|From: Glenn Petersen||2/22/2019 5:04:15 PM|
|Abiy Ahmed in a nutshell|
by Tyler Cowen
February 22, 2019 at 12:46 am
He is the Prime Minister of Ethiopia:
In that time, he has overseen the swiftest political liberalisation in Ethiopia’s more than 2,000-year history. He has made peace with Eritrea; freed 60,000 political prisoners, including every journalist previously detained; unbanned opposition groups once deemed terrorist organisations; and appointed women to half his cabinet. He has pledged free elections in 2020 and made a prominent opposition activist head of the electoral commission. In a country where government spies were ubiquitous, people feel free to express opinions that a year ago would have had them clapped in jail.Here is more from David Pilling and Lionel Barber at the FT. Don’t forget that until the ascent of Abiy Ahmed, the internet was basically shut down for most of the country.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||4/12/2019 8:04:42 PM|
|Jumia, founded in 2012, is the first African unicorn to go public.|
The 'Amazon of Africa' soars more than 75% on its first day of trading
Maggie Fitzgerald | @mkmfitzgerald
- The largest e-commerce operator in Africa, Jumia Technologies, surged more than 75% on its first day of trading at the New York Stock Exchange on Friday.
- Jumia Technologies has created a platform to make it easier for sellers and buyers to do business in places where traditional retail can be difficult for consumers to access, CEO Sacha Poignonnec tells CNBC.
- Some of Jumia's biggest customers are Apple, HP and Huawei.
Published 6 Hours Ago Updated 3 Hours Ago CNBC.com
Richard Drew | AP
Jumia co-CEO Sacha Poignonnec, left, applauds as Jumia Nigeria CEO Juliet Anammah, center, rings a ceremonial bell when the company's stock begins trading, on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, Friday, April 12, 2019.
The largest e-commerce operator in Africa, Jumia Technologies, ended the day with its stock up more than 75.6% on its first day of trading at the New York Stock Exchange on Friday.
The stock ended the day trading at $25.46 per share, above the opening price of $14.50. It has a market cap of about $3.9 billion.
"The Amazon of Africa" has 4 million active customers as of the fourth quarter of 2018, the company said in its S-1 filing. Jumia operates in 14 African countries, including Ghana, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Morocco and Egypt.
Jumia, founded in 2012, is the first African unicorn to go public.
As of December 2018, the company has accumulated losses of nearly $1 billion. Similar to Amazon, its initial shareholders will have to be patient on the path to profitability.
Jumia's platform lets customers buy a smartphone, a pair of shoes or a load of groceries. Its logistics segment lets you book travel and hotels, and the fast-pay segment lets you pay your bills or order a pizza.
The difficulty for e-commerce in Africa is for the sellers because of the inefficient infrastructure of the continent, Jumia CEO Sacha Poignonnec told CNBC's "Squawk Alley" on Friday.
"Its provides a lot of inclusion for consumers who have not necessarily the right access to retail," Poignonnec said.
Poignonnec also said there's a big opportunity in Africa because so many people haven't yet experienced online shopping.
"When we ask the people who have never used online shopping yet, the No. 1 reason that comes out is, 'I don't know how to shop online,'" said Poignonnec. "That tells you it's not about infrastructure, it's about consumers getting used to it."
Jumia, headquartered in Germany, works with local entrepreneurs and logistics companies to deliver the products. Half the packages are going into the major cities, and half into the secondary cities and rural areas.
Some of Jumia's biggest customers are Apple, HP and Huawei.
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|From: Glenn Petersen||6/23/2019 11:43:27 AM|
|The future of AI research is in Africa|
In the last few years, the machine-learning community has blossomed, applying the technology to challenges like food security and health care.
by Karen Hao
MIT Technology Review
Jun 21, 2019
Sitting in a hotel lobby in Tangier, Morocco, Charity Wayua laughs as she recounts her journey to the city for a conference on technology and innovation. After starting her trip in Nairobi, Kenya, where she leads one of IBM’s two research centers in Africa, she had to fly past her destination for a layover in Dubai, double back to Casablanca, and then take a three-and-a-half-hour drive to Tangier. What would have been a seven- to eight-hour direct flight was instead a nearly 24-hour odyssey. This is not unusual, she says.
The hassle of traveling within the region isn’t the only thing making things difficult for Africa’s research community: the difficulty of traveling out of the region has often left its researchers out of the international conversation. While these issues have affected every scientific field, they are amplified in AI research. The pace of innovation means, for example, that repeatedly missing conferences over visa problems—which have made it hard for African scientists to attend some of the world’s largest AI events in the US and Canada—can easily cause a researcher to fall behind.
Despite the odds, the African machine-learning community has blossomed over the last few years. In 2013, a local group of industry practitioners and researchers began Data Science Africa, an annual workshop for sharing resources and ideas. In 2017, another group formed the organization Deep Learning Indaba, which now has chapters in 27 of the continent’s 54 countries. University courses and other educational programs dedicated to teaching machine learning have burgeoned in response to increasing demand.
The international community has also taken note. In late 2013, IBM Research opened its first African office in Nairobi; it added another in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2016. Earlier this year Google opened a new AI lab in Accra, Ghana, and next year ICLR, a major AI research conference, will host its event in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The shift is a positive one for the field, which has suffered from a lack of diversity and, in many ways, a detachment from the real world. Many of the academic and corporate research labs that dominate AI research are concentrated in wealthy bubbles of innovation like Silicon Valley and China’s Zhongguancun, outside Beijing. That limited purview shows in the scope of the products these hubs create. Africa, on the other hand, might offer a context with which AI can return to its original promise: creating technology that tackles pressing global challenges like hunger, poverty, and disease.
“I think for anyone who’s looking for tough challenges,” says Wayua, “this is the place to be.”
The African model of innovation
Both IBM Research’s offices in Kenya and South Africa and Google’s AI lab in Ghana share the same mission as their parent organizations: to pursue fundamental and cutting-edge research. They focus on issues like increasing access to affordable health care, making financial services more inclusive, strengthening long-term food security, and streamlining government operations. The list is not unlike that for a lab located anywhere else in the world, but the context adds nuance to the objectives.
“Research cannot be detached from the environment in which it is performed,” says Moustapha Cisse, the director of Google AI Ghana. “Being in an environment where the challenges are unique in many ways gives us an opportunity to explore problems that maybe other researchers in other places would not be able to explore.”
Before founding its AI lab in Ghana, for example, Google began working with farmers in rural Tanzania to understand some of the struggles they faced in maintaining consistent food production. The researchers learned that crop disease can significantly reduce yield, so they created a machine-learning model that could diagnose early stages of disease in the cassava plant, an important staple crop in the region. The model, which works directly on farmers’ phones without needing access to the internet, helps them intervene earlier to save their plants.
Wayua gives another example. In 2016, the Johannesburg team at IBM Research discovered that the process of reporting cancer data to the government, which used it to inform national health policies, took four years after diagnosis in hospitals. In the US, the equivalent data collection and analysis takes only two years. The additional lag turned out to be due in part to the unstructured nature of the hospitals’ pathology reports. Human experts were reading each case and classifying it into one of 42 different cancer types, but the free-form text on the reports made this very time-consuming. So the researchers went to work on a machine-learning model that could label the reports automatically. Within two years, they had developed a successful prototype system, and they are now striving to make it scalable so it can be useful in practice.
“Technology is only half of the equation,” Wayua says. “The other half is being able to understand the problems that we see and being able to define them objectively in a way that science and engineering can address.”
Once a research project is ready for the real world, then comes another hard bit: getting buy-in from the intended users. “Relationships really matter in driving change,” says Wayua. It’s easy to collect data and design a perfect system in a vacuum, but that’s pointless if no one wants to use it. “It’s the relationships that you continuously build over time that help you can understand why what you are trying to implement is not really working,” she adds.
Responding to the needs of users also helps drive fundamental advances in the technology’s capabilities. Google AI Ghana is now working on improving natural-language understanding, for example, to accommodate the roughly 2,000 languages spoken in Africa. “It is by far the most linguistically diverse place on Earth,” says Cisse. “There’s a lot to learn and to research from that.”
The next generation
Cisse and Wayua share similar career trajectories. Each left Africa for higher education before coming back, hoping to apply their skills in ways that would maximize their impact. Cisse worked at Facebook in Europe while he waited for the right opportunity to return.
Now, both are deeply invested in developing more local educational opportunities for youth interested in AI. Cisse founded and directs the African Master’s in Machine Intelligence, a one-year intensive program that operates learning programs around the region and brings in some of the best AI researchers around the world. Wayua’s lab hires high-performing undergraduates to work alongside full-time staff and pays for them to take the online master’s program in computer science offered by Georgia Tech University.
“The main resource for doing research is talented people, and you will find more talent in Africa than anywhere else,” says Cisse, pointing to the disproportionately young population. “The energy for tech here is just amazing. The question is how do you equip those talented people with the skills so that they own the transformation of the continent and build their own future?”
When Cisse teaches his students in the master’s program, he tells them that in five years’ time, they will be the ones leading the field and returning to teach the classes. Of this, he has no doubt.
“The future of machine-learning research is in Africa,” he says, “whether people know it or not.”
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|From: Glenn Petersen||8/13/2019 11:07:17 AM|
|A booming population is putting strain on Africa’s universities|
New initiatives can help to ease it
Aug 10th 2019 | KIGALI
“IN RWANDA IT’S not easy to get a job,” says Jean-Paul Bahati, a student at Kepler, founded in Kigali in 2013. But the 22-year-old believes his course will help him stand out. He studies health-care management, a growing industry in Rwanda. Kepler’s degrees are accredited by Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), which runs one of the largest online universities in America. The first six months are a crash course in skills such as critical thinking, English, communication and IT. “I like that Kepler knows what employers want,” says Mr Bahati.
In recent decades millions of young people like Mr Bahati have swelled the number of students in sub-Saharan Africa. Today 8m are in tertiary education, a term that includes vocational colleges and universities. That is about 9% of young people—more than double the share in 2000 (4%), but far lower than in other regions (see chart). In South Asia the share is 25%, in Latin America and the Caribbean, 51%.
Both the number and share of young people in tertiary education in sub-Saharan Africa will keep growing. The region has about 90m people aged 20-24, a figure projected to double over the next 30 years. Whereas 42% of that age group had completed secondary school in 2012, 59% are forecast to do so by 2030. If African countries are to meet the aspirations of educated young people, they must ensure there are opportunities for further study.
So far they have struggled. State-run institutions that trained the post-colonial elites are finding it hard to serve a mass market. In much of the region public funding per student has fallen since the late 1990s as enrolment has surged.
This reflects competing priorities. In the poorest African countries it costs 27 times more to fund a university place than one at primary school. Since students typically come from affluent families, university spending subsidises the children of elites. In Ghana, the higher-education spending that goes to the richest tenth of households is 135 times that spent on the poorest tenth. Policymakers find themselves deciding whether to spend scarce resources on helping poor children attend school or rich children go to university.
The effects of spreading public funding thinly are apparent on campuses. African universities have 50% more students per professor than the global average. Students are more likely to study humanities degrees than science ones, which are more expensive to teach. Over 70% of graduates have arts degrees, versus 53% in Asia.
More young people are heading abroad instead. In 2017 some 374,000 studied overseas, up from 156,000 two decades earlier. Many never return. One in nine Africans with a tertiary qualification lives in an OECD country, compared with one in 13 Latin Americans and one in 30 Asians.
With the public sector struggling to meet demand for places and to offer a high-quality education, the private sector is filling the gap. From 1990 to 2014 the number of public universities in sub-Saharan Africa rose from 100 to 500, while private universities grew from 30 to more than 1,000. Many are small. In Kigali, the University of Rwanda has 30,000 students, while private ones have a few hundred each. But they are enrolling a growing proportion of students, notes Daniel Levy of the University of Albany. In 2000 about 10% of African students went to private institutions; by 2015 the share was 20%. In Rwanda more than half do so.
Students at private universities often benefit from new ways of teaching. Consider Ashesi, which has grown steadily since its founding in 2002 in Accra. Much of Ghanaian higher education is based on rote learning, observes Patrick Awuah, its founder and a former Microsoft engineer, and was not “teaching students to think critically”. He based Ashesi on American liberal-arts colleges, where students combine humanities and sciences.
Vocational outfits can innovate, too. ALX, a for-profit institution that opened its first campus in Nairobi last year, runs a six-month “boot-camp” in soft skills, then helps students find a six-month internship. Its gambit is that its brand becomes so strong that employers do not mind that its graduates lack a degree.
“A traditional university model is very hard to make profitable,” says Fred Swaniker, the Ghanaian founder of ALX. He should know. In 2013 Mr Swaniker set up the African Leadership University (ALU), which was dubbed the “Harvard of Africa”. But its campuses in Mauritius ($15,000 per year for board and tuition) and Kigali ($9,000) are “too expensive”, he concedes. It has ditched plans to open dozens of campuses like these and is instead expanding the cheaper ($2,000 per year) ALX model.
Another reason for the shift is regulation. Gaining accreditation is arduous. Rwanda made ALU buy 90 desktop computers, even though it gives students laptops. Kepler’s application ran to 1,100 pages.
Yet the biggest barrier to expanding access to tertiary education is student financing. This is true for private and public universities, since in most African countries public ones charge upfront tuition fees. (Scholarships exist, but these are often granted on merit, not need, putting them out of reach of poor children with good but not stellar grades.) “The bottleneck is not the education model; it’s the financing,” says Teppo Jouttenus of Kepler.
This is not just an injustice but a sign of economic inefficiency. The average gap between wages earned by graduates and non-graduates in sub-Saharan Africa is wider than in other regions. It would make sense if students could defer the expense. This would ensure that those who benefit the most from university cover the costs, leaving more public money for other things.
Several African countries have introduced state loan schemes. But governments have struggled to chase up debts. The private sector is now trying to do a better job. Kepler and Akilah, an all-female college in Kigali, are working with CHANCEN International, a German foundation, to try out a model of student financing popular among economists—Income Share Agreements. CHANCEN pays the upfront costs of a select group of students. Once they graduate, alumni pay CHANCEN a share of their monthly income, up to a maximum of 180% of the original loan. If they do not get a job, they pay nothing.
Kepler’s experiment began only in January. But models such as these should help more students gain qualifications, while encouraging institutions to think about their job prospects. That can only be good news for young Africans.
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|From: TimF||5/9/2020 5:09:47 PM|
|Not just Africa (the country/dots are unlabeled and all over the world) but Africa is a growing part of this (except maybe at the moment during the pandemic but the overall trend is much larger then the pandemics negative effects)|
The remarkable decline in child mortality, where each dot is a country.
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