Digest: How to save the peoples of Africa

Note: This is an edited version of the TechCabal daily digest for September 4, 2017. Subscribe here, to get it in your mailbox every day around 7am (WAT).

Here’s what you should know today.


1 – Naweza lipa na M-Pesa?

Back in May, Safaricom announced M-Pesa 1Tap, an NFC-based payments system comprising of a card, wrist-band, and badge. They claimed to have signed up ~13,501 customers and 839 merchants in Nakuru 🇰🇪 for the pilot, with 500,000 merchants being the eventual goal (and, ostensibly, millions of users). Things, it appears, have not gone so smoothly.

From Techweez:

Switch the date to today and details on M-Pesa 1Tap progress are scanty. Nakuru residents who have managed to use the service claim that it is hard to get a merchant who accepts the card. […] Kikwai goes ahead to explain that even merchants who had an M-Pesa 1Tap sign on their shops declined to accept the card, citing that he was only able to use the card at a petrol station outside of the Safaricom shops that accept the card.

When I first read the news, my first instinct was that Safaricom faced production hiccups that kept them from rolling out the POS thingamajig to merchants, but that just isn’t compelling enough (see: bold text above).

When pressed for an explanation, Safaricom told Techweez that since they “launched” the service in May 2017, they have been collecting feedback, are refining the customer experience, and are “gearing up for launch” in a few weeks. But that’s probably bullshit, considering they had been testing it as far back as July 2016. So what is going on here?

My theory says “Friction”. To state the obvious, getting users and merchants to adopt a new payment method is f-ing hard. Multiply that difficulty by two, if it involves new hardware, as this does. The Terms published on Safaricom’s site say that while the device may be free, they can charge fees for its use, and it’s not clear if those fees have kicked in, or if are higher than the alternative.

Logically-acting merchants will only adopt a payment method if the cost (not just monetary) of adopting it is tiny compared to the benefits of using it. The cost of using M-Pesa (or Credit cards) instead of cash is far outstripped by the benefits, and that’s why it’s seen such stellar adoption.

That calculus doesn’t necessarily apply with M-Pesa 1Tap, so there is little incentive for merchants to use it – especially if Safaricom is charging a premium for the “convenience”.

2 – Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

And here, we have our saviors from the Technical University of Munich, coming to save the peoples of rural Africa — where the sun burns hot and the roads ride rugged. They have designed a $12000 electric car that is “built for rural Africa”:

Four-wheel drive is a must for the roads of Africa, the majority of which are not paved.

The vehicle is primarily intended for transporting passengers and cargo, [….] Additional modules can turn the vehicle for example into a mobile physician’s office or a water treatment station.

The 20 kWh battery capacity gives the vehicle an electric range of 80 kilometers. The battery can be loaded from an ordinary 220 volt household wall socket within 7 hours.

Thank you, masters. I, who lives in rural Africa, will now buy your $12000 car for $12000, plug it into my 220v wall socket for 7 hours (in my house in rural Africa), and drive it to see my friend, Mutumbu, before we go hunting down the lions that mauled our cows. I hope they are not more than 80 km away, though, but if they are, doxology.

3 – Violence in SA

From MyBroadband:

“Over the last few weeks there has been a huge escalation of violence between Uber and metered taxi drivers which has reached proportions that seek to threaten peace and stability in the province. It is for this reason that we felt the need to convene this meeting with law enforcement agencies that include traffic officers, police, SAPS commanders as well as state security,” said Makhura according to a statement from the Gauteng provincial government.

I’ve been seeing reports of these tensions between Uber drivers and legacy taxi drivers, and things have gotten really bad in SA. People have been murdered and vehicles have been set ablaze. The police is trying to maintain order while they work out a regulatory framework to allow the old to coexist with the new.

Sigh.

What else is interesting?


+ Podcast: Dotun Olowoporoku talks to Afua Osei, cofounder of She Leads Africa. Link.

+ Are big ideas getting harder to find? Link.

+ Lions Africa State of Play Ecosystem Report. Link.

+ The machine learning emperor has no clothes. Link.

+ These organizations are teaching visually impaired kids to code. Link.

Upcoming events


Lagos: NigeriaCom, an exclusive conference about the networks and ICT of Digital Nigeria, will hold on September 20 – 21 at Oriental Hotel. Get more details and register here.

London: Dinner with BTNG (Building Things for Nigeria), in collaboration with Tokunbo’s Kitchen, will hold on September 22. Link.

Lagos: Imisi 3D’s AR/VR meetup on September 23. Register.

Owerri: Tech Ladies Meetup at 10am on September 23. Location: 3, Yar’Adua Drive by Concorde Junction, Off Port Harcourt Road, Owerri.

Lagos: forLoop women and Africa’s Talking are holding “The Bot Party” on September 23. Deets.

Lagos: Paystack is organizing a Y-Combinator Lagos Meetup on September 23. Meet YC founders and gain insight into the process. Link.

JohannesburgRegister for CIPESA’s forum on Internet Freedom in Africa, holding on September 27 – 29.

Lagos: Lagos WordPress Meetup, on September 30, at Best Western Hotel, Ikeja. Link.


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