Friday, October 15, 2010

iCow, Flip Flops and Other Kenyan Innovations

Visitors to Kenya—or indeed, to anywhere in Africa—are often impressed by the people’s energy, entrepreneurship, and ingenuity; the most intractable problems are tackled with a creativity and humor that I am continually humbled by. I’ll try to include examples of this in the blog as much as possible.

One of my favorite stories this week is about the winner of the “Apps 4 Africa” competition. Kenyan Charles Kithika emerged victorious with his “iCow” application, which helps farmers maximize the breeding potential of their cows by tracking the animals’ fertility cycles. The program is voice-activated, so anyone with a basic mobile phone (and that’s everyone in Africa these days) can use it. What a brilliant and simple use of mobile technology to improve people’s lives.

Could high speed broadband internet transform the Kenyan economy? With the long-awaited installation of broadband connections earlier this year, East Africa is finally wired and ready for business. Kenya is currently attempting to stake its claim in the vast market for international business outsourcing. Read more here.

Considerably lower tech, but no less exciting and inventive, is the artistry of women in northern Kenya, who collect hundreds of discarded flip flops and use them to create beautiful toys and ornaments. This charming video tells the story of the women (and the flip flops) while capturing some of the rhythm and flavor of coastal Kenyan life. Watch it here:

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently announced a $50 million initiative to promote “clean” stoves in Africa. Most African women cook over open-flamed, wood-burning stoves, causing rampant health problems and speeding deforestation and climate change. Read about Why Clean Stoves Will Help African Women, and learn more about the challenge of changing Kenyans’ attitudes towards cleaner energy sources.

1 comment:

Bubbe Lindy said...

An amazing real peek into what Meghann has always said about the ingenuity and creativity of the people in Africa (Kibera too) to take a nothing and itrn it into a way of sustaining themselves. I loved this beautifully done documentary and want to send it to everyone at church and in Southampton School. This would be a great kernel for the documentary you guys are working on about Kibera. Blessings! Lindy

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