Africa’s Revolution: Increasing The Continent’s Power By Solar, Mobile Technology

Africa has moved on and its growing and innovative use of mobile technology is about to be channeled into addressing the continent’s power deficit by using cheap, renewable energy for sustainable development.

By Ayo Okulaja

Family house powered by Mobisol system. Illustration by Ulrike

This was the focus of a session: Green Technology in Practice – How To make Solar Energy Affordable at the just concluded 2013 Deutsche Welle Global media Forum in the city of Bonn, Germany.

Mobisol, a German start-up company is leading this power revolution which according to its 30-year old founder, Thomas Gottschalk “this revolution will be a peaceful one.”

There are about 1.2billion people in the world that are off-grid (not connected to power at all), Thomas identified this a huge market but these people cannot afford the very expensive renewable energy hence the invention of Mobisol solar home mobile system and its innovative mobile payment system.

The solar home mobile system is powered by a mobile phone which is remotely controlled from Germany once a client loads money on the phone via the mobile payment, the solar system is activated and power is supplied. All communication with customer is SMS based thereby reducing payment default.

According to Thomas, the company in its pilot scheme that has installed over 840 solar home mobile systems in remote areas of Kenya and Tanzania is helping people to save and wisely spend the money that normally goes on fossil fuel.

Another feature that moved Thomas’s audience was the capacity of the mobile payment to allow payment from anywhere in the world. “So if you don’t have the money and you have a son or daughter who is living abroad or in the city, so through mobile money, the relative can just make the payment and power switches on.”

Thomas identified that the age-long bottleneck challenge of payment on solar power has been addressed with the mobile payment innovation as well as maintenance as residents are being trained on how to carry out minor repairs on the panel and battery in case of any problems.

1000th Clients

To make the system very affordable, the solar panel and battery is pre-financed by Deutsche Investitions und Entwicklungs-gesellschaft (DEG) as its payment is spread over 36months thereby making this a very affordable source of power.

A solar powered phone charging device created by Mobisol to further empower their clients. Photo by Ayo Okulaja

The Mobisol boss gave the assurance that so far the clients have been very faithful with their payments and no record of theft.

50-52 Mobisol solar home system are now installed weekly and Thomas reveals that the company is aiming for its 1000th customer this July.

Thank you China

Questions were asked on the impact China’s cheap solar panel has had on the price of solar technology and the panelists agreed that the Chinese have crashed the price with their inventions. Chairman of DEG’s Management Board, Bruno Wenn stated that “without the Chinese involvement, we would never have witnessed the sharp decrease in cost of the panels.”

He added that a research conducted by the European Union a decade ago predicted prices that are ten times what it is today for 2013

“We need to say thank you to China because they really-really pushed German companies to reduce their prices” added Thomas

He also enjoined European media and business to stop looking at Africa as a donor space but a fertile ground for immense economic growth. He noted that Africa is full with homes that are filled with solar panels that are not working after three – five months because the panels are provided by donor models.

It is time to develop a business model via modern and mobile technology as Mobisol is doing that will guarantee immense economic growth for Africa and investors who have failed to develop an adequate business model.

I asked Thomas why Mobisol is not yet in Nigeria with a population of over 160million people and generates less than 3000MW of electricity as a Kenyan colleague also asked why the company is not aiming for its 3,00000000th customer instead of 1000th.

He expressed the desire of his company to spread but warned that it must be cautious so as not to “break its neck if it spreads too fast” and this was further corroborated by Mr Wenn, who warned that “this is a start-up. There is a huge market in Africa and outside and you cannot expect that a start-up to tap all of it. They need to have more organic growth otherwise this business model will not be sustainable.”

The poignant impact of continued use of fossil fuel was accentuated by South African journalist, Alani Janeke, who revealed that about 400,000 hectares of the country’s most arable zone is about to be devastated due to coal mine.

Africa’s environment can key into the continent’s ongoing economic surge if the development is based on renewable energy and sustainable development for an inclusive growth as venture such as Mobisol will give President Obama and the US government, a run for their money.

The US President during his just concluded visit to the continent announced the sum of $7billion to be invested the powering the continent.

African Leaders Advised To Increase Funding Of Health Sector

 Health experts have urged African leaders to keep their promise of curbing the spread of HIV/Aids by increasing funding of the health sector.

The experts who met in Abuja say the dwindling budgetary allocation to the health sector in African countries is largely responsible for increasing cases of HIV infection in the continent.

They called on African countries to double their efforts in meeting the health care needs of their people.

African leaders had 12 years ago declared their intention to increase funding of the health sector. However health experts have criticised the decreasing funding of the sector in the continent.

Country Director, Aids Healthcare Foundation, Kenya, Dr. Stephen Karau observed that millions die from treatable diseases and appealed to African leaders to arrest the situation.

Other speakers at the event appealed to the government and individuals to pay attention to issues of health through participatory action and country ownership. A former lawmaker, Dr. Wale Okediran explained the role of the parliament in ensuring an increased funding of the health sector.

Members of the African Union met in April 2001 in Abuja and committed themselves to allocating fifteen percent of available budgets to tackle health issues including HIV/Aids and tuberculosis.

But a review by health experts shows that only two countries, Rwanda and South Africa have reached the targets set at the Abuja declaration.

Obama Announces Fellowship For Young African Leaders

 President Barrack Obama today announced the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, the new flagship program of the President’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). 

Obama made this announcement during a town hall meeting with  an audience of dynamic young leaders from South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, and Uganda in Soweto, Johannesburg, South Africa.

Beginning in 2014, the program will bring more than 500 young African leaders to the United States each year for leadership training and mentoring.


It will also create unique opportunities in Africa for Fellows to use their new skills to propel economic growth and prosperity, and strengthen democratic institutions.

The Fellowship, according to the first black American president, will:

·         Invest in a new generation of young African leaders who are shaping the continent’s future.

·         Respond to the strong demand by young African leaders for practical skills that can help them take their work to the next level in the fields of public service and business.

·         Deepen partnerships and connections between the United States and Africa.

·         Build a prestigious network of young African leaders who are at the forefront of change and innovation in their respective sectors.

Washington Fellows will primarily be between 25 and 35 years old, have a proven track record of leadership in a public, private, or civic organization, and demonstrate a strong commitment to contributing their skills and talents to building and serving their communities.

Bad Governance Responsible For Boko Haram- Obama

Despite the protests against the visit of President Barrack Obama to South Africa by coalition of trade unions and civil society groups in the country, the proposed Town Hall Meeting with youths from African countries went ahead as scheduled.

Fielding questions from journalists and young Africans, President Obama blamed the failure of governments on their inability to train the youths in relevant fields.

He said “in terms of human capital and young people, I think the greatest investment any country can make, not just an African country, is educating it’s youth and providing them with the skill to compete in a highly technological, advanced world economy”.

He further said “countries that do not do that well will not succeed”.

He also noted that countries with limited skill will have “problems” in drawing international businesses.

“This is a problem in the United State and not just a problem in Africa,” he added.

He said the U.S. is willing to collaborate with Nigeria to train teachers and incorporate technology in the education system.

“Across board we are having a rethink in education and work force training. And one of the things we want to do is to partner with a country like Nigeria and identify ways that we can provide direct value added, whether it is in helping to train teachers or helping to incorporate technology into the education process”

Obama said they have plans to work with all African countries to empower the youths depending on the plan of the countries.

“There are some excellent plans that sometimes we are doing country by country depending on the country plan. But this is a scenario where I would like to get input from young people in terms of what they think will work”.

Tackling Global Terrorist Cells

He praised his government for making a considerable effort in tackling insecurity and curbing terror with the death of Osama Bin Laden but was quick to recognize the existence of Boko Haram in Nigeria.

“There is no doubt in the progress we have made in dealing with some extremist groups, for example core Al Qaida and Bin Laden” stressing that “they have been greatly diminished”.

He noted that “What is also true is that in some ways the problem has also metastasized, we have more regional terrorist organisations like Boko Haram in Nigeria espousing an extremist ideology, showing no regard for human life”.

He admitted that despite not having a transnational capacity like the other organisations “they are doing great harm in Africa and in the Middle East and in South Asia”.

Obama blamed the upsurge of terrorist groups on the fact that “countries are not delivering for their people and where there sources of conflict and underlining frustrations that have not been adequately dealt with”

To curb such uprisings, Obama said “we have to build institutions a lot of what we talked about in terms of responsiveness, governance and democracy. Those things become defence mechanisms against terrorism, they are the most important defence against terrorism” he said.

He however ruled out military solutions in tackling terrorism but advocated that governments “give people opportunity, education and resolve conflicts through regular democratic processes, the less likely they are to take root”

He charged the African Union to send peace keeping missions to countries that are likely to have such terrorist cells come up and nip them in the bud before they cause harm, adding that “we can provide advice, training and in some cases equipment”.

He said America will like to stand back and sell iPads and planes than remain as a global police, he however warned that America will not “stand by and watch while our embassies are being attacked our people are in vulnerable situations” .

Climate Change: Lack Of Strategy Bars Nigeria From Foreign Aid

An environmentalist, Sulaiman Arigbabu, while speaking on Channels Television’s breakfast programme, Sunrise Daily said a National Response Strategy disqualifies Nigeria from receiving funds from external bodies, adding that there is need for a National Climate Change Commission.

Mr Arigbabu said it would be impossible for Nigeria to receive funds from international bodies if there is no structure or action plan put in place to champion the cause appropriately.

Citing Kenya as a country which has gone ahead to institute proper structure, he disclosed that “the world is taking them serious” because they have policy in place.

He said that all efforts to get the government to institute a National Climate Change Commission have failed.

“Nigeria cannot be a recipient of most of these things because we don’t have a strategy” he said.

Mr Arigbabu called on the Federal Government of Nigeria to come up with a National Response Strategy to climate change. He said giving funds will not solve the problem.

“You don’t throw money at problems,” he said.

Britain To Compensate Kenyans For Colonial-Era Torture

Britain expressed regret on Thursday about the abuse of Kenyans by colonial forces during the Mau Mau insurgency in the 1950s and announced a compensation package for more than 5,200 survivors worth a total of 20 million pounds ($31 million).

The deal, settled out of court after three elderly Kenyan torture victims won the right in October to sue the British government, could encourage people in other former colonies to press claims over grievances dating back to the days of Empire.

“The British government recognizes that Kenyans were subject to torture and other forms of ill treatment at the hands of the colonial administration,” Foreign Secretary William Hague told parliament in London.

“The British government sincerely regrets that these abuses took place and that they marred Kenya’s progress towards independence.”

The government reached a deal with the lawyers acting for the victims. The package, worth 19.9 million pounds in total, included a settlement sum in respect of 5,228 claimants.

Sources in Kenya had earlier told Reuters the individual victims would receive about 2,600 pounds each, or about 340,000 Kenyan shillings in a country where average annual income is about 70,000 shillings.

London will also pay for a new memorial in Nairobi to the victims of torture and ill-treatment during the colonial era.

“This is a great day for us Mau Mau people” said Gitu Wa Kahengeri, secretary general of the Mau Mau War Veterans Association, speaking to Reuters in Nairobi.

“This is confirmation we were freedom fighters and not terrorists. We have been waiting a long time to hear the British say ‘what we did in Kenya was wrong’.”

The so-called Kenyan Emergency of 1952-1961 was one of the most traumatic episodes of British colonial rule in Africa.

Mau Mau rebels fighting for land and an end to British domination attacked British targets, causing panic among white settlers and alarming the government in London.

Tens of thousands of rebels were killed by colonial forces and their Kenyan allies, while an estimated 150,000 people, many of them unconnected to Mau Mau, were detained in camps.

“NOT A PRECEDENT”

The three Kenyans who took the British government to court were all survivors of the detention camps.

The British government tried for three years to block the legal action by Paulo Nzili, Wambugu Wa Nyingi and Jane Muthoni Mara, now in their 70s and 80s, but the High Court ruled in October that they had the right to sue for damages.

Nzili was castrated while in detention, Nyingi suffered severe beatings during nine years when he was held without charge, and Mara suffered sexual abuse including rape using a soda bottle full of boiling water.

“This is a story of a massive cover up and 50 years later justice being done. I don’t know if there will be another case like this,” Elkins told Reuters in Nairobi.

The compensation package is likely to be examined closely by others who complain of human rights abuses during British colonial times, although Hague said he believed it would not give extra force to their claims.

“It is of course right that those who feel they have a case are free to bring it to the courts,” Hague said. “However…we do not believe that this settlement establishes a precedent in relation to any other former colonial administration.”

One case that has already been going through the courts concerns the 1948 killing of 24 unarmed Malayan civilians in the rubber plantation village of Batang Kali in what was then the British protectorate of Selangor.

A court ruled last year that Britain was responsible for the deaths, contradicting the official government position.

In 2008, The Times newspaper reported that U.S. President Barack Obama’s Kenyan grandfather, Hussein Onyango Obama, had been imprisoned and tortured by the British during the Mau Mau uprising. It quoted his wife, Sarah Onyango, as saying he was whipped every day.

The report fueled speculation that Obama might have a cool relationship to Britain because of this, although a later biography of the president cast doubt on the account.

Killer of British Soldier Tried To Train With Al-Qaeda Group

One of two men arrested over the murder of a British soldier in a London street was detained in Kenya in 2010 on suspicion of seeking to train with an al Qaeda-linked group in Somalia, Kenyan police said on Sunday.

Confirmation that Michael Adebolajo was held in Kenya and deported to London will intensify calls for Britain’s spy agencies to explain what they knew about the suspect and whether they could have done more to prevent Lee Rigby’s killing on Wednesday.

The British parliament’s security committee will next week investigate the security services’ actions in the run-up to a killing that has put pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron to take a harder line on radicals.

The Nairobi government initially said Adebolajo had never visited Kenya. But on Sunday, Boniface Mwaniki, head of Kenya’s anti-terrorism police, said Adebolajo was arrested in November 2010 and deported to Britain.

“He was arrested with a group of five others trying to travel to Somalia to join militant group al Shabaab,” he told Reuters.

The Islamist force, which is linked to al Qaeda, wants to impose a strict version of Islamic law across Somalia.

A Foreign Office spokeswoman in London confirmed the arrest and said consular officials had provided assistance.

Adebolajo, 28 and Michael Adebowale, 22, are under guard in hospital after being shot and arrested after the murder of the 25-year-old Afghan war veteran. They have not been charged.

Spy agencies have come under scrutiny after uncorroborated allegations by a friend of Adebolajo on Friday that intelligence officers tried to recruit him six months ago.

Asked whether the security services had contacted the men, Home Secretary (interior minister) Theresa May told the BBC: “Their job is about gathering intelligence. They do that from a variety of sources and they will do that in a variety of ways. And yes, they will approach individuals from time to time.”

A source close to the investigation told Reuters this week that both suspects were known to the MI5 domestic security service. However, neither was thought to pose a serious threat.

‘POISONOUS NARRATIVE’

The government also said it is forming a group to combat radical Muslim preachers and others whose words could encourage violence.

Prime Minister David Cameron’s office said the group aimed to fight radicalism in schools and mosques, tighten checks on inflammatory internet material, and disrupt the “poisonous narrative” of hardline clerics.

Rigby’s killing fuelled public anger about radical Islam. It has also raised questions over whether more could have done more to prevent the attack and put pressure on Cameron to tackle suspected militants more forcefully.

Witnesses said the soldier’s killers shouted Islamist slogans during the attack. Bystanders filmed one of the suspects saying it was in revenge for Britain’s involvement in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Successive British governments have wrestled with how to prevent people from becoming radicalized without alienating the wider population with draconian measures.

Former British prime minister Tony Blair tried to tighten rules against hate preachers after the London bombings in 2005 that killed 52 commuters. The measures stirred a long debate over how to balance free speech and civil rights with a strong counter-terrorism strategy.

Britain’s two-party coalition government is divided over a planned new law that would allow police and spy agencies to monitor people’s use of the internet and mobile phones.

The Muslim Council of Britain, a religious umbrella group, said new government measures risked “making our society less free, divided and suspicious of each other”.

Emenike To Miss World Cup Qualifiers After Successful Surgery

Super Eagles forward, Emmanuel Emenike will now be out for between four and six weeks, after undergoing surgery on Thursday.

The Nigerian international will be missing the 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying games against Kenya and Namibia in June after undergoing surgery on Thursday as he will be out for between four and six weeks, according to the official website of his club, Spartak Moscow.

“Emenike underwent a successful operation on his meniscus and will miss four to six weeks,” Spartak Moscow announced on their website.

Emenike has also been ruled out of his club’s last four matches of the Russian Premier League season.

It was earlier reported that Emenike will be missing just the World Cup match in Kenya until the surgery was done on Thursday and it was confirmed that he will be out for longer than anticipated.

Nigeria will face Kenya and Namibia in crucial World Cup games on the road next month.

Emenike finished as joint leading scorer at the 2013 Africa Cup of Nations in South Africa, where Nigeria emerged champions after defeating Burkina Faso.

 

Emeneike will now be available at the earliest in mid-June when the African champions would start their quest at the FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil.

The striker will be available at the earliest in mid-June when the African champions would start their quest at the FIFA Confederations Cup in Brazil.

ICC-Charged Kenyatta Expected To Join Somalia Meeting In London

Kenya’s newly elected President Uhuru Kenyatta, who faces international charges of crimes against humanity, is expected to attend a Somalia conference next week in London at the invitation of the British government, sources said on Friday.

Britain’s high commissioner (ambassador) to Kenya, Christian Turner, extended the invitation to Kenyatta, who is due to stand trial at the International Criminal Court in The Hague, during a meeting with the new president this week.

A source with knowledge of the president’s affairs told Reuters that Kenyatta was planning to travel for Tuesday’s conference that aims to build support for Somalia. A diplomat also said: “The expectation is that he will go.”

Keshi Gets Support From NFF Over Players Call-up

Nigeria’s football management body, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has backed former Super Eagles captain and now Super Eagles head coach, Stephen Keshi over team selection despite the loud protest by the team captain Joseph Yobo.

Yobo was very livid to learn that he was left out of the selection that will be facing the Harambee Stars of Kenya for the World cup qualification clash in Calabar last month.

Several other big players of the Super Eagles criticized Keshi’s act but Yobo who was definitely embittered was of the loudest as he openly criticized Keshi for leaving him out of the team after their victorious return from South Africa as the Super Eagles were crowned the African champions.

One official of the NFF said Stephen Keshi will always get the support of the federation as they have already resolved earlier to give him their support and allow him a free hand.

“We appointed Keshi for the Super Eagles job and we have resolved to give him a free hand to pick the players he deems fit to prosecute matches and thus far his selections have produced results,”.

According to an executive member of the NFF; Chris Green, there are several issues which is in the top drawer of the federation which has be addressed and be addressed in good time too, because it is in the interest of the federation to promote peace in the team for without peace the sole purpose of having a coach to steer the team is defeated.

Green made mention of the Yobo vs Keshi, Osaze and Keshi, Emmanuel Emenike, Danny Shittu issues as part of the issues to be addressed in meeting in Abuja.

“We are going to look at the issues objectively. A coach is a coach and is in charge of the team and can decide the players who could best play a game for him.”

“However, when players begin to complain and senior players for that matter, there is need for us to mediate because the team can only achieve more when they are united.

“Our concern is not to fan the ego of anyone, but for peace to reign in the Eagles. We appointed Keshi for this job and we believe in his ability, therefore we must do everything to make sure his job is easy and void of whatever distraction,”

It would be recalled that Joseph Yobo didn’t feature in most of the matches that Nigeria played during the Afcon 2013 in South Africa due to injury.

However, the captain who returned to his club and started playing immediately stated that he is not down with injury as he has been active for his Turkish club since the Nations cup, knocking off the issue of injury being responsible for being excluded from the Super Eagles call-up.

Kenya Did Not Conduct Electronic Voting – Mike Igini

The Resident Electoral Commissioner, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Cross River State, Mr. Mike Igini has debunked notions stating that the recently concluded Kenya elections were conducted using electronic devices.

While speaking on Channels Television’s Breakfast show Sunrise Daily, he stated that Kenya didn’t conduct electronic voting but conducted electronic authentication which is a different procedure.

 

 

NFF Asks FIFA To Reschedule W.C. Qualifying Matches

The Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) has requested for a reschedule of Nigeria’s World Cup qualifiers coming up in June.

Forwarding this request to the World Football Governing Body FIFA, the NFF stated that it wants the game in Nigeria’s group to be staged the same day for the sake of fairness.

According to the NFF General Secretary; Musa Adamu Malawi will have a better advantage over Nigeria if the request was not made by the NFF as Nigeria would have been engaged in crucial engagement as well as that of Malawi, so requesting for a reschedule is a right path.

“We make this request in the interest of fairness, as at the moment, Nigeria and Malawi have same number of points (five) and for Nigeria to play two days before Malawi in each of the two important qualifying games in June will give undue advantage to the Malawians,”.

“We see the FIFA Confederations Cup as a key tournament, but we also know we have to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals as priority.

“It is important to us to go to the FIFA Confederations Cup and then return to Brazil a year later for the FIFA World Cup finals.”

Come June the 5th, Nigeria will be taking on Kenya for the return leg in Nairobi after which they will engage Namibia in Windhoek on June the 12th before heading to Brazil for the FIFA Confederation Cup; they will now take on Malawi.

This schedule is what has prompted NFF’s action of lodging a formal complaint to the World football Governing Body, proposing that their Group F matches as well as those involving closest rivals Malawi is played on the same day. This would either be on June 5 and 12 or the original dates of June 8 and 15.