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THE VERGE — It’s been a while since we’ve seen any updates to the Atlas robot after Alphabet sold Boston Dynamics to SoftBank in June. After unveiling a teaser of its SpotMini robot just a few days ago, the company is now back with a new video of Atlas just casually performing gymnastics moves like it’s Tokyo 2020. Most of the video highlights the Atlas’ ability to hop up straight and stabilize itself on a platform, and jump while turning 180 degrees. Its movements are more fluid than ever, and Atlas appears to maintain great form.

Tech

Crowdfarming is being used to bring Somalia’s livestock market into the digital economy

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Somalia is a global leader in the export of goats and sheep, and livestock trade generates about 40% of the country’s gross domestic product.

Yet almost every other year, recurring droughts and water scarcity take a toll on local pastoralists’ ability to keep their animals live and healthy. In 2017 alone, livestock loss has ranged from 20%-40% in the southern regions and 40%-60% in the north, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization. This threatens the livelihood of the animal farmers and hinders their ability to regularly trade in markets.

But a Sweden-based startup wants to change this by creating a tech-powered livestock market that is open all year round. The goal of Ari.Farm (“Ari” means “goat” in Somali) is to get investors to purchase livestock from locals, injecting much-needed cash into the market and potentially making a profit.

Once a purchase is made, an investor is able to name his animals, follow their progress online, and even gift or donate them. Ari.Farm takes care of the animals in two farms, one located outside Galkayo town in south-central Somalia and the other outside the capital Mogadishu. As the number of animals one owns grow from breeding, they can decide to sell them at the local market price. That amount could then be used to re-invest in more livestock or be withdrawn by the financier.
Ari.Farm founder Mohamed Jimale, a former nomad himself, says since beginning operations in 2016, people from 26 countries across the world have bought almost 1,000 goats, sheep, and camels through Ari.Farm. “The Somali livestock owners are not poor, they have wealth,” Jimale told Quartz. But if they are to survive “they need to find a market for their livestock.”

Across Africa, Ari.Farm is hardly the only start-up committed to crowdfarming as an avenue for investment, tackling unemployment, increasing social impact, and unlocking multi-million-dollar markets. Livestock Wealth in South Africa, Mifugo Trade in Kenya, and AniTrack in Ghana are but some of the applications bringing livestock trade into the digital economy. In Nigeria, agro-tech start-ups like FarmCrowdy and ThriveAgric have also enabled middle-class Nigerians to fund existing farms for between $200 and $750 for a harvest cycle.

Ari.Farm has now gone a step further and introduced cryptocurrencies as a payment method. Jimale says this was necessitated because customers and financial institutions kept asking about the risks of investing in Somalia. For decades, Somalia has had a freewheeling economy with the majority of the currency in circulation considered fake. But as the price gain for Bitcoin surges past $11,000 and also gains ground in the developing world, Jimale says it allows them to attract more customers and sidestep some of the conventional central banking requirements.

So far, about 10% of Ari.Farm’s transactions are traded through bitcoin, and the company hopes to integrate Blockchain technology for a trading platform in the future. Part of that might come as Ari.Farm looks to close seed funding of up to 2 million Swedish Krona ($237,000) in the coming months.

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There’s growing concern about the price Africa will pay for internet shutdowns and fake news

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EPA/Will Oliver

ABDI LATIF DAHIR

The internet has been lauded as a panacea for Africa—a tool for economic, political and social transformation. The availability of mobile broadband and fiber optic connections has been hailed for enabling e-commerce and spurring innovative industries in education, health, insurance, and beyond. Lower smartphone prices are also driving a digital revolution across the continent, allowing more people to access the internet at unprecedented levels.

But Sudanese-British billionaire and businessman Mohammed Ibrahim now says that internet shutdowns and the spread of fake news on social media threaten the continent’s digital development. In an interview with Quartz, Ibrahim lamented how governments continue to frequently block the internet and social media outlets—including as recently as last week during Somaliland’s presidential elections.

“Closing down of the internet is really a crime. And that should not be tolerated,” Ibrahim said, specifically mentioning the 93-day blackoutthis year in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions. “To try to gag the people and silence them is not appropriate really. It’s not acceptable.”

Ibrahim was the founder of Celtel International, one of the first mobile phone companies serving Africa and the Middle East. He later sold it to the Kuwait-based Mobile Telecommunications Company—now Zain. Ibrahim spoke to Quartz after the launch of the 2017 Mo Ibrahim Index, which ranks African countries on a broad spectrum of indicators including rule of law, safety economic, political and human rights.

“Are we producing people from our education systems who are able to build dams, grids, roads, factories and get into IT services?”

Ibrahim also bemoaned the dissemination of so called fake news and misinformation online, and how they are used to meddle in elections. As seen in Kenya, where Facebook and WhatsApp were being used concertedlyto spread misinformation and to sway public opinion in the run-up to the election this year.

“We need to be careful about [the] use of social media,” said Ibrahim. “We’ve seen all these abuses elsewhere and we hope to get the benefits of social media without the perils and inappropriate use that this media has produced elsewhere.”

Earlier this month, Nigerian Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka also expressed grave concern about the role of fake news and social media in society.

Against the retreading or slowing political and economic reality in Africa, the Index shows a decade of consistent growth when it comes to digital technology and infrastructure. Ibrahim noted that there needs to be increased financing of the sector by angel investors, venture capitalists, and private equity funds in order to catalyze the internet’s contribution to the overall gross domestic product or iGDP. Education systems should also be improved in order to bridge the gap of education to skills mismatch, he said, which leaves many young people unemployed and lures them to migrate or even join terrorist organizations.

“Are we producing people from our education systems who are able to build dams, electric grids, build roads, factories and get into the IT services?” Ibrahim asked. “These are huge areas where we lack skilled people, and we need to deal with that.”

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Tech

A Tech Hub in Mogadishu Aspires to Link Investors and Innovators

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Joblessness among young Somali adults is a chronic issue confronting Somalia.

Their unemployment rate is at staggering 67%. And the issue of youth joblessness is exacerbated by the large number of Somali students who graduate—from secondary schools and from tertiary organizations—with skills that are neither appropriate for Somalia nor competitive elsewhere.

Nonetheless, this aside, after almost three decades of turmoil—and of protracted conflict, terrorism, and piracy—Somalia is making huge entrepreneurial, socioeconomic, and political strides. This progress is encapsulated in a famous hashtag, popularized in 2017 and known as “#SomaliaRising.” In keeping with the spirit and momentum of this, we turned “Rising” into “iRise”—to demonstrate both how Somalis can improve narrative, and bring our innovative and entrepreneurship ingenuity into play.

Our brand name is a catalyst for this hashtag and aims to popularize the movement.

The iRise Hub is the first co-working space for technologists, innovators, and members of the business fraternity, giving them a place to collaborate and build local solutions to local problems. Based in Mogadishu, iRise offers incubation services and the best mentoring for local start-ups.

Our goal is not to just offer space and services but also create a large community of stakeholders committed to diversifying a war-torn economy. Social networks are often a powerful tool used by tech hubs to build these stakeholder communities. By using social media and blog posts, we engage our community members in various topics, and convey information on the technology and affordable solutions that are available to them.

iRise provides an environment where innovators and investors can collaborate in all walks of job-creating. It is widely known that the amount of capital injected into Somalia through remittances is higher than that brought in by development aid. We try to tap into this available capital by placing young digital innovators in the same room as those who are willing to invest. And iRise employees also hold one-on-one meetings with the community members to advise and help them with all their technical and business needs.

iRise facilitates equitable access to information for a tech-savvy youth population. We invite the top talent in all industries to give talks and fireside chats in our space, and make it open to all members of the community and public who show an interest in it. This will help young people receive market information that can make their brand or product competitive in Somalia and beyond.

iRise also collaborates with Devcon organizers to bring internationally recognise lecturers to Mogadishu. In the digital age, access to information is the most important currency for innovative growth and job creation.

We offer training and mentorship to youth on entrepreneurship and innovation, using technology to connect them to potential investors. iRise will collaborate with institutions of higher learning, corporations, and government institutions to increase the chances of young Somalis with tech talent being mentored and employed.

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