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Good morning ☀️
Bard has some updates.
Google’s AI service can now solve mathematical problems, and create charts and graphs so you can be one of those people who helps people “visualise data”. And unlike OpenAI’s $20 GPT-4, it’s free to use.
Speaking of OpenAI, we’ve got updates on Silicon Valley’s latest power tussle in today’s edition.
Open AI appoints ex-Twitch executive as interim CEO
Emmett Shear. Image source: The Hollywood Reporter
Hours after negotiating to return Sam Altman to his position, the board of directors at OpenAI yesterday appointed Emmett Shear, former CEO of streaming platform Twitch, as the interim CEO of the GPT-4 parent company.
That’s three CEOs in one weekend. 🤯
ICYMI: On Friday, Sam Altman was suddenly removed as CEO by the board who accused him of being shady with his communications. President and co-founder of OpenAI Greg Brockman also resigned along with other senior researchers on the team.
By Sunday, investors like Microsoft and Thrive Capital who were blindsided by the removal pushed the board to consider reinstating both Altman and Brockman to their positions.
A quick play: The negotiations broke down when the board rejected Altman’s condition for his comeback, which was that they step down. The board quickly appointed Shear as the new CEO after chief technology officer Mira Murati who was initially appointed acting CEO publicly aligned herself with Altman. Murati reportedly had plans to rehire Altman and Brockman in new capacities if the negotiations fell through.
Microsoft, which has invested over $13 billion in Open AI, also made a quick play for Altman with CEO Satya Nadella hiring Altman and Brockman to head a newly-established AI research team at Microsoft—with Altman as “CEO” of the team.
Employees want the board gone: Since the announcement of Shear as the new CEO, several employees have taken to Twitter to express their displeasure. About 505 of the company’s 700 employees have signed a letter asking the board to resign for lacking “competence and care”.
The staffers, who are also threatening to resign unless Altman and Brockman are reinstated, include Murati and chief scientist Ilya Sutskever who now says he “deeply regrets” ousting Altman. Sutskever, who is also on the board, reportedly led Altman’s dismissal after the two disagreed on the potential risks of commercialising AI too quickly.
Microsoft’s big picture: And if you’re wondering where 505 employees will go if they resign, Microsoft has reportedly offered all the employees slots on the new AI team Altman and Brockman are leading. Considering this, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella’s tweet about Microsoft’s commitment to supporting OpenAI takes on a new significance. Either way, Microsoft gets what it paid for. 🤷🏾♂️
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Caroline Wanjihia is Bolt’s new regional director for Africa
Bolt has appointed a new regional director, Caroline Wanjihia, to lead its ride-hailing operations in Africa, the Middle East and LATAM markets. This move comes weeks after Bolt paused its food delivery service—Bolt Food—in Nigeria and South Africa, citing its decision to exit as “necessary to streamline resources and maximise overall efficiency as a company”.
The new regional director: With a background as a Kenyan lawyer and seasoned business strategist, Wanjihia brings more than 15 years of expertise in strategy, business development, and operations, having advised global leaders such as Coca-Cola and Barclays. She is set to lead Bolt’s expansion efforts across the region, taking charge of current operations and introducing new initiatives.
Wanjihia’s appointment comes at a time when Bolt is facing regulatory scrutiny in countries such as Kenya. Drivers in the country have accused the platform of operating without being registered in Kenya after the NTSA, earlier in October, delayed its licence renewal. While the NTSA renewed Bolt’s licence, the drivers have demanded that Bolt register as a corporate company in Kenya. Wanjihia’s new role will bring her to the forefront of issues like this.
Bolt to give 10 Nigerian drivers €2,000 seed funding
Image source: YungNollywood
Buckle up, folks! Bolt will be selecting the top 10 finalists for its accelerator programme Den today. The finalists will each get €2,000 ($2,190) in seed funding.
The Den accelerator programme, in partnership with the Nest Innovation Park, was originally announced in September as an incentive for its Nigerian drivers. To compete, drivers had to submit business proposals that aligned with sustainable mobility solutions.
Last week, 20 drivers were shortlisted from five Nigerian cities—Abuja, Lagos, Kaduna, Kwara and Rivers The finalists will participate in a two-week boot camp, but only the top 10 will receive the €2,000 ($2,190) seed funding and access to a six-week business mentorship programme.
All shortlisted candidates will present their innovative ideas to a panel at the grand finale which is set for later today.
Bolt’s new vision: This initiative spotlights Bolt’s commitment to fostering innovation in sustainable transport. By empowering drivers to develop business plans aligned with Bolt’s Africa City Vision, the company aims to enhance mobility solutions in African cities.
The company should also be launching the Bolt Academy this month. The company says it partnered with Coursera to create an online training programme for Nigerian drivers where they can learn and develop business development skills.
Zoom out: This year, Bolt has deepened its commitment to its African drivers, hiring an African regional director as we’ve written above. It’s also opened driver engagement hubs in Kenya and Lagos to address driver concerns.
Nigeria’s Okada Books to cease operations after 10 years
Image source: Okada Books
Okada Books, a digital publishing and bookselling platform, will shut down on November 30 after 10 years in the Nigerian publishing industry.
CEO Okechukwu Ofili attributed the shutdown to the challenging macroeconomic conditions facing the enterprise. Okada Books’ closure poses a challenge for writers who rely on the platform for monetising their works. The platform claims to house a library of over 27,000 books and over 300,000 active readers who will now be forced to seek alternative avenues like Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing which is more expensive. The shutdown will also affect readers for whom Okada Books provides an affordable source of reading.
A ten-year read: Okada Books was launched in 2013 by writer Ofili to simplify the distribution and selling of books in Nigeria.
Recognising the hurdles faced by Nigerian writers in securing publishing contracts and the high costs associated with self-publishing, the platform sought to make self-publishing accessible and provided a direct avenue for authors to share their creations with readers and generate income from them. The platform was one of the 12 startups selected for Google’s Launchpad Accelerator Africa in 2017.
Side-bar: You’ve been hearing a lot of macroeconomic conditions so here’s what that means: Macroeconomic conditions refer to the broad economic factors such as inflation, employment, economic growth and overall stability that influence the overall performance of an economy.
Attend the Tek Experts Webinar
Tek Experts, a leading global provider of technical talent solutions through its cybersecurity brand, is set to hold a webinar themed “Ensuring Cybersecurity Resilience in Financial Services Companies in Nigeria”, to address cybersecurity challenges in the industry,
Date: Wednesday, 22nd November, 2023 at 12:30 WAT. To register for free, please click here.
Vodacom and WWF SA partner to protect Africa’s marine life using AI
Vodacom wants to usean AI-based warning system to protect sea life’s gentle giants: whales.
The telecom has teamed up with the Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in South Africa to protect marine mammals including whales from getting entangled in the ocean.
How? The initiative is currently undergoing a pilot phase in Saldanha Bay, north of Cape Town, where traditional fishing communities are struggling with problems caused by overfishing, pollution and climate change. As opposed to intensive fish farming, an environmentally friendly way farmers use to get seafood is by growing mussels on ropes in the sea. Even with this sustainable solution, whales are at risk of getting entangled in the rope-grown mussels.
A possible solution? Vodacom’s AI-based technology consists of cameras and hydrophones that serve as an early warning mechanism, alerting mussel farmers to whales in the area, and triggering an incident and emergency response protocol in case of entanglements. The system could also be used to gather scientific data by recording the movement of marine life and prevent ship strikes for other marine species like seals and dolphins.
Once the pilot project concludes in Saldanha Bay, Vodacom envisions expanding this innovative solution to other coastal areas and fisheries.
The World Wide Web3
* Data as of 22:55 PM WAT, November 20, 2023.
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Binance is in talks to pay $4 billion to settle its case with the US department of justice. Bloomberg reports that the negotiations include the possibility of founder Changpeng Zhao facing criminal charges in the US for charges of money laundering, bank fraud, and breaches of sanctions. In March, the CFTC accused Binance and Zhao of not registering as a digital asset company with the agency and avoiding regulatory oversight. It also accused Binance of breaking several US financial rules including those intended to prevent money laundering.
Crypto exchange Bullish is acquiring crypto website CoinDesk. The Wall Street Journal reports that the all-cash deal will ensure CoinDesk’s current management team will stay in place and that the publication will operate as an independent subsidiary within Bullish. CoinDesk will also launch an editorial committee to ensure journalistic independence.
- Applications are open for the Next Generation Social Sciences in Africa: Doctoral Dissertation Research fellowship 2024(up to $15,000). The Social Science Research Council offers fellowships to support the completion of doctoral degrees and to promote next-generation social science research in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda. The fellowships support dissertation research on peace, security, and development topics. Apply by February 11, 2024.
- The citizens of Commonwealth countries in Africa can now apply for the Commonwealth Africa Cyber Fellowship Programme 2024. Selected experts will serve as fellows for a year, and get exclusive access to academic research opportunities, networking events and annual conferences, with a focus on enhancing cybersecurity policies and institutions across Commonwealth countries in Africa. Apply by December 10.
- Applications are open for the Mastercard Foundations Scholars Program 2023/2024 at the Carnegie Melon University Africa. The program provides generous financial, social, and academic support for students whose talents and promise exceed their financial resources. Apply by January 15, 2024.
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