Category Archives: ideaexchange

Baraza Media Lab launch

This week saw the launch of the Baraza Media Lab in Nairobi as part of an initiative to foster more collaboration towards a better future for journalists and media to tell their stories.

The Baraza Lab is a $1 million investment that is supported by the Luminate Group which is a spinoff of the governance and citizen engagements funded by the Omidyar Network. Ory Okolloh, the Managing Director, Africa for Luminate said that different media organizations were dealing with their industry problems in their own silos. The new Baraza lab, which is being run in collaboration with Mettā Nairobi, is a place where like-minded creatives could meet, share, and collaborate on the future of media.

At the launch, it was said that no industry has been as disrupted by technology as much as the media, whose business models have been eroded by new advertising platforms. This is also a time when propaganda and fake news divides societies and where personalities had more followers than countries. Yet media remains a necessary arm of inclusive and democratic societies, and organizations such as AmaBhungane and Africa Uncensored were cited as two entities that had done a great deal to expose corruption issues in South Africa and Kenya, respectively.

Media coach and “recovering” journalist Uduak Amimo, who was the keynote speaker at the launch, spoke about the revelations and opportunities brought on by new media in the last few years. As an example of collaboration, she said that the data dumps by Wikileaks had not made much sense until the organization partnered with traditional media houses. But the opportunities for media had been hampered by a focus on profits over purpose, media that shared messages that they had not checked or analyzed, pay discrimination and tolerance of harassment among other factors.

Amazon’s Working Backwards

Earlier this year, I got introduced to a simple business process tool that I find myself using every day, for every task, no matter how mundane. It’s called “Working Backwards” and it is a central feature of innovation at Amazon, the second or third most valuable company in the world 

With “Working Backwards”, you start by listening to the customers before thinking you can innovate. As a manager or a champion of a company, you begin by writing a press release for a product or service. What it will do, and the problem it will solve.  The release is written in the voice of the customer. not the company. 

Then you write the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s), the typical questions a customer or partner will ask, about how a product or service works. 

Then you build a visual of the concept, from the perspective of the customer – a rough drawing showing how the customer will use the product or service. Human beings are very visual and understand things better when they see how it works. 

They do all this before they start designing a product. One fundamental aspect of the process is that the manager or champion becomes an investor in the process. He /she pledges a percentage of their annual bonus to go towards the development cost of the process. There is a gain if it succeeds, and a loss if it does not. This aligns the manager with the process he/she is steering the company towards. In this way, one may not be a CEO with executive options, but with “Working Backwards,” they are a venture capitalist invested in a successful outcome.

The “Working Backwards” process enables a company to invent on behalf of the customer. It has led Amazon to give customers enhanced home shopping experiences with Amazon Prime, deliver a book to a customer within 60 seconds through Amazon Kindle and enable busy workers to quickly shop and walk out of a store without having to queue to pay for items with Amazon Go.

The process allows companies to spot customer problems and opportunities and to better validate innovation concepts. Can we see more examples of “Working Backwards” used? At more companies? How would that change decision-making? Would it mean less loss of corporate resources or product flops because the customer was not considered in the first place? Fewer white elephants? Try it out. 

Absa and the Spirit of Highway Africa

My first trip to South Africa was back in 2006 to attend the combination of Highway Africa, and the inaugural Digital Citizen Indaba which was Africa’s first-ever major blogging conference.  Highway Africa, billed as the largest gathering of African journalists, was run by the Rhodes University’s School of Journalism and Media Studies. It was supported by the South African Broadcasting Corporation, South Africa’s Department of Communication, Absa bank, Multichoice, MTN, South African Airways, Sunday Times, among others.

So it was a pleasant surprise this month to encounter the spirit of Highway Africa and reconnect with those  pioneer conferences. This was at a data journalism masterclass, at Enashipai Resort, in Naivasha, Kenya. Absa has been sponsoring the data class that aims to assist financial journalists to report on complex financial matters since it was a part of the two-decades-long Highway Africa that is now on hiatus.

In 2019, the classes have been held in Uganda, Kenya, Zambia and  Tanzania. Four more countries will be covered in November. The program is done in conjunction with Rhodes University and is led by Peter Verweij.

The masterclass had themes of finding and scraping data, and also analyzing, mapping, and visualizing data for presentations that enrich stories. This was done using free tools and diverse data sets to infer correlations on subjects such as sub-Saharan African debt, sovereign ratings and financial inclusion.

There were also sessions about the ongoing plans at Barclays Africa which is rebranding to Absa in twelve African countries. Barclays has been operating in Kenya for 103 years, and the bank which is listed on the Nairobi Securities Exchange, remains one of the top-performing banks this year in terms of capital efficiency and returns to investors.

Kobo360 and SWVL launch in Nairobi on the same day

On one day late in August 2019, two young disruptive, but non-competing, logistics companies had parallel breakfast events to mark significant milestones in Nairobi.

Kobo360: There was the formal launch of Kobo 360, the pan-African logistics company which has been operating for five months in Kenya. Kobo360 pairs cargo owners with transporters, enabling the seamless booking and transport of goods to destinations while lorry owners get extra business and revenue from the running their trucks on the company’s platforms.

Kobo360 aims to is introduce efficiency and predictability to the $150 billion Africa logistics industry through real-time data, by providing insurance & tracking, and all to facilitate trust in delivery and payments. They operate in Nigeria, Kenya, Togo, Ghana, and Uganda and make deliveries to other countries in West, Central and Southern Africa from port cities.

Founded in Nigeria, they view tech adoption as being  higher in Kenya and they want to use it as a launchpad for the East Africa region. Kobo360 has offices in Mombasa and Nairobi and currently have 3,000 trucks and access to 4,000 drivers on their platforms. They have raised funding from the IFC, Goldman Sachs, TL Com, Chandaria Capital, Verod, Asia Africa and WTI.

SWVL Kenya official launch: The same day as the Kobo event, SWVL also announced their official launch in Kenya with a Kshs 1.5 billion expansion of its Kenya operation. This is equivalent to $15 million which is a lot of money that will go towards increasing their route network offering of high-quality public transportation. The company which was started in Egypt in 2017 has been operating in Nairobi for six months now and recently raised $42 million from its investors including BECO Capital and Sweden’s Vostok New Ventures. It has gone from operating four routes on which passengers can book rides on SWVL shuttles to fifty-five routes now across Nairobi. Here is a rice review of using SWVL by a Nairobi commuter.

BA 2119: The Flight of the Future exhibition

A guest post by Elsie Kibue-Ngare.

I was fortunate enough to be invited/gifted a ticket to an interactive exhibition by British Airways in collaboration with students from the Royal College of Art (RCA) at the Saatchi Gallery as they showcased the future of flying in the next 100 years.

This year, British Airways is celebrating its 100th Anniversary as being part of a predecessor company AT&T (Air Transport & Travel Ltd) and this exhibition is a celebration of that long history by looking at aviation through history via FLY, an interactive, multisensory, virtual reality experience that turns you into a time traveller from being a bird, into Leonardo Da Vinci’s studio in Florence all the way to 100 years into the future to what aviation might look like with an aircraft that is guided to land by sight as one of the possibilities of air travel.

Together with FLY, eight other concepts were showcased at the exhibition. These included:

  • AVII (AVY), which I particularly liked as a concept to improve the experience of travellers using Artifical Intelligence (AI) in collaboration with cabin crew. The idea is to submit your needs as you book your flight, for example, if you have particular dietary needs and this information is fed back to the cabin crew who in return provide personalised service throughout your flight without even you asking.
  • Another concept, TASTENATION, uses data collected from DNA and body health to 3D print food for a new multi-sensory in-flight dining experience. This idea does away with food waste as meals are prepared from scratch onto edible cutlery and plates. Yet at the same time provide the necessary nutrients whilst on the air as it prepares the body to adjust to the cuisine of the traveller’s destination.
  • In line with reducing waste, THE FUTURE OF LUGGAGE is another concept that can also be realised. The vision where travellers would travel without any luggage as they will have to upload their clothes onto a digital wardrobe together with their measurements and depending on the weather, duration of their stay, etc. and the idea that you would arrive at your destination and find a set of clothes waiting for you at the airport lounge at your destination is pretty awesome. Clothes will be made from recycled materials that at the end of your trip, you drop them off at the airport where they are recycled.

There was so much to detailing to see at this exhibition from personalised wearable seats called AIRWEAR, to flying green with AERIUM, where the air we breathe and the water that we drink whilst flying is generated through bioavionics systems integrated as part of the plane. CURIO, a hypersonic modular aircraft with zero emissions and weird seating is one I did not get. And so did AER, a shape-changing smart luggage transportation concept.

Of the concepts, I saw at the exhibition, AVII(AVY), AERIUM, TASTENATION and THE FUTURE OF LUGGAGE looked like the ones that are likely to happen in the near future leading up to 2119 with the other concepts looking very unlikely, but I could be wrong and years beyond 2119, these other concepts could be a reality for many.

All in all, it was amazing to see how history and the advancement of technology inform us of the ideas and innovations of what is yet to come.