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Wednesday, March 18th, 2015
Coworking, smart watches and white space: the latest in tech from the African continent

Coworking catches on in Africa

Unreliable internet connection and regular power shortages are just some of the practical difficulties online startups face in Africa. Could coworking be the answer? In ‘Homes for Africa’s tech entrepreneurs‘, the Economist stated that a recent World Bank report estimated there are over 90 hubs across Africa. This seems conservative given there are over 20 coworking spaces based in Cape Town alone and Regus has over 17 options to ‘hot desk’ in Johannesburg.

White spaces are put to good use in Botswana

The technology behind TV white spaces promises to reduce costs and access to the internet in Africa by allowing broadband to travel via the unused spectrum usually used to deliver television channels. Project Kgolagano, a collaboration between the Botswana Innovation Hub and Microsoft, will provide internet connectivity and telemedicine services to local hospitals and clinics – thus enabling access to specialised medicine in Gaborone and other locations around the world. It’s part of Microsoft’s 4Afrika initiative which held pilots in Kenya, South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania and Ghana. Google has also launched their own White Spaces project last year, connecting ten schools in Cape Town.

Chinese take-away in Congo

The first African-designed smartphone manufacturers in the Republic of Congo have started their expansion across the continent. The Abidjan VMK store, in the Ivory Coast, is just the first stop in its plan to open stores in five countries by the end of the year. It is also an exciting moment for the tablet and mobile manufacturer as their CEO Verone Mankou announced that their factory based in Brazzaville is set to start manufacturing at the end of April. The manufacturing plant has required an investment of more than two million dollars and will employ more than 90 people (VMK’s Chinese partner company has started training the locals already). One of the first products on the assembly line will be a smart watch manufactured in partnership with Omate. The new factory might go some way to allaying doubts that VMK products are actually designed and manufactured in Brazzaville. It is also indicative of rising costs in China and the increasing attractiveness of Africa as a manufacturing destination.

vmk

Other African mobile companies include Zest (SA designed and developed but manufactured overseas), Dream Mobile (made in China and the packaging, final assembly and software development is done in South Africa). Nigeria have Nerve Mobile (plans are also afoot to start manufacturing in Lagos).

Nigerian startup TopCheck close their first funding round

Only three months after launching in Nigeria, the online price comparison site for financial products have raised a six digit Euro figure (oooh… mysterious) from German investment group Tech’n’Trade, and an anonymous angel investor. Read more here.

We compile the most interesting news from Africa’s tech scene on Twitter using the hashtag #DigitalAfrica.

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