Q & A with Joel Jackson, founder of Mobius Motors

In February, Global Post profiled an interesting startup in Africa called Mobius Motors that is working to manufacture affordable ($6,000) cars designed specifically for Africans.

By simplifying the designs through the elimination of non-essential parts like power steering and air conditioning, the team at Mobius is able to drastically reduce the cost of the vehicle, which they hope will help small business owners in need of affordable transportation. Reuters reached Mobius founder and CEO Joel Jackson over email to ask him about his plans for the car company and some of the challenges he foresees.

Reuters: First can you tell me briefly how Mobius came about? I understand you were working in Africa when you had the idea?

J.J.: Mobius was inspired by my experience working in rural Kenya in 2009 with a startup forestry venture. In this role I spent time with local farming communities and learned about some of their day-to-day challenges. One of the biggest issues these communities faced was immobility. Without access to appropriate forms of transport many people would walk tens of kilometers to get around – to get access to schools, or doctors, or clean drinking water or farming inputs.

The vision of Mobius is to build a more appropriate and affordable vehicle for transport businesses and in turn create a platform for mobility across Africa.

from PopTech:

The future of microfinance?

The way Ben Lyon sees it, the finance world is in the middle of a revolution, and the simple text message is at the heart of it.

Lyon created a system to bring formal financial services to microfinance institutions and poor entrepreneurs via a mobile phone. He believes the new software, to be launched by the organization he founded, FrontlineSMS:Credit, could change the world of microfinance by changing the way the poor interact with the institutions.

The self-described “ideas man” will be among the first speakers at this week’s annual PopTech conference, held in Camden, Maine.

Mobile drug authentication app needs work

Ghanaian entrepreneur Ashifi Gogo has developed a mobile-based technology he believes can help consumers and pharmaceutical companies fight back against drug counterfeiters in developing nations. But experts said his solution needs work.

Gogo, a 28-year-old Dartmouth College engineering graduate, co-founded Sproxil Inc. to end the “menace” of counterfeit drugs in West African countries such as Nigeria, where he said up to 80 percent of the over-the-counter medication bought by consumers is fake.

Gogo said when consumers purchase a drug protected by his trademarked Mobile Product Authentication technology, it comes with a scratch code that provides them with a number they can enter into their cellphone as a text and get an immediate text response back on whether the product they just bought was real or fake (read original story here).

U.S. program helps African entrepreneurs

Ronald Mutebi can now do in three months what might have taken him a year. With his $100,000 share of a grant to benefit Africa, the entrepreneur will soon be sending solar ovens to his native Uganda.

Mutebi obtained exclusive Ugandan rights to market the units from Illinois-based maker Sun Ovens International. His goal is to reduce the country’s dependence on wood and agricultural waste products for cooking fuel.

Mutebi was one of 14 African American entrepreneurs, selected from a group of 58 finalists and more than 700 applicants, awarded just under $1.4 million in total grants at last week’s inaugural African Diaspora Marketplace (ADM) in Washington, DC. The ADM is a joint public-private initiative on behalf of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and Western Union, aimed at boosting employment in sub-Saharan Africa.