How Technology and Creativity is being used for Developing Ecotourism: Peace and Unity as a Shared Value to Overcome Environmental Problems in the West Senegal Islands of Niomoume.

On the 28th-30th December 2018 the first edition of the Festival of the Islands of Casamance successfully took place on the Niomoume Islands of the Casamance region in Senegal (Ceesay, 2019) (Figure 1). The Festival was a three-day event bring together the arts, the Islands traditions, a conference and an Island tour all in the name of ‘peace and unity’. The event was attended over the three days by more than 1000 Island inhabitants, guests and visitors. The Festival was the first ever artistic and cultural gathering for the Niomoume Island and its people. The Festival is an innovative event combining the creative industries, ecotourism under the umbrella of ‘peace and unity’ to come together to solve the Islands’ social, environmental and economic problems. Mr Sens Sagna a well-known and highly-regarded Senegalese artist who is based in the UK was the cultural ambassador of the first edition festival (Figure 2). Mr Sagna through his pride in his West African heritage and his vast artistic experience and skills wished to develop collaborations between the Creative Industries sector (an industry worth £133.3bn and accounting for 8.2 per cent of the UK economy), the University of Manchester to potentially support and advise with the Festival and the problems being faced by The Niomoume Islands and the West Senegal region. Mr Sagna, Ambassador of the Festival explained that, “when the initial idea of the Festival was sent to me, I was immediately interested in getting involved and supporting a positive initiative and further understandings how of the creative arts and his skills and experiences could be drawn into the project” (Ceesay, 2019). He explained that this is the positive direction he would like to see the creative industries take in the future. He emphasised the importance that the festival has for bringing people together, to make the community well-known and for the opportunities it can create. He urged “all to embrace and support the future of the festival”.

(Figure 1- Ceremonial dance by Niomoume Islanders at the Festival)

Mr Sagna is collaborating with Dr Anita Greenhill in looking at the potential of skills development and knowledge enhancement on digital content-building in the creative industries, with a particular emphasis on the positive impact creativity can provide in the development of ecotourism (Oluwatobi Emmanuel Olaniyi, et al 2018, 593). West African cultural skills and knowledge, particularly those associated with their artistic traditions are considered the most developed in the world (Faola & Kalu, 2018). Therefore the unifying values that creativity produces as opposed to a predominantly economic focus in much development theory can be reconsidered. The potential value of the creative economy is increasing exponentially but the industry is still not fully understood and in many instances undervalued. Earlier feasibility studies (Greenhill, 2019) have demonstrated the impact the creative industries can have on social unity and the integration of marginalised groups. Attending the festival has helped to build links and opened up potential routes for international collaboration and research within West Africa.

(Figure 2. Attendees including Mr Sagna, Dr Anita Greenhill, Mr Ousmane Samoure at the First edition of the Festival of the Islands of Casamance 2018)

The initial findings from the research showed that, whilst creativity has the potential to improve the situation of marginalised groups, the artistic community is often caught between traditional knowledge and skills acquisition, and contemporary culture and economic reality (Greenhill, forthcoming). This is a situation that is mirrored in Senegal, where cultural initiatives are being developed which both promote the themes of peace and unity and look to encourage and support economic development. However, a lack of basic infrastructure (especially digital infrastructure) across the country creates a series of challenges (Figure 4). Indeed, Senegal is the perfect place for the arts and healing to come together due to the fact that the country continues to be the location for Africa’s longest ongoing conflict (the Casamance Conflict). Alongside this, the Senegalese state has reaffirmed its desire to put culture at the heart of the issues of national economic and social development. This link is something that is helped by the fact that many West African performers often hail from conflict zones and so represent some of the most marginalised people in the world.

(Figure 3. Festival of the Islands of Casamance wrestling performance 2018)

The growing use of culture, and in particular music, as part of wider efforts to address issues of peace and unity within Senegal is reflected in the Festival activities. The overall aim of the festival is to give all those who participate a platform where they can develop their skills, cultural experiences and creativity. This festival is organised by Ousmane Samoure, one of the project’s community partners, and looks to create a lasting legacy, which aids the development of the region (where there is a lack of basic supplies of clean drinking water, medical provisions, electricity and internet provision, etc.). Crucially, these festivals operate in areas that are socially isolated and, in the case of the Festival of the Islands of Casamance, have never had a cultural festival before (Figure 3).

(Figure 4. Wells are dug in the rice fields for fresh water supply)

The project looks to learn from these Senegalese initiatives and the stakeholders involved, in order to develop and join together similar work being carried out in South Manchester. This will be achieved by looking to establish a prototype for a structured process to creative production that generates social, cultural and economic value by focussing on community-driven innovation (with an initial emphasis on the creative industries and technology).

References, useful links

Ceesay, B (2019), Festival of the Islands of Casamance was a huge success, BlockTV Gambia

Faola, T Kalu, K (eds) (2018), Africa and Globalization: challenges of governance and creativity, Palgrave Mcmillan: Grewerbestrasse, Switzerland

Greenhill, A (2019) Festival of the Islands of Casamance,

Oluwatobi Emmanuel Olaniyi, Shadrach Olufemi Akindele & Babafemi George Ogunjemite (2018) Ecotourism suitability of Okomu and Pendjari National Parks, Anatolia, 29:4, 593-604, DOI: 10.1080/13032917.2018.1486329


Is Digital Transformation in Nigerian Agriculture a Myth or Reality?

There is a lot of hype about digital agriculture as the ‘next big thing’ after crude oil in Nigeria. Currently, there is hardly any debate on agricultural development in the Nigerian news and on social media platforms without the use of buzz words such as ‘digital disruption’ or ‘digital transformation’ in describing the future of Nigerian agriculture. But what are these digital innovations causing all the hype? They are digital platforms, developed over the past five years by start-ups, established by young Nigerian entrepreneurs. While some start-ups are self-funded, most have benefited from international funding and incubation programmes provided by the growing number of tech-hubs across Nigeria (see Figure 1) [1] [2].

Figure 1: Number of active tech hubs in West Africa. Source: GSMA (2018a)

The digital platforms currently mainstreamed into the Nigerian agricultural sector mainly utilise mobile applications, web applications and short messaging service (SMS). These platforms are used to provide a range of transactional and information services which can be grouped into four main business models:

  1. Crowdfarming: A venture capital model that sources investment capital to fund several farm enterprises [3].
  2. Agricultural advisory service: This model uses mobile apps, SMS and Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) to provide tailored information to farmers in all stages of the value chain.
  3. Online farm management information system: This offers a platform for farm owners to provide data about their farms and receive location-specific recommendations.
  4. Online agro-trading: These platforms serve as an avenue for farmers and other value chain actors to advertise their agricultural products to potential buyers.

As research on agro-digital platforms in Nigeria is still at a nascent stage, the magnitude of impact relative to platform usage is still unclear. However, some assumptions are currently driving the perception that these innovations would digitally transform Nigerian agriculture. Two of these assumptions are:

Assumption 1: With the widespread adoption of mobile devices in Nigeria the rural population, who make up the largest share of stakeholders in agriculture, can now participate in the emerging digital agricultural platform economy. In reality, mobile network infrastructures in rural Nigeria are weak or non-existent in some cases. Actively engaging with these platforms requires strong mobile network and reliable internet connection to download apps or access web platforms. 2G remains the predominant mobile network broadband in Nigeria while 3G coverage is centralised in big cities, especially Abuja, Lagos and Port Harcourt (see Figure 2) [3]. Also, the signal strength of both 2G and 3G networks ranges from medium to weak as we move from the urban centres to rural areas – where most farmers are located. This discrimination in mobile network coverage further reinforces the digital divide between the rural and urban population [4], and also shows what groups are more likely to benefit from the growing platform economy in Nigeria.

Figure 2: Mobile network coverage maps (Nigeria) for 2G and 3G respectively. Source: GSMA (2018b)

Assumption 2:  If we assume that farmers have reliable mobile networks and internet access which allows them to download mobile apps or access web platforms, the second assumption is that farmers have the technical skills to use these platforms. Yet most farmers are not ‘tech-savvy’ and some of these digital platforms tend to be different from the conventional voice and SMS platforms with which farmers are more familiar. Not only does this serve as a constraint to fully actualise the affordances of these platforms, it has also resulted in the emergence of ‘digital intermediaries’. These digital intermediaries either help farmers to gain access to digital platforms by performing more skill-intensive tasks such as downloading apps and creating user profiles, or they perform the functions of traditional agricultural intermediaries such as: aggregating produce, standardising and marketing produce on digital platforms, independent of farmers’ involvement on the platform itself. While this is not a bad thing, it is important to understand the role and impact of digital intermediaries in influencing value capture and value sharing along digitally-enabled agricultural value chains.

Transformation is a process and there is great potential for digital transformation in Nigerian agriculture. However, it is said that the apps won’t plough the field [4]; neither would the apps build roads to connect farmers to markets. While the digital tools to facilitate the transformation process already exist, poor infrastructure and digital skill gaps still serve as constraints to actualising the transformational potential of digital innovations in agriculture [5]. To move from ‘potential’ to ‘actual’ transformation requires investment in ICT infrastructures, road networks, electricity, and digital literacy; as well as an enabling policy environment which supports upcoming agro-digital entrepreneurs [6].


[1] GSMA (2018a) The Mobile Economy: West Africa. GSMA, London

[2] David-West, O., Umukoro, I.O. and Onuoha, R.O. (2018) Platforms in Sub-Saharan Africa: startup models and the role of business incubation, Journal of Intellectual Capital, 19 (3): 581-616

[3] GSMA (2018b) Mobile Coverage Maps. GSMA, London

[4] Naruka, P.S., Verma, S., Sarangdevot, S.S., Pachauri, C.P., Kerketta, S. and Singh, J.P. (2017) A study on role of WhatsApp in agriculture value chains, Asian Journal of Agricultural Extension, Economics & Sociology 20 (1): 1-11

[5] Deichmann, U., Goyal, A. and Mishra, D., 2016. Will Digital Technologies Transform Agriculture in Developing Countries? The World Bank, Washington, DC

[6] Akanbi, B.E. and Akanbi, C.O. (2012) Bridging the digital divide and the impact on poverty in Nigeria, Computing, Information Systems & Development Informatics, 3 (4): 83-85

Mobile Phone Use in West Africa: Gambian Statistics

This entry reports findings from a survey of nearly 400 mobile phone users in The Gambia conducted by Fatim Badjie, who recently participated in Manchester’s MSc in ICTs for Development.

Its findings fall into six main areas:

Ownership and Costs: 83% of phone users owned their mobile; roughly 70% said that it was cheap to use a mobile.

Mobile Usage: 82% said the most-used facility on their phone was calls; 12% said it was texting; 3% said it was Internet browsing.  Overall, 38% said the service they enjoyed most was texting; 15% said Internet browsing; 8% said conference calls; 5% said video calls.  47% share their mobile with other people, sharing with an average of 3.1 other people.  That means, overall, the average mobile is used by 2.5 people (i.e. shared with 1.5 other people).  On average, users said they used their mobiles 28 times per day, and two-thirds use their mobile at least 10 times per day.

Availability and Issues: roughly 60% of users said they always had a signal and that services were available even in “inconvenient” locations (though of course Gambia is a small country).  Only 30% reported the mobile was always effective for communication and roughly one third reported they felt mobile use had become a burden to them – mostly financially but also socially or personally.  For the 55% of users who wanted improvements, these almost all related to getting 100% network coverage in the country, or wanting cheaper prices.

Impacts and Benefits: 78% felt they benefited from having a mobile particularly due to low cost of calls.  31% felt having a mobile helped them to make or get money, for example through calls from customers to go and collect money owing or, more often, calling family/friends for money (“money calls”).  58% thus felt they had come to depend on their mobile, and 78% said they could not see themselves living without one.

In terms of male-female differences:

– No real difference in rates of ownership, rates and scope of phone sharing, difficulties experienced, or dependency on mobiles.

– Slight tendency for women to have been using fixed lines rather than telecentres as a prior means of communication.

– Women use mobiles a little more than men on average per day (28.6 vs. 26.6 times).

– Less use of mobiles for Internet browsing by women than men; more use of phones for texting.

– More men (38%) than women (24%) said the mobile helped them get money and resources, though women used phones proportionately more for “money calls” than men.

My commentary would be that, overall, this is a reminder of how mature the mobile market is getting in Africa with very high rates of ownership, very high rates of usage, and signs of movement beyond basic calls/SMS: at least 15% going online via their mobiles, at least 13% using video/conference calls.  With roughly one-third saying they use mobiles to make or get money, it looks like quite a valuable financial tool: so embedded that nearly fourth-fifths of users couldn’t imagine life without it, including some who see mobiles as a “necessary burden”.

ITU estimates for 2009 (the year prior to the survey) there were 84 mobile subscriptions per 100 population in The Gambia.  Even allowing for calculations to convert from subscription data to actual ownership and use (see earlier blog entry), this means phone users were by far the bulk of the Gambian population during this survey (so skews compared to the overall population will be present but probably limited).  Given the rates of sharing reported it means that access to a mobile is virtually universal (though it must also mean that many people share their phone with others who already have one).

Noting exclusion from the survey of women (and men) who don’t use mobiles, there was relatively little difference in ownership and usage patterns between men and women.  Is that, too, a sign of market maturity?

Finally, a reminder that, even in a small country there can be significant locational differences and that “market maturity” has a rural—urban axis.  Users were surveyed in seven different parts of The Gambia but the table below compares some of the key findings for those surveyed in the capital, Banjul, and those surveyed in Bansang, a small town three-quarters of the way up-country.

  Banjul (urban) Bansang (rural)
Ownership 100% 32%
Cheap to use? 66% 84%
Access Internet via mobile 17% 0%
Use SMS texting 69% 4%
Share your mobile? 24% 86%
Average uses per day 39.8 6.7
Available in inconvenient locations? 75% 12%
Main problem (of those reporting a problem) Cost (87%) Network availability (98%)
Help you to get money/resources? 28% 40%
Calls for money 14% 44%
Live without mobile? 52% 20%

The data show some not unexpected differences.  In the rural location, there was much less ownership of mobiles and much more sharing; much less use of non-call services and generally much less daily use of the mobile.  Network availability is more of an issue in the rural area, but the mobile seems to be more useful for getting money and far fewer users in the rural area can imagine life without it.

You can access the results of the survey by clicking here: they also include more Gambia-specific questions about operators, services, and awareness of institutions.  Note the breakdown-by-location is very lengthy, and not provided in this document.