Apps4Africa readies Zimbabwe for climate change fight

Harare, March 7th 2012: The Apps4Africa Climate Change contest hopes to unite civil society and technology experts in the campaign to address environmental problems and raise awareness on the subject, an organizer of the contest said on Tuesday.

Marieme Jamme - Coordinator of the climate change contest

Marieme Jamme - Coordinator of the climate change contest

“The reason why we have this gathering is so that we can bring technologists (or program developers) and environmentalists and other people, who understand climate change, to share ideas on environmental issues.  To be able to participate in the contest, they have to work with the developers to enter the competition,” said Marieme Jamme (in picture), Coordinator of the climate change contest.

Ms. Jamme facilitated a day long brainstorming session attended by over 60 people in Harare on Tuesday.

During group sessions, participants identified food insecurity, disruption of ecosystems, inconsistent rain patterns resulting in floods and droughts, public health problems and pollution as the major climate change concerns for Zimbabwe. They outlined proposals for mobile and other technological applications that could be developed to help reduce climate change.

The contest deadline is March 31st and contestants can register online at There is no age or gender requirement. Ms Jamme said over 100 entries have been received so far in southern Africa, mostly from South Africa.

Officially opening the brainstorming session, Sharon Hudson-Dean, Counselor for Public Affairs at the U.S. Embassy, said U.S. support to the contest is evidence of the Obama administration’s commitment to developing African solutions to African problems. The U.S. State Department is providing prize money for the winners, who will share $25,000 for the region split among three winners.  First prize is $15,000.

“Apps4Africa gives a voice to African people,” said Ms. Jamme. “In 2010, we facilitated a contest for the development of Apps for social entrepreneurship.  In 2011, because of the Durban (South Africa) Conference of Parties (COP-17), we decided to focus on climate change so people can discuss these issues in over 20 countries that we have covered.”

Jamme said the African continent was now full of developers and her organization takes pride in showcasing the works of these technology experts to the world.

“We can see guys sitting in rooms, going to telecentres, internet cafes, and others sharing laptops; now they can go to hubs across Africa and develop applications.  And they have access to internet, access to Facebook.  The continent is full of developers.  We are finding those guys everywhere now,” she said. According to Jamme, over 10 technology hubs have been created throughout Africa to assist technology experts develop solutions to various problems since the Apps4Africa contest began in 2009.

In addition to rewarding local innovators for their ideas and projects, the Apps4Africa climate change contest will raise African public awareness of climate change adaptation issues and support the development of civil society, the tech community and private sector networks. The contest hopes to motivate local innovators to create African solutions to local climate change challenges.

Briefing journalists after the brainstorming session, Jamme said a lack of knowledge about climate change was the biggest challenge for Africa.

“We don’t know what climate change is,” she said. “Second, we struggle to have all the policies right and we struggle to have our voices heard even in summits…in Africa….  The first thing to do is for us to understand what climate change is and how this is affecting us locally.  Then we can start applying this to our day-to-day activities.”

She said the participation of Zimbabwe in the contest was important as it was giving a voice to the country and gives it an equal chance with other countries to win the contest.  “Zimbabwe is very important for us because we don’t hear Zimbabwe a lot on a good note around the world.  We have chosen to come to Zimbabwe so that we can give a voice to the people of Zimbabwe and, hopefully, find a winner who can develop Apps for climate change issues from here,” said Ms Jamme.

She said winners of the contest will be announced on April 1.  Previous winners in East, Central and West Africa will be honored at an event in Ghana on April 5th this year. – ZimPAS© March 2012.