Posts Tagged ‘rwanda’

Is Your Product Ready for Africa? Why Kigali’s “Smart” Project Faces an Unforeseen Challenge

However, KTRN boss agreed that they share responsibility since they never conducted a profound market research to determine whether the gadgets are compatible with African weather.

“We sincerely didn’t realize that the weather would affect the gadgets”~ Public Buses Wi-fi: Harsh Weather, Incompatible Gadgets Interrupt Kigali’s ‘Smart’ Project, KT Press, 16th October 2017

This isn’t the first time I’ve come across a Korean device manufacturer completely unprepared for the exigencies of the African operating environment. Do we simply hear less about the robustness of Chinese electronic devices, for instance, or do we hold them to a lower standard? That’s a conversation for another day as its an entire screed in itself.

Here, I’ll just introduce our simple framework for ensuring you’ve covered all the bases when developing a new product for a market with very different conditions from your existing ones. Perhaps, it may provide food for thought for both the procurement side of the equation, when thinking about technical specifications and requirements, as well as the potential supplier side, when thinking about entering the African market.

Place: Feasibility

…inadequate infrastructure is a fact of life. Whether is variability in electricity supply in the urban context or lack of it in the rural. Things we take for granted in the operating environment in which these lenses were first framed – pipes full of running water, stable and reliable power, affordable, clean fuel for cooking, credit cards and bank accounts – are either scarce, inadequate or unreliable for the most part.

Feasibility, thus, takes on an entirely different meaning in this context. Each location or region (place) may have different facilities.

This rather obvious oversight has tripped up much larger manufacturers than this. Consider Whirlpool.

Emerging new markets, such as Rwanda’s, are rapidly adopting the latest technology. Is your product up for the challenge?

5 examples of the breadth of African led human-centered design and thinking and planning

The other day I was searching for news on design from the African continent and noted on Twitter that it seemed as though only the South Africans were consistently talking about their various creative outputs. Having long been part of the crowd that believed in the indigenous creativity and innovation in the less visible parts of the world, I went digging to see if maybe it wasn’t the words that were important but the intent of the action.

Was there, in fact, evidence of people centred thinking and planning, and solution crafting, that was innovative or transformative? This is what I’ve found with just a couple of days of desk research, I expect there’s much more out there and this is only the tip of the iceberg.

South Africa: What was designed to exclude can be redesigned to include

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Papwa Sewgolum Golf Course © Johnny Miller / Millefoto

During apartheid, barriers were both constructed and modified to segregate urban spaces—roads, rivers, and large stretches of open land separating rich neighborhoods from the poor. Twenty-two years later these barriers still exist, large homes with lush lawns just a few yards away from tightly-packed communities organized with dirt roads rather than tree-lined streets. Photographer Johnny Miller wanted to capture the dramatic divide from a new perspective, and decided to shoot many areas in South Africa from several hundred feet in the air for a series titled “Unequal Scenes.”

Miller’s photographs went viral as evidence of the inequality inherently embedded in the design of the landscape. Now, the City of Johannesburg is talking about redesigning apartheid’s spatial design:

The city is trying to achieve this through its spatial development strategy dubbed the ‘Corridors of Freedom’ to eliminate sprawling low-density areas without practical public transport networks.

The City of Johannesburg’s executive director for development and planning, Yondela Silimela, says suburban living is not efficient, as leisure amenities are shared by few people. The proposal by the city is urban mixed-use areas that promote shared public spaces such as swimming pools and tennis courts between the rich and poor, to close the widening inequality gap.

 

Government of Rwanda’s political will to enhance citizen-centered governance

In Rwanda, however, the people centric policy design has entered the realm of the intangible – pushing the envelope of design thinking as far as any Nordic city. Taxation policy is to be reconsidered after a User Perception Survey, and an ambitious plan for leadership commitment has been launched by the president for people-centered development. We have hopes of a design policy lab being pioneered in Kigali.

 

Namibian invention disrupts mobile technology

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Petrus Simon with his invention

More pragmatically, a young Namibian figured out how to make mobile phone calls without the need for a SIM card. Luckily, this achievement of his captured the media’s imagination, catapulting him into the limelight and garnering him a scholarship in technology at any university of his choice from the local telco. If every young African inventor received the same, the landscape of STEM would change across the continent.

Ekandjo revealed that the company does not usually fund learners from grade 12, but MTC  is proud to make an exception.

Last year Petrus won a gold medal at the NamPower national schools’ competition, after he invented a machine that serves as a seed drier and cooler.

 

Kenyan Andrew Kio saw the unmet need for African sizes in clothing

 “There are no standard sizes for Africans like the way people walk into shops abroad and you are asked whether you are a size 12 or 14 and such like things.”

Kio did basic market research to help him carve out a niche for himself in the market given that most people then still had a preference for imported jeans, despite the fact that they did not fit properly. He learnt that women have the most problems. He had found his entry point. Kio then went and bought some pairs of women’s jeans, ripped them apart and studied their designs carefully.

Blacjack now has six full-time employees and Kio has recently bought new machines to keep up with demand. Blacjack dresses KFC and Kengeles staff and recently signed a deal with French retailer Carrefour, which has debuted in Kenya. He also imports Woodin designer African prints from Ghana for uniquely African jeans. Source

 

Which segues nicely into the recently launched initiative by the AfDB called Fashionomics – complete with a B2B platform for pan African SMEs. We keep our fingers crossed that creative entrepreneurs like Andrew see the fruits of all this hard work.

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Rwanda launches cashless public transport payments – Will they succeed where Google failed in Kenya?

09e7cd994941d7a07b166230124cb382Public transport is going cashless in Kigali, Rwanda, with smart card payments and mobile money schemes being launched simultaneously with much fanfare. Can Kigali succeed where regional giant Kenya failed a couple of years ago?

Nairobi’s attempt to impose cashless payment technologies in public transport (particularly the matatus, ubiquitous white mini buses that ply the roads) began in mid 2013, when tech behemoth Google partnered with Equity Bank to launch the now defunct BebaPay card. What happened next can only be called a case study of how not to introduce service innovation in the informal economy of sub Saharan Africa. And they weren’t the only ones, yet none of the contenders are still operational today.

“So what’s different about Rwanda’s approach, and what are its chances of success?”

The first thing I noticed is that the NFC enabled smart cards are being validated by the device attached to the vehicle, as can be seen in the photograph above.

 

Read On…

Cashpower: prepaid electricity in Rwanda

Maarja Motus, an Estonian designer and my recent intern spent 3 weeks in Rwanda recently conducting some research on my behalf. Here’s an extract from her report on Cashpower, the Rwandese term for prepaid electricity.

An electricity agent (Cashpower agent) next to Kigali market has 300 customers, only 10 of them buy for whole month (business clients). .Agent sales per day 50 000 – 90 000 RWFs, that is 62.5-112.5 €. Home tarif is 134 Rwf/Kwh

The amount a family spends varies at large scale. A household with TV, washing machine, iron etc may spend 80 000 RWF per a month, where as a family with no home electronics, ( a lamp and a phone to charge), spends 3000 RWFs per month.

What enables it?

Services with the same pre-paid model, airtime sellers provide the existing sales network as well as the consuming habit of buying often and according to the need.

Power shortages that happen in the evenings around 1800-1900 hours, a couple of times in a week and keep people used to and relaxed about blackouts, and the blackout caused by lack of Cashpower are not taken emotionally (as a muzungu like me did).

House girls. A single young man earning 200 000 RFWs ( 250 EUR) as a driver can have a housekeeper who cooks, cleans, shops, and is always there to run to buy electricity. In the families with fixed income, there is likely to be a house girl who is sent the corner shop to top-up the cashpower whenever it has ended. (fist s/he is sent to check the meter, then to the to top-up cashpower).

Mobile money. Both MTN and TIGO carriers enable to buy electricity through their mobile money service, thus one can top-up their meter without leaving the house.

Interesting Side effect

Better awareness of the consumption. Being an temporary member at local house, she knew in numbers (its more common to express the consumption in days and money, not in kWh) how much more is spent on heating up the water tank. Sometimes it takes 5 days to end the cashpower, sometimes it lasts for 8 days. This difference makes people wonder where all the rest got wasted, did they forgot the hot water tank on for the day, did they left the lights or iron on, have they watched more TV this week? It makes people more conscious about consumption.

(this is interesting as in Europe with the climbing prices there are many startups developing home monitoring systems to cut expenses ( actually to data mine). People in Europe are less aware of how much they use and on what they use than in Rwanda.)

Photos coming soon!

The ubiquitious rural computer

Market Woman in rural Rwanda, July 2012 Photo Credit: Niti Bhan

Bargaining for bananas in rural Rwandan market could not have been completed without the use of the mobile phone’s calculator function. While a combination of broken Swahili, Kinyarwanda and English was used by the customer and the shopkeeper, the transaction’s clarity was increased by piling goods on the table and then using the clear numerals offered by the phone.