We have grown tremendously in the past couple of months in East Africa. From gaining more clients to appearing in various media to qualifying to pitch at the Dublin Web Summit, g.Maarifa is on track to make more impact in human capital development. We have scaled our technology to include mobile web, accessible on any feature phones, in our portfolio as we continue to provide richer learning experiences under heavy technological restraints. All in all, our operations in East Africa have stabilized and will continue its projectory growth under the leadership of the new East Africa Director, Vincent Maraba. Vincent has been with g.Maarifa since our early days and has been instrumental in building and facilitating our product with our initial clients. We are excited for his advancement within the organization and believe that he’s got what it takes to keep the East Africa office rocking.

And now: the biggest news of all: We are expanding to the Middle East/ North Africa (MENA) region next month! After months of due diligence, discussions, and trips on the ground, we have made the decision to penetrate the region starting December 1, 2013. Specialty-wise, we will be honing on youth entrepreneurship/ empowerment. The MENA region has the highest youth unemployment rate- up to 60%- and a volatile and vulnerable but majority youth population (think Arab Spring). Yet, because of the security situation, especially in North Africa and the Levant, in-person training and education programs are risky and scarce. We are excited to work with various corporations, NGOs, and government agencies, on training the next generation remotely so that youths’ potential are not squandered and hindered by external factors. Our CEO, Evanna, will be based out of Amman starting in late November to oversee the expansion.

A formal launch will be upcoming, but for now, we are putting all of our energy and resources into settling into Amman and making sure that our pilot testing with our initial clients go smoothly. Stay tuned as we keep on conquering new lands and space! And as always, we are grateful for your support as we plunge into a new adventure!

We are excited to welcome some new additions to our g.Maarifa family, or g.Team, as developer Vincent has started calling us!

 

Firstly, Elizabeth Lyons will be joining us from Toronto, Canada. She is a PhD candidate in Strategic Management at the University of Toronto Rotman’s School of Business, having already completed her thesis. Her research focuses broadly on the intersection of technology and innovation, economic development, and behavioral economics, with labor and entrepreneurship as common underlying themes. Elizabeth’s research has been presented at a variety of institutions including the National Bureau of Economic Research, Northwestern University, and ESADE Business School. Elizabeth is excited to be working with g.Maarifa on developing a better understanding of digital education in the developing world and spearheading our monitoring and evaluation effort to more effectively serve our clients and end users. In her free time, Elizabeth enjoys watching ice hockey, reading, and going for jogs with her Miniature Schnauzer.

Secondly, we have six MIT Sloan School of Business students joining us for the next 6 months: Alanna Hughes, Amy Wang, Laura Diamond, Maria Angelica Posada Rendon, Piya Radia, and Rowland Graus. They will be helping us on strategic positioning in the market and with our expansion to the MENA region.

So karibu everyone! We are super stoked to work with you!

 

September 22, 2013 (Updated on September 26)

Our hearts go out to the families and the victims of the Westgate mall attack that started yesterday. At the time of this posting, there are still around 30-40 people trapped inside and the Kenyan military is getting ready to storm the building. The killed, the wounded, the hostages, and the soldiers are all in our thoughts. We are saddened and shocked by this senseless act, not because an attack such as this wasn’t expected, but primarily because they targeted innocent people, Kenyans and expatriates alike, in such a heinous and violent massacre. Among the 59 killed so far is a client and partner of g.Maarifa. And among the almost 200 wounded and the hostages still trapped inside are our personal friends and family members.

Nairobi is a small city. We all either have lost someone dear to us or know of someone who has lost someone. This is a sobering reminder that things can change at an instant and what is seen as a safe haven has to be appreciated and not taken for granted.

Everyday, we are proud to be Kenyans, but on this day more than ever. Kenyan Strong.

(Updates- 9/26/2013: the siege has finally ended with an uncertain death toll and numerous people injured. RIP Ravindra. He was not only a personal friend but also a g.Maarifa partner through his work at Financial Sector Deepening Kenya. To the media and most outsiders, the event is over. But it’s not. Healing is a long process, and people’s behaviors are already changing. Al-Shabaab brutally attacked the symbol of African peace and prosperity.)

by Shiro Wachira

Hello again!

As is the often the case in the world of startup, we come back from a short silence with many exciting updates to report. We’d like to thank all of you for your continued support and look forward to continued partnership in what promise to be an exciting few months!

Expansion into the MENA region

We are most excited to announce that our plan to achieve world domination is well under way! After Evanna spoke at a conference in Tunisia, g.Maarifa received great client as well as investor interest in the MENA region, once more demonstrating the power of a good idea. Consequently, we plan to pilot Orion in Jordan this Fall, and move into the Tunisian market soon thereafter.

The booming MENA consumer mobile market is a very exciting space to be in given remarkable government enthusiasm as well as speedy sales cycles: we are very enthusiastic about scoping out this space and the opportunity to establish g.Maarifa in other emerging markets.

East Africa Update

This is not to say that we are leaving our East African supporters behind! In fact, we are still actively pursuing clients here in Kenya, and interest in g.Maarifa from this region seems to only be growing. Evanna has had weeks with daily client meetings, so we can be sure that she’s earning her keep! One this front, we are happy to welcome our newest client, Living Goods, to the g.Maarifa family and are eager to launch their pilot later this month.

Orion Strategy

We also have a couple of updates on our Orion strategy. As you know, we pivoted our focus to this platform earlier this year and have narrowed down that focus even further. We have decided to work primarily with clients working in 3 sectors: healthcare, financial services, and consumer packaged goods.  We will however continue to work with a range of organization types including: non-profits, large multinationals, and government organizations, among others.

Finally, the promised updates to our website have been uploaded (check it out!) and we look forward to sharing more of our journey with you!

One of the most frequent answers we receive about g.Maarifa is about the mLearning market. Mobile anything is hot right now in public, civil, and private sectors. Mobile education is no exception. Along with mHealth, it is the hottest of the hot trends. Yet because it is an emerging sector, not a lot of research has been done on it. How many mLearning initiatives are there? Who are they? Who are they targeting? Are they effective?

We decided to focus specifically on the mobile adult continuing education niche. This means both workplace training and uninstitutionalized learning, such as getting educated on maternal health issues and basic financial literacy if you are a borrower. Furthermore, our geographic focus is Middle East and Africa as we have on the ground experience in these two regions and want to be as authentic as possible.

So without further ado, here it is: (click here for infographic).

We also have a database of all the mLearning companies. If you are interested, please drop us a note at evanna@gmaarifa.com and we will be happy to send it to you!

Why We Do What We Do

by g.Maarifa Team

Our world’s best and most precious resource is not diamonds. Or oil. Or gold. They are not any high net worth natural resources.

Our most precious resource is people; human capital is the foundation for all other industry, and the basis upon which we benefit from all other resources.

It is said that people are a business’s best asset. Early investors must believe as much in the founders of a company as its idea, and employers recognize that their businesses’ potential is only as big as the collective brain power of the employees; that’s why training in the workplace is a $291 billion per annum industry.

This is true on a national level as well; a country can only be as developed so far as its human capital allows. As a result governments focus on increasing primary school enrollment and national literacy rates, with significant improvements in the last two decades. The global literacy rate has risen from 76% to 84% between 1990 and 2010, and gross primary school enrollment is now at an astounding 106%. This is even the trend for countries low on the Human Development Index (such as Kenya or Mali).

Yet receiving basic education does not guarantee a stable livelihood. In the developing world, there are few opportunities for continuing education after one leaves the formal education system. Books are expensive and quickly become outdated. Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and webinars, as well as other types of E-learning, are costly and hard to access, especially if prospective students live in rural areas where Internet services generally do not exist or are not affordable. The only viable method is in-person training, held by either their workplaces or private sector organizations, such as NGOs.

However, in-person training is costly, inefficient, and sporadic. Participants generally have to travel to central locations for training, which proves to be expensive due to accommodation costs as well as being a massive time sink in developing countries with poor transport infrastructure. Most importantly, by attending in-person training, participants would forgo work opportunities and so income, which they may not have the financial security to do so. Furthermore it is difficult to evaluate the benefits of training sessions without bringing everyone together once again. Thus for organizations whose sales staff, distribution agents and field staff are dispersed throughout a country, follow-ups and monitoring are rarely done, despite their benefits, resulting in less efficiency, lost revenue and a small impact.

g.Maarifa has a novel situation to this problem. We are offering a unique, attractive and viable alternative to in-person training that allows our end users to access the same content at their own convenience – anytime from anywhere. We’re taking advantage of high mobile penetration rates: 69% in Sub-Saharan Africa and 96% in Middle East and North Africa. We have created an interactive and customizable platform that allows organizations to develop and deliver content, to evaluate its impacts through testing, to track individual and group performance, and to manage and analyze data. The end users engage with the system by reading the content, answering questions, getting immediate feedback to responses, and receiving points. Our most basic medium is SMS as it can reach everybody regardless of resources and we are in the process of developing feature, smartphone, and tablet apps to cater to the entire socio-economic spectrum.

All this is important because we invest in the people who otherwise would not have the chance to reach their full potential. We want to change labor markets by enabling in the people, we want to encourage everybody to thrive and contribute as best they can, and we want to be your partner on this.

We are officially launching our new website (www.gmaarifa.com) and our born-again blog! Definitely check both out There are still some small tweaks that need to be adjusted, but overall, we are enthralled by how the website turned out. Special shoutout to our guru designer, Youn! And as for the blog, it’s managed primarily by Evanna,

A lot of you have asked us about our .org website. It still works and forwards to http://www.gmaarifa.com, but we are planning on phasing that domain out for the next few months. The reason behind this transition is worthy of a blog post as it is tied with social enterprises and the for-profit v. impact debate.

With the launch of the new website, we have also revamped the blog- not only its appearance but also its purpose. We hope to achieve two main goals with the blog: 1) to update you on the latest from g.Maarifa, and most importantly 2) to offer insights on the latest in the industry. We will update the blog biweekly and with frequent guest posts by influentials in the field. In startup lingo, we will be using this blog as a vehicle for thought leadership and content development. We are definitely not complaining- we are both very opinionated and would love to engage in lively conversations with our viewers and supporters. The more you challenge our views, the more we learn and the more we are able to step in other people’s shoes.

And as always, we are always accessible for opinions, (constructive) criticism, questions, requests, etc. We promise to get back to you within 5 days (unless we are both traveling to places where the power is off more than on):

Andrew: andrew@gmaarifa.com

Evanna: evanna@gmaarifa.com