#DIYAFRICA: Africans must seize the moment and ‘do it themselves’

For our upcoming Civic Tech Innovation Forum, we have chosen the theme #DIYAfrica to illustrate the power of taking things into your own hands. For the African continent to achieve its development goals we need to instil a culture of ‘doing it yourselves’. Our forum aims to provide a platform for movers and shakers in the civic tech industry to accelerate the desired development and do good for the continent.



We have invited African civic tech innovators, media innovators and stakeholders to connect around the ways in which digital innovators, innovations, initiatives, and their support structures are playing out across the continent in the spaces of civic activism and public services, particularly in this pandemic era. We are interested in the African DIY democracy and how Africans are co-creating meaning, identity, and solutions in and for the continent. 

Dr Geci Karuri-Sebina, Organiser for the Civic Tech Innovation Network said that the DIY theme was inspired by conversations around the future of governance and how governance should be more participatory or engage with communities more. Dr Karuri-Sebina noted that community members can have agency in responding to their own needs and can play an active role in developing solutions and have a say and a hand in what happens in their communities.

We interviewed a couple of our [CTIN] reference group (RG) members to hear what they think about the theme #DIYAfrica and what they think about the idea of people or communities taking charge and doing it themselves.

Jonathan Wilson, a consultant for the Open Data Institute said that “in light of the recent 18 months we have faced, I think the theme of #DIYAfrica is pertinent to the time. The pandemic has seen both a decrease in the capacity of the state to provide services, but also an increase and uptake in the use of technology by citizens across the continent – presenting a unique opportunity”. He added that “herein lies a platform for an overburdened government to hand overcapacity to citizens, and allow for more collaborative and innovative practices to flourish that place everyday people at the centre. 

Shirley Robinson thought that the theme is “relevant and timely given increased governance concerns at the national and intergovernmental level alongside increased decentralisation to the municipal level in Africa. Digitisation offers the opportunity for increased civic participation and empowerment in co-creation as well as holding the government accountable for services to be delivered.”  

Richard Gevers, founder Open Cities Lab said that it is important for people to take charge and do it themselves “because we can’t rely on institutions to create change, and in many examples and places, we’ve seen change come from a person or a group of people that had the energy to drive something forward”. He added: “I’m in full support of not waiting on institutions or authorities to do something, and so what is really important is that we build the frameworks that allow for full support to turn great energy and ideas into organisations that have an impact”.  

We also interviewed a maker, Nelson Sekgota from Tshimologong, who works with young Africans and provides them with access to knowledge, skills, and resources necessary to innovate and solve African problems

The Tshimologong makerspace provides young people with the space to build and create technologies that can tackle current issues facing people. Sekgota, makerspace co-manager said that “DIY Africa to me refers to the continent of Africa and its people finally choosing to realise its potential by rising to solve the problems it has. One of the ways we will be able to do this is by leveraging opportunities that emerging technologies present us”.

He said that “Africa unfortunately is the poorest and the least developed continent, and we are lagging behind in many industries and technologies”. Adding that the continent is facing many challenges and emerging technologies can help solve these problems and provide people with an opportunity to participate.

Register now for# DIYAFRICA to engage with them and other African innovators

#DIYAFRICA: Empowering women traders in East Africa

In conversation with Sylvia Munai, junior project manager at Sauti East Africa, an organisation based in Kenya that provides women-led businesses with market-related information to help them make better business decisions.

Can you just tell us more about your organisation and the work that you do?

Sauti East Africa is a social impact organisation that is focused on understanding the different organisations out there and is more oriented towards the community and improving their lives. Sauti is quite unique as we deal with traders. In East Africa, the majority of small skill traders are women, about 70% of the women who do small-scale trading, especially across borders such as moving goods from Kenya to Uganda, Kenya to Tanzania, are women trading in the East Africa region. The women trade in small commodities, largely agricultural commodities, and they move along the borders. 

The platform was created because we realised when women trade from country to country they are not aware of the documentation they need because when you’re moving goods from one country to another, no matter how small the goods are, you need documentation such as that which proves the food has been checked by plant health directorates. The Sauti platform simplifies the information for women to be able to understand it easier because this information can get quite complicated, especially at the national level. We simplify the information as much as possible for the women to have an easier understanding of what the content entails. 

We also use a mobile application to disseminate information, Sauti uses mobile phones to disseminate information to the women traders. The mobile platform uses USSD and SMS technology. We largely started with USSD as a mass technology, it is an interface where women can get the tailored information they’re looking for. For example, if a woman is trading in maize and wants to know how much it is in a specific region they can easily go to our platform and dial a code, which is the USSD code. Once the code is dialled, the user is able to see the market prices of maize in the different towns within that country. Sauti is in Kenya, Tanzania Uganda, Rwanda and each country has specific USSD codes unique to them. 

Sauti is freely available and can be accessed by dialling *716# in Kenya; *801*35# in Rwanda; *284*111# in Uganda; *149*46*1# in Tanzania, and +254 20 389 3576 on WhatsApp.

How does Sauti use technology and data-solutions to help women-led businesses?

Mobile technologies are the main technologies we use to create social impact and we have a WhatsApp platform. We also have a dashboard, where we collect data for every woman who uses our platform and we are able to capture their user behaviour and what their interests are. On our platform, we have various types of information, we have information ranging from market prices, exchange rates, health, legal aid, agriculture, and information on Covid-19. We are able to see how women are using our platforms and we are able to see what is more important to them in terms of the information that they’re searching for.

What are some of the challenges that Sauti faces?

The biggest challenge when working with the women is that some of them, especially in the rural areas, have low literacy levels. Even if these women have access to information on our platform, they are still unable to read. We have been trying to find ways we can help them and one of the strategies we are trying to incorporate is to have more youth. By educating the youth, they can then go to their parents, their aunties and teach them more because youth tend to take up technology quite fast and they have a sharp understanding. The biggest challenge has been low literacy levels, for example, there will be a woman who wants to understand and know better but she’s unable to read. So we’re just trying to figure out how to help these women to help learn and be more inclusive.

In September we will be hosting a forum Civic Tech Innovation Forum and the theme will be DIY Africa. What does DIY Africa mean to you?

Now that women have access to platforms such as the USSD they are able to educate themselves, learn and make better business decisions. When you stop being ignorant, because I think sometimes we are ignorant of the things that are available to us and we miss out on opportunities.

It’s up to us to be proactive and try to learn as much as possible and see areas where we can take advantage of and be better traders and farmers from the information that is there. We don’t have to wait for outside help. We really have everything in Africa that we need to be better. So I think it’s up to individuals to just take initiative, which may not be so easy. Just be proactive and find these channels because they’re available to us at whatever level you are at and find ways you can advance yourself or plant yourself in communities that have the same goals and visions as you.

Register and Join us at #DIYAfrica this September, Come and engage with other African innovators

#DIYAFRICA: Using light to connect Africa

In conversation with Ibrahima Mbacke, co-founder and manager at LiIFI LED, an organisation that offers access to lighting, high-speed internet and educational content using a LED light bulb and Light Fidelity(Lifi) technology. LIFI LED was founded in 2014 by Ange Frederick Balma in Côte D’Ivoire.

Can you tell us about LIFI LED and how it came to be?

Ange Frederick Balma, founder and CEO, was on one of his father’s farms in the Ivory Coast for production control. He realised that he was cut off from the world without electricity and internet thus having no access to his friends and colleagues. While he was at that time an engineer in a telecommunications company with a good position, he decided to become an entrepreneur, spending his time in research and development with his own funds until he became the first African to develop LiFi solutions (with patents) to be more useful to Africa and the world via engineering and LiFi technology. He created LIFI LED in 2014. 

LIFI LED specialises in LiFi integration and commercialisation solutions (the first African company in LiFi) smart lighting, renewable energy and dynamic contents. LIFI-LED has been working in the field of renewable energies and data transmission by light with our technological innovation LiFi (Light Fidelity) since 2014. “We are positioning ourselves as the leaders of the next technological and digital revolution in Africa and around the world,” says Mbacke  

Indeed, the problem of the energy deficit in Africa and its corollary of access to electricity for all, as well as the problem of high-speed internet connectivity, considerably hamper both economic and social development. We aim to make Africa a smart continent through the combination of solar energy and innovative communication technology. A continent where light brings hope, that of sustainable and inclusive development. We provide electricity, high-speed internet with content for students and farmers via satellite, LiFi technology and solar energy, and we also provide smart cities solutions. We have indoor and outdoor solutions (LiFi solar kits, LiFi bulbs, LiFi autonomous solar street lights, LiFi hotspots, LiFi connectivity applications for smartphones, tablets and computers). LiFi LED was created to bridge the digital divide and energetic deficit in Africa.

How does LIFI LED work and how is it used by ordinary people?

LIFI LED provides electricity and high-speed internet in rural areas. Around 80 villages in Ivory Coast now have electricity and high-speed internet thanks to LIFI LED solutions. We are also active in five other African countries. We covered high-speed connectivity at the Francophonie Summit in 2016 in Antananarivo, Madagascar via LiFi. 

People in those areas now have access to electricity and high-speed internet. Young boys and girls can learn their lessons during the night and receive content for their education. Farmers have access to trading for their activities and can interact with markets and customers to sell their products. Health staff in remote areas have access to training, electricity and internet for their work and can interact with qualified colleagues for telemedicine. Our latest innovation is our LiFi smart solar street lights providing lighting, high-speed connectivity with integrated sensors for rainfall forecasts and data, carbon emissions rate, fine particles and sunshine rate. 5G will be integrated very soon in our streetlights.

Can you tell us about the work your organisation has done? For example, how many homes or people has your organisation supplied lighting or internet access to?

LIFI LED has made important achievements, deeply changing the daily life of thousands of people in the Ivory Coast and other African countries.  LIFI LED provides light and high-speed internet to 52,000 people. With our activities, we create jobs contributing to youth employment. 

What is the potential of LIFI LED in terms of helping to close the digital gap?

LIFI LED really has the potential to close the digital divide in Africa and also beyond. Our adapted products (indoors and outdoors) on the ground have proven our ability to provide high-quality services. We are in a growth, expansion stage. We are present in six African countries with expansion in other African countries. An important project is to start very soon in a central African country for LiFi smart street lighting, electrification, and high-speed connectivity of thousands of households.

LIFI LED will be exhibiting at our upcoming DIYAfrica this September, Register now to engage with them and other African innovators

Registration for CTIF21 #DIYAfrica Now Open

Register to attend the only civic tech conference in Africa today. We invite you to come and be a part of this exciting community event. We invite the civic tech community, government and non-governmental organisations including techies, activists, current and potential civic tech users, students and the digital media community to join us at the #CTIF21

The annual Civic Tech Innovation Forum (CTIF) 2021 in partnership with Jamlab, which will be hosted from September 13-17, will bring together Africa’s civic tech community, both governmental and non-governmental, for the purpose of sharing, learning, inspiring, and overall capacity building. It presents an opportunity to gain an overview of what is happening in the civic tech sector in Africa and the world. The conference will include a virtual expo, a joint opening plenary and closing plenaries, workshops and more.

The theme for CTIF 2021 will be #DIYAfrica or ‘Do It Yourself”. In the age of digitalisation, DIY is challenging the dominant paradigm of the technology user as consumer to the user as creative co-designer and Africans who are building their own future. DIY is offered as a frame for exploring the potential for a more democratised society – one where technology enables empowerment, participation, critique, and even resistance.

We will be hosting several sessions and each session will interrogate key topics and challenges in the African civic tech space. 

What to expect at #CTIF21 #DIYAFRICA

We also have an exciting array of local and international speakers and a jam-packed programme. Here’s what you can expect from this dynamic 5-day festival:

  • All-day exhibitions of African civic tech and the brightest digital media stars
  • Civic tech and digital media innovation workshops
  • Networking opportunities and social activities

This year’s event is hosted on Whova, which will allow attendees to go through an easy registration process, browse the CTIF21 event brochure and create a personalised schedule as well as network with like-minded attendees all in one space. Register for your seat at CTIF21 and download the award-winning WHOVA app or sign up on your desktop.

We look forward to having you at #CTIF2021 #DIYAFRICA. 


#DIYAFRICA: Showcase your civic tech project at #CTIF2021 & Jamfest2021

Call for Civic Techies and media innovators in Africa to showcase your innovations at a continental platform!

This year’s theme: Why “DIY Africa”?

Civic Tech Innovators:

For the showcase, we are inviting civic tech innovators who have something exciting to share with the community, this may include the following innovations: 

  1. Impact Stories – practical experiences, results and lessons learned
  2. Newbies – Starting out stories by innovators
  3. Cutting edge – new methods / tools / techniques, experimental projects, etc.
  4. DIY Africa – Examples of where people are creatively solving their own problems through data / digital innovation around Africa
  5. Ecosystem supports and enablers – Toolkits, training, services, etc. that are enabling civic tech

Media Innovators:

For the showcase, we are inviting media innovators who have new content styles and approaches, and great media and journalism innovations.  Jamfest aims to track trends in information flows and digital public space therefore the following are potential focus areas to guide applicants:

  1. Media sustainability & new business models
  2. Innovation & Innovators
  3. Tools for journalists and journalism 
  4. Audience engagement
  5. Podcasting
  6. AI/Machine learning


Deadline for exhibition proposals: 17 August 2021
Notification of acceptance: 19 August 2021
Booths should be ready by 5 September

SUBMISSION:  Please complete the form below or complete it here 

Enquiries may be emailed to melissa.zisengwe@wits.ac.za  

Terms & Conditions – Basic requirements for Exhibitors:

By applying to host an Exhibition booth, you would be committing that you will be:

  • Able to populate their booth with enough appropriate materials
  • Willing to display for 1 week, and possibly to maintain beyond
  • Availability to host/tend to the booth for the week – i.e. respond to enquiries
  • Able to provide publicity and promotion information and support to the Communications team (e.g. images, interviews, etc.)
  • Be available to present a session / participate once or twice in the scheduled daily Exhibition “Hangout hour” during Forum week
  • Respond to / take meetings with interested exhibition visitors
  • Help promote the Exhibition through your networks, including inviting visitors to your Booth

#DIYAFRICA: Zimbabwe — Opening the democratic space for young Zimbabweans

In conversation with Munyaradzi Dodo, digital and programme lead at Magamba Network, which created an initiative, Open Parly which aims to create and support engagement between young Zimbabweans and the government and decision-makers.

What does #DIYAfrica mean to you?

What inspired the creation of Open Parly?

We created Open Parly ZW after we realised there was low participation in political processes by young people in 2016. We were heading towards the 2018 harmonised elections, and we were eager to find an intervention that allowed young people to participate and engage their elected officials. We held a focus group discussion in November 2016 and from the insights of that discussion participants indicated that they found current channels used by parliament boring. Most young people indicated they would never read the Hansard [record of speeches, questions and answers and procedural events in the Legislative Council and Legislative Assembly and is known as Parliamentary Debates] because it felt too wordy and preferred reading the information in short bite-size chunks and on digital platforms.

Zimbabwe’s parliament also does not have parliament TV like most countries. At the same time, Zimbabwe’s biggest mobile operator was providing free access to Twitter so we decided to use Twitter as the first step to making parliament more accessible.

How does your organisation work and how do citizens engage with it or use it?

How does your organisation support young Zimbabweans? Can you provide examples or case studies of your work?

The organisation provides young citizen journalists with an opportunity to be the eyes and ears of their community. They contribute video reports, articles and analysis from the perspective of young people. Some have even started web shows/podcasts such as Tuesday Talk with Taku, a weekly show that unpacks the weekly major political events.

What impact has the organisation had in Zimbabwe?

In the absence of parliament TV in Zimbabwe, Open Parly ZW has become the largest repository of parliament data in Zimbabwe, with an online audience that is 10 times bigger than the parliament of Zimbabwe with over 10-million monthly online impressions. The project has also been replicated in Somalia (Kalfadh.com), Zambia (Open Parly ZED) and in 2021 it will expand to Nigeria. We have also expanded the project to local governments and municipalities. Currently, the project runs the Open Council project in major cities by running hyper-local news platforms — Open Council Harare, Marondera, Masvingo, Kariba and Mutare. The project has initiated various digital campaigns such as #ReconveneParly in 2020 which put pressure on elected officials to convene virtual sessions of the parliament and #WhereIsOurVaccine to demand an efficient vaccination plan. 

The challenges or limitations that the organisation has faced?

The project has faced challenges with some journalists being arrested and experiencing violence while covering stories for their communities. The ever-rising costs of data affect our target audience and limit the reach of the project to those who can afford data.

We look forward to hosting you at CTIF21, what would you like the audience to take away from you or the work you do at Open Parly?

With a simple WordPress website, social media and cellphone, you can contribute to holding government officials to account by being the eyes and ears of your community.

The Civic Tech Innovation Forum will be held on September 13–17 and for more details, click here.

#DIYAFRICA — Mozambique: Bridging the digital divide

In conversation with Dayn Amade, founder of the Community Tablet in Mozambique

Tell us more about your initiative and what inspired you to start the Community Tablet?

What are some of the challenges that you have faced?

When I started to go to communities and for community members, this was something new and people were afraid. Like, what is this? What is this coming to do to us? But we changed our approach with the community, for example before Covid, we would have nice local music and people started to see us as a friend and not their enemy. The second thing we did before we went into the community was that we worked together with a university in Mozambique, particularly the faculty of anthropology and sociology. Because in order for us to approach them in a correct way, one of the most important issues to understand is the culture and the habits of a specific community.

One of the challenges that we had, in the beginning, was that the community did not know how to use the tablets properly. Another challenge we faced was sometimes the children in the communities would try to damage the tablets and we would have to replace these tablets. It was not easy, but we managed to overcome them.

What impact do you think your organisation has had in Mozambique?

With COVID are you still able to go into the communities?

We still go to the communities, but now we have to go with the Ministry of Health team because it’s compulsory for us to follow the protocols and isolate the perimeter. The Ministry of Health checks people’s temperature and ensures that everybody has masks. Covid has affected our operations, for example before the pandemic we used to have 500 people come to the trailer but now we only have 200 people. We also produced and disseminated an informational video about Covid which explained to communities what is Covid and how to wash their hands.

What does #DIYAfrica mean to you?

There is this saying that you have to solve your problems, nobody’s going to come and solve your problems for you. So if you are not going to take the lead, you can’t just sit and wait for the answers to be given to you, you have to face the challenges and reflect. I think the major thing that I have learned in regards to ‘do it yourself’ is about self-reflection. You have to reflect, you have to know what kind of story you want to tell the world or your community and nobody’s going to do it for you.

The Civic Tech Innovation Forum will be held on September 13–17 and for more details, click here.

#DIYAFRICA: Experimenting and challenging ideas in the digital space

In conversation with Alexander Melesse, executive director of Digital Rogue Society Experiment Group, an Ethiopian civic-tech organisation that uses technology to inform and advocate civic engagements.

Tell us about Digital Rogue Society and the work you do in Ethiopia?

How does your organisation work and how do citizens engage with it or use it?

At the Digital Rogue Society Experiment Group, we are developing different kinds of civic technology products. For example, we implemented an experiment during the elections landscape and we served as a licensed adviser for the national electoral board for Ethiopia. We taught people online on voter education for over three months to inform people about the electoral process and we reached more than 400,000 people. It is all about accessing the information on the election process and for voters to get the necessary information about the election process, what mandates of these political parties are and what is required by the election commission. We disseminated the information using different kinds of educational content: infographics, written content, animated videos and we disseminated this content using two local languages.

The internet penetration in our country is around 20% and we have around six million people using Facebook and it’s growing by the day. So we created a website and used various social media platforms to disseminate this information. We also created a political party portal that allows citizens to access information on political parties- their contact details, manifestos and social media links allowing people to get this information instantly. The other experiment is the online observation campaign, which is not finalised but the campaign is an analysis of the political parties and their social media activities.

How are you transforming civic engagements using digital technologies?

What impact has the organisation had in Ethiopia?

For online voter education, the impact starts from analysing how many people we have reached and how many people have obtained or accessed our content using their devices, which was 400,000. During online voter education, we witnessed different kinds of engagements. Some people called to ask questions regarding the electoral process. I think I am safe in saying that voters primarily called us before they even called the national electoral body and we referred them to people who they can contact in their areas. So I think I’m safe in saying that within this short period we contributed to conducting a safe and fair election.

What does #DIYAfrica mean to you?

There is this saying that you have to solve your problems, nobody’s going to come and solve your problems for you. So if you are not going to take the lead, you can’t just sit and wait for the answers to be given to you, you have to face the challenges and reflect. I think the major thing that I have learned in regards to ‘do it yourself’ is about self-reflection. You have to reflect, you have to know what kind of story you want to tell the world or your community and nobody’s going to do it for you.

We look forward to hosting you at CTIF21, What would you like the audience to take away from you or the Digital Rogue Society?

I was reading an article that said that every nationality living in Ethiopia is recognised by the Ethiopian House of Federation but there is a new community that is not recognised by the federation. That community is the digital community and we have an attitude or we reflect our emotions, opinions on the digital space, contrary to what we as a person reflect. So we try to be rogue, so we try to be against the system and challenge opinions. So we want to experiment with those opinions. After the experimentation, we have to reach some kind of result. So I think experimentation of the digital space’s opinions, and the digital ecosystem needs to be assessed.

The Civic Tech Innovation Forum will be held on September 13–17 and for more details, click here.

How to fund your civic tech and media ideas or platforms

Innovators need to focus on a core idea and give greater focus on their communities or users in order to sustain their ideas or platforms

How innovators can fund their ideas?

Unique ways of raising funds when traditional avenues have failed

What are funders looking for in applications for funding?

Watch the Session

Navigating elections across Africa during Covid

A collaborative effort between journalists and civic tech organisations is needed to encourage engagement and citizen participation during elections

Listen to the podcast

Elections play a pivotal role in facilitating democratic processes by allowing citizens to choose their representatives. However, the pandemic has disrupted electoral processes across Africa, affecting how elections are organised and have raised questions regarding the outcomes of some elections.
The African continent is expected to hold 13 national elections for the remainder of the year, with eyes mainly on the presidential elections in Ethiopia, which has been delayed twice and set to be on 21 June. However, due to security and logistical problems, voting will be delayed in some areas. In Zambia, elections will be held on 12 August and possibly in Nigeria in 2022. The continent will also see numerous legislative and parliamentary elections this year.
Speakers, during a virtual discussion hosted by Jamlab and the Civic Tech Innovation Network unpacked the roles and strategies for promoting democracy and development during upcoming elections across Africa. The speakers during this discussion included Kathy Magrobi, founder of Quote this Woman+; Ivan Louis Pinno, co-founder of Digital Woman Uganda; Dr Caroline Khene, senior lecturer at De Monfort University in the United Kingdom and Daniel Odongo, director of implementation at Ushahidi. The speakers provided strategies that journalists and civic technology organisations can adopt during elections.

How journalists and civic tech can amplify women’s voices

How journalists and civic tech can bridge effective communication between citizens and the government

Khene works with MobiSAM, a project that uses mobile technology to support two-way communication between citizens and the government on basic service delivery issues. The project aims to support citizen engagement and government responsiveness by providing platforms that citizens can use to engage in social accountability practices. She said it is important for journalists and civic tech to encourage civic engagement and government accountability. “We need our journalists to actually act as facilitators, to empower citizens and enable them to see the value in the data that they have access to,” said Khene. She categorised journalism as traditional gatekeepers and facilitators. Khene explained that facilitators “empower citizens to enable them to see the value of the data that they have access to and this may be in the form of summarising key elements of the data or encouraging citizens to go and access the data themselves”. She described gatekeeping as the process of selecting news which is then filtered to various modes of communications.
She said that journalists should be more of facilitators, working with civic technology organisations and data. Khene said that their organisation would work with journalists to generate data-driven reports. “There needs to be this complementary relationship between journalists and civic technologists,” said Khene.

How policymakers can leverage civic tech to improve their responses to election disinformation and voter suppression

Ushahidi is a global non-profits tech company aiming to provide people with equal access to tech resources to solve problems in their communities and enact social change effectively. Ushahidi, which translates to “testimony” in Kiswahili, was developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election violence in 2008. “We created a platform for people to be able to share their first-hand experiences via text, email, SMS and on our website,” said Odongo. He said their tool had been used 160,000 times and in 160 countries.
He explained that, “we are an open-source tech tool that is easy to understand and can easily be used to respond to critical events quickly. The tool also amplifies the voices of marginalised groups who tend to be left out of meaningful conversations”. He said that there needs to be an increase in electoral processes and broad civic and voter education. “We need to be able to counter misinformation by enhancing credible and reliable information regarding the electoral processes”, said Odongo. He added that there need to be data-driven campaigns on social media to enable citizens to better understand their role and rights during electoral processes.
Odongo said to encourage participation during elections, information needs to be disseminated to people who need it most, and the tools that are developed need to be low-tech.

Watch the Session