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Entrepreneurs Gear Up to Share Ideas at Second Africa Gathering

Budding entrepreneurs eager to use technology to improve the lives of ordinary people in Africa will share and promote their innovative ideas at the second Africa Gathering conference. Senior figures including Americo Muchanga, Director General of the National Institute of Communications in Mozambique, will also explain the opportunities and challenges associated with the latest developments in communications. The most inspiring proposal at the event in London in October could receive a recession-busting kick-start.

Sharing ideas for positive change
The two-day programme  has been organised in response to popular demand following the inspiring inaugural Africa Gathering meeting in April 2009 in London. The conference is devoted to sharing ideas for positive change and will be bigger and better than the initial forum.  It will include a networking session from 6pm on 9 October for business leaders working in Africa. Any surplus money collected from the sale of these tickets will be handed out to the most inspiring and creative project after the shortlisted entrants deliver their 20-minute talks to the Africa Gathering audience on 10 October.

Pioneering technologist Ken Banks – a speaker from the first Africa Gathering – will be the keynote speaker on 9 October and will focus on his development of FrontlineSMS – free software that connects a computer and mobile phone users, thereby enabling users to send and receive text messages with large groups of people without an internet connection. This system has been used for many purposes, including monitoring the Nigerian elections and sending security alerts to field workers. Banks said: “There are fewer places where mobile technology has made such an incredible impact than Africa. In this talk, I’ll draw on years of experience working at the intersection of technology, anthropology, conservation and development in Africa to discuss this impact, all the way from the small village entrepreneur to the work of small to medium to large non-profit organisations”.  Other confirmed speakers will be talking about a range of projects from mobile payments to agriculture and social networking. These include Leon Benjamin, of Winning by Sharing, Teddy Ruge, of Project Diaspora, Ben Lyon, of CreditSMS, Molly Mattessich, of Africa Rural Connect, and Jon Gossier, of Appfrica Labs, Uganda. A follow-up Africa Gathering is also already planned for Nairobi, Kenya, for 21-22 December 2009.

The first Africa Gathering 
Speakers at the original conference, which was hosted by LIDC and held on 25 April, spoke about a range of existing projects and ambitions to harness technology to tackle development. These included blogger Simon Berry’s idea to encourage Coca-Cola to use its extensive distribution system to deliver medicines for children in Africa. His campaign, largely promoted through his Facebook page and Twitter updates, has been pivotal in persuading Coca-Cola to trial the idea in Tanzania this year. Nigel Waller, of Movirtu, spoke about the expense of a mobile handset and how this is unlikely to fall further. He set out his company’s plan to bring mobile phone services to more than a billion people earning less than $2- dollars-a-day  by providing them with phone numbers (and the associated benefits, such as the ability to receive messages and remittances) accessible via shared mobile phones. Nick Short, of the Royal Veterinary College and a member of LIDC, explained how Vetaid is planning to include the use of GPS mobiles for disease surveillance in East Africa.

Full programme and buying tickets
Tickets for the networking session on 9 October cost £50 and tickets for 10 October start from £15. Book online at: http://africagatheringlondon.eventbrite.com/ .  Africa Gathering is taking place at The Hub, 34b York Way, King’s Cross, London, N1 9AB. For more information visit: www.africagathering.org/  or contact info@africagathering.org . Click here for the full programme.

By Guy Collender, Senior Communications Officer, LIDC