My husband recently returned from Nigeria, where he’s been researching a book about investing in Africa and other “frontier markets.”
Among the most moving accounts is his visit to a slum in Lagos, where he met a young man whose father died in ethnic fighting and whose mother travelled seven hours to work as a nurse. The lad, left with his two brothers during the week, was determined not only to better himself and his family but also the slum around him by studying for a degree in zoology, focusing on pollution control to eradicate the deadly scourge of malaria, typhoid and diarrhea. Amid the poverty surrounding him, he worked on a broken laptop barely able to read on the cracked screen.
Coming back to England and going to the rubbish tip brought home the huge waste between our world and Africa’s. We throw away old technology every day – especially as businesses – that could easily be of massive benefit to those who can’t yet afford the latest gadgets. We undertook to make sure the lad in Lagos would get a working laptop.
B&Q worker Aseri Katanga had the same thought but on a far bigger scale. As he watched his employer fill up a skip with unwanted computers he thought about how useful they would be back home in Tanzania. Aseri approached B&Q for permission to store the computers in his garage. He put the word out and soon his garage was chockablock with computers. Next, he arranged for a shipping crate and lots of neighbours to help him load the computers on their way to Africa.
From that first shipment an entire charity was spawned called Computers 4 Africa. The charity, based in Aylesford, takes computers from across Kent, cleans the data, loads up-to-date software such as Microsoft Windows 7, and ships them out to schools and non-governmental organisations.
Speaking on the Business Bunker radio show, marketing manager Sharon Roberts told us that the charity is looking for computers, monitors, keyboards and laptops, but not printers as it’s harder to get the ink.
All of the equipment it sends has an expected useful remaining life of at least five years. Any donations that don’t make the grade are split up and used for parts. Best of all, the charity’s connections on the ground make sure the people receive the equipment know how to use it. Having computers at school can make a world of difference, giving a better education and real earning potential to children and their future families. One day, Aseri says he wants African children to know the difference between a mouse and a mouse.
For details on how to donate computers go to www.computersforafrica.org.uk. If your company has ten working computers, the charity will pick up free of charge.
For advance copies of Frontier go to @frontierfunds