east africa

Forty year old Mize Juma Othman installs a new photovoltaic panel on a home in Matemwe village, on the Tanzanian island of Zanzibar. Othman trained for six months in India to become one of the first 13 “solar mamas” in Zanzibar, able to install, troubleshoot and repair the systems.

Zanzibar’s ‘Solar Mamas’ flip the switch on rural homes, gender roles

Photo Credit: Sam Eaton

Manna From Kenya: Gluten-free, Wheat-free, Low GI Flour

Entrepreneur Eric Muthomi is producing manna from Kenya: gluten-free, wheat-free, low GI flour, made from bananas.

The 28-year old wasn’t looking for a solution to the rising popularity of health food products, or an answer to the demand for slow-release carbs when he came up with the idea to produce the flour. Rather, Muthomi wanted to help small-scale banana farmers earn a better living, especially for unripened fruit, which is lower in sugar content.

“We have a sugar cane industry, but I always wondered why we don’t have an industry for bananas. The prices farmers get for bananas is peanuts. It’s very unprofitable, but there were no alternative markets.”

Ed’s Note: We’ve covered Stawi before, when it first showed up in local news a couple of years ago. Good to see its hit the global headlines as well.


Woman owned, managed and run steel mill in Uganda

Lydia Mwesigwa is a marketer by profession who at first didn’t have any interest in owning a steel manufacturing plant apart from earning a salary from it. Having worked for Sembule Steel Mills, for five years, she realized that there was an opportunity for one to earn from a steel industry. When the company developed some problems, she decided to venture into her own business of making steel products for sale.

The steel industry world over is dominated by men, for Mwesigwa to venture into steel sounds hard but that is her business at the moment and she is not about to back off.

There is a belief among women that certain businesses and jobs are meant for men but this can be changed once they believe in themselves. A total of twenty women run the machinery after getting training from the men who are senior operators and the plan is to train more women to encourage them to work in steel manufacturing industries.

Some of the products at MESAH steel Limited include round bars, barbed wire, chain link and other steel products.


The Last Jews of Ethiopia. Abbas, 2015.

A small but vibrant community of Jews lives in Gondar, Ethiopia. They worship daily at their synagogue, run by the Hatikva Beta Israel Religious Organisation. The synagogue, made of corrugated iron, houses the shabbat services as well as classes in Hebrew for children and the rehearsals of a folk group. They observe a strict kosher diet, not eating meat because the community does not have a butcher certified in orthodox Jewish laws and practices.

After two waves of immigration - Operations Moses in 1984 and Salomon in 1991 when they were airlifted out of their country of birth, some 120.000 Ethiopian Jews live in Israel now. But the Gondar community cannot emigrate: they are Falash Muras, whose Jewishness is not recognised by the State of Israel.