View Full Version : Herman, Africa's 'father of technology' on sparking a tech revolution

27th January 2012, 04:00 PM
Known by many as Africa's "father of technology," software pioneer Herman Chinery-Hesse has been spawning innovations for two decades, helping to break down tech barriers between the continent and the rest of the world.

The Ghanaian innovator and visionary founded SOFTtribe in 1991, one of the largest and most successful software companies in West Africa that has been creating computer solutions for businesses in the continent.

More recently, Chinery-Hesse who is often described as '"Africa's Bill Gates," embarked on a mission to spark an entrepreneurial revolution in Africa by bringing e-commerce to the most remote corners of the continent. His latest creations range from virtual shopping malls and electronic ticketing to digital insurance and security.

Here, CNN highlights some of the best innovations Chinery-Hesse and his teams have created over the years.

Shop Africa 53: A subsidiary of Black Star Line, the company Chinery-Hesse create in 2007, Shop Africa 53 is a virtual shopping mall for African products and services that enables merchants to sell their goods on the internet and accept payments on a mobile phone.

The website, which Chinery-Hesse describes as an African Amazon/PayPal type of service, allows shoppers anywhere in the world to look for African products and buy directly from local merchants -- from art, clothes and jewelry to food products, cookware and appliances.

Chinery-Hesse says enthusiastically that the marketplace can give poor African craftspeople access to global markets.

"What's going to happen next is that we're going to augment it with the fact of the poor people in the villages being able to do international trade," he says. "Some of which might grow into multi-billion dollar companies and so on within the next 20 years -- watch this space, Africa is it!"

Keba-Ekong!: This re-usable plastic card, whose name translates to "bring it again," is similar to the Oyster card, a form of electronic ticketing widely used in London, England for public transport.

But more than just a travel card, Keba-Ekong! is an all-purpose, pay-as-you-go system that is also used for several other purchases, including concert and cinema tickets, inside and outside Ghana.

"If you're going to watch a concert today in Ghana you'll probably receive one of those cards as your ticket -- when you get to the gate there's a scanner, peep it goes, wait, checking, you can go in," says Chinery-Hesse.

"We have orders for concerts outside Ghana and the same thing happens -- we just deliver the cards to them and on the day of the event we go onto our server and we setup the whole concert, number of seats ... and they can start selling tickets six months in advance and they make their money, their counting is transparent for everybody."

Quickie: For "Quickie," Black Star Line collaborated with an insurance company to launch instant, on-demand cover through the use of scratch cards and mobile phone networks.

Just like Keba-Ekong!, Quickie uses the potential of the cloud to offer smart solutions tailored for the Ghanaian market. The product is designed to accommodate the needs of those who are not keen to pay large sums for insurance once a year, says Chinery-Hesse.

"Quickie" users can activate their cover by sending an SMS with the unique code that appears on the card that they've purchased from vendors of telecom products.

"You scratch the card, you look at your registration number, you stick it in to our server, you're insured and the rest is history," says Chinery-Hesse.

Akatua: Akatua was one of the first software to be developed by SOFTTribe some two decades ago.

Today, the cloud-based product, which has been taken on by many major companies operating in Ghana, claims to be the most efficient, payroll solution in the country.

It is designed to simplify a series of complex payroll issues such as staff salaries, and maintenance of taxes as well as managing deductions and back pay.

Hagelo: Chinery-Hesse's latest technological solution aims to use the potential of the cloud to offer what is claimed to be superior protection against armed robberies.

Dubbed "Hagelo," which translates to "Hey, you thief" in Ga, the service incorporates scratch cards and crowd sourcing through an internet and mobile phone based application.

A monthly $10 scratch card allows users to indicate to BSL's server that their house is under attack. Then, a protection system mechanism is deployed to make sure the thief is caught.

"Within 2 minutes the whole neighbourhood will be awake, the police are on their way, a security company is on their way, the radio stations are announcing [this house is under attack]," says Chinery-Hesse.

"The security people we're working with predict -- this big sign board that's in the starter pack says: 'This crib is protected by Hagelo alert systems, don't even bother, you will run like a wet rat' -- and they say that sign board will put the fear of God into most thieves."