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By 6 February 2014 | Categories: news

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Given that last year we saw a number of innovative South African’s making new fortunes for themselves, the latest news in this regard – that Google’s Africa Connected semi-finalists have been announced – is certainly welcome. The reason for rejoicing is that six South Africans, almost a third, have made it in the top 20 list of semi-finalists. This is no mean feat, considering that the semi-finalists were selected from more than 2 200 entries from 35 countries.

The competition, which was launched in August 2013, called on entrepreneurs, creatives, innovators and web-lovers to share their stories of how the web has transformed their lives and work. The competition was certainly quite broad, with categories spanning education; entertainment, arts and sports; technology; community, non-governmental organisations and small business.

Not surprisingly then, the projects submitted were very diverse. Affiong Osuchukwu, Google Lead for the Africa Connected initiative, explained that entries included everything from using YouTube to learn about eco-friendly building techniques, to an award-winning blog on mental health.  “Selecting the 20 semi-finalists was tough, but we were really impressed with their initiatives, and wish them the best in the next round,” commented Osuchukwu.

Now this is what you call #winning

Now, from these twenty semi-finalists, five winners will be chosen. Each will win $25 000 (R278 000) and will also benefit from the aid of a Google sponsor, with whom they will be able to work over a period of six months to advance their online business.

The twenty semi-finalists were selected from initial entries to take part in an interview and to produce a short promotional video. A judging panel, made up of Googlers and external judges, will then determine the ten finalists.  The five winners, in whose lives the web and Google have played a pivotal role, will then be selected by the online voting public.  The winners will be announced on 1st April at an event in Nairobi, Kenya.

“We’re excited to see strong South African representation, no less than 6 out of 20, among the semifinalists,” enthused Luke Mckend, country director for Google South Africa.  “To mention just some of them, Obami is using YouTube to empower teachers and learners; Grace Communion is using Google Translate to aide humanitarian work in neighbouring Mozambique; and Red Fish is making the most of various technologies to create new job marketplace for registered tradespeople,” he highlighted.

The full list of the semi-finalists, and their projects in no particular order, include:

Kangai Mwiti, Kenya, Bellesa Africa 

Kangai is a makeup artist offering services for weddings, ad shoots and other events. She hosts tutorials on her YouTube channel, which has almost 26,000 subscribers, focusing on techniques for women of colour.

Steve Kyenze, Kenya, Uweza Slum Gallery 

Steve uses Google Search to inspire and train underprivileged art students and improve their skills, so that they can sell their artwork to support their schooling.

Sitawa Wafula, Kenya, My Mind, My Funk

Sitawa is an influential blogger on mental health in East Africa, who has used Google Blogger to establish his award winning blog which is a reference point for people looking for support and information.

Dennis Njagi, Kenya, RocKeSci : The Funky Scientists 

Dennis has used Google and YouTube to develop an interactive website, blog and vlog for primary and high school users who want to learn more about science topics through experiment instruction, online content and tutorials.

Francis Macharia, Kenya, Pinklakeman Eco-Lodge

Francis used Google and YouTube to teach himself about eco-friendly building techniques which he used to build the successful Pinklakeman Eco-Lodge.

Gloria Mangi, Tanzania, African Queens Project

Gloria created a Google website to promote her community upliftment project, which celebrates African women who are doing significant things to give back to their community. Her site shares successful African women's stories via blog posts, audio clips, and videos.

Eunice Namirembe, Uganda, The Medical Concierge Group

Eunice has built a 24-hour accessible ambulance call centre to improve access to health care services, by using the Google API dashboard and Google Maps to record patient information and track patient location.

Lamine Mbengue, Senegal, SenegalTV

Lamine believes in taking African culture to the rest of the world, and that the Internet is the  lifeblood to support his mission. YouTube and AdSense has helped SenegalTV to share their unique content around the world.

Megan Makhosazana Ngiba, South Africa, Makhophila Training

Megan runs a computer skills training business using Google products to educate students about the internet, including setting up Gmail accounts for each user, using Google Search for various searches and building Google Sites.

Barbara Mallinson, South Africa, Obami

Barbara uses YouTube and Google Maps on her social learning platform which aims to empower teachers, as well as facilitate learning and teaching for anyone in the education space.

Timothy Maguire, South Africa, Grace Communion International

English-speaking Timothy uses Google Translate while providing humanitarian relief in northern Mozambique so that he can communicate with project members who speak only Portuguese. He also uses Google Search and Google Maps which assist with projects in remote locations.

Mbekezeli Khumalo, South Africa, Trees and Rhinos

Mbekezeli is a co-creator of Trees and Rhinos, an anti-rhino poaching project which was initially introduced to the public via an animated YouTube video. Now the project uses YouTube to promote the initiative, as well as other Google products to widen its influence.

Johann du Toit, South Africa, Curriculum Vitae

Johan created a website which allows users to easily create a CV - interestingly, most users enter his site through their Google+ accounts.

Theunis Hanekom, South Africa, RedFish

Theunis uses Google products to communicate with the international team at RedFish, an online marketplace connecting customers and tradesmen, which ensures their content is up to date and useful.

Nqobizitha Mlilo, Zimbabwe, Nafuna TV

Nqobizitha uses YouTube to post all his new animation and HD video content to reach his targeted audience. He is self-taught, based on information found with Google Search.

Emmanuel Gamor, Ghana, Mpwr

The Mpwr team uses Google Drive to create show outlines, upload audio snippets and recordings, as well as engage with listeners outside the studio via Google+ Hangouts.

Christopher Panford, Ghana, Technol Services

Christopher uses Google Maps in his vehicle tracking devices to record the location of their vehicles at any point in time.

Eric Obuh, Nigeria, Vocal Slender

Eric has used Google+ and YouTube to raise awareness about underprivileged youngsters in the slums of Lagos, thereby raising financial aid for the scholars and encouraging school attendance.

Eseoghene Odiete, Nigeria, Hesey Designs

Eseoghene used Google Products to promote his brand as a young entrepreneur, creating international awareness for his fashion label.

Mayowa Adegbile, Nigeria, Ashake Foundation

Mayowa initially used YouTube to post an appeal to raise funds for her initiative, a business school for widows and mothers, giving them the tools to make a living and support their families. Since then, she has identified AdSense as an important part of their business curriculum.

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