Shopping and Flying in Africa’s Boom Towns

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions


As economies across Africa grow, the continent still has a long way to go to create infrastructure to match people’s rising expectations of what a modern, prosperous life looks like.

Africa’s current economic growth has mainly been driven by commodities and oil and gas exports. Critics say this boom has failed to bring tangible benefits to many of Africa’s poor, who feel left out of the prosperity.

Trade has been flourishing not only because of exports to traditional markets in Europe and North America but also because of explosive growth in trade and investment between China and Africa.

Two trends now underway are set to transform people’s wealth and living standards despite the many obstacles caused by the inequalities of current economic growth. The first is the rise and rise of retail shopping options

looking to meet a strong appetite for consumer goods. And the second is the expansion of flying options on a continent notorious for its poor air links. Increasing investment in retail and flight networks will be a source of jobs, careers and wealth for the coming decade.

The aviation sector supports 6.7 million jobs on the continent, according to TradeMark Southern Africa (, and makes a US $67.8 billion contribution to Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP).

But the woeful state of Africa’s air networks means that it is often cheaper for people to fly to other parts of Africa via European airports. And Africa has a long way to go to match air safety standards found elsewhere: there was one accident for every 305,000 flights involving Western-built jets in Africa last year (IATA) – nine times the global average.

But Africa is now receiving the attention of the global airline industry. The Abuja Declaration ( aims to bring the African accident rate in line with the global average by 2015. And it is hoped the added competition and introduction of more global players will also raise standards and make flying in Africa safer, more convenient and cheaper.

The experience of Europe and North America shows that increased air traffic brings a boost to economic growth.

With more frequent, safer and more reliable air routes, business people will be able to move around and strike deals, tourists can get around and traders can cross borders without the hassle of navigating poor road networks.

Airlines are lining up to compete on improving air links in Africa to capitalize on rising incomes and economic dynamism.

The competition to serve the air passengers has heated up with the announcement of numerous new airlines, as well as well-established global carriers making plans to expand routes across Africa. Kenya Airways ( has pledged to reach all of Africa’s countries by 2017 while also launching its own budget airline called Jambo Jet (

State-owned South African Airways (SAA) ( is also starting to expand its network to include every capital city in Africa. SAA will start by adding flights to Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo, making it able to serve 26 African destinations. In the short term, it is doing this by halting flights between Cape Town and London, leaving that route to Virgin Atlantic and British Airways.

Operating out of bases in Kenya, Tanzania, Ghana and Angola, a new African discount airline, FastJet ( – with EasyJet ( founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou as its backer – is taking over Fly540 ( and adding 15 leased Airbus aircraft. It will launch flights to Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania and Angola. According to Kenya’s Nation newspaper, the plan is to replicate the success of EasyJet connecting Europe and North Africa with cheap flights in sub-Saharan Africa.

Analysts believe the entry of an aggressive and experienced player like Haji-Ioannou will shake up competition within African aviation.

Other global players lining up to expand in Africa include Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways, Turkish Airlines and Korea Air, which has already started flying between South Korea and Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. This is being seen as a boost to the trade in electronics goods between the two countries.

The added excitement in the African air industry has also prompted Air Uganda ( and RwandaAir ( to increase their destinations. Qatar Airways ( will start flying in November 2012 to Maputo, Mozambique three times a week, increasing to 20 the number of destinations the airline serves, according to the Nation.

And while Emirates has a 41 per cent share of the African market, African player Ethiopian Airlines ( ambitiously wants to become Africa’s largest airline by 2025.

For shoppers, West Africa is experiencing a boom in new retail spaces being developed, according to a report from Euromonitor International ( ( The advantages of creating and developing modern retail spaces are numerous: hygienic shopping environments with greater safety and security attract multinational and global brands, which tend to create lots of long-term jobs.

Euromonitor International has identified Ghana as the next hotspot for retailers. The country is seen to have the right business environment in place that is attractive to foreign investors. It also has the right mix of political stability, cultural tolerance and rising prosperity.

The country is now being seen as the gateway to West Africa’s market of 250 million consumers. Ghana is able to leverage its position as a gateway into landlocked nations and on its strong ties with English-speaking powerhouses like Britain and the United States.

On top of these strategic advantages, the country has focused on upgrading retail spaces in the capital, Accra. The Accra Mall (, opened in 2007, is considered the most modern shopping mall in Ghana.

Euromonitor found Ghana’s retail industry grew by 14 per cent between 2006 and 2011.

Euromonitor found companies like multinational Unilever and PZ Cussons believed basing their operations in Ghana was a big advantage.

“The presence of such manufacturers provides a good opportunity for retailers as they can source these manufacturers’ products cheaper locally rather than importing them,” it said.

Euromonitor identified three other African countries as potential retail marketplaces. This includes Zambia, a potential agribusiness powerhouse. It is already developing a strong reputation in beef through its Zambeef ( operation. South African companies have done well in Zambia, including Shoprite, Pick n Pay, Mr Price and the Foschini Group. Much of the action is around the capital, Lusaka.

Rwanda is known for its ease of doing business and there is activity going on in residential areas, roads, hotels, offices and retail spaces. The capital, Kigali, has a new modern, shopping mall, The Union Trade Centre, with a 24-hour store.

Angola has been benefiting from peace since the end of its civil war in 2002. Foreign companies have been attracted to Angola from South Africa, Portugal and Brazil. The Belas Shopping Mall ( opened in 2007 in the capital, Luanda, followed by the Ginga Shopping Mall on the city’s outskirts in 2011.

Published: August 2012


1) How we made it in Africa: A great website packed with inspirational people and stories on business success in Africa. Website:

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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Boosting Tourism in India with Surfing Culture

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions


Tourism has experienced decades of growth and diversification and is now considered one of the fastest-growing economic sectors in the world. According to the UNWTO – the United Nations World Tourism Organization – modern tourism is “a key driver for socio-economic progress.”

The scale of global tourism means it rivals other sectors, such as oil exports, food products and automobiles in terms of economic clout. With such an important role to play in global commerce, it has become a top income source for developing countries in the global South.

International tourist arrivals grew by 4 per cent in 2012, reaching a record 1.035 billion worldwide (UNWTO). Emerging economies led the growth in tourism, with Asia and the Pacific showing the strongest gains. Tourism outpaced growth in the wider world economy in 2012, contributing US $2.1 trillion to global GDP and supporting 101 million jobs (WTTC).

“2012 saw continued economic volatility around the globe, particularly in the Eurozone. Yet international tourism managed to stay on course” said UNWTO Secretary-General Taleb Rifai. “The sector has shown its capacity to adjust to the changing market conditions and, although at a slightly more modest rate, is expected to continue expanding in 2013. Tourism is thus one of the pillars that should be supported by governments around the world as part of the solution to stimulating economic growth.”

One country that has found tourism becoming a key contributor to its national income is India. The country’s travel and tourism industry is now three times larger than its automotive manufacturing industry, and generates more jobs than chemical manufacturing, communications and the mining sector combined (World Travel and Tourism Council).

Indian Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahai called for the sector to create 25 million new jobs over the next five years and it is hoping to grow the market by 12 per cent by 2016 (The Economic Times).

Travel and tourism now contributes 6.7 billion rupees (US $124 million) – or 6.4 per cent – of the country’s total GDP (gross domestic product). The sector supports 39 million jobs directly and indirectly.

But competition for global tourist dollars is fierce. As more flight routes open up – Africa for example, is seeing new airlines and routes emerge every year – a person looking for somewhere to holiday has an ever-growing range of options to choose from. Will it be Africa this year, or shall we go to Asia?
One way to attract tourists and gain an extra edge in the global travel marketplace is to show imagination and innovation. Being different and novel can be the clincher for a tourist, especially one who is widely travelled and is searching for new experiences.

In Southern India, the state of Kerala is well known for its ayurvedic medicine ( and food tradition going back centuries, combined with its laid-back beach culture. It is a heady combination that successfully attracts many people, who come to relax and boost their health.
Now, Kerala is offering a new dimension to this experience: surfing. Surfing is a water sport involving a person riding ocean waves (, usually on a long board. India has enormous and mostly untapped potential as a surfing destination, with its hot weather and 7,000 kilometres of coastline.

Soul and Surf ( in Golden Beach, Varkala is within walking distance of the Varkala Cliff tourist area and an hour away from the closest major airport, Trivandrum International Airport.

The founders of Soul and Surf, Ed and Sofie Templeton, were captivated by “surfing warm, empty waves, eating wonderful fresh, cheap seafood, practicing yoga and receiving ayurvedic treatments”, according to their website.

“Enchanted by India’s magical, spiritual atmosphere, the warmth of the local people and the raw natural beauty of the area,” they set up a combined surfing and yoga retreat in 2010.

They have become part of a growing surfing scene in Kerala, and an increasing awareness in the country that its long ocean coastline is perfect for water sports.

As surfing grows in India, the owners wanted to create a business that supported the local area, particularly coastal fishing communities surrounding Varkala.

They have also expanded to run a luxury surf and yoga retreat in Sri Lanka and guided trips to the Andaman Islands.

Soul and Surf was inspired by the Surfing India Surf Ashram (, a 12-hour trip up the coast from Surf and Soul in Karnataka.

Their so-called “Surfing Swamis” have discovered the best places to surf in India and are spirited champions of the whole surfing lifestyle. A swami ( is a Hindu male religious teacher.
Surfing India promotes adventure sport in India and was started in 2004. At the time, surfing in India had a very low profile. Surfing India offers a sophisticated experience to travellers, including Wi-Fi Internet access, vegetarian food and all the equipment required.

All the staff are volunteers and work for room and board. Profits are plowed back into keeping the surf ashram going and helping its activities, which include adventure tours, a surf camp, surf school, yoga retreat, bodyboarding, snorkelling and wakeboarding.

The Surfing Swamis Foundation is a non-profit organization whose goal is to “teach surfing and environmental awareness to children, orphans, and handicapped persons of any age or gender.”

It also sponsors the All India Surf Team for boys and girls across India.


1) India Surf Festival: Taking place at the beginning of the year. Website:

2) A guide to the best places to surf in India. Website:

3) Surfing Federation of India. Website:

4) United Nations World Tourism Organization: The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is the United Nations agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism. Website:

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London Edit

31 July 2013

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African Fashion’s Growing Global Marketplace Profile

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

New UNOSSC banner Dev Cha 2013


Tales of African global fashion successes have multiplied in the last few years. African fashion is seeing its profile rise as more and more shows and festivals boost awareness of the continent’s designs, designers and models. In turn, African fashion and design is being taken more seriously as an income and job generator, and as a sector able to weather the ups and downs of the global economy: people always need to wear clothes.

If the global fashion industry were a country, it would rank 7th in global GDP (gross domestic product) (Fashion Performance Network).

In 2011, the apparel retail industry was worth an estimated US $1.1 trillion, and that could grow to US $1.3 trillion by 2016. And the sector is expanding in the global South. It is forecast that India and China combined will be as big a fashion market as the United States by 2015.

One visible aspect of this is the plethora of African fashion weeks that have sprung up.

Launched in 2011, African Fashion Week in London (, or AFWL, is a reflection of how far things have come and how much higher the profile of African fashion now is.

The mission behind AFWL is “to promote emerging and established African designers and African-inspired designers from across the globe.” The number of attendees grew from 4,700 in the first year to 20,000 in 2012.

In 2012 it partnered with Côte d’Ivoire Fashion Week (, which will hold its third annual event in December 2013. This partnership has meant fashion designers from Côte d’Ivoire can benefit from the higher international profile of appearing at African Fashion Week in London. The theme in 2012 was “Ivorian Textile Products on the American Market.”

“London is one of the most important fashion capitals around the world,” said Côte d’Ivoire Fashion Week’s founder and CEO, Coulibaly Severin on the AFWL website. “It is a great honour for us and the African continent to have a professional international platform to promote African Fashion industry actors, African heritage, African values, African textiles through Africa Fashion Week London.”

The idea is to use the fashion week as a bridge to access the European market.

With the right support, African fashion businesses have huge potential for growth.

A distinctive “Afropolitan” aesthetic ( has grown as a phenomenon since 2005, influencing global urban design trends. It can be characterized as urban, sophisticated, tailored and boldly African in its use of colours and patterns. British designer Paul Smith ( has been one of many designers to be inspired by the afropolitan look.

While African fashion trends have always influenced the global fashion business, the challenge has been to create viable global African fashion brands that can compete in the global marketplace and in turn create sustainable jobs in Africa.

Pioneers are showing that it can be done.

Featured at Africa Fashion Week in London in 2011, the Nigerian fashion brand Mmabon ( is now looking to pioneer new ways to buy and sell clothing in Africa. The company, which sells affordable casual and custom apparel, is launching a mobile phone app for all devices and is building its own Internet e-commerce website as well. Mmabon had been engaging with customers through Facebook and the BlackBerry smartphone, but realized it could offer a much better experience for customers through an app and an e-commerce website. This shows the future for fashion in Africa is going mobile and going online.

Founded by Elizabeth Idem-Ido, Mmabon is capitalizing on the fact Internet access is improving in Nigeria and is turning to online advertising to drum up customers. The fashion brand is trying to reach 16 to 34 year olds, of which 8 million are believed to be currently on Facebook in Nigeria, according to Idem-Ido.

There is a cultural change underway in the country: people are increasingly feeling comfortable doing commerce online and on mobile phones.

“Nigerian youths are now more willing to buy products over the Internet, unlike five years ago, with the likes of and revolutionizing the online retail scene in Nigeria,” Idem-Ido, who is also a trained lawyer, told VC4Africa (

Konga ( is Nigeria’s largest online mall. Opened in 2012, it offers a wide range of products for order across Nigeria. calls itself the “the biggest online shopping mall in Africa”, operating in Morocco, Egypt, Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Kenya. Another player is Ecwid (, which bills itself as an e-commerce solution for small businesses that “is a revolutionary shopping cart that seamlessly integrates with your existing website. It can also be added to your page on social media networks, such as Facebook or mySpace”.

Idem-Ido’s experience with Mmabon over the past two years shows how online marketing can be an effective – and cost-effective – way to broaden a company’s customer base.

“As a business, we have not physically met with 80 per cent of our current customers,” she said. “Orders have been achieved from referrals, BlackBerry Messenger contacts and our official Facebook page. Online marketing improves our visibility without owning a prime-location store and reminds, assures our already existing customers on why we are their preferred brand.”

Her fashion business began humbly as a part-time t-shirt printing hobby for her friends. Then people started ordering custom-designed t-shirts, and so she began a journey exploring fabrics in local and foreign markets.

Mmabon is now the official merchandiser for the Calabar Festival 2013-2015 (, the biggest street carnival in West Africa. Taking place in Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria, it attracts a million people.

Mmabon is receiving help from Venture Capital for Africa, or VC4Africa (, a community of entrepreneurs and investors helping to build companies in Africa, to raise further investment to grow the brand and the business.

Another success benefiting from international exposure is Malian designer Boubacar Doumbia (, who is currently making fabrics for design-savvy British furniture and home furnishings store Habitat. The prints with African themes have proven a hit with Habitat customers.

Working from a new studio in Burkina Faso’s capital, Ouagadougou, Doumbia ( is a leading advocate of bogolan (, a Malian traditional textile dyeing process using mud.

He uses locally grown cotton, which is first dyed using plant-based dyes. A chemical reaction occurs when the iron in the mud is applied to the fabric and turns the existing plant dye black after three applications, or grey after two applications. The mud is washed off and the fabrics are placed in the sun to dry. It is a sustainable and chemical-free approach to dyeing fabrics and also creates vibrant patterns that have caught the attention of people in Europe and elsewhere.

Other outlets who have become enamored with African patterns and themes in Britain include Darkroom Boutique, House of Fraser and the V&A Museum, The Guardian newspaper reported.

As an Ashoka fellow ( – Ashoka is the largest network of social entrepreneurs worldwide – Boubacar is using the craft as a way to boost skills and opportunities for youth in Mali. He has “overhauled the traditional model of youth apprenticeship in Mali by putting young people in a central, entrepreneurial role from the outset. Rather than simply train students in the methods of textile production, he teaches professional, people and life skills, and encourages his apprentices to become self-sufficient, creative, and innovative”, according to the Ashoka website.

Elsewhere, African fashion style pioneer Gilles Belinga ( has become a fashion phenomenon in China. The former communications engineering student had a deeply personal conversion to fashion and style upon arriving in Beijing; the buzzing and vibrant Chinese capital captured his heart.

“I discovered my talent and passion for fashion in China,” he told China Daily.

“I’ve also been given many opportunities here, so I want to pursue my fashion dream in China.”

The Cameroon native has a distinctly afropolitan take on fashion – elegant, tailored suits, strong colours, and a gentleman’s manner – and this fashionable posture landed him modeling work in fashion shows.

He arrived in China in 2008 after his parents divorced and he went from being in a wealthy family back home to having to do any job he could get to survive. He started out in Tianjin, China – an industrial city with a large high-technology sector – and then moved to Beijing to study.

It was there that he fell in love with the city’s fashion scene and hasn’t looked back.

“I never attended fashion school in Africa, but in Beijing, in this fashionable environment I realized that I like drawing clothes, matching colors and mixing fabrics,” he said.

“There are so many fabrics here, which has given me the chance to try out different things. Sometimes you might have a talent in you, but you might not discover that talent if you’re not in a place where it can come out.”

He now designs clothes and has them made by local tailors.

“When I design clothes for clients, I look at the whole person and what kind of message they want to deliver to people,” he said. “Then I check their skin color and think about style and fabric.”

He defies the elitist take on fashion that can be promulgated by fashion magazines and thinks good fashion is for everyone.

“I believe the way you dress sends a message to people about how you want them to think about you.”

He finds Beijing is full of opportunities and he is regularly stopped in the city’s trendy Sanlitun ( neighbourhood and asked to be in fashion shows.

“In China, you don’t know who you are going to meet. You could be anywhere and meet someone who can change your life.”

And he plans to perfect his skills and designs in China and then take them back to Cameroon one day.

And maybe, in time, Belinga will be the next big fashion thing.


1) African Fashion Week London: AFWL celebrates London’s unique and diverse cultural heritage, topped with the flamboyant mixing of Western and African culture through fashion at the same time promoting Africa’s rich ethnic culture and interpreting it into contemporary designs. Website:

2) Gentlemen of Bacongo by Daniele Tamagni, Paul Smith and Paul Goodwin, Publisher: Trolley. Website:

The Afropolitan: A magazine and website from South Africa packed with content from an afropolitan perspective. Website:

Association of African Designers in Diaspora: The Association of African Designers in the Diaspora is the non-profit social enterprise arm of Africa Fashion Week London that supports emerging designers with the aim to make a positive contribution to society through fashion and creativity. Website:

The Creative Economy: How People Make Money From Ideas by John Howkins, Publisher: Penguin. Website:

Creative Economy Report Website: This annual report offers a snapshot of the state of the global creative economy and its key trends. Website:

7) Copyright + Creativity = Jobs and Economic Growth: WIPO Studies on the Economic Contribution of the Copyright Industries (WIPO 2012). Website:

8) The Afropolitan Shop: The Afropolitan Shop is an online boutique founded by Beverly Lwenya, that desires to tell an African Design Story. It began as a blog in 2007 called The Afropolitan Network, which highlighted stories and images of the African Diaspora. The Afropolitan Shop is now a growing global brand, specializing in handmade and designer accessories such as jewelry, bags and shoes. Website:

Published: October 2013

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Mobile Phones Bring the Next Wave of New Ideas from the South

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions


Informa Telecoms and Media estimates mobile networks now cover 90 per cent of the world’s population – 40 per cent of whom are covered but not connected.

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 per cent of how people use mobile phones.

Leonard Waverman of the London Business School has estimated that an extra 10 mobile phones per 100 people in a typical developing country, leads to an extra half a percentage point of growth in GDP per person.

The experience of the US $100 laptops from the One Laptop Per Child Project (OLPC) offers an important lesson on making technology work for the poor: the business model has to come first. In the case of OLPC, the big computer manufacturers are already offering low-cost laptops with extensive software and other support: and out-selling OLPC. And it is mobile phones that are proving how fast take-up can be if users are willing to pay for the service on offer.

A new report by the DIRSI (Regional Dialogue on the Information Society) on mobile phones and poverty in Latin America and the Caribbean, unearths the strategies the poor use to access and use mobile telephony, and the main barriers to increasing usage. It also looks at how mobile phones have improved the lives of the poor.

The poor use them to strengthen social ties, increase personal security, and improve business and employment opportunities. Few share their phones and most own them. The only exceptions are Colombia and Peru, where the incentive is to share ownership. Most importantly, the study found that mobile phones are not a luxury good, but the most cost-effective solution to many problems.

Some 250 million Indians today have mobile phones. Many of them are people who make just US $2 or US $3 a day. More and more are getting access to computers and the internet, even in villages.

India’s Mapunity is pioneering ways to reduce the stress and anguish of the daily commute to work – something that seriously erodes people’s quality of life and affects their health. Owner Madhav Pai is using SMS technology to improve transportation in Bangalore by providing the Bangalore Traffic System’s information on bus routes, locations and congestion – all in real time – to mobile phones. The service is free for subscribers to Airtel, and at a small cost for others.

The service works by collecting information on cell phone signal density to build up a map of congestion at different intersections in the city. Tracking congestion has had two benefits: it not only shows where the trouble spots are, it has also enabled mobile phone companies to know where to place extra relay towers to boost capacity and reduce network overload.

This technology effectively turns the mobile phone into a GPS (global positioning system) mapper, with real-time updates.

The company is incubated at the N S Raghavan Centre for Entrepreneurial Learning at the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore.

In Nairobi, Kenya computer science graduate Billy Odero’s MoSoko uses an SMS text bulletin board system for buying and selling via mobile phones. He got the idea when he had to move out of his university dormitory and needed to sell things to the other students. He was also interested in finding an apartment to share with other newly graduated students somewhere downtown. Tired of sifting through irrelevant ads on bulletin boards, Billy developed an SMS bulletin board system to help connect buyers and sellers in Nairobi. Sellers text into the MoSoko SMS gateway with information regarding the type of item they would like to sell (a bicycle, TV, couch), their location, and the asking price for the item. This information is stored in a database and can be easily accessed via SMS by potential buyers.

More ingenuity can be found in Fultola, Bangladesh. A modest internet café with just four workstations it may be, but remarkably all four can access the internet: through just one mobile phone. This is all possible because of something called an EDGE-enabled (Enhanced Data Rates for GSM Evolution) mobile phone. One of the computers acts as a web server, while the other three workstations are connected to a small device no larger than a cigarette packet. All of this is wireless and possible because of the EDGE-enabled Motorola clamshell mobile phone using a USB cable connection to the server. The project is being supported by the Ndiyo ProjectGrameen Phone and Grameen Telecom.

People use the internet centre to keep in touch with relatives, check market prices, and seek job opportunities or access government websites. The project was co-ordinated by a team working for the GSM Association, the global confederation of mobile phone operators. The aim was to explore the extent to which mobile networks could provide Internet connectivity in developing countries, and to demonstrate the extent to which mobile telephony can increase access to online resources.

In Ghana, mPedigree uses mobiles to fight counterfeit drugs. The plague of counterfeit medicines in Africa kill thousands, and it is estimated between 10 and 25 per cent of all drugs sold in the developing world are fakes (BASCAP – Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy). And in Africa, this may be over 50 per cent (USFDA).

mPedigree founder Ashifi Gogo started his company to use mobile phones to protect people against counterfeit drugs and vaccines. “Buying medicine here is like Russian roulette,” said Gogo. “I don’t want people to have to choose between a drug that’s safe and more expensive and a drug that’s cheap and not genuine. Those choices shouldn’t be there.”

Ghanaian Gogo (also a graduate of Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering), lets consumers send an SMS to mPedigree to verify if a drug is legitimate while they are thinking about buying it in the drug store or the street market. The consumer types in the serial number found on the drug’s packet to a short code (a five-digit number similar to the ones used to top-up mobile phone credits). The consumer then receives an SMS response verifying the drug’s authenticity.

To publicise the service, mPedigree advertises in parallel with existing drug promotion campaigns by legitimate pharmaceutical companies. It is also getting publicity help from the local mobile phone provider, Mobile Content in Ghana.

Gogo hopes to expand the service to Nigeria and Mozambique – and eventually the rest of Africa.

Gogo is really enjoying the whole experience of setting up this business: “It’s fun!” he said. “It just feels so good doing this work.”

Published: December 2007


  • IdeaMamaClub: This online invention and business start-up incubator connects inventors and social entrepreneurs with investors, creative support and global business networks.
  • Stockholm Challenge Awards 2008: An initiative of the Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP), it has four categories and looks for innovative projects in ICT.
  • Terranet: A Swedish company, it has developed a way to make calls between a network of cellphones in a geographically close area, free. A powerful development for entrepreneurs in the South looking for free calls. They are piloting this technology in Ecuador.
  • SME Toolkit: A free online resource aimed at the South to help entrepreneurs and small businesses access business information, tools, and training services to be able to implement sustainable business practices.
  • Entrepreneurial Programming and Research on Mobiles: EPROM, part of the Program for Developmental Entrepreneurship within the MIT Design Laboratory, aims to foster mobile phone-related research and entrepreneurship. Key activities include: development of new applications for mobile phone users worldwide.
David South Consulting first launched in Toronto, Canada in 1991. In 2010 it had a brand re-launch, with a new logo and website developed in Reykjavik, Iceland using 100% renewable energy.

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.  

Creative Commons License

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


© David South Consulting 2022