Six S Africans in Google’s Africa Connected semis

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Google on Wednesday announced the 20 innovative, entrepreneurial web adopters from across sub-Saharan Africa who have made it to the semi-finals of Google’s Africa Connected competition. Of the 20, six of the finalists are from South Africa. The competition was launched in August last year, calling entrepreneurs, creatives, innovators and web-lovers to share their stories of how the web has transformed their lives and work. The semi-finalists were selected from over 2,200 entries from 35 countries.

Five successful winners will win $25,000 [R 278 000] each, and will also have the opportunity to work with a Google sponsor over a six-month period to further their online business success. The competition categories included Education; Entertainment/Arts/Sports; Technology; Community and NGOs; and Small Businesses.

“We received over 2,200 entries from a diverse set of 35 countries across the continent, ranging from Mali to Uganda to Namibia. Each of them demonstrated how people are using the web and technology to overcome challenges, do extraordinary things, and be successful, not only for themselves but also for others in their communities. The projects include everything from using YouTube to learn about eco-friendly building techniques, to an award-winning blog on mental health. Selecting the 20 semi-finalists was tough, but we were really impressed with their initiatives, and wish them the best in the next round!” says Affiong Osuchukwu, Google Lead for the Africa Connected initiative.

The semi-finalists, in random order, include:

• Kangai Mwiti, Kenya, Bellesa Africa (http://bellesaafrica.com).
o Kangai is a makeup artist offering services for weddings, ad shoots and other events. She hosts tutorials on her YouTube channel, which has almost 26,000 subscribers, focusing on techniques for women of colour.
• Steve Kyenze, Kenya, Uweza Slum Gallery (http://www.uwezakenya.org)
o Steve uses YouTube and Google Search to inspire and train underprivileged art students and improve their skills, so that they can sell their artwork to support their schooling.
• Sitawa Wafula, Kenya, My Mind, My Funk (http://sitawa.blogspot.com)
o Sitawa is an influential blogger on mental health in East Africa, who has used Google Blogger to establish his award winning blog which is a reference point for people looking for support and information.
• Dennis Njagi, Kenya, RocKeSci : The Funky Scientists (http://www.rockesci.co.ke)
o Dennis has used Google and YouTube to develop an interactive website, blog and vlog for primary and high school users who want to learn more about science topics through experiment instruction, online content and tutorials.
• Francis Macharia, Kenya, Pinklakeman Eco-Lodge (http://www.pinklakeman.com)
o Francis used Google and YouTube to teach himself about eco-friendly building techniques which he used to build the successful Pinklakeman Eco-Lodge.
• Gloria Mangi, Tanzania, African Queens Project (http://africanqueensproject.com)
o Gloria created a Google website to promote her community upliftment project, which celebrates African women who are doing significant things to give back to their community. Her site shares successful African women’s stories via blog posts, audio clips, and videos.
• Eunice Namirembe, Uganda, The Medical Concierge Group (http://tmcg.co.ug/)
o Eunice has built a 24-hour accessible ambulance call centre to improve access to health care services, by using the Google API dashboard and Google Maps to record patient information and track patient location.
• Lamine Mbengue, Senegal, SenegalTV (http://senegaltvcommunication.simplesite.com/)
o Lamine believes in taking African culture to the rest of the world, and that the Internet is the lifeblood to support his mission. YouTube and AdSense has helped SenegalTV to share their unique content around the world.
• Megan Makhosazana Ngiba, South Africa, Makhophila Training (http://www.makhophila.co.za)
o Megan runs a computer skills training business using Google products to educate students about the internet, including setting up Gmail accounts for each user, using Google Search for various searches and building Google Sites.
• Barbara Mallinson, South Africa, Obami (http://www.obami.com)
o Barbara uses YouTube and Google Maps on her social learning platform which aims to empower teachers, as well as facilitate learning and teaching for anyone in the education space.
• Timothy Maguire, South Africa, Grace Communion International (http://www.gci.org.za)
o English-speaking Timothy uses Google Translate while providing humanitarian relief in northern Mozambique so that he can communicate with project members who speak only Portuguese. He also uses Google Search and Google Maps which assist with projects in remote locations.
• Mbekezeli Khumalo, South Africa, Trees and Rhinos (http://www.boxworm.co.za/)
o Mbekezeli is a co-creator of Trees and Rhinos, an anti-rhino poaching project which was initially introduced to the public via an animated YouTube video. Now the project uses YouTube to promote the initiative, as well as other Google products to widen its influence.
• Johann du Toit, South Africa, Curriculum Vitae (http://www.curriculumvitae.co.za/)
o Johan created a website which allows users to easily create a CV – interestingly, most users enter his site through their Google+ accounts.
• Theunis Hanekom, South Africa, RedFish (http://www.redfish.co.za/)
o Theunis uses Google products to communicate with the international team at RedFish, an online marketplace connecting customers and tradesmen, which ensures their content is up to date and useful.
• Nqobizitha Mlilo, Zimbabwe, Nafuna TV (http://nafuna.tv)
o Nqobizitha uses YouTube to post all his new animation and HD video content to reach his targeted audience. He is self-taught, based on information found with Google Search.
• Emmanuel Gamor, Ghana, Mpwr (http://www.mpwrshow.com)
o The Mpwr team uses Google Drive to create show outlines, upload audio snippets and recordings, as well as engage with listeners outside the studio via Google+ Hangouts.
• Christopher Panford, Ghana, Technol Services
o Christopher uses Google Maps in his vehicle tracking devices to record the location of their vehicles at any point in time.
• Eric Obuh, Nigeria, Vocal Slender (http://vocalslender.net/)
o Eric has used Google+ and YouTube to raise awareness about underprivileged youngsters in the slums of Lagos, thereby raising financial aid for the scholars and encouraging school attendance.
• Eseoghene Odiete, Nigeria, Hesey Designs (http://www.heseydesigns.com/)
o Eseoghene used Google Products to promote his brand as a young entrepreneur, creating international awareness for his fashion label.
• Mayowa Adegbile, Nigeria, Ashake Foundation (http://www.ashakefoundation.wordpress.com)
o Mayowa initially used YouTube to post an appeal o raise funds for her initiative, a business school for widows and mothers, giving them the tools to make a living and support their families. Since then, she has identified AdSense as an important part of their business curriculum.

Luke Mckend, Country Director, Google South Africa, added, “We’re excited to see strong South African representation, no less than 6 out of 20, among the semifinalists. To mention just some of them, Obami is using YouTube to empower teachers and learners; Grace Communion is using Google Translate to aide humanitarian work in neighbouring Mozambique; and Red Fish is making the most of various technologies to create new job marketplace for registered tradespeople.”

The 20 semi-finalists were selected from initial entries to take part in an interview and to produce a short promotional video. A judging panel, made up of Googlers and external judges, will now determine the 10 finalists. The 5 winners, in whose lives the web and Google have played a pivotal role, will then be selected by the online voting public. The winners will be announced on 1st April at an event in Nairobi, Kenya.

The partner judges for Africa Connected include:

• Adiel A. Akplogan, CEO, African Network Information Centre (AfriNIC), Mauritius
• Nardos Bekele Thomas, Resident Coordinator, United Nations Development Program, Kenya
• Dr. Towela Nyirenda Jere, Programmes Manager, NEPAD e-Africa Programme, New Partnerships for African Development (NEPAD), South Africa
• Temilola Balogun, Radio personality, fashion photographer and artist, Cool FM, Nigeria
• Adv. Leslie Sedibe, CEO, Proudly South African, South Africa
• Wallace Kantai, Editor, NTV, Nation Media Group, Kenya
• Franklin Leonard, Founder, The Black List, USA
• MI Abaga, Artist and UN Ambassador, Chocolate City Music, Nigeria
• Ory Okolloh, Director of Investments, Omidyar Network, South Africa
• Yonca Brunini, Vice President Marketing, Google, UK

Google’s media partners in South Africa include the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and City Press. The South African representative joining the Africa Connected judging panel is Advocate Leslie Sedibe, CEO of Proudly South African.

For more information about the Africa Connected contest, visit www.africaconnected.com
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