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Mobile phones 
Apps that Africa Could depend on

A wave of innovative farming, social and health-themed mobile-phone apps specifically tailored to Africa's unique challenges and opportunities is rolling out across the continent.

Take iCow, which counts 6,000 small-scale dairy farmers on its SMS platform after launching in Kenya seven months ago. It acts as a virtual veterinary nurse and midwife for subscribers, giving advice on gestation, milk production and fodder.

Citing farmer feedback, creative director Su Kahumbu says the app "helps us know when to give our cows maternity leave, when to cut our napier grass and has led to an increase in our milk production."

Another app from M-Farm offers real-time market prices for crops, matching Kenyan farmers with buyers. 

Health apps, such as Nokia's Maisha, are helping first-time mothers to manage babies' nutrition and health, providing immunisation reminders and children's health-care news.

Also, Kenyan developers Shimba Technologies have launched a MedAfrica app, helping users diagnose symptoms and providing directories of doctors and hospitals.

For those in trouble, Olalashe, on the Android platform, sends an SOS message to all emergency contacts on the user's mobile, alerting them that the owner needs help.

Meanwhile, an app from Refugees United allows users to search for lost family or friends in the NGO's database. 

Useful apps include Nokia's English-Swahili translator, which helps find that elusive word, while the Africa Travel Guide provides travel information on 1,000 African destinations.

Data is stored in the app on the mobile phone so you can access information offline and avoid heavy roaming charges. 

As for fun, NikoHapa ("I am here" in Swahili) is a social location app allowing users to discover new locations and connect up with friends.

There is also a mobile version of Matatu, a two-player card game developed by Uganda-based Kola Studios.

By Isabel Nanton
The Africa Report

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