KQ & Fuel Hedging

Last week, Kenya Airways (KQ), announced a pre-tax loss of Kshs 29.7 billion (about $297 million) for the year 2015. This was a shocker as it was the largest announced loss in corporate Kenya’s history and  the airline’s management have given various reasons of the loss.

The summarized results released show that the airline had unrealized losses on fuel derivatives of Kshs 5.7 billon ($57 million) for the year and realized losses of Kshs 1.6 billion ($16 million) .  After their last big loss of 2009 many thought, they would shy away from fuel hedging, but that practice is quite common and is very useful for airlines.

  • A 2014 Bloomberg piece notes that Air France-KLM hedged 63% of its estimated $2.4 billion fuel bill for the third quarter, compared with 74% of its $2.5 billion consumption a year earlier. Also that, Ryanair Holdings Plc, Europe’s biggest discount carrier, kept its coverage unchanged for this financial year at 90%.
  • Kenya Airways fuel bill was about $400m in 2014. The KQ 2012 rights issue Information Memorandum noted that, in December 2009, the KQ Board approved a fuel hedging policy of hedging for up to 80% of the Group’s fuel requirements for the upcoming 12 months and for up to 50% of its fuel requirements for the upcoming 24 months, on a rolling basis.
  • Fuel hedging in Africa:   Two of KQ’s main rivals are Ethiopian airlines (ET) and South Africa Airways (SAA). ET recognizes that jet fuel is a major expenditure of the airline (about $791 million in 2012) and they manage this risk using various hedging strategies for a maximum period of two years on a rolling basis; and the maximum to be hedged is 75%. At SAA, where fuel is also their biggest cost (35% or $754 million in 2012), their policy is to hedge a maximum of 60% of  the fuel exposure on a 12-month rolling basis.
  • The hedges have actually worked well in Kenya Airways favor except for the spike years of 2009 and 2015. There was no loss in 2012 and 2013,a slight gain in 2014 and now a larger loss in 2015.
  • So fuel hedges are not a factor in KQ’s record loss.

Traffic Apps in Kenya: Ma3Route vs Waze

Today Safaricom partnered with Google to launch  Waze, an interactive phone app that provides motorists with real-time traffic information crowd-sourced data from other road users.

Waze, which originated in Israel, was bought by Google for $1.3 billion in 2013. But while Waze has 3 million global users, its maps are sparsely used in Nairobi. There’s been a bit of discussion about why Safaricom is partnering with Waze when they have Ma3Route on Safari com

In Kenya, another platform, Ma3Route, has become the de-facto central point for traffic information which many people check before they start their car engines, both to see how clear the roads are and which routes are best. Ma3Route’s 300,000 daily users largely tweet or read about traffic conditions  and shares stories and traffic frustrations across its mobile apps, website, facebook and twitter.

Data Direction: Authoritative local tech blog TechMoran links the Safaricom-Waze partnership to Google using Safaricom to increase downloads and uptake of Waze. big data means a lot to both Google and Safaricom.

In contrast, Ma3Route bills itself as the twitter for traffic, taking simple text and placing it on maps with one of their objectives being to be light on battery and data bundle consumption.

Mining Moment: Base Titanium June 2015

Base Resources released their quarterly report for the period ending June 30 2015 about Kwale Mineral Sands Operations (commonly known as Base Titanium)

Managing Director Tim Carstens gave updates on various aspects during the quarter including:

  • It’s been an excellent performance over 20 months with operations on target and with a very good safety record.
  • They shipped 100,000 tons from their Likoni port to customers during the quarter. However, for their rutile, ilmenite, and zircon, prices are now 1/3 of what they were two years ago. They export all over, but  with Ilmenite, of which China is the largest market, 60% of companies shipping there are losing money.
  • Carstens said the proposed Kenyan mining bill is a good thing, and soon there will be a  new mining act but they want things to be addressed that meet global best practices. They pay royalties of 2.5% of sale value as per their agreement. The Cabinet Secretary wants this to be much higher, and they have offered 5%  which is the highest in the world. Note: the senate passed the mining bill on July 29. Also there have been no more invoices from Kwale county who sent one in June 2014, a move that they fought, along with the attorney general.
  • Of the $25 million of VAT owed to the company by the Kenya Revenue Authority, they received a payment of $2 million in July and are grateful that KRA has commenced payments
  • Kenyans still don’t invest in mining. The shareholding of Kenyans is still 1%, and that’s not going to change for a few more years when Kenyans get more comfortable taking on mining risk. They hope to turn base titanium into a more Kenyan company with more local shareholders and board members.
  • In June, they made a first principal repayment of US$11 million on their $258 million. In July, they got a loan from one shareholder, Taurus Funds and are seeking to refinance other loans to smooth their cash flows as debt repayments are eating most of the current operating profit. While they had an operating surplus of $20 million in the quarter,  $11 million went to the principal debt, and $8 million went to interest payments. They expect to complete the debt rescheduling in the next quarter.
  • Staff: 92% of the 600 employees are Kenyan, and they plan to go to 97% through training. 25% of the manager are Kenyans and 62% of staff are from Kwale, with 16% of the staff being female which is high for the mining sector.
  • They are involved in CSR  work with over 100 projects in the community  20 of these are  educational, and 200 students are getting scholarships from the company.  The company planted 9,000 indigenous tree seedlings  in the quarter and is working with local farmers on cotton, chicken, and potato projects to help them graduate to industrial-scale farming.

Pivot East 2015

Last week saw the winners of Pivot East announced and they were Arifu, Duma Works, Makarao, Safemotos, and Shield.

The day after, the finalists got to take part in a speed dating game, and some of the creators spoke about their entries including:

  • Duma Works:  a recruitment platform that uses mobile tech to make the process faster & smoother
  • Eko Biashara is a tool for small business owners to track their money through invoices, clients and customers. It’s fully online and the creators are developing an android app (they are looking for android & windows developers)
  • Safe Motos (Rwanda) – an uber for motor bikes using and taxis smart phones and taxis. They are looking for a next round of capital funding.
  • Guumzo share twitter-like conversations using voice. They are looking to raise $150K and for partners in Kenya
  • Soka is a  mobile app that gives football fans access to news, video, stats, on soccer across Africa.
  • African Fashion seeks to connect local fashion designers with followers, fans, and fashion lovers. They are looking for partners and investors.
  • Moview enables  fans of movies to get info, locations and schedules, and local & foreign features in Tanzania. They are looking for $50K, to build windows & iOS apps and for partners on Kenyan movies.
  • Yanguwa from Uganda which has poor transport system and aggregates different service providers.
  • V-Money is a scratch card voucher that tops your mobile money wallet.
  • Feedback R/T from Uganda is a simple game that teachers people how to avoid HIV, and get help if affected. They are looking for mentors & fundraisers.
  • Tenderpreneur.net tries to manage the chaotic Kenyan tendering process through automating it and make easier connections in the supply chain. (They are looking for partners to help them do this across East Africa)
  • SoftBallot runs polls referendums for universities and union halls. They are looking for funding partners sponsor for $50K.
  • SpotMe connects old friends without using their phone numbers, but using their background like school.
  • BOOKEX helps facilitate exchange of books to school kids from others who used books in previous years.
  •  SaniCMS is church management software, and a learning platform for church members. They are looking for $30K
  • Makarao TV is an online animation TV channel that showcases Kenyan animation for local audience in which they tackle social issues in fun manner using police characters. They are looking for a $150K investment

The winners of Pivot East 2015 were Arifu, Duma Works, Makarao, Safemotos, and Shield.

 

Barclays Africa Supply Chain Challenge

Today saw the launch of the Barclays Africa Supply Chain Challenge  at the Capital Club in Nairobi. It’s a contest for in which the winner will get a $10,000 prize for using block chains (wikipedia definition: a block chain (database), is sequential transaction database found in cryptocurrencies derived from bitcoin) to help solve friction in supply chains in any industry.

Barclays was one of the first UK banks to work with bitcoin companies and continues to partner with startups by being their customer and in helping them scale and engage with governments on regulation.

At the event, it was surreal to see bankers showcasing the power of block payments and bitcoin, and at a panel, Elizabeth of Bitpesa spoke of bitcoin as enabling international money transfers, unlike mobile money that’s only within the country. She said the process of licensing in different countries is moving well with many leaning towards licensing of such payments, but Africa is still a grey area with bank regulators yet to decide on bitcoin.

At the launch, Kenyan Information Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi said that the government would in October launch an Enterprise Kenya challenge to fund innovators from $1,000 to $10,000 and to get more assistance such as support with intellectual property and market linkage to grow.

Also businessman Chris Kirubi spoke about  a medical innovation he came up with ten years ago which was a medical smart card that has since saved Kenyan corporations like Barclays millions of shillings in medical fraud, and he wants them to now help him expand the product into other African countries as well.

Medical Investments in East Africa Redux

It’s been 5 years since reviewing the annual results of Nairobi hospital, and since then it’s almost doubled in size.
  • The hospital has revenue of Kshs Kshs 7.5 billion (~$75 million)  up from Kshs 6.9 billion in 2013.
  • It had a surplus of Kshs 1.58 billion (~15.8 million) up from 1 billion in 2013.
  • Assets were  Kshs 9 billion up from 7.5 billion in 2013
  • The hospital invested Kshs 1.2 billion in the last year, including 621 million on building, and 547 million on equipment.
  • Their doctor efficiency target is 4 patients per hour per doctor, an improve from the current 17 minutes (it’s also 21 minutes per patient with ambulance cases)
  • Other revenue sources were the pharmacy with sales of Kshs 2.15b from 327,000 prescription and the laboratory which did 630,000 lab test generating 1.2 billion. It also made 1.1 billion from bed fees.  They had 277 beds available (up from 269 the year before) and admitted 17,558 patients
  • They spent 1.5 billion on medicine, and 1.2 billion on staff towards a total of 4.4 billion in direct expenses. 

Idea Exchange: ALN, Bloomberg, Entrepreneur, MAVC, Research, Rhodes, World Bank, YALI opportunities

Acumen: regional fellows program is a one-year, fully funded leadership development program designed to equip East Africa, India and Pakistan’s next generation of social leaders with the tools needed to unlock their full potential and drive positive change. Applications for East Africa close on July 27.

Africa Business Fellowship: will  match young American business professionals with paid 6-month placements in African companies.

African Fact-Checking Awards: organized by Africa Check and the AFP Foundation, these are the only awards that honour journalism by media based in Africa that expose misleading claims made by public figures and institutions. Eligible entries must be original pieces of fact-checking journalism first published or broadcast between 1 September 2014 and 31 August 2015, by a media house based in Africa - in print or online, broadcast on the radio or television or published in a blog. Winner will receive a cash prize of €2000 and the two runners-up a prize of €1000 each.

Africa Leadership Network: apply to join hundreds of Africa’s most influential leaders at the  sixth annual ALN gathering which will be held in Morocco from November 3 to 7, 2015. . Early bird discounts are offered, and for the first  time, select non-ALN members will be eligible to attend #ALN2015.

Ampion: Venture Bus Africa Incubation Road Trip is a 7-day road trip across the continent that aims to take up to 200 participants on five buses in Morocco, Tunisia and Western, Eastern Africa and Southern Africa regions. Apply now for the East Africa group which has e-health, and governance themes for a trip planned 22 – 28 Oct.  2015.

Aspiring Entrepreneurs Program: targets 30 promising and aspiring entrepreneurs between ages 18 – 35 to join the program, in which they will get the opportunity to start their own business with grants approaching one million Naira (~$5,025). Apply by 30 July.

BAKE/ Mzalendo:  Political blogging workshop aims to help bloggers improve their  writing or blogging skills on any of the following topics: parliamentary business, devolution and county Assemblies work, data journalism and constitutional Implementation? There are 30 slots, and the deadline is 19 July.

Bloomberg Media Initiative Africa: (BMIA) is a prestigious pan-African executive training program that’s been developed for mid-career journalists, financial professionals with an interest in financial journalism; government professionals, development practitioners and civil society professionals.  Apply for the this fully funded, free program worth $15,000 for sessions at leading universities in South Africa, Nigeria and Kenya.

British Institute in Eastern Africa: (BIEA) has research funding for projects in the areas of spending time, everyday states, connections & disconnections, bio-cultural frontiers, and land, heritage & memory. Deadline is 1 August.

Commonwealth Writers: call for writers  is seeking commission correspondents in the different regions of the Commonwealth and also writers for longer pieces. Dealing is July 27.

Eisenhower Fellowships: seeks a diverse mix of applicants from Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Zimbabwe in a wide range of professional sectors to tackle big challenges in the future. Deadline is October 16.

Traveling to Kenya? From 1 September all visitor visas will be applied for online at an eCitizen website with payments made via debit or credit card and a 2 (working) day processing time.

Kiswahili Kshs 1 million (~$10,000) literary award is the Tuzo ya Fasihi ya Ubunifu Kiswahili Literary Award which will see will see winners eligible to win up to Kshs 1,000,000 and be published in Kenya by Spotlight Publishers and translated in France. Submit manuscripts of novels written in Kiswahili by 15 September.

Making All Voices Count: (MAVC) has grant funding for practitioner research & learning (up to £25,000 for projects, of minimum of 3 – 12 months) and for research (up to £75,000 for research projects of 3 – 18 months)

- Also there’s a MAVC #Tech4CitizenVoice competition in South Africa to find local innovators with early-stage tech governance projects that the programme could potentially incubate and fund. Deadline is 10 August.

The Mobile Application Challenge: (MAC) has an African Tech Challenge that comes with  a $5,000 first prize  (plus free access to Gearbox incubator for 6-months), $2,000 for second and $1,000 for third place during which the final 10 contestants will have the opportunity to build the mobile app and demo the results in front of a judging panel. Apply by the 18 July deadline.The aim is to help Kenyan youth get technical skills in manufacturing that will help them in future to engage in entrepreneurship and in getting quality jobs. This year, there are two competitions (Technical Challenge and Mobile App Challenge) with cash prizes amounting to $10,000 for the Technical Challenge’s top six teams and $ 8,000 as cash prize for the top three individual winners of the Mobile App Challenge.

Rhodes: scholarships fully fund and support post-graduate study at Oxford University  for scholars from 32 counties, with 2 places for Kenyans in 2016. Application deadline is 31 August.

World Bank:  Young Professionals Program has been the preeminent program preparing global development leaders. The application for the 2016 group runs through July 31, 2015.The World Bank also has an ongoing  recruitment drive for African nationals that aims to increase the number of Sub Saharan Africans in its work force. The application deadline is August 31.

YALI East Africa: apply to join the YALI regional leadership center East Africa, which is based in Nairobi and has three program tracks; business & entrepreneurship, civic leadership, and public management with a note that applicants from Eritrea can only join either the business & entrepreneurship or the civil leadership ones and applicants from Sudan can only join the civic leadership one.

EDIT

AfricaKnows monthly photo competition is back, with the theme is ”Highways and Road Infrastructure”. Submit your best images that showcase highway construction projects and other road infrastructure for a chance to win cash prizes.

Apply for the Ambassadors to the Internet Governance Forum (João Pessoa, Brazil) as either a First-Time or as a  Returning Ambassador. IGF Ambassadorships are for young Internet Society members who have a strong interest in the issues and themes of the IGF. Applications close on August 2.

Glaxo Smith Kline and Save the Children have launched their 3rd annual $1 million Healthcare Innovation Award which awards healthcare innovations that have helped reduce child deaths in developing countries. Apply  online by September 7.

Graduate trainee at Mabati Rolling Mills can build personal skills and experience in specific functions in preparation for growth into a senior role at the Safal Group in the next five years. Apply by 17 July.

Safaricom have launched the 3rd edition for the Safaricom Appwiz Challenge, a 3-month developer challenge targeting Kenyan innovators in mobile ICT. Since its introductions in 2013, and has since incubated close to 30 tech start-up solutions including Safaricom M-Ledger and Magazine Reel, both of which are now commercially successful and sustainable businesses. The Grand Winner will receive a cash grant of Ksh1.5 million (~$15,000), while the 1st Runner-up and 2nd Runner up will receive Kshs.1million and Kshs. 500,000 respectively. The submission period kicks off on 20th July 2015 and closes on 16th August 2015.

Orange have launched the 2015 Orange African Social Venture Prize now in it’s 5th edition to encourage innovative start-up projects that help accelerate development in Africa. The prize awards three projects with grants of 10,000, 15,000 and 25,000 Euros, along with six months of mentorship from Orange, and the first prize will also receive free patent registration in the country of the project’s deployment. Deadline is September 18.

EDIT II

The 5th edition of the CIO100 have been launched and they enables corporate organizations (both MNC’s and SME’s) to nominate and share the various technology innovations that have enabled them to enhance their operations. Deadline is September 30.

International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) African Great Lakes Reporting Initiative will enable six (6) women journalists to travel to the Central African Republic and report on civil society, governance and humanitarian issues. Deadline is August 12

Graça Machel Scholarships for Women is open to nationals andresident in one of the SADC countries: Angola, Botswana, DRC, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe – who have good first degrees and are studying or applying to study at a South African university.

The second round of the Safaricom Business Journalism Fellowship (SBJF) Program is now open to full-time editorial employees of newspapers, magazines and broadcast news organisations and freelance journalists who have at least four years’ experience. There are 15 places this year for the eight month, mid-career program that gives business journalists the opportunity to train alongside Kenya’s leading business lecturers and some of the top leading newsmakers in the region.

The International Reporting Project (IRP) has a group reporting trip to Ecuador focusing on health and development issues on October 18-29, 2015. Apply by August 7.

EDIT III

African Business Awards  aim to  recognize individuals and companies driving the continent’s rapidly evolving economy forward. Categories being competed for are (i) African business of the year (ii)  business leader of the year (iii) outstanding woman in business (iv) award for good corporate governance (v)  award for best corporate social responsibility (vi) award for innovation (vii) insurance company & initiative of the year (viii)  African business icon and (ix) lifetime achievement award. Deadline is August 10

African Media Initiative media competition is open to professional journalists and media organizations can apply. The Zimeo excellence in media awards are in gender reporting, youth reporting, maritime economy reporting, business and finance reporting, technology reporting, agriculture and food security reporting, health reporting, education reporting, peace and security reporting, energy reporting, data journalism and climate change reporting. Deadline is Aug. 31.

EDIT IV

Centum Foundation is an initiative is to fund a crop of promising businesses, and within a year,  to turn businesses to a sustainable and successful enterprise.

Disruption By Design Awards 2015 - DXD 2015, is a platform that recognizes and awards local changemakers and innovators. Details here and the deadline is August 28.

Airtel and  Samsung, have partnered to search for the next big app developer from the continent. Deadline for applications is 5 September 2015.

Diplo and the NEPAD Agency invite applications for an 11-week long online training course Internet Governance in Africa which starts on 14 September 2015 and covers fundamental aspects of Internet governance and Internet policy. Applications should be received by 15 August.

Knight-Mozilla Fellowships 2016 present a unique opportunity for people who love to code and who want to influence the future of journalism on the web. Deadline is August 21.

M-PESA Foundation Academy has started the formal applications process for bright, talented but economically disadvantaged students in all 47 counties, from which 2 students per county will join the inaugural class starting in January 2016,.

Hadithi is the Airtel blog that allows people to share exciting ideas and stories on innovative people and out of the box concepts and are seeking people to submit their content for Airtel to publish by sharing their contact details, rate card and at least 3 writing samples.

Jumia Kenya wants to pay you to post status updates on Facebook, Twitter and other sites in Kenya. Launched in January 2015 the Jumia affiliate program has become a cash cow for the social media lovers. Commissions vary depending on the different categories of products one chooses to promote but to a maximum of 11%.

Mining 4 1 is a call for innovations on technology in the Kenya mining sector. The top five innovators will be given a chance to present their ideas before a panel of leading entrepreneurs, industrialists and senior executives from the mining industry at the upcoming ‘Mining 4 I‘ event to be held at the Strathmore Business School. Applications deadline is 20 August.

What other opportunities are there for readers to apply for?

Kenya’s best & worst loans & mortgages

The interest rate is only one component of a loan and last week the Central Bank raised  its’ base rates which should lead to more expensive loans for borrowers in the coming weeks.

Now, Jijini Markets have released their latest monthly report on they call the best and worst bank loans and mortgages in which they rank consumer loans, business loans, asset finance and mortgages by the interest rates that various banks are charging.

The EastAfrican is the last Newspaper You’ll Wrap Meat In

President Uhuru Kenyatta sometimes jokes about newspapers and the media, and says that newspapers are only good for  wrapping meat in.  This is usually after they publish a story that he disagrees with and which he feels the writes have got all wrong. But the EastAfrican is the last newspapers he, you, or any serious butcher will want to wrap meat in.

The East African is unique and consistently reach in quality content, week after week.  They break many stories, and often run fresh stories that don’t fit in the bigger picture till later. In essence, it’s sometimes like an enhanced blog or tweet, and they park the story there for other media and readers to take on the discussion later.

The newspaper is great for trends because they routinely write on familiar subjects or topics that matter, and that are of interest in all countries. These include mobile money, taxation, customs & trade, agribusiness, food science, immigration and sometime politics in anthem sense that it impacts the economies and business prospects of the countries.  In the current issue you can read about vastly different pre-election situations in Burundi, Tanzania and Uganda. Probably  few people outside Uganda are aware that the country is going to have election for special interest groups in which citizens will vote for their youth and older person representative in August.

They cover more than East Africa, and if a story from further in Africa has local interest angle, such as mining in Zambia, or the impact of oil prices on Angola then this its fit to run.

The EastAfrican has great in-depth pieces from well-known columnists, and from other people who are not household names but still produce great analytic pieces on budgets, politics, and economic trends.  See why Yoweri Museveni, is going to give me a new iPhone.

They are maybe the only newspaper that can tackle in-depth reports. While a daily newspaper will mention highlights of a report that was published, the EastAfrican can delve deeper into it with several pieces, interviews with the authors, researchers and decision-makers involved. You see over many leaders, like the leadership index that compares the performances of African presidents and the African Development Band report on the level of female director representation  at  corporate boards across Africa.

They also pull in a section of special interest stories from other publication like the New York Times. They are self for manager and consultants and you get nice summary s

 They translate their stories into common currencies as the writers recognize that readers may not know what a Rwanda Franc is  versus a Tanzania shilling – so they provide helpful conversions to dollars to help better faster understand the impact. From a dollar base, any reader is mentally able to translate a story into their own familiar currency. They also have the regional indices so you can in an instantly see which are the best, or worst, performing stocks across East Africa over the last week, month,  or year.

Lastly, they have unique advertisements as it’s now clear that if you’re looking for an opportunity, job, contract or specialist that cuts across borders, then The EastAfrican is the place to find it.

IBM Research targets Nairobi Drivers and Telephone Farmers

At the IBM Research Africa Lab in Nairobi today, there was a briefing before a US Trade delegation on the upcoming visit by US President Obama.

Kamal Bhattacharya, the Vice president – IBM research Africa, said the Lab is IBM’s only commercial research lab on the African continent (opened in 2013), and only the 12th research lab (in 70 years). Research has been a part of almost every technology leap and they have 50 researchers in Nairobi (half of who are women), some from diaspora, and some from local top schools, who now make Kenya their home. In two years between 100 and 150 students have passed through the Lab and they plan to create a leadership academy that will have a masters online course in partnership with  Georgia Tech for the top students.

The Lab currently focuses on financial inclusion, energy, water & agriculture, healthcare, and education. Kamal said the biggest opportunity in Africa is around data, and there’s little insight into how things work (or don’t!) because not enough data is collected. There are 15 million farmers in Kenya and still not much is known about their daily work and the challenges they face, so IBM is building tech that can measure these things and engage them with urban entrepreneurs and connect them to market opportunities.

IBMResearchAf Aisha

Nairobi traffic congestion visualization

There were some side demonstrations of some projects that IBM Research teams are working on.

The first was on traffic mobility.  Nairobi loses a colossal amount in traffic per day and an IBM study found it the 4th most-stressful city for drivers (after Mexico City, Shenzhen and Beijing). The team is doing research to sense how drivers react and vehicles behave as they negotiate typical obstacles on a Nairobi street such as potholes, and bumps of varying sizes.

Also, the Nairobi City County Government is working with IBM Research Africa to improve the efficiency of their solid waste collection fleet. Some trucks were fitted with smart devices and officials are able to monitor, in real-time, speed, location, fuel consumption etc. Since the partnership started, the government has gone from collecting 800 tons to 1,400 tons of solid waste a day and they have learn a lot more about their vehicle operation, traffic patterns, and the state of the roads.

IBMResearchAf Kala

EZ-farm demo

Another research project was on Ez-Farm water management for agriculture. Many of today’s farmers are people, called telephone farmerswho are motivated, moneyed, and keen people (like bank managers or teachers) who want to invest and succeed in agriculture, but who reside in cities (not on their farms) and need better reports on inputs & operations – and water usage is one of the most important elements in a farms’ success.

The Lab is running a pilot program with several farmers (there’s a long list of people want to sign up with IBM). Ultimately, when there’s a poor harvest or crops failure at a farm, or other challenges (brown stains on tomato which indicate stress during production), many farmers are not sure if it is due to water, soil, fertilizer, disease or other cause. Some of the sensors they are using on the test farms  are water tank sensors and soil moisture sensors. Later on, they plan to link with Kenya’s Meteorological Service to build in rainfall patterns and predictions into an eventual app.

Asst Sec Kumar at IBMResearchAf

Asst Sec Kumar

The IBM Research demos were done for the delegation led by Assistant Secretary Arun Kumar, that has been to Mozambique, South Africa, and now Kenya. On the upcoming Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES), they couldn’t give much detail, but that it’s going to be big. The genesis of having the GES in Africa actually comes from President Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo (which may have also triggered other events).

That led to a shifting in the aid to trade paradigm and a push for more regional trade/intra-Africa, and Kenya is leader in the East African Community. The US President will lead a 1,200 strong delegation with the Secretary of Commerce and entrepreneurs, and business leaders in education, government etc.

Kumar said that systems and analytics being developed at IBM Research to drive around potholes will also have uses in many other cities, beyond Nairobi.