I had the pleasure of visiting the printing plant to witness the presses rolling with the first issue of new global magazine, Southern Innovator. The magazine has been in careful development and saw its name evolve from Creative Sparks to Southern Innovator. As Shakespeare noted in his play Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” And it is what Southern Innovator is that counts the most.
This first issue is just the beginning of a process, a back-and-forth dialogue with our readers as we refine and improve the magazine to boost its impact. The first issue’s theme – mobile phones and information technology – was chosen because of the sheer dynamism of this area and some jaw-dropping achievements: the growth of mobile phone usage in Africa represents an unprecedented take-up of a new technology, often in some of the poorest places on the planet. That impresses and it seemed right to share information about the amazing people behind this phenomenon and the lessons they learned along the way. It has also become clear in the research behind the monthly e-newsletter Development Challenges, South-South Solutions (published since 2006), that significant future development gains will not happen without the aid of mobile phones and information technology, and, important to note, will need these tools to raise living standards for all the world’s people in an environment of increasing competition and pressure for resources.
Used right, mobile phones and information technology allow the efficient use of resources. But, as anyone who has worked with technology knows, this isn’t a given. Vast sums of money and time can be squandered if technology is not used intelligently, or lessons not learned from past failures. It is hoped Southern Innovator‘s first issue can contribute to a better use of resources, and by taking a broad look at what is happening out there, enlighten readers to new ideas, people and concepts.
Southern Innovator is designed in Iceland by Graphic Designer and Illustrator Solveig Rolfsdottir.
The new global magazine Creative Sparks now has a new name: Southern Innovator. It is off to the printer and shall be released very soon. Keep an eye here for more details as the magazine launches and rolls out across the globe. It is a complex endeavour to pull together a global magazine to a tight budget and this is only the beginning. A small but talented and experienced team have been working on the project and have received cooperation and assistance from many people spanning many countries. It is hoped the magazine will play a helpful role in the push to achieve the Millennium Development Goals as 2015 approaches.
Just back from a trip to Canada and am headlong into the production of a new magazine. The magazine is being made in collaboration with Icelandic graphic designer and illustrator Solveig Rolfsdottir. As the magazine progresses, I shall post more on the blog about its creative journey and details about its launch.
Roads in many parts of Africa are rough at best, and hostile to vehicles designed with smooth, flat highways in mind. Even in countries like South Africa, where modern highways are common, a quick turn off the smooth highway to visit many communities will mean tackling makeshift dirt roads. In these conditions, buses imported from Western Europe are at a disadvantage when they hit the bone-jarring reality of potholed roads.
In the West African country of Ivory Coast, a manufacturer has decided to tackle the problem head on by designing and manufacturing a long-distance passenger bus just for African conditions.
“We want the transfer of technology in Africa,” Mamadou Coulibaly, Sotra Industries director, told the BBC. “And we want to build our own buses with our specification.
“In Europe the technology is very sophisticated with lots of electronic devices. In Africa we don’t need this.
“We just need robust buses because our roads are not very well done like in Europe. This is an African design for Africa.”
The African bus has fewer seats than European ones, and it can pack 100 people inside. It is a successful formula that has now attracted orders from other African countries.
Three buses are already in operation and more are in the works on a production line. They are designed and made in the largest city, Abidjan, building on an existing chassis and engine base made by European truck company Iveco. Sotra plans to build 300 buses a year in three models: coach, urban and tourist.
“I think it’s a good thing,” Isaac Gueu, an Abidjan accountant, told the BBC. “It’ll help students to move about in more comfort.”
Not only is the accomplishment impressive as an example of made-in-Africa manufacturing, but it was also completed while the country was going through a civil war and political crisis.
Sotra is an experienced manufacturer, and built its reputation with reliable boat-buses (http://tinyurl.com/bot6fv) that ply the country’s lagoons.
Africa’s roads lag behind the rest of the world: In 1997, Africa (excluding South Africa) had 171,000 kilometres of paved roads — about 18 percent less than Poland, a country roughly the size of Zimbabwe. As efforts to complete the trans-African highways continue (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trans-African_Highway_network), the quality of existing roads is deteriorating. In 1992 about 17 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s primary roads were paved, but by 1998 the figure had fallen to 12 percent (World Bank). More than 80 percent of unpaved roads are only in fair condition and 85 per cent of rural feeder roads are in poor condition and cannot be used during the wet season. In Ethiopia, 70 percent of the population has no access to all-weather roads.
Africa also has an appalling road accident rate, mainly attributed to the use of minibuses and other makeshift buses. Each year the number of road deaths and disabilities due to road accidents rises. It is estimated if things carry on as they are, the number of yearly traffic deaths across the continent will reach 144,000 by 2020, a 144 percent increase on today’s deaths.
A properly designed bus is a safer option than trying to pack passengers into a tippy minibus.
On top of making road passenger travel safer and more comfortable, Sofra is creating jobs in Africa and reducing dependence on imports. Beholden to importing sophisticated goods from outside the continent, Africa’s wealth is spent to the benefit of others, and at the expense of high-value jobs at home.
Coulibaly is confident Sotra will reach its goal.
“We have been to school in Europe and we think that we are able today to build our own buses; there are no special difficulties,” he said.
In Nigeria, Innoson Vehicle Manufacturing Company Limited (INNOVEMCO) (http://innosongroup.com/ ) is, in collaboration with Chinese manufacturers, building a huge auto plant in Nnewi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nnewi) where a wide range of commercial and utility vehicles will be produced for the Nigerian market and some countries in West Africa.
AfriGadget is a website dedicated to showcasing African ingenuity. A team of bloggers and readers contribute their pictures, videos and stories from around the continent. The stories of innovation are inspiring. It is a testament to Africans bending the little they have to their will, using creativity to overcome life’s challenges. Website: http://www.afrigadget.com/
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.