Africa’s tech geniuses showcase innovations at DEMO Africa

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DEMO AFRICA DAY 1

The DEMO Africa Conference, renowned for launching the most innovative technology products globally, was held on 24th and 25th October at the Safari Park hotel, Nairobi by featuring cutting-edge innovations and product launches in the social media, cloud services, mobile, consumer and enterprise technologies categories from tech start-ups across the African Continent.

Isaiah Parnell, Deputy Chief of Mission at the US Embassy in Nairobi gave a rousing speech on behalf of the US Ambassador to Kenya, H.E. Robert F. Godec on the need to invest on upcoming startups and ideas in Africa.

“Technology is the driver of tomorrow’s reality, and investing in the ideas and innovations is the best way to ensure that we are prepared for that future; the innovative and creative ideas being launched here today will define and transform the technology landscape in Africa,” said Parnell.

Other exciting presentations featured Nick Ville, of LIONS@frica and Linda Kozlowski, vice-president international marketing at Evernote, sharing on the opportunities for tech startups to nurture their business.

The DEMO Africa conference is an annual event that works with startup companies across the Africa to present innovations covering all sectors of the economy including health, education, agriculture, communication, and transport to the DEMO audience.

Demonstrators from the 40 startups were given six minutes on stage to present their ideas, and then received four minutes of immediate feedback from established founders of companies in their category in the sage panel. Each panel had great advice to give and if the start-ups take the words seriously, they stand a chance of having their business grow beyond the African continent.

The 2013 DEMO Africa finalists were picked from a record 300 technology start-ups from 24 African countries. Out of the 40, South Africa launced 12 start-ups, Kenya launched nine, while Nigeria and Egypt launched four and five start-ups respectively. Tanzania had two qualifying start-ups while Ghana, Tunisia, Zimbabwe, Senegal, Uganda and Morocco each had one project launching.

Each start-up was great and absolutely amazing. But there were a few that stood out and I will definitely keep my eye out to see how they fair in the next few months. Here is a look at 5 start-ups that impressed me the most at the conference.

Anaso Diabetes Online

This is a South African based start-up founded by Chibuzo Anaso. It is a diabetes management that incorporates all aspects of diabetes self-management, doctor’s visits and monitoring, support group interactions, peer support, community involvement). It’s an application on phones that will allow diabetes patients as well as those suffering from hypertension to follow and monitor their progress.

I was particularly impressed by the fact that it covers more than one aspect of management. The application deals with the interplay of all aspects including medical advice. Monetization is through subscription services from advertisers targeting the users but premium account holders will pay a subscription fee.

FraudCracker

This start-up got my attention in particular due to the news of misappropriation of funds in government institutions of late. I was intrigued to find out how you can report and track fraud..

This online technology helps you do more than just identify fraud, you as a stakeholder can also use it to expose fraud online. It’s way better than the hotlines set-up to report fraud. The good thing about it is you can report fraud anonymously. If you want, you can also add supporting documentation.

If you run a company, I would suggest you getting in touch with the company via their website. It could help you reduce your company losing money through frsaud. And it will encourage your employees to report fraud as they know no one will ever know they reported it.

Wireless Mobile Phone Charger

This Kenyan start-up by Anthony Mutua is one of the few start-ups I felt I could relate to and even maybe use one day. Mutua has invented mobile phone charging shoes with ultra-thin chips of crystal fitted to the bottom of the sole.

As a user makes any movement, he or she generates electricity through the pressure exerted when the shoe is stepped on.

The device costs around Sh1,240 and charges the phone through an extension cable that runs from the shoe to the pocket. They have a life span of six to eight years. When the shoe wears out, the gadgets can be transplanted into any other shoe, except for shower slippers.

An 800-metre walk is enough to get a phone to full charge. If no gadget is connected to drain the charge, the chips can store energy for weeks after charging. The device can charge several devices at the same time. Seeing as many people have their phone’s battery running out at odd hours, this invention stands to gain a lot of business in future.

Duma

Have you tried looking for a job but just can’t seem to make enough connections? Duma is here to help you out. The product gives job seekers and employers a network through which to connect, based on social contacts, location, job skills and hiring criteria.

If an employer has a job opportunity, she or he can call or message Duma, or post the opening online. Duma’s software then automatically does a database search for job seekers who best fit the position. It looks at skills, work experience, reviews from other employers, geographic proximity and social network connections.

It’s free to access Duma if you are seeking a job and they have a 50% job matching success rate with 1,600 of the 3,000 registered users getting matched. Duma focuses mainly on entry-level and short-term positions around Kenya. Aspiring employees access it for free.

GoMetro

Wouldn’t it be cool to be able to track your bus, matatu or train? This city transport app will allow you to do all that. Using multiple sources of data, a consumer can check all transport choices and know what options are available to get him to his destination on time.

It also allows you to tailor data to send a message to a lecture/employer or business partner if you will be late. I’m not sure how viable this app would be in Kenya but it would be great to have it. All those times you are stuck in town because buses are stuck in traffic can be avoided with you tracking the vehicles.

Nokia, who were sponsors of the event gifted 5 start-ups with Lumia 925’s. The start-ups which were randomly selected to get these gifts were: Center for Affordable Housing, Eduze, Obami, Ramp and The Able Wireless Companies

DEMO Africa had great start-ups. Each unique on their own way. Some needed a few tweaks to be better but the ideas behind them all make them something that can grow to be a huge business in future. The 2013 conference had a lot to offer and it would be great if the presentations were a bit longer and included a Q&A with the founders on stage rather than in private during the DEMO pit. Hopefully this might change at the next one. All in all the conference was a chance to showcase how their creative minds noticed something was lacking in a certain sector and decided to meet that demand.

The next DEMO Africa conference is tentatively scheduled to be held in Nigeria.

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