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Meet the Winner of the 2019 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation

An invention by a South African engineer that dispenses pills has won a major African engineering prize. Neo Hutiri invented the Pelebox, a locker patients can unlock with a one-time pin sent to their phone. These lockers cut queues down “from three-and-a-half hours to under 36 seconds”, he told BBC Focus on Africa. South Africa runs the world’s largest HIV/Aids treatment programme which has led to high numbers of patients with repeat prescriptions. Mr Hutiri won the $32,000 2019 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation from the Royal Academy of Engineering. He told the BBC that he came up with the idea after he was diagnosed with TB in 2014 and he went to his clinic to collect medicine. Long queues at pharmacies can be caused by staff shortages and high volumes of patients with chronic illnesses – such as HIV and Aids. Currently six smart locker units are in operation in South Africa and the company is building eight more. He says he will use prize money to help build an assembly section for manufacturing and improve the technology so they can scale up their business better.


The Nitty Gritty of Running South African Airways

SAA has appointed current Chief Operations Officer Zuks Ramasia as acting CEO, and the struggling airline remains confident that it can break even in the 2020-21 financial year. It has even penciled in a profit in the 2021-22 financial, which would make a change. SAA went on a charm offensive on Friday, assuring the market that the bankrupt state-owned airline is stable, hours after it emerged that its outgoing CEO Vuyani Jarana is in a tug-of-war with the board over circumstances of his shocking resignation. For one thing, it has replaced Jarana, the business-savvy CEO who quit on Thursday after only serving at SAA for 18 months, with Zuks Ramasia on an acting basis — making her the ninth CEO of the national carrier in 13 years. Ramasia’s appointment is true to SAA’s hallmark and long history of appointing CEOs on an acting basis while it extends the search for a permanent chief – not only domestically but also globally. Jarana’s resignation, in which he cited slow decision-making, bureaucracy and lack of financial support from the government for the airline to successfully mount a turnaround strategy for the airline, once again raised concerns about its going concern status. The Board of SAA wants to know how Vuyani Jarana’s resignation letter appeared in the public domain on Sunday, 2 June 2019. They suspect he leaked the letter.


Tony Blair Backs Togo for Investment Opportunities

The former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair made a surprise appearance at the Togo Investment Summit in London’s Mayfair to promote investment in the country wedged between Ghana and Benin. Since leaving office in 2007 after over a decade in power, Blair has forged a career as a multi-project philanthropist, speechmaker and high-profile consultant. One of his non-profit organisations, The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, has been working with Togo since 2017 to “train high-performing teams within the government,” and fast-track “job-creating projects” by opening doors and smoothing the way for investment from around the world, according to their website. “I see in Togo a government who is willing and able and an environment conducive to business. I hope you take this opportunity seriously, they are well worth the effort.” Blair admitted that while Togo has “major challenges” for investors, the country does have factors that make it an attractive destination for investment.


Africa’s ‘Innovative Spirit’ Attracts Significant Investments this Year

The continent’s burgeoning reputation as a source of programming talent got a major boost last month when Microsoft launched its Africa Development Centre (ADC) — a $100m investment over the next five years. With offices in Kenya and Nigeria, Microsoft hopes to train 100 full-time engineers by the end of this year and a further 500 engineers by the end of 2023. The multinational believes in Africa’s “innovative spirit”, especially in fintech, agritech and off-grid energy. Microsoft’s investment comes after programming company Andela announced earlier this year it had secured an additional $100m in investment, including from Facebook’s first couple, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. This brings its total venture funding to $180m. Microsoft is aware that locally relevant apps and services are the correct way in which to approach markets in different parts of the world. “You can’t just build it and hope they will come, as they say in [the movie] Field of Dreams,” says Fortin. “All of these have to be relevant for the local market and globally. We come here expecting to learn.”


More Money Woes for Harare

As Zimbabwe’s economy struggles and the country faces scarce fuel supplies, some businesses are refusing to accept the ever-weakening local currency, insisting on doing business in U.S. dollars. One reason is that the local currency, known as bond notes, are not accepted outside the southern African country, making them useless for any companies that need to import goods. Zimbabwe abandoned its dollar more than a decade ago, when hyperinflation made it worthless. Now the bond notes, introduced two years ago, are also depreciating in value. The South African rand and British pounds are acceptable in many places, but very hard to find. Even some Zimbabwe government departments and companies such as the National Railways have started asking for payment in U.S. dollars, partly to protect themselves against the depreciating bond notes. Fuel is another scarce product in Zimbabwe, and the government continues to control its price. Some companies have resorted to selling it in U.S. dollars only.


Ghana And Ethiopian Airlines To Create National Ghana Airlines

Africa’s largest airline, Ethiopian Airlines, and the government of Ghana have signed a strategic partnership agreement to set up a new national carrier in Accra, Ghana. The proposed airline will be a home based airline that would be established by Ethiopian Airlines in collaboration with the government of Ghana and the private sector. The government of Ghana and the private sector will have a minimum of 51 percent stake in the proposed airline while Ethiopian will hold up to 49 percent interest in the new national airline. Following the demise of Ghana Airways and Ghana International Airlines the West African economic powerhouse does not have a national airline. In 2016 the government of Ghana invited international airlines who are interested in forging a strategic partnership to establish a home based national carrier in Accra. Ethiopian Airlines, Air Mauritius and indigenous carrier Africa World Air presented their expression of interest to the Ghanaian Ministry of Transport.


A Custom Made Phone for Africa

For Chinese phone manufacturer Transsion, localization isn’t just a marketing strategy: it’s the secret ingredient that has placed it ahead of all its competitors in Africa. The company has bet on African consumers by making affordable handsets with advanced features using an aggressive distribution network. The Shenzhen-based firm has risen as a dark horse in the mobile hardware market by instituting “micro innovations” propitious to its African customers including multiple SIM slots, long battery life, as well as user-friendly designs that support local languages like Swahili or Ethiopia’s Amharic. But one feature that has distinguished its devices is their camera-centric nature and their ability to calibrate exposures for darker skin tones. As its key focus market, Transsion has thousands of employees across Africa, working in production lines in its Ethiopian factory and as in-design and user interface personnel in Kenya and Nigeria. After conducting an in-depth analysis of consumers’ photo habits and needs, the company found photo quality was important to not just younger consumers but increasingly wider age demographics. Phone cameras, especially front camera exposure, was the first feature customers inspected when considering buying a new mobile phone.


Why is Kenya Replacing its Banknotes?

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta has announced that the country’s currency is to be replaced with a new generation of banknotes. Kenyans must return their 1000 shilling ($10) notes to banks by 1 October, in a bid to fight money laundering, counterfeits and corruption. New banknotes are to be brought in over the coming months with other denominations being phased out gradually. The governor of Kenya’s central bank, Patrick Njoroge, also expressed “grave concern” over larger banknotes being used for “illicit financial flows in Kenya and also other countries in the region”. The note is the highest value note in Kenya and according to Mr Njoroge, the Kenyan shilling is the equivalent to the US dollar in east Africa, in terms of its recognition. Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua has hit out at critics of the new Kenyan currency, saying the untimely debate on trivial issues is chocking the anticipation of the introduction of the new banknotes. At the same time, Dr Mutua defended the use of an image of first president Jomo Kenyatta’s statue on the notes, saying there is nothing wrong with the currency notes depicting Kenyan heroes.


Rwanda Revamps its Housing Plan

A project dubbed “Rugarama Park Estate” a joint venture between Shelter Africa, Development Bank of Rwanda in partnership with engineering and construction firm Remote Group, has recently been launched where the construction of over 2000 affordable housing for an average Rwandan’s income. Rugarama is a sustainable integrated community development, whose objective is to develop a high-density housing estate (2700 units+) that will, cater for lower and medium income populations of the society; provide a wealth of civic and community facilities –e.g.: schools, parks, religious sites, medical centres and commercial opportunities; Integrate sustainable eco-friendly initiatives. The Government of Rwanda has currently considered affordable housing as one of its priorities although there are a number of strategic incentives to attract local and international investors in the sector. The country targets to have 35 per cent of urbanization by 2024 from 18.4 per cent in 2017, the move that will need more dwelling units. Housing experts, however say that due to different challenges, the country has not even managed to satisfy 10 per cent of affordable housing needs. Shelter Afrique is the only pan-African finance institution that exclusively supports the development of the housing and real estate sector in Africa.  The company is owned by 44 African Governments, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Africa Reinsurance Company.


Calling All Coin Collectors

South Africa’s Kruger rand, the most widely held and actively traded bullion coin worldwide, issued a new set of collectible coins commemorating 25 years of democracy. The series consists of five new 2-rand ($0.14) coins and a 5-rand coin, and will be released over the next few months. The coins were produced by the South African Mint and are the first to be designed with input from the public, which helped develop themes that include children’s, environmental and educational rights. More than 60 million Kruger rands — a one-ounce unit introduced in 1967 — have been sold, according to the South African Gold Coin Exchange.


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