Google Unveils Umoja Cable, Bolstering Africa’s Digital Connectivity

Google Unveils Umoja Cable, Bolstering Africa’s Digital Connectivity

Google Unveils Umoja Cable, Bolstering Africa’s Digital Connectivity

Google has announced the launch of Umoja, an ambitious fibre optic cable project that will directly link the continent with Australia for the first time.

The Umoja cable route, anchored in Kenya, is set to traverse through Uganda, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa, including the Google Cloud region, before spanning the Indian Ocean to reach Australia. This terrestrial path has been meticulously designed in collaboration with Liquid Technologies, a leading digital infrastructure provider, to form a highly scalable network with access points that will enable other African nations to leverage this cutting-edge connectivity.

Derived from the Swahili word for “unity,” Umoja represents a significant stride towards enhancing Africa’s digital infrastructure resilience and fostering economic opportunities through reliable internet access. Alongside the previously announced Equiano cable, Umoja falls under the broader Africa Connect initiative, a strategic endeavour aimed at empowering African countries to establish more robust digital connections among themselves and with the rest of the world.

“Access to the latest technology, supported by reliable and resilient digital infrastructure, is critical to growing economic opportunity,” said Meg Whitman, the U.S. Ambassador to Kenya. “This is a meaningful moment for Kenya’s digital transformation journey, and the benefits of today’s announcement will cascade across the region.”

President William Ruto of Kenya echoed similar sentiments, commending Google’s investment in digital connectivity as a “historic milestone” that will significantly enhance the region’s global and regional digital infrastructure. He emphasised the initiative’s crucial role in ensuring redundancy, resilience, and increased digital inclusion, ultimately paving the way for innovation and economic opportunities.

“I am delighted to welcome Google’s investment in digital connectivity, marking a historic milestone for Kenya, Africa, and Australia,” President Ruto said. “The new intercontinental fibre optic route will significantly enhance our global and regional digital infrastructure. This initiative is crucial in ensuring the redundancy and resilience of our region’s connectivity to the rest of the world, especially in light of recent disruptions caused by cuts to sub-sea cables. By strengthening our digital backbone, we are not only improving reliability but also paving the way for increased digital inclusion, innovation, and economic opportunities for our people and businesses.”

Strive Masiyiwa, the Chairman and founder of Liquid Technologies, underscored the transformative impact of Umoja, stating that major African cities will no longer be “hard-to-reach endpoints remote from the coastal landing sites.” Instead, they will become stations on a “data superhighway” capable of carrying vast amounts of traffic, bridging the digital divide.

“Africa’s major cities including Nairobi, Kampala, Kigali, Lubumbashi, Lusaka, and Harare will no longer be hard-to-reach endpoints remote from the coastal landing sites that connect Africa to the world,” Mr. Masiyiwa said. “They are now stations on a data superhighway that can carry thousands of times more traffic than currently reaches here. I am proud that this project helps us deliver a digitally connected future that leaves no African behind, regardless of how far they are from the technology centres of the world.”

Extending beyond the infrastructure announcement, Google has also signed a Statement of Collaboration with Kenya’s Ministry of Information Communications and The Digital Economy. This collaboration aims to accelerate joint efforts in cybersecurity, data-driven innovation, digital upskilling, and the responsible and safe deployment of AI for societal benefits.

As part of this collaboration, Google Cloud and Kenya are exploring ways to strengthen the country’s cybersecurity posture, with the Department of Immigration & Citizen Services evaluating Google Cloud’s CyberShield solution and Mandiant expertise to fortify the defense of its eCitizen platform.

Google’s long-standing commitment to Africa’s digital transformation is further underscored by its $1 billion investment pledge over five years, supporting various initiatives ranging from improved connectivity to startup investments. To date, Google has invested over $900 million in the region, with expectations to fulfil its commitment by 2026.

With the Umoja cable poised to unlock new frontiers of digital connectivity and economic growth across Africa, Google’s strategic partnership with African nations signifies a significant step towards a more digitally unified and prosperous future for the continent.

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BDO Elevates Female Leaders in Technology, Media, and Telecoms Sector

BDO Elevates Female Leaders in Technology, Media, and Telecoms Sector

BDO Elevates Female Leaders in Technology, Media, and Telecoms Sector

BDO South Africa has announced the strategic appointments of Donvé Forbes and Linda Peter as sub-sector leads within its Technology, Media, and Telecoms (TMT) division.

Forbes, currently a Partner in Audit, will take on the role of Media Lead. Her journey at BDO, which began as an article clerk in 2008 and culminated in her appointment as Partner in 2016, is a testament to her dedication and expertise. With a diverse client portfolio spanning retail, media, technology, and advertising, Forbes has established herself as a trusted advisor in the audit domain.

Her extensive experience in both traditional and digital media uniquely positions her to drive BDO’s media sector expertise, including expansion into the UK market. “Donvé has already been extensively involved in the media and digital sectors within our client portfolios in SA. And now that role will be expanding to include the UK market, a massive growing segment — which she’s well suited for, given her deep skills,” said Bernard van der Walt, Head of TMT at BDO SA.

Meanwhile, Linda Peter, currently Director of International Tax and Mergers and Acquisition within the Tax team, will assume the role of Technology Lead in the TMT sector. With a wealth of experience in corporate and international tax matters, including due diligence, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate restructurings, Peter brings a unique blend of expertise to her expanded mandate. Her proactive approach and demonstrable leadership make her the ideal candidate to spearhead BDO’s technology initiatives within the TMT sector.

“Linda has the TMT experience but also the leadership and proactive drive needed to lead the Technology sub-sector as we continue to innovate in this dynamic environment,” said van der Walt.

Read next: Empowering women in Africa’s fintech revolution

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EcoFlow’s Portable Power Stations: Keeping Businesses Running Anywhere

EcoFlow’s Portable Power Stations: Keeping Businesses Running Anywhere

EcoFlow’s Portable Power Stations: Keeping Businesses Running Anywhere

For businesses or startups frequently working off-grid or needing backup power, a reliable portable power solution is essential. EcoFlow offers a robust line of portable power stations and solar panels that can keep your operations running smoothly no matter the conditions.

What Sets EcoFlow Apart

EcoFlow’s power stations stand out for their impressive battery capacities, silent operation, and ease of recharging via the sun’s renewable energy. As EcoFlow states, their products are “designed with user-friendliness in mind” and can be “set up easily without any specialised knowledge or expertise.”

Their flagship DELTA series packs a huge punch in a portable package. The top-of-the-line DELTA 2 Max features a massive 2,048Wh base capacity that can be tripled to 6,144Wh by adding extra batteries. It can power devices up to 3,100W and, using EcoFlow’s X-Stream technology, can be fully recharged from 0% in just 81 minutes via AC or 2.3 hours by solar.

Perhaps most crucially for businesses, the DELTA 2 Max includes an Uninterrupted Power Supply (UPS) mode that provides backup within 20ms when the power goes out. As one professional photographer documented, EcoFlow’s solutions have allowed filmmakers to shoot comfortably in remote locations without generator noise or fumes.

For lighter power needs, EcoFlow’s compact River series power stations are highly portable yet still pack serious capacity, with the River 2 Pro model offering 768Wh.

Streamlining Your Business’s Energy Use

On top of keeping you powered anywhere, EcoFlow aims to reduce businesses’ operating costs and carbon footprint. Their power stations can be recharged indefinitely using their solar panel kits, eliminating fuel costs while harnessing clean renewable energy.

As an EcoFlow spokesperson explained, “With solar-recharge capabilities, businesses can leverage natural sunlight to power their operations, effectively reducing energy costs. These savings can be substantial, particularly for businesses located in regions with abundant sunlight.”

EcoFlow offers scalable solutions for growing businesses. Their modular DELTA batteries allow easy expansion as your energy needs increase. For large operations or whole-building backup, EcoFlow has announced their upcoming DELTA Pro Ultra and PowerOcean Series, although these high-capacity systems are not yet available in South Africa.

While pricing can be steep, EcoFlow offers bulk discounts to help make their renewable solutions more affordable for budget-conscious businesses. They also provide warranty coverage and customer support.

The Downsides

EcoFlow’s high-end power stations like the DELTA 2 Max don’t come cheap, with that particular model retailing around R35,000. You’ll need to evaluate if the power capacity, portability, and solar recharging capabilities justify the costs for your business needs.

The Verdict

With impressive battery specs, portability, silent operation, and solar recharging in one eco-friendly package, EcoFlow’s power stations offer an all-in-one energy solution for keeping businesses reliably powered anywhere. For startups, SMEs, or firms frequently operating off-grid or in need of backup power, EcoFlow is well worth considering over traditional gas generators.

Read next: Sungrow Unveils Powerful New Solar + Battery System for Homes and Businesses in South Africa

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Bridging the Cybersecurity Disconnect Between Boards and CISOs

Bridging the Cybersecurity Disconnect Between Boards and CISOs

Bridging the Cybersecurity Disconnect Between Boards and CISOs

In today’s digital landscape, cybersecurity is no longer an afterthought – it’s a critical concern for businesses of all sizes. However, a concerning disconnect persists between company boards and their Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs), hindering effective risk mitigation strategies.

According to Board Surveys, just over half of board members over 55 claim confidence in addressing cyber risks. Shockingly, their younger counterparts disagree, suggesting a fundamental misalignment in understanding what constitutes proper cybersecurity measures.

Gerhard Swart, Chief Technology Officer at cybersecurity company Performanta, sheds light on this disparity: “Boards might be getting the message to take cybersecurity seriously, but they often still don’t know what that requires. Something is getting lost in the communication, and there are perception issues. The board and CISO are often not on the same page.”

The Harvard Business Review survey paints a grim picture, with 65% of directors fearing a material cyberattack on their companies within the next twelve months. Alarmingly, fewer than half of board members regularly interact with their CISOs, often only during formal board presentations.

Building Bridges Through Communication

Swart proposes two strategies to bridge this gap: fostering closer personal bonds between board members and CISOs, and reshaping how boards comprehend security issues.

“Security is complicated, and one of a CISO’s responsibilities is to fit that complexity around their company’s risks,” explains Swart. “There isn’t a definitive checklist that you just follow and all the security pieces fall into place. It’s as much a philosophy as it is technical, and the CISO’s personality and experience will determine that philosophy.”

When boards solely witness CISOs through formal reports and performance indicators, they miss out on crucial nuances. Conversely, if CISOs fail to respect the personalities and outlooks of board members, conveying those nuances becomes an uphill battle.

Reframing Cybersecurity as a Business Imperative

A primary issue is the misalignment in measuring security investments. HBR reports that while 65% of board members expect a serious cyberattack within a year, fewer than 55% of CISOs agree. Compounding the confusion, 76% of board members feel they have made adequate security investments, which is often not the case.

Swart emphasises the crux of the problem: “Boards look at cybersecurity as technical and not business, so they try to solve it in technical ways. Just procure the systems we need, hire the right people, and have them do their job. Problem solved! But they fail to appreciate that, while all those steps are valid, it’s as much about the design and culture around cybersecurity.”

CISOs must change these perceptions by cultivating direct, personal understanding with board members. They can also take the initiative and bring more security insight to the board in terms they can appreciate and use.

“If your board has not yet undergone cybersecurity training, start there,” advises Swart. “Introduce each board member to personal security habits so they can appreciate the risks in the context of their personal lives. The other side is integrated training where you bring security professionals and risk managers to them at the same time, demonstrating how these disciplines overlap. Boards think in business terms, so show the business links with cybersecurity.”

Fostering Continuous Dialogue

Swart recommends providing more communication channels and encouraging closer links between board members and CISOs. “The problem is board members usually have limited time and the wrong questions. You must give them context to work with. That means giving them reliable channels to make security-related queries.”

Introducing ways for the two sides to communicate can have an extraordinary effect on security awareness. Board meetings are often too short to delve into substantial security topics, and some members might shy away from asking specific questions for fear of looking uninformed.

“It is possible to introduce ways for the two sides to communicate. It’s like that red telephone you see in movies on a president’s desk. You need a hotline between the board and security. That’s the way to cut down the confusion that is holding boards back from making the best security decisions,” concludes Swart.

As cyberthreats continue to evolve, bridging the communication gap between boards and CISOs is crucial for organisations to stay ahead of the curve. By fostering a deeper understanding of cybersecurity’s nuances and its business implications, companies can fortify their defences and navigate the digital landscape with confidence.

Read next: Cisco ramps up AI-era security with Hypershield

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Injini Think Tank Releases Volume 2 of its African EdTech Insights Report

Injini Think Tank Releases Volume 2 of its African EdTech Insights Report

Injini Think Tank Releases Volume 2 of its African EdTech Insights Report

Injini is proud to announce the release of  its African EdTech Insights Report: Volume 2, “Exploring Interdependencies in the EdTech Ecosystem for Sustainable Impact.”

This report, produced by the Injini Think Tank, investigates the intertwined roles of key education stakeholders (including EdTech founders, learners, teachers, parents, government, and investors) and their impact on the effective implementation and sustainability of EdTech solutions.

“This study represents a significant milestone in our journey, reflecting the evolving depth of our inquiries and our expanding focus within the education sector,” remarked Krista Davidson, Executive Director at Injini. “Over time, our dialogue with stakeholders has become more nuanced, echoing the intricacies of the challenges we strive to address. The insights showcase our progress and highlight potential pathways to tackle these multifaceted issues.”

Injini remains steadfast in its commitment to driving educational innovation through comprehensive research and stakeholder engagement. This extensive study aims to enrich the collective understanding of EdTech’s evolving role across Africa and its potential to address the continent’s unique educational challenges.

“Our goal is to unravel some of the intricate connections between various actors in the education ecosystem,” Davidson explains. “By gaining a deeper understanding of their perspectives and realities, we hope to enable more purposeful innovation and foster collaboration in pursuit of our shared vision: creating an equitable and inclusive learning environment.”

Each chapter delves into a different stakeholder and their relationship with EdTech products.

  • Chapter 1 investigates the interconnections between EdTech solutions and the parents and teachers who often bridge the gap between young learners and these products. It explores how solutions that creatively address the needs and pain points of these key stakeholders, alongside the requirements of learners, are more likely to reach their target audience sustainably. Case studies in this chapter reveal that 75% of parents surveyed strongly preferred physical reading materials for early childhood development (ECD), highlighting the need for EdTech solutions to consider parental attitudes towards screen time and the potential for hybrid digital-physical learning materials.
  • The dynamics between the government and the EdTech market within South Africa are examined in Chapter 2. Through engagements with government stakeholders, we unpack their challenges and perspectives to understand how strengthening the linkages between the government and EdTech companies can improve access to quality education. This chapter highlights the misalignment between government educational strategies and EdTech innovations as a significant barrier to integrating technology into public education.
  • Chapter 3 focuses on the dynamics and signals that precede capital entering the ecosystem. Particularly, it explores how EdTech can enhance its appeal to investors and address the current misalignment between venture capitalists’ expectations for growth and scale, and the unique characteristics of EdTech ventures. This chapter notes that African-based EdTech startups face significant challenges in attracting venture capital, with the sector securing less than 1% of global venture capital equity funding in 2023. This emphasises the critical need for EdTech ventures to explore diverse funding sources beyond traditional venture capital.

While the report certainly does not tackle every challenge and cannot provide all the answers, it does begin to pose and unpack some of the most pressing questions that all stakeholders in this sector should be asking to ensure success.

Davidson concludes, “We look forward to further unpacking the insights from this report with the broader community over the coming months. We intend to  engage more deeply on these and other topics through strategic engagement sessions designed to foster collaboration and growth.”

The full report is available here for those interested in deepening their knowledge of the EdTech ecosystem’s complexities and opportunities for impactful change.

Read More: Injini announces second cohort for the Mastercard Foundation EdTech Fellowship

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NTT DATA Scores Massive Deal to Streamline Salesforce’s App Environment

NTT DATA Scores Massive Deal to Streamline Salesforce’s App Environment

NTT DATA Scores Massive Deal to Streamline Salesforce’s App Environment

Salesforce, the leading AI-powered CRM platform, has tapped NTT DATA to standardise and streamline its vast application ecosystem. This strategic partnership aims to free up Salesforce’s resources, enabling them to concentrate on driving innovation and delivering cutting-edge AI solutions to their customers.

The Japanese tech giant, NTT DATA, will take on the mammoth task of managing and developing hundreds of applications spanning Salesforce’s various cloud offerings, including Sales, Marketing, Service, Experience, and Commerce Clouds. Additionally, the scope encompasses overseeing applications on MuleSoft, Heroku, Slack, and numerous third-party and custom apps.

Lauren Wortmann, VP of Cloud and Enterprise Applications at NTT DATA Middle East and Africa, expressed her excitement about the announcement, stating, “This is a testament to the global relationship and trust that Salesforce places in NTT DATA. In June, we will formally unveil the suite of Salesforce services that we, as NTT DATA Middle East and Africa, will bring to market. We’re thrilled to embark on this journey together, leveraging Salesforce’s cutting-edge technologies to drive transformative outcomes for our clients.”

Aaron Millstone, Chief Growth Officer at NTT DATA North America, highlighted the company’s expertise in managed services and its strong partnership with Salesforce. “Clients across all industries turn to us to modernise their application portfolios, and Salesforce selected NTT DATA due to our more than 40-year history in managed services as well as our global reach and expertise in Salesforce and MuleSoft services,” he said.

Juan Perez, Chief Information Officer at Salesforce, emphasised the benefits of consolidating managed services under NTT DATA’s umbrella. “By consolidating managed services across the Salesforce stack, we can focus on building new capabilities and helping our customers use data and AI to achieve better insights for their users and better productivity for their employees,” Perez stated.

NTT DATA’s prowess in application management and digital services is further bolstered by its recent acquisition of Apisero in 2022, expanding its Salesforce and MuleSoft digital talent ecosystem globally. The company’s strong market position is reinforced by its ranking as the second worldwide provider of Application Implementation and Managed Services by Market Share in 2022, according to Gartner’s Market Share Analysis report.

As the digital transformation landscape continues to evolve, this strategic partnership between NTT DATA and Salesforce promises to unlock new avenues for innovation, enabling both companies to focus on their core strengths and deliver exceptional value to their clients.

Read next: Salesforce and AWS forge deeper alliance

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TBD expands decentralised tbDEX in Africa

TBD expands decentralised tbDEX in Africa

TBD expands decentralised tbDEX in Africa

TBD, a subsidiary of Block focused on open and decentralised financial technologies, has onboarded leading African fintech Chipper Cash to its growing tbDEX ecosystem.

Chipper Cash, boasting over 5 million consumers across 21 African nations, has integrated with the tbDEX protocol, unlocking liquidity for business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) cross-border payments across 40 African countries. The collaboration also paves the way for exploring innovative use cases leveraging decentralised identity solutions.

“Across Africa, the challenges of currency liquidity and access to global financial systems are palpable,” remarked Mike Brock, CEO of TBD. “For these reasons, we are laser focused on building out the tbDEX ecosystem in Africa, which already includes Yellowcard, the largest and only licensed stablecoin on/off ramp on the African continent. Fast on the heels of our tbDEX SDK 1.0 release, adding Chipper Cash to our growing network will help to accelerate our work on global cross border payments and decentralised identity.”

As one of the largest fintechs in Africa, Chipper Cash’s integration represents the onboarding of one of the continent’s largest virtual card issuers, with over 1.2 million cards issued. Maijid Moujaled, President and Co-Founder of Chipper Cash, expressed enthusiasm about the potential of tbDEX to revolutionise remittance flows into Africa, stating, “Remittances are a lifeline for many African families, but the costs of sending money to the continent remain among the highest globally. By plugging into an open protocol like tbDEX with numerous network participants, we believe we can, collectively as an industry, drive down these high costs and facilitate remittances in a more efficient, transparent, and compliant manner.”

While the initial collaboration will focus on enabling faster and less expensive consumer remittances, the two companies will also explore ways to empower small businesses. Chipper’s offerings for businesses already enable local and cross-border digital payments for underbanked SMEs across 40 different African countries, powering disbursements and collections from bank accounts, mobile money wallets, and Chipper wallets.

Furthermore, Chipper Cash will leverage tbDEX to unlock trusted, compliant transactions with verifiable credentials (VCs) and decentralised identifiers (DIDs) in order to accelerate the onboarding and identity verification of consumers and small businesses. “Chipper is also excited to collaborate with TBD on the trust frameworks and innovative credential designs that underpin every financial transaction on tbDEX,” Moujaled said. “The idea that we can have a standardised and streamlined way to verify our identity on the internet can help make the world feel a bit more inclusive.”

At its core, tbDEX is an open messaging protocol that connects liquidity seekers with providers and equips all participants with a common language for facilitating transactions. Utilising open-source protocols and common standards, it provides developers, enterprises, entrepreneurs, and governments with a universal language to facilitate transactions in a more inclusive, efficient, and trustworthy manner.

Central to tbDEX’s innovation is the creation of a trust protocol for the exchange of value, making bitcoin, stablecoins, other digital assets, and even traditional fiat more useful by creating a standardised way to establish trust and transact through an internet-native value exchange protocol. tbDEX is architected on Web5 infrastructure, utilising decentralised technologies such as Decentralised Identifiers (DIDs) and Verifiable Credentials (VCs) to securely validate counterparty identity and trust, as well as helping to enable compliance with relevant laws and regulations across global jurisdictions.

As TBD continues to expand its decentralised financial ecosystem across Africa, the addition of Chipper Cash to the tbDEX network marks a significant step forward in driving financial inclusion and enabling more efficient cross-border payments and identity solutions for individuals and businesses on the continent.

Read next: Unveiling the Crypto Chronicles: What 2024 Holds for the Digital Frontier

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South Africa’s digital nomad visa: Opportunity or threat to local coders?

South Africa’s digital nomad visa: Opportunity or threat to local coders?

South Africa’s digital nomad visa: Opportunity or threat to local coders?

South Africa is on the cusp of rolling out a new digital nomad visa aimed at attracting remote workers and highly skilled professionals from across the globe. The visa, which will have two categories – a remote working visa and a critical skills visa, positions the country to become only the fifth African nation offering such a programme, marking an exciting development in its efforts to establish itself as a global tech hub.

However, as appealing as the prospect of an influx of digital nomads may seem for the South African economy, concerns are mounting around the potential impact on the local coding community.

“While digital nomads, with their diverse skill sets and global perspectives, undoubtedly bring value to South Africa’s tech landscape, their presence also poses challenges, especially regarding the potential displacement of our local coding talent,” says Mvelo Hlophe, CEO at Zaio, a South African coding education company.

The primary concern lies in the ability of digital nomads, who typically command higher salaries, to drive up living costs in major city centres like Cape Town and Johannesburg. This increase in rent and food prices could force locals to relocate further away, trading convenient living for gruelling commutes just to reach their workplaces.

“This decrease in quality of life, coupled with the lure of lucrative opportunities abroad or even just working remotely for an international company, could deplete our pool of talented coders as local businesses struggle to match the salary packages offered by international rivals,” Hlophe explains.

While the economic benefits of digital nomadism, including revenue generation and job creation across various sectors, are undeniable, proactive measures must be taken to level the playing field and ensure equal opportunities for all.

One proposed approach is the implementation of taxation policies aimed at redistributing wealth, thereby easing the strain on local coding communities priced out of their homes due to inflated living costs. Additionally, local companies will need to adapt their job offerings to compete with attractive international salary packages, potentially through non-financial incentives such as flexible work hours, supportive company cultures, and access to training and mentorship programmes.

Ultimately, the key to harnessing the potential of digital nomadism may lie in collaboration. Encouraging local coders to attend industry events, workshops, and mentorship programmes could foster an environment where knowledge is exchanged, and talent is nurtured collectively rather than viewed as a threat.

As Hlophe aptly states, “The digital nomad visa introduction poses both benefits and drawbacks for South Africa. While it brings economic opportunities and fosters innovation, it also poses challenges such as gentrification and talent retention for local companies. By implementing strategic policies and encouraging a collaborative culture, we can successfully navigate this change and build towards a future where both local and international talent coexist harmoniously.”

Read next: Grey empowers African freelancers, digital nomads

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Google Doubles Down on Generative AI Across Search, Android, and Workspace

Google Doubles Down on Generative AI Across Search, Android, and Workspace

Google Doubles Down on Generative AI Across Search, Android, and Workspace

At its annual I/O developer conference this week, Google unveiled a sweeping set of AI-powered features aimed at transforming how users search, interact with their Android devices, and collaborate in Workspace. The tech giant doubled down on its generative AI efforts, showcasing major advances in language models, image and video generation, and creative tools for music.

The centerpiece is Gemini 1.5 Pro, Google’s new flagship large language model boasting a staggering 1 million token context window. This allows it to ingest and analyse vast datasets like full-length videos or thousands of pages in one go. Gemini 1.5 Pro will underpin upgrades across Google’s product lineup, from enhancing Search with multi-step reasoning to powering advanced Workspace features.

In Search, users will soon be able to ask complex, multi-part queries and get comprehensive AI-synthesised answers. A “Search with video” feature will let people simply record a clip to find relevant information. For Android, Gemini will enable capabilities like “Circle to Search” for exploring anything on-screen, enhanced accessibility via TalkBack’s screen reader, and live scam call detection.

Google is also supercharging its Workspace suite of productivity apps. The company highlighted AI-powered draft email replies in Gmail’s mobile app, automated summaries for long email threads, and a conversational “Live” experience. A new Gemini side panel provides intelligent suggestions leveraging the 1.5 Pro model’s expanded context window.

Not to be outdone, Google’s Imagen and Veo models for text-to-image and text-to-video generation leveled up. Imagen 3 promises exceptional fidelity, with variants tailored for speed or quality. Veo can generate high resolution, nuanced videos up to a minute long based on text prompts, opening new creative frontiers.

On the audio front, Google unveiled a family of Lyria models to generate music from text. Early samples created in collaboration with artists like Wyclef Jean hint at AI’s potential for music production.

Amid the generative AI boom, Google is also focused on responsible development. It demoed SynthID watermarking to identify AI-generated images and videos. The AI Test Kitchen expanded to over 100 countries for user feedback.

“We’re infusing generative AI across our entire product suite to truly reinvent how people search, work, create, and experience the world around them,” said Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO. The company’s I/O announcements send a clear signal that it’s going all-in on this transformative technology wave.

Read next: AI unlocks $15.7 Trillion opportunity, but hurdles await Africa

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Financial Inclusion for Townships: E Squared Investments Backs Setana Capital’s Mission

Financial Inclusion for Townships: E Squared Investments Backs Setana Capital’s Mission

Financial Inclusion for Townships: E Squared Investments Backs Setana Capital’s Mission

E Squared Investments continues to support Setana Capital’s mission to transform the township economy by facilitating access to financial services for the informal sector.

E Squared recently provided funding to Setana Capital to enhance the development of its technology system, provide the capital needed to roll out its embedded finance products, and further scale its business. 

Setana, an embedded finance and working capital provider, aims to support small businesses within the township areas in South Africa and promote financial inclusion by providing informal businesses with access to short-term working capital solutions, enhancing their ability to manage cash flows. 

The township economy is home to many of South Africa’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) that contribute significantly to job creation and community development.

Despite its increasing contribution to job creation and GDP, this dynamic sector faces numerous challenges impeding the collaboration between SMEs and formal financial institutions and, ultimately, access to finance.

These include stringent collateral requirements, complex application processes, and a lack of credit history, all compounded by many township entrepreneurs’ challenges with financial literacy and a limited understanding of financial management and accounting practices, hindering the potential for growth and success. 

Setana mainly concentrates on providing capital to businesses that need support urgently, especially those selling goods that people always need, and places emphasis on providing capital to environments where they can build a defensible moat through their product, process, and unique business model that focuses on funding the value-making process. 

In informal convenience stores known in South Africa as Spaza shops, they partner with major wholesaler brands and use a proprietary and innovative credit scoring mechanism to finance the purchase of stock for SMEs rather than provide conventional cash lending. This is achieved by utilizing transactional data analysis to identify eligible wholesalers for credit allocation. Qualifying Spaza shop owners then use this credit allocation to procure stock and settle debts within a flexible 14—to 30-day repayment window tailored to their cash flow cycles.

The capital deployed by Setana, therefore, creates a flywheel effect for growth for both the SME and the partner channel while building stickiness between Setana, the partner, and the SME. This flywheel effect was piloted through an innovative financing facility through the E Squared Investments Social Enterprise unit. Setana redeployed capital nine times over, providing the team with the insights to test their offering thoroughly.  

Cheryl Jacob, Head of Social Entrepreneurship at E Squared Investments, said, “Our agility to deploy E Squared’s risk capital to pilot innovative financing mechanisms and support social enterprises like Setana to prove their model is a unique approach that enables us to have multiple impact outcomes through one investment.”

Shaun Coetzee, Acting Head of Investments at E Squared Investments, said, “E Squared is very excited about Setana and the amazing work that they are doing in the informal township economy. We’ve been privileged to have walked alongside Setana from the ideation stage via our Pathways Program and our Social Enterprise portfolio to where the business is today. Our journey is set to continue as our latest investment via E Squared Ventures will assist Setana as they grow and expand their business, providing much-needed access to finance for Spaza Shops and beyond. We see our funding as catalytic for Setana and their unbanked clients, allowing them to grow their revenues and contribute significantly to job creation and community development. The Setana team has demonstrated that they can successfully lend into this segment of the economy via their innovative and robust model, plugging a financing gap that traditional financial institutions do not cover.”

The founding team consists of Khanya Ndzululeka, Prince Nwadeyi, Ntandoyenkosi Shezi, and Thabiso Moroe; together, they bring a wealth of expertise in the financial and trade sector. 

Prince Nwadeyi, co-founder of Setana Capital, said, “We focus on providing services to remote, underserved, and unbanked communities while concurrently generating multi-layered employment opportunities and contributing to the transformation and increase of economic participation by enabling the informal trade sector to participate in the formal sector. We provide credit where we believe it drives revenue growth for both our partners and the SMMEs, leveraging alternative methods of credit scoring, which we developed in-house; furthermore, we intimately understand the challenges facing African entrepreneurs; access to flexible and innovative working capital is one of them.” Nwadeyi further expanded by stating that Setana’s vision is to transform this narrative by becoming a beacon of financial empowerment for SMEs across the continent. We’re starting with embedded finance but have plans to diversify into other product lines strategically. Success for us means turning the struggle for working capital into a seamless reality for every African entrepreneur, catalysing growth, and prosperity.


Read More: E Squared Investments Fuels Zaio’s EdTech Revolution with Strategic Financing for Digital Skills Empowerment

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