Category Archives: SPORTS & YOUTH

KP, Chinese firms sign 11 agreements

Beijing: KP Local Government Secretary Syed Jamal Uddin Shah and a Chinese official are signing five memoranda of understanding for development projects on Monday.—APP
Beijing: KP Local Government Secretary Syed Jamal Uddin Shah and a Chinese official are signing five memoranda of understanding for development projects on Monday.—APP

BEIJING: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government on Monday signed 11 memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with Chinese companies for development projects in the province under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

According to a press release, MoUs were signed for five projects costing up to Rs60 billion. These projects are related to CPEC Tower, construction of a new bus terminal at Chamkani, Ring Road missing link, Health City at Regi Model Town, and Commercial and Residential Reconstruction Centre.

Local Government Secretary Jamal Shah signed the MoUs on behalf of the KP government. Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, Minister for Local Government Inayatullah and Peshawar Development Authority (PDA) Director General Salim Watto were also present on the occasion.

These projects will be jointly executed by PDA and Chinese companies, the press release said.

The construction of the Ring Road missing link will cost up to Rs12bn while that of the new general bus stand at Chamkani will cost Rs10bn. The construction of CPEC Tower will be carried out at Rs5bn while that of Health City at Regi Model Township is estimated to cost up to Rs22bn.

The initial estimate for the construction cost of Commercial and Residential Reconstruction Centre is around Rs11bn.

PC-1s of these projects are complete, it said. The Chinese authorities will soon visit Pakistan to finalise the execution process, said Mr Watto.

Other development projects are related to information technology, special economic zones, power plants, oil refinery, infrastructure and e-commerce.

Speaking at the MoU signing ceremony, Mr Khattak invited Chinese companies to take advantage of the investment-friendly environment in KP.

“We have set the stage to begin the journey of industrialisation in the province. We need the support of our iron brothers to put the province on the path of development and economic growth,” he said.

Appreciating the One Belt, One Road Initiative, he said the CPEC is its flagship component and stressed that business, cultural and social cooperation between Pakistan and China should be further enhanced.

Mr Khattak said a strong security force comprising 4,500 personnel has been established for the protection of foreign workforce, including Chinese nationals.

While emphasising the importance of the CPEC, China-Pakistan Friendship Association President Sha Zhu Kang said the success of One Belt, One Road initiative is linked with the CPEC, which he termed the pilot project of the grand scheme.

He said the proposed corridor stretching from Kashgar to Gwadar will bring about economic and social progress.

He said Chinese companies are already working in KP and providing job opportunities to a large number of locals.

Ambassador Khalid said that around 86 projects, including those in energy, agriculture and infrastructure sectors, will be presented for investment and cooperation. He said the KP chief minister’s visit to China, second in the last four months, underscores the importance of the CPEC and Sino-Pak relations.

The ambassador said all political parties in Pakistan are on the same page as far as Sino-Pak relations are concerned.

He said the CPEC is showing steady progress. Now the Gwadar port is operational and energy and infrastructure projects are being completed in time, he added.

Published in Dawn, April 18th, 2017

Apple enters self-driving car race


SAN FRANCISCO: Apple is joining the fiercely competitive race to design self-driving cars, raising the possibility that a company that has already re-shaped culture with its iPhone may try to transform transportation, too.

Ending years of speculation, Apple’s late entry into a crowded field was made official on Friday with the disclosure that the California Department of Motor Vehicles had awarded a permit for the company to start testing its self-driving car technology on public roads in the state.

The permit covers three vehicles all 2015 Lexus RX 450h hybrid SUVs and six individual drivers. California law requires people to be in a self-driving car who can take control if something goes wrong. Apple confirmed its arrival in the self-driving car market, but wouldn’t discuss its intentions. Its interest in autonomous vehicle technology, however, has long been clear.

The Cupertino, California, company pointed to a statement that it issued in December. ” Apple is investing heavily in machine learning and autonomous systems,” the company said then. “There are many potential applications for these technologies, including the future of transportation.” Apple released that statement after Steve Kenner, a former Ford Motor executive who is now Apple’s director of product integrity, notified federal regulators of the company’s interest in self-driving cars in a letter.

Like others, Apple believes self-driving cars could ease congestion, prevent millions of crashes and save thousands of lives annually in traffic accidents often caused by drunk or distracted motorists.

Self-driving cars could also be a lucrative new market. And Apple has been searching for its next act for a while, one that will take it beyond its mainstay phones, tablets and personal computers.

Although iPhone’s ongoing popularity has helped Apple remain the world’s most valuable company, the company hasn’t had a breakthrough product since the 2010 debut of the iPad, currently in the throes of a three-year sales slump. The dry spell has raised doubts as to whether Apple lost some of its trend-setting magic with the death of co-founder Steve Jobs in 2011.

Apple will be vying against 29 other companies that already have California permits to test self-driving cars. The list includes major automakers, including Ford, General Motors, BMW, Volkswagen and Tesla, as well as one of its biggest rivals in technology, Google, whose testing of self-driving cars has been spun off into an affiliate called Waymo.

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2017

‘Israeli’ Android spy app designed to hack smartphones

Security researchers at Google and Lookout have discovered an extremely sophisticated Android app capable of spying on users by hacking their smartphone’s camera and microphone.

Called Chrysaor, the spyware seems to be linked to Pegasus, a notorious program found to be targeting iPhone users last year and is suspected of being created by Israeli firm NSO Group Technologies.

Google and Lookout announced the discovery of the spyware last week. The app which, was not available to download from Google Play, has been discovered on less than three dozen devices.

“A few [potentially harmful application] authors spend substantial effort, time, and money to create and install their harmful app on one or a very small number of devices,” said Google in a blog post. “This is known as a targeted attack.”

NSO Group Technologies has previously been accused of targeting human rights activist based in the Middle East with its Pegasus iOS malware and was possibly trying something similar with the Android version.

“To install Chrysaor, we believe an attacker coaxed specifically targeted individuals to download the malicious software onto their device,” said Google.

“Once Chrysaor is installed, a remote operator is able to surveil the victim’s activities on the device and within the vicinity, leveraging microphone, camera, data collection, and logging and tracking application activities on communication apps such as phone and SMS.”

The likelihood of being affected by such as spyware maybe small, however Google recommends users take precautionary measures such as installing apps only from reputable sources and keeping devices up-to-date with the latest security patches to protect themselves.

Source: Tribune News

Half of cars in Norway hybrid or electric

OSLO: Norway, which already boasts the world’s highest number of electric cars per capita, said Monday that electric or hybrid cars represented half of new registrations in the country so far this year.

“This is a milestone on Norway’s road to an electric car fleet,” Climate and Environment Minister Vidar Helgesen said.

“The transport sector is the biggest challenge for climate policy in the decade ahead. We need to reduce (CO2) emissions by at least 40 per cent by 2030 and … this requires the electrification of the car fleet,” Helgesen told AFP.

Sales of electric cars acc­ou­­nted for 17.6pc of new vehicle registrations in January and hybrid cars accounted for 33.8pc, for a combined 51.4pc, according to figures from the Road Traffic Information Council.

“It is important to demonstrate that it is possible to achieve a technological transition and a market transformation in transport,” Helgesen said.

“In this respect, Norway is a political laboratory where we are showing that things go quickly if we have the right incentive mechanisms,” he added.

Norway, the biggest oil producer in Western Europe, has adopted a generous policy to encourage the purchase of cleaner vehicles.

Published in Dawn, March 7th, 2017

5 foods for instant detox

Fact is, you don’t need to slay yourself with a “detox” regimen in order to lose weight and cleanse your body of the damage you did last weekend, courtesy Lahore’s food street! Good news is your liver and kidneys do a mighty fine job at the cleanse thing without juices, fasts or strange concoctions. As compiled from, there are a handful of foods, some that are home staples in your mum’s kitchen — with impressive detoxifying and slimming properties. So hold those juice detoxes and try these instead.

Almonds, the liver-fixers

Did you know that the fatty deposits that build up around your liver after weeks of overeating and indulging in your meethas put you at increased risk for liver cancer. But just a couple small handfuls a day of vitamin-crowded almonds could help cleanse the deposits out, according to a recent study from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. Researchers found a clear inverse response between vitamin E intake and liver cancer risk — those that consumed the most about 16 mg, or about 15 almonds, showed a 40 per cent lower risk of liver cancer than those who consumed less.

‘Hara dhanya’, the stomach-settler

A study in The Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry found  that hara dhanya or cilantro, the aromatic herb that gives our desi cuisines its distinctive flavour, contains a unique blend of oils that send a “simmer down!” message to an upset stomach. In fact, these two oils (specifically, linalool and geranyl acetate) are so powerful they’ve been shown to have a positive impact on irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), according to a study published in the journal Digestive Diseases and Science. Go on, and dip that samosa in hara dhanya chutney already!

Turmeric, the pain killer

You can put an ice pack on your throbbing head, but to get the same anti-inflammatory effect throughout the rest of your body, order the curry. Curcumin, a compound derived from the bright-orange spice turmeric, works as a powerful anti-inflammatory in the liver, research shows. A study in the journal Gut found supplementing with curcumin could significantly reduce bile duct blockage and curbed scarring (fibrosis) by interfering with chemical reactions involved in the inflammatory process.

Salmon, the artery plumber

Researchers say a healthy diet rich in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids may then help to reverse arterial stiffness, a common side effect of smoking, which, like a kinked hose, inhibits the flow of cleansing blood through the arteries and to vital organs. A three-week study in theInternational Journal of Cardiology found smokers who supplemented with just two grams of omega-3s a day, what you’ll find in a  four ounce portion of salmon showed marked improvement in the elasticity of the arteries, allowing for healthy blood flow.

Lemon water, the detoxifier

Make it a ritual to start each day by making a large pitcher of “spa” water filled with sliced whole lemons, and make a point of sipping your way through at least eight glasses before bedtime. Citrus fruits are rich in the antioxidant de-limonene, a powerful compound found in the peel that stimulates liver enzymes to help flush toxins from the body and gives sluggish bowels a kick, according to the World Health Organisation.

Leafy greens, the cholesterol busters

Leafy greens are food superstars — no wonder Popeye was obsessed with spinach! Greens have an incredible ability to cleanse your system of excess cholesterol, especially when steamed. A recent study published in the journal Nutrition Research compared the bile acid binding capacity of steamed greens to Cholestyramine, a cholesterol-lowering drug. Incredibly, these food heroes improved the body’s cholesterol-blocking process by 13% more than the drug. But, just hold the artery-clogging ghee and butter when you cook paalak paneer please!

Published in The Express Tribune, March 19th, 2016.

Auto design, manufacturing: Team Nayyer–the dream of a 7-year-old boy

Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress and working together is success, says Razi Nayyer, Chief Executive Officer of Team Nayyer, an automotive styling and design as well as small scale manufacturing company, while recalling some words of his inspiration, Henry Ford.

Living in the dream of producing a Pakistan-made three-wheel car since 1992, Nayyer is working hard to launch the project, which brought him to Karachi from his birthplace Bahawalpur.

“I only had Rs500 in my pocket when I stepped onto the Cantt station Karachi in October 1996, with the dream of bringing XT-01 three-wheel car to the market,” he says.

His father, Nayyer Ahmed, was the real inspiration for him. “My father was a car dealer which is why I and my elder brother were brought up in cars,” he says.

Razi Nayyer and Najeeb Nayyer, the elder brother, spent most of their childhood in garages and workshops along with their father. “We used to play and enjoy the real Mercedes unlike our friends who played with toy cars,” recalls Razi Nayyer, whose father had an off-white Mercedes of the 1960s.

He started working on the three-wheel car idea in Bahawalpur with his brother, who was an associate engineer in automobile technology from the Bahawalpur Government College of Technology.

They kept developing the idea for a year from November 1991 to October 1992, but it was not easy to press on with the plan as resources were no too many in the city. They thought they needed the support of the largest revenue-generating city of the country, Karachi

Razi Nayyer shifted to Karachi where his brother had been living since 1994 and rented out a small space to live. “The main concern was always to find a workable financing proposal,” he says.

The car launch plan was changed overnight when Toyota Motor announced international merger with Daihatsu. “We had to wait for a good time and opportunity to get a better response. That was not just our day.”

TCS Chairman Khalid Awan, who was the boss of elder Nayyer, became a ray of hope for the two brothers in 2000, when he gave them the contract to design and deliver red-coloured fibre glass loadmaster boxes for the courier service.

That was the day when the company named Team Nayyer was established in the drawing room of a small PECHS apartment on October 9, 2000.

“We replaced the old metal boxes with fibre glass courier boxes, which eventually worked to our company’s advantage and today we have customers from all leading companies including courier, lubricant, telecommunication and many more businesses,” he says.

In the beginning, Razi Nayyer went from one company to another with demonstration vans to attract customers towards his product. “A person may not take a look at brochures or an email, but will surely see a product that is ready for him,” he says, explaining his marketing strategy.


Making life easier

He also has high hopes for the upcoming sidecars and pickups. “The latter can be used as a pickup vehicle, delivery van, trash carrier and even a newspaper vendor can use it with his motorcycle. “The sidecar can be separately bought to attach to any motorcycle within seconds.”

Team Nayyer tries to provide the best to the people and make life easier for the middle class. “The sidecar will help the middle class which cannot afford to buy a car,” he says citing pictures of motorcyclists he took during a survey.

The company also plans to come up with a cheaper car, which will cost less than Rs300,000 for the basic model. “There is a wide gap between the price of a motorcycle and a small car, we want to give a good choice in that bracket.”

The company workshop, located in the Korangi industrial area, was overcrowded with cars where workers were busy welding, painting and joining parts to produce a vehicle.

“This is my dream which will soon be a reality,” said Nayyer, pointing to a metallic silver three-wheel car named Recreating Future.

“These all are my passion and love,” he says walking around the remodelled Willys Jeeps, off-white Amphicar and the famous Bella’s truck. “Many vintage cars are here for reconditioning and repair.”

Sharing the turning point of his life, Nayyer says, “My father gifted me a book on my seventh birthday on the biography of Henry Ford, which inspired me and motivated me how one could pursue his dreams.”

Henry Ford would never have been the founder of Ford Motor had he not believed himself and chased his dream because his father was a farmer and never thought of wheels moving without buffaloes.

Source: Tribune News

Malaysia: 1MDB and US firm in solar tie-up

File picture of a solar farm in Pajam. US private equity fund DuSable and 1MDB are  working together to invest in a solar energy project in Malaysia

File picture of a solar farm in Pajam. US private equity fund DuSable and 1MDB are working together to invest in a solar energy project in Malaysia

PETALING JAYA: US private equity firm DuSable Capital Management LLC and1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB) will work together on the country’s largest 50MW solar farm in Kedah.

“DuSable will be the investment adviser to a private equity fund in which 1MDB will be a limited partner. The private equity fund and 1MDB are working together jointly to invest in a solar energy project in Malaysia,” according to documents filed with theUS Department of Justice.

Further to that, 1MDB would reimburse costs incurred by DuSable arising from the development of the project and associated activities, the filing said.

“While the bulk of DuSable’s activities will relate to the development of the project, one aspect of DuSable’s activities will be to communicate with US Government officials to encourage the US Government to provide non-financial support for a Malaysian solar energy project.

“There is no formal agreement specifying such communications or activities,” DuSable said in the document.

Last week, 1MDB announced that it had won yet another power project following the signing of a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB).

TNB said it had signed a PPA to buy power to be generated by 1MDB Solar Sdn Bhd’s solar photovoltaic (solar PV) plant in Kedah. TNB said the PPA provided that 1MDB would design, construct, own, operate and maintain a solar PV plant generating facility with a capacity of 50MW alternate current (MWac).

StarBiz had earlier reported that 1MDB‘s proposed 50 MW solar farm was the result of a “direct negotiation” with the Government. It will also become by far the largest in the country.

It is also understood that 1MDB’s power plant agreement with the Government came about as a result of direct negotiations between 1MDB and the Energy, Green Technology and Water Ministry, with both the Energy Commission and the Sustainable Energy Development Authority Malaysia playing a smaller role.

On its website, DuSable said the company focused on energy and infrastructure opportunities around the world. Its strategy will see it target equity and debt investments in companies involved in the “production, storage, and transportation” of alternative energy in the United States and in emerging markets, including Malaysia, Mexico, Indonesia, Burma, Brazil, Russia and India.

It will also seek to invest in infrastructure opportunities in the energy, transportation and telecommunications spaces.

Source: The Star Online

UK: Access to best teaching is down to luck, says Ofsted

Inspectors hail inner-cities and say bad schools can be found in affluent areas

The uneven quality of schools across the country means England is a nation divided into “lucky and unlucky children” in terms of access to high-quality teaching, and poverty is no longer a predictor of educational failure, the head of Ofsted will argue today .

Launching his annual report card, the chief inspector of schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, will hail reforms to inner-city education in London, Manchester and Newcastle. He will say some of the least fortunate pupils are going to poorly performing schools in the relatively affluent home counties and the east of England.

The Ofsted chief is expected to say that in effect an “educational lottery” consigns children in some parts of the country to study in substandard schools.

Wilshaw, the former head of an academy in Hackney, east London, will say: “Children from similar backgrounds with similar abilities but who are born in different regions and attend different schools end up with widely different prospects because the quality of their education is not consistently good.”

Ofsted’s data is to show that seven of the best performing local authorities are in London, with the likes of Tower Hamlets in the East End boasting schools that have all been judged to be outstanding or good by Ofsted’s inspectors

But in contrast, Wilshaw will say that the “unluckiest children” are those poorer children living in relatively affluent areas, including parts of the home counties as well as counties such as Nottinghamshire and Suffolk. East Anglia is to be picked out as home to the worst-performing primary schools in the country.

Improvements have been seen among deprived children from every minority ethnic group in recent years according to Ofsted, but that progress has been sluggish in schools dominated by working-class white children.

Despite that, the man responsible for overseeing the inspection and grading of England’s thousands of state schools will present an optimistic picture of education in England, saying that the “battle against mediocrity” is gradually being won. Nearly eight out of 10 state schools are now judged good or outstanding – the highest proportion in Ofsted’s 21-year history – which Wilshaw will attribute to better teaching and leadership in schools.

The chief inspector will argue that a tougher inspection regime has driven the improvement. “Coasting schools now know that mediocre standards will no longer be tolerated,” Wilshaw is to say.

But Wilshaw’s view places him at odds with that of the Department for Education, which attributes recent improvement to reforms initiated by the government.

A DfE spokesman said: “The government’s reforms are already raising standards but there is still more to do. We are especially targeting areas where there are long-term problems, and recruiting new sponsors. It is vital that all children get a first-class education – wherever they live and whatever their background. The pupil premium is giving extra money to the poorest pupils to narrow the attainment gap between them and their better-off peers.”

The chief inspector will also warn of poor discipline in the classroom, calling it “a culture of casual acceptance of low-level disruption and poor attitudes to learning. The sort of culture that is a million miles away from the sort of cultures we see in some of the high-performing Asian countries.”

Ofsted’s figures suggest as many as 700,000 pupils attend schools where behaviour needs to improve. “Unless this changes, teachers will struggle to create an environment in which all children learn well,” Wilshaw is to say.

Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, said that school improvement required highly trained teachers to boost learning and discipline.

“Unqualified teachers lack the training to manage classroom disruption. It’s a scandal that [David] Cameron is allowing unqualified teachers into classrooms on a permanent basis, damaging education. Labour would end this watering down of standards, insisting all teachers are qualified,” Hunt said.

The DfE spokemsan said the department agreed with this part of Wilshaw’s remarks: “Bad classroom behaviour is hugely disruptive to children’s education. It means teachers can’t teach and pupils can’t learn. That is why a key part of our reforms is restoring discipline in schools and why we have strengthened teachers’ powers to put them back in charge.”

Teachers are now able to search pupils for prohibited items and more easily remove disruptive pupils, the DfE said.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT union, said Ofsted’s annual report blames school leaders for poor discipline, despite Wilshaw himself recently blaming poor teaching. “The public will be right to question whether Ofsted makes it up as it goes along,” she said.

Keates said Ofsted’s tougher system of inspections had created a climate of fear among teachers. “No other education system, including those often cited as high performing and fast improving by ministers, has resorted to use of such crude approaches to holding schools to public account for their work as those in place in England.”

Tower Hamlets, which is to be praised by Ofsted for its achievements, is described as having some of the best urban schools in the world, according to a new report that charts the local authority’s transformation.

In 1997 Tower Hamlets schools were rated as the worst in the country. But the report – backed by the local authority and written by Professor Chris Husbands and others from the Institute of Education – says that their improvement since then is “a genuinely exceptional achievement, worth celebrating, worth understanding but, above all, worth learning from”.

Source: Guardian News


African tech startups aim to power growing economies

When Abasiama Idaresit started a digital marketing firm in Nigeria’s bustling economic capital three years ago, he quickly learned how brutal life can be in a market where tech startups are in their infancy.

No-one would lend him money to hire staff or pay for office space, so Idaresit spent eight months hustling the streets of Lagos, trying to convince clients his plan to help them develop online campaigns was a winner.

“During those first eight months, I didn’t make a dime … I was demoralized. At some point I wondered if it was worth it,” Idaresit told Reuters by telephone from his Lagos office.

It took a money-back guarantee before a baby products retailer gave Idaresit a break with a $250 contract to develop the shop’s online presence. Within two months, the retailer’s revenue began growing by $1,000 per month. Then it hit $100,000.

Idaresit’s firm, Wild Fusions, is now a Google Adwords partner valued at $20 million, with revenues doubling year-on-year. It helps brands like Samsung, Unilever, and Ecobank develop online marketing strategies for African audiences.

Wild Fusion’s struggles are typical for startups in Africa, as the world’s poorest continent wakes up slowly to the opportunities of technology.

In other emerging markets like Asia and Latin America, a tech startup with a smart idea in a booming economy might expect to attract investor interest, especially if competition is slim.

Business leaders and investors said the sector in Africa is held back by lower internet penetration as well as scarcity of early stage capital and a lack of management expertise.

Many startups in the region are caught in a Catch 22 situation, said Churchill Mambe Nanje, who launched an online job search engine in Cameroon called Njorku.

“To hire the best talent to develop a startup, you need capital. Finding capital is hard because you need to have a track record and a viable product but to get those, you need capital,” said Nanje, whose company has been profiled by Forbes Magazine as one of Africa’s best startups.

Internet Use Low

Part of the problem for African tech startups is that internet use, despite mushrooming in the past decade, is low. Only 16 percent of Africa’s 1 billion people use the Internet, half the rate in Asia Pacific and below a global average of 36 percent, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) says.

The information and community technology sector contributed just 7 percent to the continent’s GDP last year, according to an African Development Bank report.

Economic gains from rising internet usage are likely to be strong. For every 10-percentage point rise in broadband internet penetration, economic growth increases by 1.4 percentage points, according to the World Bank.

Experts say information and communication technology could help Africa overcome infrastructure inadequacies, satisfy rising consumer demand, boost regional trade and diversify economies, ending reliance on raw materials.

But the problem is affordability. In its 2013 report, the ITU said that, though Africa has one the highest mobile broadband growth rates, services cost between a fifth and half of average income compared to just two to five percent in other developing countries.

In South Africa, the strength of the tech sector reflects the country’s relative affluence. It has produced several billion-dollar companies, some of which have been snapped up by international tech giants.

In East Africa, Kenyan tech has also seen rapid growth. One highlight is mobile money transfer system M-Pesa, launched by the country’s largest telecoms operator Safaricom.

M-Pesa has enabled 67 percent of Kenyan adults to access banking. Its transactions total about $1 billion per month. Revenue from M-pesa rose 20 percent to 12.50 Billion Kenyan shillings ($145.99 million) in the first half of 2013.

West Africa’s tech sector lags in terms of prominence and investment, experts say. It needs better and cheaper internet access and broader adoption of smartphones.

In Ghana, a booming regional economy, the number of mobile phone subscriptions roughly equals the population but only 3.5 percent of the population is online, according to Kwaku Sakyi-Addo, CEO of the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications.

Development Finance

The scarcity and costliness of finance also impedes success. Banks in Ghana can charge up to 28 percent interest for a business loan.

Venture capital firms like Intel Capital, JPMorgan, Summit Partners and Rocket Internet have occasionally financed African ICT firms but business leaders said the sector needs much broader sources of finance.

In Silicon Valley, startups can receive up to $2 million from a range of funders including venture capital firms, ‘angel’ investors and private equity houses, according to Marcin Hejka, a regional managing director for Intel Capital. Such a financial ecosystem does not yet exist in Africa, he says.

Ghana’s Rancard, which distributes Gmail SMS services on 55 mobile networks in Africa and beyond, received funding from Adlevo Capital and Intel Capital but its CEO recognizes it was one of the lucky few.

“There are not enough early-stage tech venture capital funds available for Africa,”Kofi Dadzie said.

One reason for the lack of funding is the risks investors face, said Maurizio Caio, founder of UK venture capital firm TLcom Capital.

Few tech entrepreneurs in Africa have a long track record to attract investors, said Caio. Crucially, there are hardly any examples of investors successfully exiting via an IPO or a sale, partly due to underdeveloped capital markets across the region.

One exception is Fundamo, a mobile financial services provider in Cape Town bought by Visa in 2011 for $110 million.

Kenya, Ghana and Nigeria have companies that could be ready for investment, Caio said: “It’s earlier stage. It’s smaller stuff, which means riskier, which means even less capital for these guys and even more of a gamble.”


Experts say it is too soon to tell if African tech will rival other emerging markets but a concerted effort is being made to build an infrastructure to facilitate expansion.

Kenya’s iHub started in 2010 with backing from Hivos, Google and Omidyar Network as a meeting place for entrepreneurs and investors. It has spawned around 50 companies.

Another East African example is the Savannah Fund which offers $25,000-$500,000 to startups in exchange for equity.

In Ghana, the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology gives students one year of training by professionals from around the world who volunteer to teach software development and entrepreneurship. The best graduates get an extra year at a tech incubator in a house linked to the main campus by a rope bridge.

“The vision of the institution is to create jobs and wealth locally here in Africa,” said its CEO Jorn Lyseggen.

When the right idea with the right backing meets a hungry market, a start-up can grow fast, as the experience of Nigerian online retailers Jumia shows.

Founded by two Nigerian Harvard Business School graduates, the business has benefited from Internet penetration in Nigeria of nearly 30 percent and a dearth of middle class retail outlets in the continent’s most populous nation.

Jumia is growing at 20 percent per month, orders have jumped from $50-$100 per day to millions of dollars per month and it plans to expand beyond Nigeria, said Sacha Poignonnec, Co-CEO of Africa Internet Holding, one of Jumia’s backer.

“The same way the mobile companies came in to leapfrog landlines, the same way mobile banking in East Africa is leapfrogging traditional banking, we see e-commerce as a way to leapfrog traditional brick and mortar retail here,” said Tunde Kehinde, one of Jumia’s founders.

Source: Dawn News