired Chinedu Echeruo’s HopStop.com for a whopping $1 Billion, The Wall Street Journal’s publication, AllThingsDigital reports. Founded in 2005, HopStop.com makes mobile applications for both iOS and Android that covers over 300 cities and that helps people get directions or find nearby subway stations and bus stops. Terms of the deal have not been disclosed as at the time of this publication.

Chinedu Echeruo, formerly an analyst at investment banks and hedge funds founded HopStop in 2005. Echeruo is now Chairman of the Board for HopStop.

HopStop has oft been compared to Israel’s Waze which was recently acquired by Google for $1 billion. The move is seen as Apple’s plan to bolster its map offering especially given Google’s recent acquisition of Waze.
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A serial entrepreneur, Chinedu Echeruo grew up in Eastern Nigeria and attended Kings College, Lagos. He attended Syracuse University and the Harvard Business School in the United States and founded HopStop.com after working for several years in the Mergers & Acquisitions and Leveraged Finance groups of J.P Morgan Chase where he was involved in a broad range of M&A, Financing and Private Equity transactions.
He also worked at AM Investment Partners, a $500 million volatility-driven convertible bond arbitrage hedge fund.

He founded and raised nearly $8 million for his two U.S based internet companies; Hopstop.com and Tripology.com. Tripology.com was acquired in 2010 by American travel and navigation information company, Rand McNally. He was named Black Enterprise Magazine’s Small Business Innovator of the year and listed in the magazine’s Top 40 under 40 and is currently a partner and head of the Principal Investing group at Constant Capital, a West Africa based investment bank.

True to form, Echeruo is working on yet another venture but this time, focused on small businesses in Africa. Check out a video of Chinedu Echeruo below at last year’s TedxIkoyi where he talks about his latest project for small businesses in Africa; “crowd sourced business in a box.”

Source: Rising Africa

Agnes Ng’ang’a

Agnes Mulewa Ng’ang’a is becoming one of Kenya’s rising entrepreneurs. She is the chief executive officer of International Brand Solutions (IBS).

The firm worth over Sh6 million, is a fast growing research marketing company that is involved in rebranding to easily meet the market demand and the right audience. Born and brought up in Kawangware slums, Ng’ang’a probably had no clue what her life would turn out to be.

However, she knew she had an investor’s blood flowing in her veins. At the age of seven, this visionary daughter of a civil servant would use her pocket money to purchase pencils at Sh3 and sell them at a higher price of Sh5 to her fellow classmates and save the profits.

This habit continued for the rest of her primary level classes until she got a scholarship to join Ngara Girls High School after passing with flying colours. She used her savings to help her single mum in meeting their daily basic needs.

From selling pencils to eggs in her upper primary, the discipline of saving from her profits taught her some of the critical lessons of being an entrepreneur. “My parents separated when I was young, my dad left, remarried and started a new family.

Six months down the line the firm with only six employees, according to its latest accounts, has already made profits of over Sh1 million.

“There is no law prohibiting youth from becoming billionaires at a young age, stereotyping of wealth associated to the youth should stop, beauty aside – who said that a woman cannot climb up a ladder without connections from a godfather?” she poses.

That is why Mulewa has started a girl empowerment programme to mentor those who want to get into business. “There is a gap in the society, because the current generation of girls is not well groomed for the future.

My target audience in this journey is mainly women and girls in their discovery point of life,” she clarifies. She says girls should give the same attention they give to beauty and fame to education and advancing their professional career.

Source: Rising Africa