BY EMEKA AGINAM
Google Wednesday announced the five winners of the Africa Connected competition at an event held in Nairobi, Kenya.
The winners will bag $25,000 each, and will also have the opportunity to work with a Google sponsor over a six-month period to further their online success.
The competition was organized to reward young Africans who explore internet space to their advantage.
In an effort to invest in the future success of all the finalists, Google also surprised the remaining five success stories by awarding them $10,000 each to help grow their ventures and initiatives for greater social and economic impact.
Recipients included; Tim McGuire (South Africa), Nqobizitha Mlilo (Zimbabwe), Mayowa Adegbile (Nigeria), Lamine Mbengue (Senegal) and Steve Kyenze (Kenya).
The competition was launched in August 2013, called entrepreneurs, creatives, innovators and web-lovers to share stories of how the web has transformed their lives and work.
The 5 winners were selected from over 2,200 entries from 35 countries, by a panel of judges as well as public voters.
“There are over 1 billion people living in Sub-Saharan Africa and currently 16 percent of them are online. With Africa Connected, we wanted to celebrate how the web is changing lives in Africa, and show how it is contributing to the socioeconomic development of the continent. Selecting the shortlist was no easy task: each winner shares a unique perspective of how they have used the internet to solve a problem, earn a living, or create opportunities, not just for themselves, but also for others around them”, Affiong Osuchukwu, Google Lead for the Africa Connected initiative, said.
While shearing her experience, Eseoghene Odiete, one of the Nigerian winners said, “I discovered my passion through YouTube search. When I graduated I needed to do something meaningful with my life so I went in search of how to create handbags using Google search and YouTube. I made a lot of discoveries that wowed my imagination. That was how I started what got me here today”.
Similarly, Eric Obuh popularly known as Vocal Slender who used to be a dump site scavenger also made the list of Nigerian winners.
According to him, “After I was discovered by the BBC in ‘Welcome to Lagos’, I became known around the world. Since then, I have recorded songs which I share with new audiences on YouTube. I also use Google+ and YouTube to raise awareness about underprivileged youngsters in the slums of Lagos, helping to raise scholarship money, and encourage kids to stay in school”.
Christopher Panford from Ghana runs a transport company helping Ghanaian drivers’ access vehicle loans, which they use to earn a living.
He uses Google Maps to constantly monitor the location of vehicles under bank loans. This assures banks that their loans are protected, while Christopher empowers more drivers.
Eunice Namirembe from Uganda runs The Medical Concierge Group which helps Ugandan communities’ access quality healthcare and information. Physician Eunice has built a 24-hour ambulance call centre by using the Google Cloud console and Google Maps to record patient information and track patient locations. With these tools, Eunice and her team are able to help connect more Ugandans to medical services, thus saving lives in the process.
Winner and blogger from Kenya Sitawa Wafula says, “Right now I feel humbled and honoured that mental health and epilepsy – which are considered taboo topics – have been put on the same platform as some very innovative projects. I can’t believe that doing what comes so naturally to me, to help raise awareness about mental health, would be recognized by a company like Google, and be such an inspiration to others.”
For Google’s Affiong Oschukwu, “Though there are only five winners of the contest, there are many more powerful and inspiring stories out there. To start, there are 21 other inspiring success stories already hosted on the Africa Connected website; www.africaconnected.com. We encourage you to watch and learn from them”.