Do you know that January 2013 is a good time to …

Happy New Year … Do you know that January 2013 is a good time to …

Brush up your skills …

Distance Learning Program on Islamic Microfinance
Islamic Microfinance is an emerging market in the Microfinance sector, and there is an immediate need to educate, train and capacity build on this subject. The AlHuda Centre of Excellence in Islamic Microfinance is offering a distance learning certificate program on Islamic Microfinance.

Clean up your act  …

Keeping records for your business
There’s a saying that goes: what doesn’t get measured doesn’t get done. Running a successful business means keeping accurate and timely financial information. A good record keeping system also gives you the information you need to make better decisions.

Update your market research …

How to find out if your product fits the market
The concept of product-market fit is emerging as an important criteria for entrepreneurs when assessing the viability of starting a business. Not all ideas make for profitable business and its vital to ask before you start just how critical your product or service will be to prospective customers.

Hire someone new …

Employment contract template
An employment contract is an agreement that spells out the roles and responsibilities of the Employer and Employee.

And get inspired! …

Dhamira Moja Youth Group
The Dhamo idea is an African-born global grassroots movement connecting the privileged young (and young at heart) to issues of poverty in Africa and providing them with a framework for action.

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Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Access to Learning Award 2013

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Access to Learning Award 2013 will provide grants of up to $1 million to organizations that are working to connect people to information and opportunities through free access to computers and the internet.

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Internet Society Ambassadors to the Internet Governance Forum (IGF)

The Internet Society is inviting applications for the 2012 Internet Society Ambassadors to the Internet Governance Forum (IGF).

As part of the Internet Society’s Next Generation Leaders (NGL) programme, the Ambassadorships to the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) are available to Internet Society members between the ages of 20 and 40.

The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is a multi-stakeholder forum for policy dialogue on issues of Internet governance. It brings together government, private sector, and civil society stakeholders, including the technical and academic community, on an equal basis and through an open and inclusive process. The IGF facilitates a common understanding of how to maximize Internet opportunities and address risks and challenges that arise.

Learn More

2012 TechWomen Mentorship Program

Harnessing the power of business, technology and innovation, TechWomen brings emerging women leaders in technology sectors from the Middle East and North Africa together with their American counterparts for a professional mentorship and exchange program at leading companies in the United States.

Overview of the Initiative

The TechWomen  program will occur over five weeks from early September through October 2012. The program will commence in the San Francisco Bay Area, California, and will conclude in Washington, D.C.

Professional Mentorships

TechWomen Mentees will take part in three-week project-based mentorships at leading companies in Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area. Each Mentee is matched with a Professional Mentor who partners with the Mentee on a technical project at the host company and provides professional guidance and support.

Professional Enrichment

As a complement to the mentorships, TechWomen Mentees will participate in professional enrichment activities. In 2011, TechWomen participants attended leadership and entrepreneurship workshops, “Tech Talks,” and served on panels at community events. They participated in “tech meet ups,” TEDxSoMa, and other networking events.

In 2012, TechWomen Mentees will attend the Grace Hopper Celebration for Women in Computing, a conference organized by the Anita Borg Institute focused on supporting women in today’s technology fields, including computer science, information technology, research and engineering.

Cultural Enrichment

Each TechWomen Mentee has a Cultural Mentor who facilitates activities to help showcase American culture and deepen mutual understanding. In 2011, Mentees volunteered with incarcerated girls in juvenile halls and attended neighborhood festivals, book readings, art exhibits and dance performances. They also visited national landmarks in San Francisco and Washington, D.C.

Interested? Apply Now!

The 2012 TechWomen application is now open. For eligibility requirements and to apply, please visit http://www.techwomen.org/how-to-apply/

The application deadline is February 15th

ISOC Community Grants

The Internet Society is a nonprofit organization founded in 1992 to provide leadership in Internet related standards, education, and policy. It is dedicated to ensuring the open development, evolution and use of the Internet for the benefit of people throughout the world.

The Internet Society will be accepting applications for the November 2011 round of the Community Grants Programme from 15th August to 16th September 2011. Award decisions will be made in mid-November.

The Community Grants Programme has been established to assist Internet Society chapters and members specifically in projects that will:

• Advance Internet Society’s mission and goals specifically those aligned with ISOC Major Strategic Initiatives

• Serve the Chapters’ communities

• Nurture collaborative work among Chapters/Individual Members

• Enhance and utilize knowledge sharing in the global internet community and

• Encourage Chapters’ sustainability and relevance.

For more information, visit http://bit.ly/pkX0iH

Tenders Unlimited: opening the door for public procurement

tenders-unlimited1Tenders Unlimited is a new Kenyan startup founded by young entrepreneurs that provides dedicated database access to government and NGO tenders for business people. With the shift in technology moving towards major use of the internet, the portal provides a convenient and economical way for business people to search for tenders online. We recently got the opportunity to interview one of the portal’s founders Jeconia Omondi Olonde.

Read the interview here

A good story sells

honeyA recently published blog post by David Roodman titled “Kiva is not quite what it seems” has been causing quite a stir in cyber space. Not so much because of the provocative title mentioning Kiva – a pioneer and probably the best known Person to Person (P2P) micro-credit organisation; Roodman’s post also questions the real intentions why people choose to fund a micro entrepreneur from Cambodia, Kenya or Guatemala for that matter.

Roodman posits that a reason for the success of Kiva and similar internet based lending portals is because for as little as US$ 25, more people can become benefactors. Helping others has become a cheap commodity and not only the super-rich Bill Gates and Warren Buffett’s can now claim the title “philanthropist”.

Similar to the P2P lending model, goods from developing countries that sell on western supermarket shelves bear stories – some of them wild. This has been largely propagated by fair trade products. However, nowadays even a pesticide sprayed beetroot from Bulawayo must carry a story. A honey product from Kenya cannot just simply be labelled “Kenyan honey”. What’s required is a long tale weaving in a tapestry of sensory words probably going along the lines of “…this honey comes from the honey bee whose hives are in Africa’s savannah plains … The scents from the eucalyptus ensure a wild …”.

Indeed, the more evocative the story about the terrain or about how poor the farmers who produced it are, the better.

This is what consumers want – a feeling that when they put a spoon of honey in their morning tea, they feel part of that savannah so alluringly described on the product label. And it is these stories that add a couple of dollars or Euro’s onto the unit retail price. On some e-commerce websites selling African “ethnic” products, 2 kgs of maize flour which is the staple food for most East and Central African countries goes for US$ 10. The same product in an upmarket supermarket in Nairobi costs less than a quarter of that price. The point is that with good marketing, consumers pay more for the “story” than the product itself.

With rampant corruption constantly being reported in Africa, an ennui among citizens of western nations has emerged. Commonly people question why donor aid is poured into large infrastructure projects such as roads and geothermal plants yet there are numerous instances of money being siphoned off by corrupt public officials in Africa. Just last week it emerged that World Bank money earmarked for free primary education in Kenya had been stolen; thus begging the question why fund such a project when if you gave an entrepreneur a bit of money they could then be empowered enough to send their children to a fee paying school?

Media stories on Africa which in most instances focus on crises’ or the potential for crisis have made people who would otherwise dip into their pockets to alleviate hunger on the Continent averse. Thus when one sees a picture of Mary from a village just outside Kampala who has a banana kiosk, the need to assist Mary overrides the need to assist Fatma in a refugee camp in Eastern Congo.

In an age where people are sponsoring small businesses’, children and even guerrillas in Rwanda, what does this all mean for entrepreneurs either seeking funding or wanting to sell their products on the export market?

In a nutshell there is a palpable and growing demand for “virtual tourism” – a state where one can experience a lifestyle from the comfort of their seat in front of a computer monitor, or perhaps when they hold the honey jar from somewhere in Africa, gently open the lid, and smell the scent of the wild.

Read “Kiva is not quite what it seems” here