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Number Boost takes top innovation spot

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Bright ideas and blossoming businesses were the name of the game.

Bright ideas and blossoming businesses were the name of the game.

Number Boost has won the South African leg of the NTT Open Innovation Contest.

Hosted by Dimension Data and NTT Data, in conjunction with Silicon Cape, the competition was held in Cape Town this year for the first time and recognises start-ups that work on solutions that aim to address the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

“We are very proud to have won such a prestigious contest and look forward to the opportunity that this will present to develop the business further,” said Alex Conway, founder of Number Boost, a Cape-based data science studio that builds custom artificial intelligence solutions.

Bright ideas and blossoming businesses were the name of the game as the ninth Open Innovation Contest kicked off on Friday. Setting the scene for a morning of business pitches, Wesgro CEO Tim Harris described Cape Town as South Africa’s “new economic hub” and the perfect entry point to the rest of the African continent.

Tech is creating what one might call the ‘convergence economy’, bringing together some of the Western Cape’s biggest sectors – manufacturing, services and agriculture – to create new and innovative business opportunities, he explained.

Kotaro Zamma, head of Open Innovation at NTT Data, noted the spirit of the contest is not just to hand money out to the most promising businesses. “This is not because we are stingy. But rather because we want to work with and develop new businesses.”

The ultimate winner of the global competition will secure a three-month mentorship with NTT Data; an opportunity that is likely to result in further collaboration going forward.

The eight local businesses that were competing for a spot at the global final of the competition, taking place in Tokyo in March, include:

Sensor Networks: This Cape Town-based start-up uses Internet of things sensors to help insurance companies and customers manage home-based risks.

Alvarita: A compact device that tests nitrate levels in everything from fruits and vegetables to water.

Ecoslips: A business launched in an effort to convert paper receipts into digital slips that are sent straight to the purchaser’s cellphone.

Zumbudda: A platform that allows patients to chat to healthcare professionals in real-time, online.

Number Boost: This small business uses CCTV monitoring and deep learning to minimise customer friction in a variety of settings.

Hairwego: A mobile application that uses machine learning algorithms to connect users with hair care professionals based on their unique preferences.

New Economic Model: A supply and demand-based economic model that aims to address societal challenges.

ThinkBrainwave: A solution that disrupts the education system via user-generated content tutor management backed by artificial intelligence and deep learning.

“As a responsible corporate citizen, we are very proud to be part of accelerating the ambitions of individuals and to be investing in South Africa’s economy through initiatives such as the NTT Open Innovation Contest,” concluded Dimension Data’s CEO for Middle East and Africa, Grant Bodley.

“We wish Number Boost all the best in competing with the other regional winners in Tokyo.”

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City of CT accused of dragging feet in CTICC probe

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Members of opposition parties say nothing has come of the latest investigation and believe the report will be swept under the carpet.


FILE: The Cape Town International Convention Center. Picture: South African Tourism.

CAPE TOWN – The City of Cape Town (CoCT) has been accused of dragging its feet on the completion of a forensic investigation into the expansion of the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) after several irregularities were detected in previous reports.

In December last year, an investigation was ordered by council following heated deliberations on the matter.

The expansion of the CTICC was at one stage the subject of an investigation by the Public Protector.

A forensic investigation was also initiated by former city manager Achmat Ebrahim, but nothing came of it.

African Christian Democratic Party councillor Grant Haskin now claims nothing has come of the latest investigation.

“It seems to me like there’s no sense of urgency by the city administration in implementing that council decision. The process can’t be ignored because it doesn’t suit some people.”

African National Congress councillor Xolani Sotashe believes the report will be swept under the carpet: “They have been trying hard to hide information in the past, so we have no reason not to believe that. We can count a number of issues that they have tried to sweep under the carpet.”

The city’s spokesperson Luthando Tyhalibongo said the investigation is still underway.

(Edited by Mihlali Ntsabo)

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Moody’s: Mboweni’s Budget shows further erosion in SA’s fiscal strength

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Tito Mboweni, South African Minister of Finance wa

Tito Mboweni, South African Minister of Finance walks with members of the Finance Ministry up Government Avenue to deliver his medium-term budget speech on October 24, 2018. (RODGER BOSCH/AFP/Getty Images) ~ AFP

Moody’s, the only major ratings agency that has not already downgraded SA’s sovereign debt to junk, on Wednesday responded to Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s maiden Budget by saying it “highlights the government’s limited fiscal flexibility amid a challenging economic environment”.

Moody’s currently has SA’s debt at Baa3 with a stable outlook, one notch above junk status. Rival agencies Fitch and S&P downgraded SA’s sovereign debt to non-investment grade in 2017.

Were Moody’s to downgrade SA to sub-investment grade, the country would automatically be ejected from the major Citi World Government Bond Index. This would force asset managers to sell billions of rands’ worth of SA bonds. Moody’s is scheduled to issue updated ratings in March.  

In a statement on Wednesday afternoon, Lucie Villa, a Moody’s senior credit officer and lead sovereign analyst for South Africa, said the Budget showed a further erosion in fiscal strength after the October mini budget already pointed to wider deficits. 

“Government support for Eskom, which will be only partially compensated by a reduction in other spending, and revenue under-performance lead to a renewed upward revision in fiscal deficits and debt levels, while contingent liability risks persist,” she said. 

Villa’s statement does not constitute a ratings action. 

In his maiden Budget, Mboweni announced that Treasury would allocate R69bn in financial support over the next three years to help cash-strapped power utility Eskom pay its debts, as it undergoes a restructuring to make it profitable.

Speaking to journalists at a pre-Budget briefing, Mboweni said the state was basically placing Eskom “under curatorship”, and warned the R23bn a year lifeline came with conditions attached.

Part of the support package includes the installment of a “chief reorganisation officer” at Eskom who will be jointly appointed by Mboweni and Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan.

Earlier Investec Chief Economist Annabel Bishop said the Budget could possibly stave off a credit negative response from Moody’s. 

“Government expenditure is projected to rise only in one year to provide financial support to Eskom. This may be seen as credit negative by Moody’s, but as it is only one year it may be enough to stave off an actual credit rating downgrade or even change to the outlook for the year,” she said.

A negative outlook can indicate a ratings downgrade within 18 months, she said. 

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FA Cup: Wolves v Man Utd quarter-final live on BBC

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FA Cup fifth round: Watch the best goals

The FA Cup quarter-final between Wolves and Manchester United will be broadcast live across the BBC next month.

The Red Devils’ trip to Molineux will be on BBC One and the BBC Sport website at 19:55 GMT on Saturday, 16 March.

Millwall against Brighton – at 14:00 GMT on Sunday, 17 March – will also be screened live on BBC One and online.

Watford v Crystal Palace and Swansea v Manchester City – both of which will take place on the Saturday – will be live on BT Sport.

There will be live in-play clips available for all four games on the BBC Sport website, as well as highlights after full-time.

FA Cup quarter-final fixtures

Saturday, 16 March

  • Watford v Crystal Palace (12:15 GMT) – Live on BT Sport
  • Swansea City v Manchester City (17:20 GMT) – Live on BT Sport
  • Wolves v Manchester United (19:55 GMT) – Live on BBC One

Sunday, 17 March

  • Millwall v Brighton & Hove Albion (14.00 GMT) – Live on BBC One

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