94 research outputs found

    Social entrepreneurship, and the technopolitics of millennial development in Cape Town

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    In Cape Town, as in many other cities of the Global South, a range of new developmental experiments have emerged around the idea that, by empowering entrepreneurs, poverty can be fought with profit. Social enterprises, for example, are being promoted by global institutions as organisations that, by seeking both financial profit and social good, are ideal vehicles for meeting the demands of contemporary development. As a result, local authorities, NGOs, and other developmental agencies have all embraced social entrepreneurship as one of the devices that have the capacity to yield market solutions to poverty. Bringing together insights from postcolonial human geography and critical ethnography, this research examines how social entrepreneurship functions as a political technology of ‘millennial development’, by tracing the experiments through which ingrained issues such as racialised poverty and urban marginality are framed as domains of entrepreneurial innovation. Hence this work asks: what does seeing social entrepreneurship as a system of developmental expertise reveal about the claim that social enterprises are empowering? What kind of technical and political regimes are mobilised, invented, and experimented to address economic marginality in a postcolonial, post-apartheid city? To address these questions, this dissertation follows a network of very diverse sites of expertise, where social entrepreneurship is put into action in material ways. The empirical core of this research combines ethnographic and interview material gathered between March and November 2015. Drawing on fieldnotes and documentary evidence, this dissertation argues that it is through tentative, material and failure-ridden experiments that social entrepreneurship becomes a viable technology of development expertise. The findings of this research also show that the technopolitics of millennial development in Cape Town are not only centred around finding market solutions to poverty. Social entrepreneurship, while opening new frontiers for capitalist expansion, is also a terrain of diverse opportunities, where distinct technical, economic, and ethical regimes are cultivated. This dissertation thus concludes that examining social entrepreneurship as a political technology reveals its spatial, material and performative qualities in reproducing the promises of millennial development, as well as the possibility for alternative politics of entrepreneurial empowerment

    Financing ICT and digitalisation in Africa: Current trends and key sustainability issues

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    Increasingly recognised as a pivotal infrastructure for inclusive economic development and social justice in Africa, information and communication technology is a fundamental component of the continent’s infrastructure budget. DFIs, such as the World Bank and the African Development Bank, have long included digital infrastructure and connectivity projects as one of the portfolios that receive financial support. Nevertheless, the investment landscape for sustainable information and communication technologies in Africa remains poorly understood. The availability of data is inconsistent, mirroring a broader knowledge problem across the entire infrastructure finance sector (see Cirolia, Pieterse & Pollio, 2022). Moreover, issues of sustainable investment are by nature of digital infrastructure much less visible and debated than in related sectors of mobility or energy. This paper is, therefore, aimed at i) highlighting the different components of infrastructure investment in information and communication technologies, ii) showing that the value chain is complex and that different investment patterns and bottlenecks need to be recognised across the sector, and iii) identifying key sustainability issues that deserve attention for digital infrastructure as much as for other types of technical systems. To do so, in this paper, four sections and a tentative list of policy implications linking sustainability concerns to the financial design of information and communication technology infrastructure are featured

    Infrastructure financing in Africa: Overview, research gaps, and urban research agenda

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    Africa’s development requires substantial investment in infrastructure systems, such as water, energy and telecommunications. These systems are essential in ensuring that contemporary processes, such as industrialisation and urbanisation, can be leveraged to create real and sustained value for cities, countries, regions and global networks. One of the key questions underpinning this infrastructure challenge is how to finance these systems. Often focussing on the need for bankable projects and creditworthy institutions, debates about how to finance African infrastructure reflect an important and well-rehearsed argument that the key to addressing the infrastructure finance gap, thereby unlocking Africa’s infrastructure challenge, is overcoming the mismatch between investor expectations and the actual risk/return profile of infrastructure programmes and projects. In this mismatch, many useful projects are regarded as simply unbankable, either as short-term returns are too low, or the risks are too high or not easily quantified and costed. With the sustainable development goals and other global agendas calling for more equality, climate responsiveness and poverty alleviation, the development sector has been compelled to move beyond the frame of bankability to ensure that investments are sustainable and just. This has required deeper engagement with how financial logics, such as rating systems and assessment criteria, shape the sustainability of infrastructural outcomes. It has also required recognising current gaps in knowledge, such as the lack of data on Africa and the weaknesses in our ability to analyse this data in the context of rapid urbanisation, digitisation, demographic transition and other important trends that have unique implications for the continent. This paper comprises four parts with the intention of demonstrating these gaps and providing a scaffolding for future knowledge production. In section 2, an overview is given of the actors and instruments involved in infrastructure finance in Africa, namely how much different actors are investing, what kinds of financial mechanisms are being used, and into what types of infrastructure sectors. In section 3, the research issues that surface when attempting to analyse that data are outlined, with an indication of where improvements could be made to strengthen documentation and accountability. Building on the insights from section 2 and 3, in section 4, a propositional and forward-thinking research agenda for infrastructure finance research in Africa is presented. The paper is concluded by a presentation of two key areas for collective action

    Algorithmic Suturing: Platforms, Motorcycles and the ‘Last Mile’ in Urban Africa

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    The ‘last mile’ is not only a powerful metaphor of contemporary life, but also thetangible site of a challenge, whether for governments wanting to reach their citizens orcompanies wanting to reach their customers. In urban Africa this challenge is compoundedby the fragmented material condition of cities. As a result, a growing number of techcompanies have been compelled by the possibility of creating digital platforms thataddress the unique logistical configurations of African cities, often enrolling informalsystems such as motorcycle taxis to address spatial and economic fragmentation. Throughthe perspective of three Nairobi-based startups that incorporate motorcycle taxis intotheir last-mile platforms, this article illustrates how processes of ‘algorithmic suturing’knit together the loose ends of splintered urban networks thanks to platform businessmodels that visualize the last mile as a site of optimization. In parallel with commonunderstandings of suturing within African infrastructure debates which foregroundmakeshift practices of the urban poor, this article argues that algorithmic suturing is aspeculative endeavour through which urban fractures are made legible as sites of value.By stitching together city fragments, these platforms envision large data-driven urbaneconomies which interface with informal mobility networks and the shifting urbandemographic of the lower-middle class

    Breaking the distance: Dialogues of care in a time of limited geographies

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    In this commentary, we reflect on the limitations, somber difficulties, and possibilities of new geographies of care that have emerged as a result of our limited personal geographies during the time of COVID-19

    Platform Politics and Silicon Savannahs: Fintech and the platformed motorcycle: speculating on ordinary mobility economies in urban Africa

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    Despite the economic challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, venture capital (VC) investments in African startups have remained resilient, surpassing $5 billion in 2021 and experiencing a staggering 264% growth compared to the previous year. Notably, more than 60% of these investments were directed towards fintech companies. The surge in fintech investments in Africa is driven by several factors that make the continent an attractive market. Africa still has a large unbanked population, presenting an opportunity for financial services that offer alternatives to traditional banking methods. The rise of mobile money and cryptocurrencies has brought accessible financial solutions to individuals and informal businesses without access to traditional banking systems. Furthermore, Africa has emerged as a significant market for cryptocurrency trading, providing alternative options in volatile monetary climates and facilitating cross-border transactions. The report draws on empirical research in three case-study cities – Cape Town (South Africa), Kigali (Rwanda), and Nairobi (Kenya) – to showcase some important trends at the interface of fintech and the platformisation of motorcycle economies in urban Africa. It builds on the insight that fintech is not ‘just’ facilitated by digital platforms, but it deploys the same business logics of intermediation and, in doing so, is often part of platformisation itself (Langley and Leyshon, 2021). More specifically, the report shows the importance of the financial-inclusion thrust in linking fintech to two-wheel paratransit, as well as the multiple ways in which digital platforms create new financial pathways in rapport to the physical commodity of the motorcycle; the crucial importance of payment gateways as infrastructures of additional data-driven financial innovation; the promises of risk-management through data and the pilot-based experimental practices through which these promises are given effect; and linkages to the decarbonisation of mobility systems in African cities. For each of these points, the report highlights key policy implications that will require careful attention by researchers, regulators, and private actors in the field

    Fordyce granules and hyperplastic mucosal sebaceous glands as distinctive stigmata in Muir-Torre syndrome patients: characterization with reflectance confocal microscopy

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    Background: The Muir-Torre syndrome (MTS), a variant of Lynch syndrome (LS), is characterized by the presence of sebaceous skin adenomas and/or carcinomas and keratoacanthomas associated with visceral malignancies. Fordyce granules (FGs) are oral mucosal lesions previously found in association with LS. The aim of this study was to analyze the specific frequency of FGs in sporadic individuals and gene carriers patients with MTS of known mismatch repair genes mutations. The secondary aim was to characterize FGs by means of reflectance confocal microscopy (RCM). Methods: A total of 13 patients belonging to nine different genetically unrelated MTS kindreds (MLH1 gene mutation n = 2; MSH2 gene mutation n = 11) and 140 genetically unrelated healthy controls were examined. Depending on the clinical examination of the oral mucosa surface, subjects were categorized as either FGs positive or FGs negative. Results: FGs were diagnosed in 13 of 13 (100%) of MMR gene carriers patients with MTS vs. 9 of 140 (6.4%) controls. The most common site for FGs in MTS was the vestibular oral mucosa, compared with the gingival mandibular and retromandibular pad in controls. RCM examination found multiple sebaceous acinar cells that appear as round or oval hyper-refractive globules and that create a lobular aspects of the sebaceous glands defined as 'moruliform' or 'berry-like' structures. Conclusions: Clinical and RCM evidences of our study suggest that an activation of the sebaceous glands system occurs in patients with MTS. Fordyce granules and intra-oral sebaceous hyperplasia may constitute an additional clinical parameter, which may be adopted to distinguish individuals with highest likelihood of being affected from MTS

    Recombinant adeno associated viral (AAV) vector type 9 delivery of Ex1-Q138-mutant huntingtin in the rat striatum as a short-time model for in vivo studies in drug discovery

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    Huntington's disease (HD) is an inherited neurodegenerative disorder characterized by dyskinesia, cognitive impairment and emotional disturbances, presenting progressive neurodegeneration in the striatum and intracellular mutant Huntingtin (mHTT) aggregates in various areas of the brain. Recombinant Adeno Associated Viral (rAAV) vectors have been successfully used to transfer foreign genes to the brain of adult animals. In the present study we report a novel in vivo rat HD model obtained by stereotaxic injection of rAAV serotype2/9 containing Exon1-Q138 mHTT (Q138) and Exon1-Q17 wild type HTT (Q17; control), respectively in the right and in the left striatum, and expressed as C-terminal GFP fusions to facilitate detection of infected cells and aggregate production. Immunohistochemical analysis of brain slices from animals sacrificed twenty-one days after viral infection showed that Q138 injection resulted in robust formation of GFP-positive aggregates in the striatum, increased GFAP and microglial activation and neurodegeneration, with little evidence of any of these events in contralateral tissue infected with wild type (Q17) expressing construct. Differences in the relative metabolite concentrations (N-Acetyl Aspartate/Creatine and Myo-Inositol/Creatine) were observed by H1 MR Spectroscopy. By quantitative RT-PCR we also demonstrated that mHTT induced changes in the expression of genes previously shown to be altered in other rodent HD models. Importantly, administration of reference compounds previously shown to ameliorate the aggregation and neurodegeneration phenotypes in preclinical HD models was demonstrated to revert the mutant HTT-dependent effects in our model. In conclusion, the AAV2/9-Q138/Q17 exon 1 HTT stereotaxic injection represents a useful first-line in vivo preclinical model for studying the biology of mutant HTT exon 1 in the striatum and to provide early evidence of efficacy of therapeutic approaches
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