Policy hackathon explained: How an all-society approach can engage entrepreneurs and governments to develop better policy in West Africa

Brainstorming session at the Bamako Policy Hackathon
Brainstorming session at the Bamako Policy Hackathon. Photo: World Bank

What would happen if you put all the relevant players for the entrepreneurial ecosystem — startup founders, policymakers, developers, students, investors — into one room and facilitated an open dialogue on improving the business environment? This is exactly what is taking place in West Africa through a series of policy hackathons supported by the World Bank.

We all have a stake in development and this multifaceted process – local, top-down, bottom-up – is a great example of African innovation. Civic engagement in policymaking is not happening elsewhere so it’s not just about importing knowledge and best practice but generating lessons we can export to the rest of the world,” said Sebastian Molineus, World Bank Director of the Finance, Competitiveness and Innovation (FCI) Global Practice about policy hackathons taking place in West Africa, at a recent World Bank Brown-Bag Lunch in January.

So what is a policy hackathon?

Typically, a hackathon is an event where computer programmers and other experts collaborate to develop new software and applications. A policy hackathon works in much the same way. A mix of stakeholders are invited to a facilitated, user-driven policy workshop to harness their collective intelligence and design solutions for identified problems. During these hackathons, policy-users are asked to adopt a policymaker’s perspective to create and propose legislation that can dismantle barriers to innovative entrepreneurship.

Most recently, Senegal’s new Presidential Commission for Rapid Entrepreneurship (DER) initiated an innovation for policy process. The Dakar Policy Hackathon brought together more than sixty actors from Senegal’s entrepreneurial ecosystem to brainstorm ideas on how to improve the business environment, particularly for startups.

Senegal President Macky Sall at the DER townhall Startup Act
Senegal President Macky Sall at the DER townhall Startup Act. Photo: World Bank

It’s important for political authorities to better understand the difficulties and expectations of entrepreneurs. And of course, it is essential for civil society to have a better idea of where the reforms are and where the entrepreneurial ecosystem is going,” said Abdoul Aziz Sy, CEO of Impact Dakar which hosted the Dakar Policy Hackathon in partnership with Kinaya Ventures, Jokkolabs Dakar, Gainde 2000Concree and the Women’s Investment Club.

Interactive, participatory and dynamic, the Dakar policy hackathon concluded at 4am with a draft proposal from the entrepreneurial ecosystem for a new Startup Act Senegal. The drafted legislation was refined with the DER, debated by the wider population during an online consultation that leveraged an AI-based chatbot, revised through multi-stakeholder co-creation sessions, reviewed by local legal experts and finally presented to the Senegalese President in a televised public meeting. It must now enter the legislative agenda to be officially adopted within the first half of 2019.

Across Africa, governments are seeking to harness digital technologies and entrepreneurship to transform their societies and job markets. Such an ambitious goal, however, requires engagement with local software developers, accountants, engineers, students, entrepreneurs and other experts. Seeing citizens as a resource and relying on them for local knowledge, rather than a blanket strategy of seeking best practices from elsewhere, therefore allows for homegrown experimentation and gives citizens a stake in public policy.

It’s time to innovate on economic policy in Africa. We aren’t asking our governments to listen to us, rather we want to work with them to co-create policies that work for the innovation community,” Markos Lemma of IceAddis.

The policy hackathon idea was born in 2016 out of an initiative launched with community innovation hubs across Africa, called i4Policy. More than 128 hubs convening communities of 700,000 entrepreneurs and innovators across the continent have so far co-created and signed the Africa Innovation Policy Manifesto.

The first i4Policy hackathon took place at Impact Hub Kigali in 2017 in partnership with the Rwandan Ministry of Commerce, DfID and the Swiss Government. The local entrepreneurial community worked with the government to draft Rwanda’s national strategy for private sector development and youth employment.

We are now witnessing a real momentum in policy innovation. Many West African governments and beyond are seeking to host their own policy hackathons to foster effective private sector development and youth employment reform. Similar events have taken place in NigeriaMali and Côte d’Ivoire. Together with the World Bank (thanks to a trust fund financed by the Italian Agency for Development Cooperation, AICS) and by mobilizing other donors, i4Policy hubs plan to launch policy hackathons in the remaining WAEMU countries in 2019, including in Niger, Burkina Faso, Togo and Benin.

We live at a time when technology is multiplying the opportunities available to populations, even in the most difficult of circumstances. Policy hackathons are a unique way of bringing all players to the table to discuss how governments can leverage technology and entrepreneurial approaches to optimize public policy solutions.


Source: http://blogs.worldbank.org/psd/policy-hackathon-explained-how-all-society-approach-can-engage-entrepreneurs-and-governments-develop

10 ‘Must Have’ Tools for African Startups & Small/Medium Business to remain competitive (PART 2)

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to break the bank on great systems for your small business to get started.
You simply need to find relevant technology to creatively and efficiently help you get your hustle on! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s that easy for a startup or small/medium business to thrive in Africa. I’ll do my best to keep this short and informative.

This is PART 2. You can read part 1 here

So, here we go:

6. File Storage & Synchronisation (Google Drive)

Storing documents to allow for easy collaboration has always been a bit tricky for teams working together on a project, but no longer with Google Drive, Google’s cloud based office suite. Drive includes a word processor (Google Docs), spreadsheets (Google Sheets), a presentation program (Google Slides), and a form builder (Google Forms). We’ve compiled a list of a few of the reasons we love Google Drive and some tools that can make it even more powerful.

The nicest thing so far as I’m concerned, about Google Drive, is that it is FREE and comes with:

  • Document processing capabilities for (‘Word’, ‘Excel’ and ‘Powerpoint’)
  • A familiar and easy to use interface
  • 15GB disk space
  • Collaboration capabilities
  • Forms and surveys

This means you can get started writing proposals, presenting presentations, recording numbers of a spreadsheet, and much much more without having to spend a single cent on Licenses. Learn more about Google Drive

7. MailChimp

MailChimp is a marketing automation platform and an email marketing service. It provides marketing automation for e-commerce businesses. Send beautiful emails, connect your e-commerce store, advertise, and build your brand.

It is an incredible and free tool that can help you reach many clients through periodic e-newsletters. We always recommend MailChimp for this purpose, and here are some compelling reasons for doing so.
  •  It’s easy to see who has opened your e-mail and how many times. This means you can quickly see who’s engaging with you the most and prioritise them for follow up through your sales pipeline.
  • It’ll help you write more interesting content. By checking the “click rate” on articles you can see what’s appealing to your readers – and what’s not.
  • It can help you to track the performance of your newsletter i.e. How many customers opened it, etc. If you link your Woo Commerce to MailChimp you can use advanced e-commerce responders to monitor your customers’ progress. If they abandon their shopping cart, you can send them an autoresponder to help close the deal.

8. VoIP (Make Calls using Data & cheaper airtime)

Competitiveness

VoIP services are generally more price competitive than the incumbent fixed line providers. Savings can be achieved through more cost effective line rentals, as well as discounted call rates. VoIP providers also offer a substantial discount when calling between branches or other users on their network (known as On-Network). It is becoming clear that traditional telco providers cannot compete with Voice over IP (VoIP ).

Complete Portability

The beauty of Voice over IP is that you can take the service with you, make and receive calls from anywhere provided you have internet connection.

Flexibility and Scalability

You are able to have more than one phone number on a single internet broadband line, and adding additional lines only requires increasing the size of the internet line – allowing superior scalability on the fly.

You have the option of incorporating extra features into your service – quickly and easily! These extras include features such as Hunting Facility, Direct line numbers, Caller ID, etc which are often standard features with a VoIP service.

Location independence

For Incoming Calls, your VoIP number could be Non-Geographic (i.e. 087) it is not tied to a specific area or line – you could appear to be a national company and can keep the same number wherever you go. You do however also have the option for other numbers such as 010, 020, etc – just enquire with your provider.

 

 

9. Sage One Accounting (The simplest and most cost effective way to get a handle on your finances)

Sage One empowers South Africa’s small businesses. Free yourself from admin with clever, easy features, built around you.

 

Everything you need to take care of business.
From sales and purchases to cashflow, VAT and reporting, Sage One’s features support every step in your business process.
Your business, at your fingertips.
Take care of invoicing on the road, banking at the office and leave from home. Works with PCs, Macs, iOS, Android, and Windows.

From sales and purchases to cash flow, VAT and reporting, Sage One’s features support every step in your business process. Create quotes, and invoices in seconds, send them to your customers and track what they owe. Use budgets to keep track of your company’s performance against targets you have set.

 

 

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10. Others

Since there are so many tools out there that can help you handle your business better, I thought it best to just list other things to consider. So here goes:

  • Online Backup – because laptops get stolen, ‘smash and grab’ is a thing, disaster occur. We can offer you a solution that backs up your laptops, desktops, servers, etc. Consult online for free 
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) – for example; do you have something in place to remind you of your best paying client’s birthday? I’ve oversimplified the use of a CRM here but it’s small things like following up on emails, knowing the stage you are on your sales process, setting reminders to make calls, etc.
  • Virtual Meetings – You need a combination of Visuals and Audio to host or participate in meetings that take place without you physically being there. The internet allows us to now collaborate from anywhere in the world, so long as we’re connected. Yes! If you are thinking Skype, it’s one such a tool. But there are others with more features and better suited for team collaboration.

Hey,

Thanks for reading, let’s continue this another time

 

10 ‘Must Have’ Tools for African Startups & Small/Medium Business to remain competitive (PART 1)

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to break the bank on great systems for your small business to get started.
You simply need to find relevant technology to creatively and efficiently help you get your hustle on! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s that easy for a startup or small/medium business to thrive in Africa. I’ll do my best to keep this short and informative.

I will share 2 lists: the 10 tools and another list from SARS (just as a reminder)…

So, here we go:

1. Have Online Presence (Website)

If you don’t have a website, your chance of ending up in customer online searches is significantly reduced. Most of us Google a company when we’re preparing for an interview or looking for products to buy or even checking if a company is ‘legitimate’. Today, there are more reasons for you to invest in online presence than ever before. A website is a TOOL  you can use to market and promote your business, products, yourself, and even use to trade. Here are some facts:

  • A website increases your credibility & it’s your online “first impression”
  • 46% of the world’s population (3,42 bn) has internet access
  • Your competitors probably already have a website
  • Your website will promote you 24 hours 7 days a week

Learn how your website is found on Google and how you can get an amazing website, packed with features, from as little as R1500 a year

2. Tawk.To

tawk.to is jam packed with all the features you need to provide winning customer support – it is lightning fast, reliable and scalable.

If you already use live chat on your site, there really is no reason to keep paying per agent! This sweet tool allows you to message your customers in Real Time.

Tawk to is a free messaging app that lets you monitor and chat with visitors on your website, mobile app or from a free customizable page. We use it on a daily basis.

 

3. eCommerce Plugin (Use your website to sell your products)

If you’re a small business owner looking for an e-commerce solution, look no further than WooCommerce by WooThemes, one of the most versatile WordPress plugins, and one of the most popular.  Since its launch in 2011, more than 1.6 million businesses in the U.S., the UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, China and India have downloaded Woocommerce, a testament to the many Woocommerce benefits for small business.  From its user-friendly experience to its flexibility and customisation options, Woocommerce continues to be the smart choice for smart designers—and smart businesses. Understand WooCoomerce in 2,5 minutes (Check the Video)

 

Some of the benefits include:

  • Well, for one, it’s free & easy to use
  • It Includes an Intuitive, Built-in Analytics System
  • It Offers A lot of Flexibility
  • Integrating with Multiple Payment Gateways

Which brings me to the next point

4. Accepting Online Payments (Payment Gateways)

A payment gateway is a merchant service provided by an e-commerce application service provider that authorizes credit card or direct payments processing for e-businesses, online retailers, bricks and clicks, or traditional brick and mortar.

A payment gateway facilitates the transfer of information between a payment portal (such as a website, mobile phone) and the Front End Processor or acquiring bank

Choosing your payment gateway is an important part of the process of setting up your ecommerce store. As the payment gateways have different pricing models, it is important to pick one that suits your business, and provides the features and security that will ensure that users can easily and securely transact with your store.

We have successfully intergrate multiple gateways onto our own and clients’ websites, these include:

 

5. Messaging for Teams (Slack)

 

Since the advent of the World Wide Web, the opportunity for collaboration has been one of its most touted features. Enter Slack! The innovative “team communication” solution offers groundbreaking functionality that is just too useful to pass up.

So, if you’re asking yourself, “What is Slack and how do I use it for my team?” 

As a simple instant messaging system, Slack has all the collaboration features you need in place. It’s when you throw in integration that things really get exciting. It’s the foundation for teamwork.

  • It simplifies communication
  • It helps everyone find the answers they need
  • It streamlines your workflows

 


Alright, the end… But one last thing….

Remember that there are basics that you also need to take care of. For example SARS put this on their website

  • Register with CIPC
  • Register for Income Tax
  • Register and do eFiling
  • Do your income tax as an individual
  • Do your payroll taxes as a business
  • Do Record Keeping
  • Categorise your business
  • Managing your Tax Compliance Status with SARS
  • Be a Representative for your tax matters
  • Do Turn-over Tax & Do Value-added Tax (VAT)
  • Check if your Tax Practitioner is registered and more.

 

We’ll add part 2 next week

Technology has changed our lives, including how we do business…

Technology affects almost every aspect of our lives. When you look around you will see that everything is connected, and if not…. it will soon be! This is all thanks to the Internet, virtually anything you desire can be delivered to your door in a matter of days.

You do virtually anything, even trade stocks, kiss, teach or file taxes online. Business owners don’t need to lose sleep about the location of their fleet or parcels; and so on and so forth… We’ve all heard this story before and how it goes.

So, it’s a fact, our personal lives have changed, the business world has revolutionized almost beyond recognition in the past few decades and technology is at the heart of it all.

The question this article is answering is “what technology is Maru providing to make sure our customers are benefitting from this shift” — and we mean the advances in communication and information technology — has changed the face and the pace of business.

Straight to the point:

  1. You can make and receive ‘landline’ calls from anywhere in the world by using Maru VoIP. This means you never miss a business call! See details here: https://www.maru.africa/maru-sip-voip-service/
  2. Give your business online presence and market it 24/7 by building a website for it. It may shock you to learn that it won’t cost you more than R1500 a year. Try it here: https://www.maru.africa/mahala-diy/
  3. Send e-mail from your business domain e.g. myname@yourbusiness.co.za (E-mail hosting: https://www.maru.africa/webmail-hosting/)
  4. You need to have someone ready to answer questions and help you out when technology becomes a headache. Maru free online consultation and support systems are available to you on any device: https://www.maru.africa/free-online-consultation/

There’s a very nice document on Wikipedia about Mobile Enterprises here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mobile_enterprise

We also know that Entrepreneurship, especially, is a lifestyle and technology should help make this pleasurable. Read these tips