BD Insider, Letter 140: Is Africa about to have its own humanoid?

Is Africa about to have its own humanoid?

BD Insider, Letter 140: Is Africa about to have its own humanoid?
Omeife, Africa's first humanoid robot.
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The National Startup Investment Fund (NASIF) website—https://nationalstartupinvestmentfund.com/, is not supported by the Nigerian government or the African Development Bank.

It is a phishing scheme designed to defraud unsuspecting Nigerian entrepreneurs. It is important to note that the Startup Seed Investment Fund proposed by the Nigeria Startup Act is still in development.

For accurate information visit the Nigeria Startup Act website.

In Letter 140, we examine:

  • the launch of Omeife—Africa's first humanoid robot
  • how Kenya's Hustler Fund for SMEs is breaching data privacy laws
  • the device financing programme for MTN users in Rwanda

and other noteworthy information like:

  • the latest African Tech Startup Deals
  • opportunities, interesting reads and more

The big three!

Uniccon Group launches Africa's first humanoid robot—Omeife

The news: Last Friday, Omeife, a humanoid robot developed by a Nigerian STEM-focused lab, Uniccon Group was unveiled in Abuja, Nigeria's capital city, after two years of ideation and development.

The six-foot-tall robot is built as a female Igbo character that understands and speaks different foreign and local languages—English, French, Arabic, Kiswahili, Pidgin, Afrikaans, Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba.

"It is not just multilingual, it can switch languages and interact with specific gestures—hand illustrations, smile and other bodily gestures—that match the tone of the conversation," Chuks Ekwueme, founder and CEO of Uniccon Group said.

Currently, the humanoid is powered by a battery but the company is currently researching how to create a built-in energy system for Omeife.


L-R: Chuks Ekwueme and Omeife

Why it matters: Ekwueme said some of Omeife's features include: terrain intelligence, position awareness, advanced gestures and grip. It is also programmed to have a deep understanding of African cultures and behavioural patterns.

Nigeria's Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo said that the government will invest in the development of humanoids like Omeife to aid the country's fight against insecurity. "Omeife will help us to build our technology locally. The government is working on a national data strategy to ensure that innovators can create," he said.

Zoom in: With this launch, the company intends to improve the abilities of Omeife and mass produce to be sold globally for over $30,000—higher than Elon Musk's humanoid, Optimus.

According to Ekueme, Omeife has different products such as Omeife-as-a-service, voice chats, identification-as-a-service and surveillance. These products will start to roll out in Q1 2023. "Omeife can be designed to meet the needs of any sector," he added.


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Kenya's Hustler Fund for SMEs is breaching data privacy laws

The news: Some experts and Kenyans have raised concerns regarding the data collection process involved in accessing the Hustler Fund.

Launched in November 2022 by Kenyan President, William Ruto, the Hustler Fund is a $409 million vehicle that intends to liberate more than 15 million people from predatory lenders by offering loans of up to $406 (50,000 shillings).

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By simply dialling *254# on their mobile phones, Kenyans can register for the scheme. Around two hours after registering, they are informed of the amount they are qualified to receive. This could be between $4 and $41.

As of December 2, 2022, President Ruto said that about 3.5 million Kenyans have applied for the fund which is provided by commercial lenders KCB Bank and Family Bank, and are being distributed through Kenya's mobile money platforms, M-Pesa, Airtel Money, and T-Kash.

The controversy: Despite its relevance, Quartz Africa reports that the Hustler Fund requests applicants to provide their M-Pesa pins—this is against the country's 2019 Data Protection Act. However, the local authority has explained that the PIN is required to authenticate the owner of the Hustler Fund account where the loan will be disbursed.

According to John Walubengo, a data protection consultant, "[the right of Kenyans] to privacy is baked into [the] 2010 constitution and even the government should not take it away. The fact that most governments regularly violate citizen privacy should never, ever be normalized."


MTN Rwanda and Bank of Kigali to provide device financing for Rwandans

The news: MTN Rwanda, in collaboration with Bank of Kigali, has launched "Macye Macye"—a device financing program that will allow MTN Rwanda customers to purchase smartphones and tablets on credit from any MTN Service centre, franchisee shop, or other retail distribution points.

Why it matters: Rwandans using MTN can now own a smartphone of their choice for as low as Rwf 200 ($0.18) per day by dialling *182*12# and going through an onboarding process.

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According to MTN Rwanda, each device purchased under the device financing program will be bundled with free data, talk time and SMS. Customers can choose to pay for their devices in daily, weekly, or monthly payments. All payments will be made via Mobile Money.

In Q4 2021, only 1,943,786 smartphones were operational or active in Rwanda—approximately 15 per cent of the entire population, according to data from Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA).

"Smartphone affordability has been a barrier to our customers being able to access the mobile internet. Our partnership with Bank of Kigali sets to increase affordability and lighten the burden to avail smartphones to all, which underpins MTN Rwanda’s belief that everyone deserves the benefits of modern connected life," Mapula Bodibe, CEO of MTN Rwanda, said in a statement seen by Benjamindada.com.

As the financing partner, Bank of Kigali (BoK) will offer lending services to eligible customers in the smartphone financing scheme whose credit scoring will be in line with BoK's credit qualification criteria.

Zoom out: This is not MTN's first attempt to enable smartphone penetration in the country. In 2020, MTN Rwanda in partnership with the government, through the Ministry of ICT and Innovation, rolled out Connect Rwanda initiative which sought to avail smartphones to the unconnected by calling on individuals and households to donate to the cause. Over 44,000 smartphones were distributed to Rwandan households.


đź’° State of funding in Africa

Quick funding facts:

  • Last week, four African startups jointly raised over $46.9 million in venture funding across seed, pre-seed and Series A funds.
  • Kenya-based cleantech startup, Solarise's $33.4 million was the highest amount that was raised in the week in review.
  • As of November 4, 2022, over 151 Kenyan startups have jointly raised about $852 million in 2022, per BD Funding Tracker.

Get FREE access to authentic African startup funding for 2022.


#SpotifyWrapped data about Africa

Eight of the 10 most streamed African artists on Spotify in 2022 were Nigerian

Credit: Spotify

đź“š Noteworthy

Here are other important stories in the media:

  • Nigeria wants to tax crypto transactions: Zainab Ahmed, Nigeria's minister of finance said there is a provision to tax cryptocurrency and other digital assets in the latest finance bill.
  • 12 best Christmas tech gifts ideas 2022: Ahead of the 2022 Yuletide, we curated a list of tech gifts that you can share with your loved ones.
  • How Zone's plan to power global payments with blockchain: Appzone has rebranded Zone, to power global payments with its regulated blockchain network, its BaaS product is now known as Qore.
  • Why is SafeBoda leaving Nigeria?: After completing over 3 million rides in Nigeria, SafeBoda is halting its operations in the country to focus on its most profitable market, Uganda.
  • Benjamin Dada talks with Wimbart: In its latest media spotlight, pan-African tech PR agency, Wimbart interviewed Benjamin Dada about his journalism career, running Benjamindada.com and the African tech media landscape.
  • How African payment providers are accelerating the shift to digital payments: Omoniyi Kolade, founder and CEO of SeerBit talks about the African digital payment landscape and how Seerbit amongst other African fintech companies is driving digital payments on the continent.

đź’Ľ Opportunities

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