Crowdsourcing gaining momentum in Africa

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This article is a guest post by Munya Chiura. He is with Grow VC, a global, transparent, community-based platform dedicated to entrepreneurs and investors.  Grow VC enables great ideas and great teams to get visibility with the right investing audience, funding and support. 

Crowdsourcing in recent years has gained significant traction around the globe. The premise behind it is the concept of maximizing or utilising masses of individuals to solve a large problem. The most visible and popular application of crowdsourcing is Wikipedia; the free collaborative online encyclopedia which relies on volunteers all around the world and now has over 20 million articles in English in the encyclopedia.

In Africa, we are also seeing some innovative ways in which crowdsourciing is being utilised.  In Kenya for example, Ushahidi put Africa’s crowdsourcing on the map, as its platform was effectively used to monitor the 2002 Kenya elections.  In Zambia, BongoHive, the country’s first tech hub, has created an exciting user-generated online map which reflects the number of tech business incubation hubs that have been set up around Africa. Closer to home in Kubanata, a Zimbabwean human rights and civic organization leveraged crowdsourcing to gather information to map the Typhoid cases in Zimbabwe, providing critical data to assist with managing the epidemic.

In GrowVC’s podcast interview with Carl Esposti, founder of Crowdsourcing.org, he provides a good overview of the four major crowdsourcing models in the industry today:

1. Crowdfunding:

Crowdfunding refers to the pooling of money and resources for specific causes.  This could be in the form of donations or actual equity. The most recognized global crowdfunding companies include names such as GrowVC, Kiva, Crowdcube and Kickstarter.  GrowVC is currently quite active in Africa and most recently signed a partnership agreement with Mlab to promote crowdfunding for mobile entrepreneurs in Kenya.

2. Distributed Labor groups:

Distributed labour entails leveraging jobs and tasks which are traditionally assigned to one person or company to a small team. The beauty of this model is that the workforce can in fact be virtual or anywhere in the world including Africa.  For example  In 2009, CrowdFlower collaborated with Samasource and provided work for refugees in Kenya. The Kenyan contributors completed micro-tasks and iPhone users donated their time by checking the accuracy through the app GiveWork.  There are also significant opportunities for Africa to explore distributed labour and mirror successful models in other parts of the world. Models such as UK’s PeoplePerHour and US based companies Jobbi and Hiretheworld have transformed how and where work is done globally.

3. Distributed Knowledge

Distributed knowledge is the use of crowdsourcing for the collection, sharing and dissemination of knowledge by leveraging a pool of resources.  The examples given earlier, such as Ushahidi or Kubatana, demonstrates that Africa as a whole can benefit from creative and innovative applications of crowdsourcing.

4.  Distributed Tools

The Distributed tools model of crowdsourcing constitutes applications, platforms and tools used for the collaboration of a project or outcome.  Imagine developing a software application that needs usability testing at a fraction of the cost of usability agencies.  That’s where  uTest comes in. uTest is a  community of  over 18,000 software quality assurance and testing professionals from 180 countries including  the African countries of  Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Mali, Senegal, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Uganda. End-to-end testing services are offered for web, desktop or mobile applications. uTest has over 100 testers in Kenya alone.

The potential of crowdsouring in Africa and its application thereof is limitless.  African entrepreneurs do indeed have the ideas, talent, knowledge, expertise, and price competitiveness to compete globally by fully exploiting crowdsourcing models. One should anticipate seeing many more innovative forms and uses of crowdsourcing coming from the African continent in years to come.



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6 Comments

  1. Prosper Chikomo

    I just browsed through the article and went to growvc link.

    I am working a similar project (crowdfunding) myself. The idea is to help create a capital pool for start-ups and youths, many of who are unemployed but have ideas that need money. My project is half complete but functional. The core works. I am writing about it here because i do not care if somebody else starts a crowdfunding website for Zimbabwe. An alternativbe way tyo braise start-up capital that is not linked to any political party will curb incidents of political violence in the name of getting cheap loans from the usual suspect.

    (I have a number of projects in the pipeline and many that are more interesting than that. Basically, crowdfunding is nice for a social endeavour but on my list of projects it is not that profitable. The compliance issues etc are hectic and making the profit out of desperate and unemployed youths just doesn’t do. I also need the money, so naturally if i want a project funded conflict of interest issues can bla bla bla.)

    In the U.S. maybe it is easier but in Zimbabwe the regulatory environment can be hectic. You need RBZ clearance before you start otherwise you will be arrested for operating a deposit taking institution (operating a bank) without a licence.

    It is the same reason you are not allowed to keep tonnes of dough in your Ecocash account. They want you to make payment but not use it s a bank account. Problems can be easily solved, but the project will be too involving – compliance wise.

    Oh year, and Zimra and the RBZ want records which you can only produce in electronic form but which they want you to print on paper. Yawn.

    Maybe when i am bored i will put it online.

    Reply
    1. Prosper Chikomo

      Oh year, and you know how Gono loves to do his thing of shutting you down with cameras flashing.

      Reply
      1. Chanyani

        Cool. I hope you get the crowd funding venture publisized, maybe through TechZim. We will submit projects. Don’t restrict criteria to unemployed youths. Allow plain good projects even from geriatrics like us. Posted mine on GrowVC and got one thumbs up even before I have finished publisicing it. Have no clue how the someone visited before I published. they gave me his name though. So we are waiting bro. And good luck.

        Reply
    2. Munya Chiura

      Prosper,
      I commend you for your crowdfunding project. There are certainly challenges in creating an environment in Zimbabwe to allow crowdfunding to flourish, however these challenges are not insurmountable. We’ve certainly seen significant progress in other countries such as Kenya and South Africa. 
      Regards,
      Munya Chiura

      Reply
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