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African Megacity Makeovers Tackle Rising Populations

Nigeria’s largest, busiest and most congested city, Lagos, has long had a reputation for dynamism mixed with chaos. Its sprawling slums and ballooning population have for decades stretched governments’ ability to provide services.

The 2006 census placed the city’s population at close to 8 million, making it the most populous city in the country and the second largest in Africa after Cairo. One forecast saw the population reaching 23 million by 2015. It was called the fastest growing city in Africa by UNHABITAT (2008). The city is Nigeria’s economic and financial hub and critical to the country’s future.

According to a report by the International Institute for Environment and Development, Africa now has a larger urban population than North America and 25 of the world’s fastest growing big cities. Getting to grips with urban development will be critical for the future of the continent and the wellbeing of its people.

In West Africa, an OECD study found the area stretching along the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean had a network of 300 cities larger than 100,000 people and the biggest collection of urban poverty on the planet.

It is a common problem across the South as fast-growing city populations surge past the ability of institutions and infrastructure to cope.

By 2025, Asia could have 10 or more cities with populations larger than 20 million (Far Eastern Economic Review).

It is a development challenge that urgently needs solutions.

In Lagos, the Oluwole district – formerly a crime-plagued slum – has been transformed into a new marketplace, and the plan is to follow this with new offices, homes and shops. The brainchild of the Lagos state governor Babatunde Fashola (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Babatunde_Fashola), redevelopment of the 20,000 square metre site is part of his multi-stage plan to bring more order to the chaos that is daily life in Lagos. There are also ambitious plans afoot to build new roads and bridges. The area’s traffic congestion is also being targeted for solutions. The former slum is now re-branded as the Oluwole Urban Market and Multifunctional City Centre (http://tinyurl.com/2wmrscq) and is being re-developed in partnership with the private sector.

The re-developed slum is part of the much-larger Lagos Island Central Business District (CBD) Revitalisation/Marina City Project, a five-year project, jointly executed by the Lagos government and private sector players. This project has already begun with the redesigning and reconstruction of roads and infrastructure within the CBD and the adjoining axes.

Another fast-growing African city is Addis Ababa. The capital of the East African nation of Ethiopia, it has been in the grip of a building boom for the past few years. But much of this building has been unplanned and, to many, is ugly. The current building boom’s architectural legacy has been criticized for leaving buildings that are too hot for the climate and require expensive air conditioning systems. They also use imported cement and steel and are not earthquake-proof.

Addis Ababa (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Addis_Ababa) was founded in 1886 by Emperor Menelik II. It is now host to the African Union (http://www.africa-union.org/) and it is this important role that has architects advocating for a new approach to the city’s development.

Addis is home to some of the highest density urban slums in the world, according to the UN. Some estimates place the population at of the city at 4.6 million people and that it could double by 2020. But its pattern is unusual for an African city. Dirk Hebel of Addis Ababa’s architecture school  (http://www.eiabc.edu.et/managing-board/scientific-director.html) told The Economist it defies the usual pattern of rich centre and poor periphery. Instead, because crime is low and the rich seem to tolerate the poor living among them, the slums are jammed between office buildings and flats in the wealthy parts of the city.

Architects favour smaller buildings that stay true to local stone and traditional guttering to collect the rain. Hebel believes turning local would cut building costs by a third and save on costly imports.

The architecture school has received funding from a technical institute in Zurich, Switzerland called ETH (http://www.ethz.ch/index_EN) to help develop new ideas.

Hebel and ETH’s head, Marc Angelil, have written a book profiling the architectural styles of the city. The city has gone through various phases: during its Marxist period (1974-1991) government buildings mimicked the Soviet Union. During the Italian fascist occupation (1935-1941) they followed the styles favoured by Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Political problems aside, the architects believe the Italians brought good planning, allowing streets to radiate out from landmark buildings.

The city is plagued – like so many in the South – by pollution and traffic gridlock. Growth is on projection to be so large by 2050, the country would need 20 new cities of 5 million people each to accommodate it (UN). This is an epic challenge requiring imaginative thinking and new ways.

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

Published: November 2010

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

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Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/DavidSouth1/development-challengessouthsouthsolutionsnovember2010issue

Southern Innovator Issue 1: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Q1O54YSE2BgC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 2: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ty0N969dcssC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 3: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AQNt4YmhZagC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 4: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9T_n2tA7l4EC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 5: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6ILdAgAAQBAJ&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

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ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Crowdsourcing Mobile Phones To Make The Poor Money

By David South, Southern Innovator Magazine

The proliferation of mobile phones across the global South, reaching even the poorest places on the planet, has given birth to whole new ways of making money. A phenomenon called ‘crowdsourcing’ – in which the power of individuals is harvested to achieve a goal – is now being used to create networks of people earning extra income.

One technology called Txteagle (http://txteagle.com/index.html), works like this: somebody performs small tasks with their mobile phone, such as translating a document into a local language, and in return receives credits or cash, so-called ‘micro-payments.’ By having many people perform these tasks in their spare time or down time at work, a large project can be completed and people can top-up their income. The secret is that the task must be able to be broken up into bite size chunks: the elephant must be eaten with a small fork.

For the poor, or people who are just getting by in a poor country, this can be a much-needed survival top-up in hard economic times. It is also an opportunity for people normally frozen out of formal employment opportunities or living in slum conditions.

Txteagle is being pioneered in Kenya using text messages or a low bandwidth, interactive protocol known as USSD (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USSD) (usually used to check prepaid phone balances).

The rapid growth in take-up has made mobile phones the big success story of the 21st century. With such reach, finding new applications for mobile phones that are relevant to the world’s poor and to developing countries is a huge growth area. It is estimated that by 2015, the global mobile phone content market could be worth over US $1 trillion: relegating basic voice phone calls to just 10 percent of the way people use mobile phones.

The technological success story of mobile phones is impressive: China is home to the same number of mobile-phone users (surpassing 650 million in 2009) as the whole of Europe. According to India’s telecoms regulator (http://www.trai.gov.in/Default.asp), half of all urban dwellers now have mobile – or fixed – telephone subscriptions and the number is growing by eight million a month. In Tanzania, mobile phone use grew by 1,600 percent between 2002 and 2008.

Txteagle is the brainchild of Nathan Eagle of EPROM (Entrepreneurial Programming and Research on Mobiles) (http://eprom.mit.edu/ ). He works on developing new mobile phone applications with computer science departments in 10 Sub-Saharan African countries including: the University of Nairobi (http://www.uonbi.ac.ke/) (Kenya), Makerere University (http://mak.ac.ug/makerere/) (Uganda), GSTIT (http://www.gstit.edu.et/) (Ethiopia), Ashesi University (http://www.ashesi.org/) (Ghana), and the Kigali Institute of Science and Technology (http://www.kist.ac.rw/) (Rwanda).

Eagle has pioneered Txteagle in Nairobi, Kenya with students at the University of Nairobi. Drawing on his experience in East Africa, where he has lived since 2006, Eagle has a powerful message about mobile phones in the South. “This is their technology. The mobile phone is theirs,” he told a conference in March of this year. “It has had a far greater impact on their lives than it has on ours.”

Eagle says typical Txteagle users are “literate people in Nairobi who have significant idle time, like taxi drivers, security guards” or high school students. Like many Southern countries, Kenya has a plethora of languages: 62 in all. It can be laborious and costly to translate into all these languages. But by using crowd-sourcing on mobile phones, mobile phone company Nokia’s (www.nokia.com) phone menus have been translated into 15 local languages.

Already there are more people wanting to earn money this way than there are tasks to do. Eagle has had to cap payments at US $1.50 a day. The service needs to grow, and it is looking to offer people in the United States the opportunity to have easily broken-up tasks done in Kenya. Eagle believes his algorithms (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algorithm) ensure a 95-percent accuracy rate. One possible market is the US $15 billion medical transcription industry.

Kenya, a nation of 32 million, relies on its small business sector for most employment. In 2005, the government’s Economic Survey (www.cbs.go.ke/) found the small business sector created 437,900 jobs – mostly because of the boom in mobile phones. According to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), adding an additional 10 mobile phones per 100 people boosts a typical developing country’s GDP growth by 0.6 percent. The boost comes from the innovative use of mobile phone technology by local entrepreneurs.

Kenya is making significant headway on innovating with mobile phones. Already, 30 percent of Kenyans pay for their electricity with their mobile phones instead of waiting in line.

“We have transformed the majority of phones in East Africa into a platform that people can use to make money,” Eagle told the conference. “There are 15 million Africans ready to start working on their mobile phones.”

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

Published: July 2009

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

In 2010 the story was cited in Evoke’s Mobiles + Micro-payments = The New Future of Money (April 1, 2010).

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Google Books: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=_bgpEldq9JsC&dq=development+challenges+july+2009&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/DavidSouth1/development-challengessouthsouthsolutionsjuly2009issue

Southern Innovator Issue 1: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Q1O54YSE2BgC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 2: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ty0N969dcssC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 3: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AQNt4YmhZagC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 4: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9T_n2tA7l4EC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 5: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6ILdAgAAQBAJ&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Innovation Agenda And Timeline | 2007 – 2015

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2007: David South Consulting retained to research and write the United Nations e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions for the then-Special Unit for South-South Cooperation (now the UN Office for South-South Cooperation).

We were able to identify numerous trends that were at the time being overlooked or under-reported; trends that could radically re-shape international development. This included the rapid rise of mobile phones in the global South and their powerful impact on economic development, the rush to cities and urban areas that was turning the world into a majority urban place, and the shift to greater South-South trade, investment and contact. Whereas the past involved people always looking North for inspiration, capital and business and trade relationships, this was shifting to South-South arrangements. And there were plenty of inspirational, modern, 21st century examples of economic, social and human development achievements across the global South to report on. By consistently tracking and chronicling a quiet revolution underway in the global South, the e-newsletter was able to draw attention to a rising 21st-century global innovator culture being shaped by the use of mobile phones and information technologies. Few at the time had grasped how much this was going to reshape the international development paradigm. 

To start, the e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions (begun in 2006), was used to gather together as many stories, data, trends, and contacts as possible and get this message to as wide a group as possible. Luckily, this coincided with the very moment whole swathes of the global South were coming online, either through connecting with mobile phones or through the Internet. Quickly, it became clear there was not a lack of inspiring stories and innovations and solutions to share, but a lack of resources to communicate them. One solution was to utilise a new publishing tool that emerged in 2007: crowd-powered news services. It became a great way to bypass the stranglehold on news and information held by traditional media. Read more on this here: http://www.scribd.com/doc/251968773/Southern-Innovator-Summary-of-Impact-2011-to-2012

In particular, the e-newsletter caught the eye of those looking for inspiration in the wake of the 2007/2008 global economic crisis: 

“Great economic and business reporting! Very helpful for us.” Africa Renewal, Africa Section, Strategic Communications Division, United Nations Department of Public Information

“I just went over your June newsletter. It’s very well done and far reaching. Congratulations!” Violette Ruppanner, Director, 3D -> Trade – Human Rights – Equitable Economy, Geneva, Switzerland

“Just to let you know I enjoyed the newsletter a lot – it was interesting to learn about things going on that I would never otherwise find out about, and also the listing of future conferences and events proved very useful.” Ian Sanderson, Deloitte, Geneva, Switzerland

“Congratulations on another great newsletter that’s packed with fascinating information! I really enjoy getting it each month.” Whitney Harrelson, Making Cents, Washington D.C.

Stories we published that year include: 

Computing in Africa is Set to Get a Big Boost 

Trade to Benefit the Poor Up in 2006 and to Grow in 2007

Social Networking Websites: A Way Out of Poverty

Innovation from the Global South

Creative Use of Wi-Fi to Reach the Poor

Web 2.0 to the Rescue! Using Web and Text to Beat Shortages in Africa

A New House Kit for Slum Dwellers that is Safe and Easy to Build

Afro Coffee: Blending Good Design and Coffee

2008: Development work begins on the concept for a book on innovation in the global South. Attend an Africa trade-focused meeting in Switzerland just as the global crisis breaks. Witness attendees dash from the event as they get frantic calls from London and New York. Undertake Cuba study tour with the BSHF.

Stories we published that year include:

Cyber Cities in the South: An Oasis of Opportunity

Decent and Affordable Housing for the Poor

Nollywood: Booming Nigerian Film Industry

Illiterate Get Internet at the Touch of a Button

Insects Can Help in a Food Crisis

New Weapon Against Crime in the South

Urban Farming to Tackle Global Food Crisis

Urban Youth: A Great Source of Untapped Growth

2009: The book concept becomes a magazine. Attend the UN Conference on the Social and Political Dimensions of the Global Crisis: Implications for Developing Countries in Geneva, Switzerland. 

Stories we published that year include:

Debt-free Homes For the Poor

 Rickshaw Drivers Prosper with New Services 

Cuba’s Hurricane Recovery Solution

Rebuilding After Chinese Earthquake: Beautiful Bamboo Homes

Crowdsourcing Mobile Phones to Make the Poor Money

African Ingenuity Attracting Interest

Making the World a Better Place for Southern Projects

Growing a Southern Brand to Global Success: The Olam Story

2010: Begin working with graphic designer and illustrator Solveig Rolfsdottir and graphic designer Eva Hronn Gudnadottir in Reykjavik, Iceland on the initial concepts for what would become Southern Innovator. The working title for the new magazine is Creative Sparks. 

Stories we published that year include:

Shoes with Sole: Ethiopian Web Success Story

Housing Solution for World’s Growing Urban Population

Indonesian Middle Class Recycle Wealth Back into Domestic Economy

Crowdfunding Technology Start-up Success in Africa

Mongolia Looks to Become Asian IT Leader

Innovation in Growing Cities to Prevent Social Exclusion

Maker Faire and the R&D Rise in the South

Food Diplomacy Next Front for South’s Nations

2011: In 2011, a new magazine, Southern Innovator was launched at the Global South-South Development Expo (GSSD Expo) in Rome, Italy, using the insights gleaned from the e-newsletter. The first issue on mobile phones and information technology was called “a terrific tour de force of what is interesting, cutting edge and relevant in the global mobile/ICT space…”. A further four issues were published on different themes (and launched at global expos around the world), culminating in the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) adopting innovation and South-South cooperation as its guiding approach in its new strategic plan for 2014 to 2017 (http://ssc.undp.org/content/dam/ssc/documents/Key%20Policy%20Documents/N1362177.pdf) (UNDP’s second ever). Southern Innovator was cited as one of the reasons for this. Issue 2 of Southern Innovator, on the theme of youth and entrepreneurship, was also cited as a resource in the first-ever UNDP Youth Strategy 2014-2017 (http://www.pnud.org.br/arquivos/Youth%20Strategy%202014-2017.pdf (http://www.youthpolicy.org/library/wp-content/uploads/library/2014_UNDP_Youth_Strategy_Eng.pdf)

Stories we published that year include:

Food Inflation: Ways to Fight It

Disaster Recovery, Ten Years After: The Gujarat, India Experience

Cambodian Bloggers Champion New, Open Ways

Indian ID Project is Foundation for Future Economic Progress

African Youth Want to do Business in Fast-growing Economy

Anti-bribery Website in India Inspires Others

Data Surge across Global South Promises to Re-shape the Internet

Filipino Architect wants to Transform Slum with New Plan

2012: Two issues of Southern Innovator are launched this year: Youth and Entrepreneurship and Agribusiness and Food Security. They are launched at the Global South-South Development Expo (GSSD Expo) in Vienna, Austria.

Stories we published that year include:

Microwork Pioneer Transforms Prospects for Poor, Vulnerable

Venture Capital Surge in Africa to Help Businesses

Africa’s Tourism Sector Can Learn from Asian Experience

Designed in China to Rival ‘Made in China’

China Looking to Lead on Robot Innovation

Kenya Turns to Geothermal Energy for Electricity and Growth

Global South’s Rising Economies Gain Investor Spotlight

Cooking Bag Helps Poor Households Save Time, Money

2013: In 2013, the global Human Development Report took on the theme “The Rise of the South”: a theme first mooted as a potential cover story for Southern Innovator’s launch issue while in development in 2010 (http://www.davidsouthconsulting.com/blog/2015/7/27/you-heard-it-here-first-influencing-perspectives-on-the-glob.html). 

The Cities and Urbanization issue is launched at the Global South-South Development Expo (GSSD Expo) in Nairobi, Kenya.

Stories we published that year include:

Global South Experiencing Transportation Revolution

Global South’s Middle Class is Increasing Prosperity

African Digital Laser Breakthrough Promises Future Innovation

Boosting Tourism in India with Surfing Culture

US $1 Trillion Opportunity for Africa’s Agribusinesses Says Report

Time-Tested Iranian Solutions to Cool and Refrigerate

Small Fish Farming Opportunity Can Wipe Out Malnutrition

Vietnamese Google Rival Challenging Global Giant

2014: The fifth issue of Southern Innovator is launched at the Global South-South Development Expo (GSSD Expo) in Washington, D.C.. Southern Innovator has always tried to inspire others to take action and this has turned out to be the case. 

“Beautiful, inspiring magazine from UNDP on South-South innovation. Heart is pumping adrenaline and admiration just reading it”

Once blazing a lonely trail, there are now many places to find stories on global South innovation (The Guardian, SciDev, Devex, Business Fights Poverty, Zunia etc.). Mainstream media have also woken up to the energy and change sweeping across the global South, disrupting its regular diet of negative news stories focused around war, disasters and failure (unfortunately, still the majority of what most people see on their TV). 

“I liked your latest Southern innovator! Always inspiring.”

“Btw, I really enjoyed reading them, impressive work & a great resource. Looking forward to Issue 6. My best wishes to you & your team at SI.”

“The magazine looks fantastic, great content and a beautiful design!”

Most importantly, it is the young who have told us they ‘get’ Southern Innovator. It portrays a world they know – comfortable with new technologies, looking to solve problems, open to doing things in new ways. And it is that audience that excites us the most: the youth of the global South (Africa’s young population will be a huge contributor to the world’s working-age workforce by 2050): they are shaping the new world we live in and seeking a role in it.

On Twitter, comments included: From @CapacityPlus Nice job RT @ActevisCGroup: RT @UNDP: Great looking informative @SouthSouth1 mag on South-South Innovation; @UNDP Great looking informative @SouthSouth1 mag on South-South Innovation; @JeannineLemaire Graphically beautiful & informative @UNDP Southern Innovator mag on South-South Innov. 

The phases of this project have been compiled in two e-books and published online here: 

Phase 1: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=llSeBQAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=editions:6eHzE10XqZIC&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjSlZz3hv_KAhUDNhoKHetuA6EQ6AEIHDAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

Phase 2: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=lK4jBgAAQBAJ&pg=PP4&dq=southern+innovator+compilation+of+documents&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwicqc3yhv_KAhVGPxoKHc5KC08Q6AEIHDAA#v=onepage&q=southern%20innovator%20compilation%20of%20documents&f=false

Phase 3: Scale-up Southern Innovator by seeking funding and support. 

Stories we published that year include:

Women Empowered by Fair Trade Manufacturer

Global South Trade Boosted with Increasing China-Africa Trade in 2013

India 2.0: Can the Country Make the Move to the Next Level?

“Pocket-Friendly” Solution to Help Farmers Go Organic

The BRCK: Kenyan-Developed Solution to Boost Internet Access

3D Printing Gives Boy a New Arm in Sudan

China’s Outsourced Airliner Development Model

Big Data Can Transform the Global South’s Growing Cities

2015: In September 2015 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-china-34372188), China’s President Xi Jinping announced China would spend US $2 billion on South-South cooperation initiatives. This has been called “a ‘game changer’ in international relations” (http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/opinion-chinas-new-south-south-funds-a-global-game-changer/). President Xi also said of South-South cooperation, it is: “a great pioneering measure uniting the developing nations together for self-improvement, is featured by equality, mutual trust, mutual benefit, win-win result, solidarity and mutual assistance and can help developing nations pave a new path for development and prosperity.”

The Southern origins of sustainable development goals: Ideas, actors, aspirations by Sakiko Fukuda-Parr and Bhumika Muchhala (SDG Resource Centre).

© David South Consulting 2017