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It’s not easy being a pioneer. You make a big bet on your vision, make all kinds of personal sacrifices and when you succeed, you’re hailed as a hero that most people in your community will look up to. With that comes a lot of responsibility. The need to lead by example and accept that you’ll also be seen as the face of your community, whether you want to or not.
This brings us to Ushahidi and the Kenyan tech ecosystem. Ushahidi, is the social enterprise platform which was developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the elections in 2008. It was a pioneer of Kenya’s much celebrated tech space and effectively also a leader in Africa’s startup ecosystem.
This week it came to light there has been a reported case of sexual harassment against a senior member of the Ushahidi team. The details and speculation around the case have been picked over on several African tech blogs, discussion boards and various personal posts. But the key thing to know is that the victim has since left the company and one person has been suspended while an investigation is ongoing.
Most decent people are disappointed when sexual harassment happens anywhere but especially at one of the more progressive organizations, not just in Kenya or Africa, but in the wider tech world. Ushahidi literally means ‘testimony’ in Swahili. Its work has come to represent transparency and forthrightness where it’s been applied from Kenya to Venezuela to even the United States.
That’s why the biggest disappointment has been the poor governance in handling such a sensitive topic. The terse public statement, obfuscation and feet-dragging (the allegations are at least two months old) say a lot about the way the organization is run. Ushahidi was co-founded by some of the leading lights of Nairobi’s tech scene including Juliana Rotich, Erik Hersman, Ory Okolloh and David Kobia. Given what we’ve seen unravel on a much bigger scale in Silicon Valley, one would hope that lessons would have been learned.
This is not just about one harassment case but about a culture. This is an opportunity for Ushahidi’s board, advisors and backers to do the right thing in a decisive way that sends a message to the rest of the still fledgling African tech community. What it does and how it does it, will have long-term ramifications.
As Okolloh, who left Ushahidi in 2010, says in her post: “The start-up ecosystem in Kenya is no longer nascent it can and must handle the hard work and tough conversations that will happen in the coming weeks and months. There is no otherwise.”
Yinka Adegoke, Quartz Africa editor
Stories from this week
Emmanuel Macron’s “civilizational” statement about Africa is as problematic as it is French. The French president Macron created a storm last week when he spoke about the “civilizational” challenges of Africa, including failed states, shaky democracies, and women having “7 to 8 babies”. Siddhartha Mitter writes that Macron’s comments were indeed racist and echoed the “civilizing mission” at the core of French colonial ideology.
These photos show why Eritrea’s “Little Rome” is now a World Heritage site. On July 8, the United Nations cultural agency added Asmara city to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Eritreans and international observers alike now hope, says Tom Gardner, that the status will put the capital of Africa’s so-called hermit kingdom on the tourist map.
HBO is looking to post-apocalyptic Africa for its next cult classic. Nigerian-American author and 2016 Quartz Africa Innovator Nnedi Okorafor revealed her novel Who Fears Death will be turned into a TV series—thanks in part to Games of Thrones creator George R. R. Martin. Lynsey Chutel explains the adaptation could bring a new imagining of African storytelling to the world.
Somalia’s internet blackout is hurting drought relief efforts. Somalia has had no internet since June 24, when a ship cut the only fiber cable that links the country to the world. Reporting from Mogadishu, Amanda Sperber writes that the internet outage is hampering relief efforts for one of the worst humanitarian crises in years.
China’s ancient South Africa history is based on a map misunderstanding. In 2002, an exhibition hosted by South Africa’s parliament showcased a map gifted from China that depicted early Sino-African relations. But as Khanya Mtshali finds, China’s ignorance about its own maps created a false narrative of its role in South Africa—and served a modern day purpose to smooth relations with ordinary South Africans.
CHART OF THE WEEK
Africa is still leading in mobile subscription growth. Sub-Saharan Africa is expected to add more than 100 million unique subscribers to surpass the half a billion a mark by 2020. The uptick in subscription is being led by DR Congo, Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Tanzania, writes Yomi Kazeem. The continent is also seeing a rapid expansion of mobile internet networks.
Other Things We Liked
The final obituary for the Nigerian musician who sang ‘Sweet Mother’. Prince Nico Mbarga was a Nigerian musician whose 1976 hit Sweet Mother sold some 13 million copies across Africa. Twenty years after his death, Sami Kent travels all over the world to talk to his family, friends, and band members finally piecing together the obituary that never was.
The tobacco industry’s dirty war for the African market. Tobacco companies have intimidated governments to dilute the kind of protections that saved millions of lives in the West. As Sarah Boseley writes for the Guardian, poor countries in Africa and Asia are urgent new battlegrounds in the global fight against smoking because of demographics and rising prosperity.
The Zimbabwean journalist writing fake news to fund real news. Good journalism comes with financial and physical risks. Writing in the Mail & Guardian Africa, Simon Allison finds a Zimbabwean reporter who, like a would-be Robin Hood for the digital age, concocts fake news stories to pay for the real news.
Keep an eye on
Alibaba founder and billionaire Jack Ma visits Africa (July 17-18). Jack Ma, the founder of Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba, will visit Kenya and speak to entrepreneurs in the country. He will also visit Rwanda as part of a tour with the United Nations trade and development agency to share insight and spur young Africans into business.
Atlas for Africa training in Ghana, Nigeria, and Egypt (July 17 -22). As part of our ongoing training to bring Quartz’s chart-building platform to newsrooms and organizations across Africa, we will be conducting training in Accra, Lagos, and Cairo. On July 17 and 18, the training will take place at the Africa Open Data Conference in Ghana, and in Abuja on July 21 and 22. We will also conduct training in Cairo on July 22 and 23. If you want to be part of these sessions, please email us at email@example.com.
Our best wishes for a productive and thought-filled week ahead. Please send any news, comments, suggestions, Eritrean visas and accurate Chinese Africa maps to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow us on Twitter at @qzafrica for updates throughout the day.
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