Saturday, 21 August 2010

Ghanaian entrepreneur Bright Simons speaks at TEDxEuston

Can technology drive a renaissance on the continent. Many say that this has already started.

Across the continent, more than 30 percent of malaria medicines are estimated to be fake, and many look identical to the real thing. Counterfeit medicines are reckoned by experts to kill at least 2000 people daily in the developing world and can constitute more than 40% of all medicines on sale in some countries. A new project called mPedigree lets consumers send in a code via text message that lets them check if their drugs are genuine. It was recently adopted in Nigeria, with plans for wider use elsewhere in Africa. Last month, the Nigerian government decided to introduce the technology for all medicines in the future, not just anti-malarials.

Customers send a text message to a central hotline with the code and instantly get an "OK" response telling them if the drug is registered and thus real. It also sends them additional information like the drug's manufacturer and expiration date. If the drug isn't registered and potentially fake, people receive a text message that says "No. Please recheck code." The system is free for consumers and is paid for by pharmaceutical companies and governments. It is such a powerful example of how Africans are coming up with innovative solutions to challenge conventional wisdom on the continent. If we can put information in the hands of the consumers then we will be able to hold our governments, companies and ourselves t account.

Ghanaian entrepreneur Bright Simons developed the mPedigree system; and he will be speaking at TEDxEuston 2010. 

Bright B. Simons is a technology innovator, development activist and social entrepreneur. As an Executive at accra-based think tank IMANI (, he contributes to activities that challenge received wisdom about Africa's development challenges. Bright is a member of the World Economic Forum's Global Agenda Councils and Technology Pioneers Community. He is also an Ashoka Fellow, TED Fellow, Tech Museum Laureate and a Brain Trust member of the Evian Group at IMD, widely considered Europe's foremost business school. His work has led to speaking engagements around the world and consequently to numerous citations in the international press, ranging from the Economist, New York Times, the Financial Times, BusinessWeek, Asian Times, and the BBC, where he is a regular commentator for the World Service. In 2010, he was conferred with an Archbishop Desmond Tutu Award by the African Leadership Institute.

When asked on the TED Fellows home page...besides work, what is he passionate about ...he responded.....

I worry about the pace of African growth, and I am fanatical about the need to inject some urgency into the transformation of the continent. what is peculiar about the African condition is that resource-rich nations like Congo and Angola and resource-poor nations like Mali and Benin, fast-reforming countries like Ghana and Tanzania and fast-retrogressing ones like Zimbabwe and Guinea, all huddle together at the bottom of the global development heap. I am enamored of projects like My Heart's in Accra and the Timbuktu Chronicles that shift our collective focus from the high-minded effusions of ideologues to the epic wave of change gathering within the donor-driven and elite-governed continental political and economic programs.

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