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Here at GPP, we love seeing examples of individuals pushing forward to make a difference in their society. So when we heard about an innovative gaming company in Kenya, we felt we had to share their story.
University of Games is made up of an extraordinary group of people – Brian "Binary" Kinyua the programmer, Herbert Mbuthi the artist, Joseph Kariuki the project manager and Blaise "ST€@LT#" Kinyua the marketer.
“We started as hobbyists developing games, wallpapers, and themes for Nokia in 2010. At that time we were still at university. It made sense to us to combine a passion that we have had since we were little kids-games- and the skills we had acquired from education- business, technology and art. As we continued with our new found love we inevitably gained a lot of experience and in 2012, we decided we should formalise it by registering the company.”
In 2011, the Kenya government together with the World Bank came up with a facility known as the "Tandaa" Grant to support young "techpreneurs" across the country. University of Games successfully became a recipient of the the grant and their journey set off. They have recently been able to release 'Election Thief', their first game. It's not only a game, but serves to reinforce the importance of a fair voting process- and it addresses many of the sensitive issues surrounding the idea of democracy in developing countries. University of Games seek to engage with such sensitive issues from a new angle – using games – to raise the profile of the issues amongst their own society. The success they have achieved is resultant from their combined effort as a team and also support from families and friends.
How did the Tandaa Grant help you to get where you are today?
Young companies need capital and advice when starting and that is what we got from the Tandaa Grant - capital and entrepreneurship training. The grant helped us acquire most of the hardware and software we have at the moment. It has also been fundamental to our success because it gave us confirmation that someone else, especially the older folk, believed in our ideas and this has pushed us to work even harder.
What are the problems that you've faced in getting where you are today and how have you overcome them?
It has been difficult to create a game development company in Kenya, as game development is still a new idea and is not considered as anything worth doing- for any reason. We usually get shocked reactions whenever we tell people that we make games and there are no local sources of information on the art of game development. At this point we give thanks to God for the Internet.
Life is full of challenges and that will never change. Once you are aware of what you want and you decide to focus all your energies towards achieving those goals the challenges all of a sudden start to seem do-able. And even if they are really hard, you will forget all the hardships once the job is done. At the University of Games, we take games very seriously!
What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
First find what you love and what you would want to do with your life.
One quality of such a thing is that you would be willing to do it for free! It’s not about the money when it comes to that!
Once you have established what you want, you should work hard (really hard) at attaining the goal of excellence in that field. This requires learning a lot about everything relevant in that field.
The people that make a mark in society are usually those that follow their dreams.
One thing to note though is that your dream has to have a business model to it at some point so as to sustain your activities.
Lastly, the most important advice we can offer is that greatness cannot be achieved by only one person. Working together is necessary. There is no way around this because we can only live for so long, and if we try to do anything on our own, we will take too long.
Tuberculosis is known to have been in existence since 4000BC but today is the cause of nearly two million deaths, every year.
The disease can affect any part of the body, but usually the lungs. In the past it has been called 'consumption' due to the way in which it consumed those who contracted it. There are treatments for it, but it often claims lives- especially in less developed countries where there isn't access to necessary treatment.
But recently, there has been major progress in preventing the disease.
Salmaan Keshavjee and Paul Farmer, two leading doctors who have been fighting tuberculosis for over ten years, sum it up well:
“The global AIDS effort of the past decade has shown how much can be accomplished in global health when effective diagnosis and care are matched with funding and political will.
Stinting on investments or on bold action against tuberculosis -- in all its forms -- will ensure that it remains a leading killer of people living in poverty in this decade and the next.”
We are now facing a problem. Increasingly, drug-resistant strains of tuberculosis are found in Russia, India and China- but they are on the rise in the West too.
Underfunding has led to ineffective drugs being produced, which has catalysed the rise of these drug resistant strains. And it is these new variants of the disease which are causing so many deaths – and will continue to unless stopped.
This problem is particularly prevalent in India, which has one fifth of the world's cases. Drugs known to be resisted by the various strains of tuberculosis are being used-only making the problem worse.
Dr. Zarir Udwadia, a prominent scientist in the field, was particularly critical of the “futile exercise” India is embarking upon, which will; “serve to amplify resistance. It is morally and medically disastrous.”
To combat this, it has been advised that patients are tested for whether the drugs given to them would be resisted or not. But in India's case, there simply aren't enough clinics available to do this, due to the lack of investment. We are now reaping the disastrous consequences of not taking this issue seriously enough.
These problems just emphasise the need for much more investment- now- to fund research and increase effectiveness of treatment- to end this terrible disease.
Because if we don't, the problem will only get worse. If we don't, tuberculosis could turn into a pandemic once again.
Today marks a watershed moment in the effort to eradicate extreme poverty. 43 years since the commitment to spend 0.7% of GDP on aid was made at the 1970 UN General Assembly, the UK Government has kept its promise to the world’s poorest people. The first of the world’s richest countries to do so; the UK has set an outstanding example ahead of the G8 Summit in June.
Despite tough economic times, the UK recognises that aid works and that - both in financial and humanitarian terms - the cost of doing something is less than the cost of doing nothing. Take polio, for example. Thanks to the UK Government’s leadership in tackling this debilitating disease, millions of children have been vaccinated as a result of British aid, and only 0.1% of the disease survives, globally.
The significance of today’s announcement cannot be understated. It has signaled a seismic shift in the way the rich countries treat poorer countries. And finally we can focus not on how much money we spend but how effective the money spent can be.
But there is more to do. We need to ensure that multi-national corporations pay their fair share, so that the developing world doesn’t lose three times what it receives in aid to tax-dodging each year. In poorer countries we need to stop land the size of London being grabbed by foreign investors every six days. And we must protect farmers and give them the chance to live off the food they grow, rather than fueling cars in rich countries.
We must do all these things. But today, on this rare and historic occasion, we must make the time for something else. We must take the time to say ‘thank you’. Decisions like the one the UK took today are brave enough in buoyant financial times, so the fact that it was taken in relatively stormy waters makes it all the more worthy of recognition.
Today we recognise that millions of people across the world will have their lives changed by this decision. Today, we should take the time to thank the UK Government for this historic step and thank the millions of people and organisations who over the last 43 years tirelessly campaigned for this moment, because tomorrow, the work towards the next step forward begins anew.
Today George Osborne will rise and deliver one of the most anticipated Budgets in British history. It’s historic for a number of reasons, not least because of the economic challenges domestically, but he will also have the opportunity to fulfil a 43-year commitment – spending 0.7% of the UK’s income on international aid.
We’ve been arguing for this for so long that almost everyone assumes we already have it… we don’t. It’s taken hundreds of meetings, thousands of marchers, millions of petition signatures to carry through a 1970 UN resolution, and the UK will be the first G8 country to do so. Campaigning alongside the UK’s Enough Food for Everyone (IF) campaign and nearly 100 leading charities to demand an end to hunger– we know aid works.
As a result, we can now focus not on how much we spend but how the money is spent. At the Global Poverty Project, we want to use this opportunity as a springboard to eradicate one of the oldest and most tragic diseases – polio. We have a unique window of opportunity to end this disease, and alongside the UK, we’re asking countries globally to help fund a new plan that has been put together to ensure a polio-free world by 2018.
Increased aid has accelerated vaccination programmes and decreased the prevalence of polio. Polio has now been eradicated by 99.9% and remains endemic only in three countries – Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), comprising of the World Health Organization, Rotary International, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF, and supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has long campaigned for funding that will see an end to polio – and they’ve almost succeeded. With the end of polio within reach, the GPEI has worked closely with the governments of polio-affected countries to put together the plan to finally wipe out this disease – the Polio Eradication and Endgame Strategic Plan 2013-2018.
The UK has a lot to be proud of; we’ve been a global leader committing around £100m to polio eradication efforts over the past five years. But this funding ends next month. Recommit this funding and the legacy of 0.7% could be the eradication of the second-ever human disease in history.
April’s Global Vaccine Summit in Abu Dhabi, hosted by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Bill Gates, is the chance for the British government to announce its new funding commitment. We’re campaigning for the Department for International Development to make another three-year commitment to help us rid the world of polio. The GPEI’s new Strategic Plan sets out a clear strategy to end this disease – secure the necessary support and say goodbye polio.
Today we hope George Osborne will confirm 0.7% of our income on international aid. This is our opportunity to prove what’s achievable through well-directed international aid. And by continuing to take the lead on this issue, we can help convince other countries to do the same. Together, we can end polio.
What makes people do the right thing? What motivates people to buy Fairtrade, volunteer their time or help the homeless person on the street? Much more research has been devoted to the psychology of what drives us to buy certain products, than a close look at the incentives and mindset of philanthropy, altruism and positive social engagement. The resulting deficit has left us with a widening gap between the increasingly sophisticated appeal of global brands and the hackneyed approaches from non-profit organizations who often still lead with the starving child crudely pasted to the rattling cup.
As Global Poverty Project rolls out its Global Citizen engagement platform, some in the development sector are suspicious of the idea of offering rewards for signing petitions and sharing YouTube clips with friends. They see the idea of T-shirts and concert tickets as the equivalent of offering children sweets for good behaviour. Critics see it as the latest brand of ‘clicktivsim’ or just feeding the rampant consumerism that underpins some of the global imbalance. Buying ethical products or telling friends about water issues in Nairobi should not need to be incentivized, so they say, as it’s the right thing to do. According to these naysayers, people should do the right thing, because it’s the right thing, end of story. Eat your broccoli and no complaints.
But to this soup of metaphors and old adages, allow me to add one more; the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. The development sector has been showing us the image of the starving child for over 40 years. It’s been an effective motivator for a small percentage of the population as a prick to their conscience and a tug on their heartstrings to drop a few coins in the cup and assuage the guilt the image deliberately stirs.
We should all applaud the efforts of these organizations who have helped millions of people with limited funding in impossible circumstances. Through their tireless and underpaid efforts, they have fed, clothed, healed and educated generations of people around the world. Certainly there are signs of progress as the Millennium Development Goals encourage more targeted, better development, and the percentage of people living in extreme poverty has more than halved since 1983.
Despite this progress in the methods and strategies for poverty eradication in the developing world, the fundamental relationship between the average citizen in London or New York to the problems of the world remain frozen in the transactional and simplistic paradigm of “GIVE MONEY, SAVE KIDS”.
For a dramatic expansion of the efforts to end extreme poverty, what’s needed is a game-changing shift in this predictable dynamic. The critics of innovation or change to this status quo are afraid of rocking the boat for fear of diminishing the ‘anti-poverty brand’ by making it ‘rewards’ focused.
The efforts of these organizations are funded by the same percentage of bleeding hearts who continue to dig into their pockets when they see an appeal. What’s needed is not a new way of tapping those loyal supporters, but a dramatic and engaging way of expanding the number of supporters. Not only that, but the development sector needs a way to redefine the word ‘supporter’ from the person who writes a cheque, to the person who’s inspired by the stories of innovation and resilience and leads others to focus their unique skills to helping the world’s poor.
Global Citizen has the potential to be the innovation the sector desperately needs. It encourages people to learn more about the issues, creates a structure for discussing and sharing relevant content and takes people on a journey to better understand the policies, institutions and actions that will lead us to a more just and sustainable world.
As people get started on this journey, sometimes the first step is the hardest one to take. Global Citizen does dangle rewards as the ‘carrot’ to get started. The rewards platform plays to the human impulse that asks, “What’s in it for me?” but hopes that by going a mile or two down the road of global citizenry, the answers, definitions and even the questions themselves will change.
Teenagers might just watch a few films about extreme poverty to earn concert tickets. No one expects that to change the world, but it does plant seeds that may grow to great things. For some of those teenagers, the films might be the start of a lifelong commitment to social justice. For others it might be the inspiration that goes on to spark unimagined innovation. Global Citizen might awaken the Nelson Mandelas and Martin Luther King Jr.s of the future. In addition to reporting the world as it is, Global Citizen implicitly invites us all to imagine the world as it should be.