The Hidden Pitfalls of Inclusive Innovation

By Raghav Narsalay, Leandro Pongeluppe, & David Light

A few years ago, a large multinational corporation
developed a new food product
designed for low-income people in emerging
markets. The product was highly nutritious
and low-priced. To win the trust of people
in remote rural communities, the company recruited a sales force
of local women, who in turn developed recipes using the product
and helped teach community members how to prepare those dishes.
A yearlong trial confirmed the product’s potential: consumers
found it easy to use and less expensive than common alternatives.
Success seemed all but guaranteed. Read more

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Crowdsourcing Feedback to Improve Healthcare Systems

Co-authored by: Yvonne Nkrumah and Julia Mensah (WBIHS)

“Technology made large populations possible; large populations now make technology indispensable”

These words by renowned American writer, Joseph Wood Krutch, are true today as they were more than 40 years ago. From communities in Bangalore, India to Soroti, Uganda, citizens—even in rural communities—are leveraging the power of technology to provide critical information on service delivery, an essential input for reform.

In August 2013, the World Bank Group partnered with UNICEF Uganda and the Medicines Transparency Alliance (Uganda), to leverage two platforms – U-report ( and mTrac ( The use of these SMS-based platforms helped generate real-time information from both citizens and health providers, providing critical evidence on service delivery.

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Who Can Answer the Ghanaian Schoolboy’s Question?

“Why is America so rich and we are so poor?” The question came from a schoolboy in Ghana. It caught me by surprise. I hesitated before answering.

I didn’t have the knowledge to give him a solid answer. I was not an economist. I knew nothing about Ghana’s business enabling environment or its financial markets system. I didn’t know about the causes of poverty in Ghana, and was totally unaware of what the international donor community was doing about it. My knowledge of politics, colonialism and history was limited, although I was aware that Ghana had become independent from Great Britain on March 6, 1957.

Every schoolboy in Ghana knew that. Even me. The boy who asked the question was my classmate at Prempeh College in Kumasi. It was 1975. We were both 11 years old, and we wore the same uniform: khaki shorts and a short-sleeved green shirt. Neither of us understood that donor aid was already streaming into Africa to alleviate poverty, an effort that would later come under heavy fire.

In hindsight, it’s easy to criticize traditional poverty-fighting assistance. One of the sharpest critics is Dr. Dambisa Moyo, an international economist and author of “Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa.” Dr. Moyo notes that development aid has fueled corruption, has removed incentives for governments to become efficient, has created a culture of aid dependency, and has distorted markets. In a 2009 article in the Wall Street Journal, she points out that in spite of $1 trillion of aid delivered over 60 years, real per capita income in Africa has fallen. She argues that countries that rely on markets rather than aid are more successful, citing Ghana as an example.  “Governments need to attract more foreign direct investment by creating attractive tax structures and reducing the red tape and complex regulations for businesses,” she writes.

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Inadequate sanitation has now become a global concern and effort is being made to curb this social challenge. Several social enterprises and businesses across the world are ensuring that the 2.5 billion people across the world who don’t have somewhere safe to go to the toilet get access to clean toilets. Clean Team’s focus is to join in this social call to provide innovative sanitation solutions and to help the urban poor enjoy their basic right, which is, access to safe sanitation.

The UK Department of International Development (DFID) has been recognised with a prestigious Civil Service Award for Clean Team Ghana Limited, an independent company in Ghana which was set up by WSUP and Unilever with funding from DFID. The UK Civil Service Awards is organised to celebrate and promote innovation and improvement across the entire breadth of central government.

The Civil Service Awards is the leading awards programme for the Civil Service of the United Kingdom, organised alongside the Cabinet Office celebrating outstanding achievements. The Awards are now in their eighth year and continue to highlight innovative projects within the civil service and spread best practice right across government. The Civil Service Awards provide a unique opportunity to thank the Civil Service for all the valuable work they do – day in, day out.

Department for International Development (DFID) was nominated for the Dame Lesley Strathie Award for Operational Excellence for Clean Team Ghana Limited. Clean Team (now a registered company in Ghana) is a DFID collaboration with Unilever, Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) and the design innovation firm, which was launched in April 2012.

The focus is to address the needs of 1billion people in developing countries living without access to adequate sanitation by developing an affordable and sustainable household solution designed for the urban poor, by the urban poor.

Working closely with communities in Kumasi, Ghana’s second largest city, the team has co-created a free standing toilet product that doesn’t require a sewage connection and is both aspirational and low-cost.

Clean Team was one of only fourteen award winners chosen from over 800 nominations. Other nominees selected for the Dame Lesley Strathie Award for Operational Excellence  included Lasting Power of Attorney Digital Team and Tracey Addicott of UK Hydrographic Office.

Sam Parker CEO of Water and Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP) and board of director of Clean Team Ghana noted that “ 4,000 children die every day from the effects of inadequate sanitation. That is a shocking statistic. And it is totally avoidable. Those of us lucky enough to be borne into societies where sewerage is the norm never have to make the decision on how much to spend on basic sanitation. It is just there. For billions, it is not. Enlightened governments, committed to ensuring basic sanitation for all their citizens, and willing to commit public finance, is clearly the key starting point. But governments need solutions that work at scale.

WSUP believes that transformative solutions will not be possible without unleashing the power of private enterprise, to complement public investment. Enterprises are needed that provide sanitation as an aspirational service for which people of all income levels are happy to pay, which contribute to healthier families, healthier communities and a cleaner environment. Clean Team aims to provide just such a service and I am proud of our Clean Team staff who have put in so much hard work to build the business to this point. There is a long way to go to make this business ready for repeating in multiple countries, but that is the path we are on, and I fully believe we will get there.”

Clean Team is investing heavily in providing affordable and safe sanitation solutions to the urban poor and the vulnerable people in Ghana.  We believe that safe sanitation is a basic right that every human regardless of wealth must enjoy without any hindrance.

Kofi Yeboah
Communications Officer
Clean Team Ghana

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Have you noticed the growing change in the African gaming industry?

Mancala is one of the oldest games in the world, dating more than a thousand years. In fact, there are over 200 versions of this game in Africa although  with slightly different rules. Some of you may know this game as Oware, Bao, Omweso, Ayo, Enkenshu or Aweet.

From medieval times,  African games were predominantly board-based, however, their popularity  was derided during the colonial era, they were treated as barbaric and archaic. The waning popularity of these games was further worsened by the introduction of foreign games such as netball, football, rugby that have since become a standard for gaming.

The difference between Traditional African games and foreign games is the contextual relevance they hold. Much as the foreign games are widely played all over the continent, there has been a surge in demand for locally produced content and relevant content; entertainment, news et al.

In the recent times, the sporadic growth of mobile has played a significant role is the wide spread adoption of local games. Entrepreneurs are at it, they seek to entertain, educate as well as connecting people to Afro-centric entertainment content.

When Nigeria’s Maliyo games started, no one was developing African themed games for mobile and web based platforms. Currently, pushing content to over 150 million people , Maliyo games such as Okada Ride, Aboki, Kidnapped, and Mosquitoes Smasher among others. It was inspired by US based Zynga games that is the maker of popular games such as Farmville and Mafia wars.

Matatu, a popular two player card games was developed and hosted on different mobile platforms. Terry Karungi, Production Lead, Kola studios at the BBC Science festival earlier this year said that there are more than 4000 Matatu games played daily online. Also, Kola studios just hosted a Matatu-thon –portmanteau for matatu and marathon– to celebrate local players in a fun-filled event. The feasibility of this gaming engine in Uganda has attracted majority key stakeholders such Airtel which has promised to support enterprising mobile solutions. They were 2013′s Pivot East winners in the entertainment category.

kenya’s Planet Ruckus brings an addictive yet adrenaline throttling game –Ma3 Racer. It is interesting. Players race on a congested city street eluding traffic police officers, on rugged pot-holed roads avoiding accidents with much caution. Ma3racer is hosted on Nokia’s Ovi Store boasting of over a million downloads but is yet to get an Android version.

The Nigerian-based company was launched in 2012 and has since released about 52 casual games. Kuluya focuses on telling the African narrative, and has proven popular with the diaspora and local gamers alike. Within six months after its launch the company managed to secure another seed stage investment totalling the company’s value at US$2-million. Oga @ The Top, was played more than 60,000 times within 72 hours after its launch

Ghana-based Leti Games is mostly known for its stunning artwork as well as its very talented software development team. Founded by Eyram Tawia and Wesley Kirinya in 2009, the company’s mission is to create the next African superheroes via comics and games. With the help of the Norwegian nonprofit the Meltwater Foundation, Leti Games released its first for Africans by Africans game titled iWarrior in 2009. Perhaps, they hope that one day Superman will seek Shaka Zulu’s help to fight against Krytonite.

The popular US gaming website Polygon recently did an in-depth feature piece featuring Leti Games. As the company mentioned “a game like iWarrior, though small, is a good step to culturalising games to [its] specific setting.” Leti Games further wants to bring African games to the global market.

Afroes creates uniquely African mobile applications and tools for social development agencies and corporate enterprises keen to spread educational and branded messages across the continent.

To ensure the widest possible reach among young people, including those at the bottom-of-the-pyramid, Afroes is leveraging the rapid growth of mobile in Africa, which represents an unprecedented opportunity to deliver branded and educational messages directly and repeatedly into the hands and pockets of potential customers and citizens across the continent and beyond.

Notably, other African games rocking headlines are Other games in Africa include; SkillPod Media, and Tough Jungle  among others.

In conclusion, even though the African gaming industry is not making blockbuster figures enjoyed by the foreign gaming industry. For example California based social gaming firm Zynga Games has over 350 million monthly active users with revenues of more than $ 300 million. Worldwide the global gaming industry is expected to be worth has $110 billion by 2015. There is a promising future, African developers are building scalable products for Africans but targeting the entire global market.

 Hat tip: Ventureburn 
Image via Kola Studios

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