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Wednesday, May 25, 2022

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An easily disguised GBV app to help women in distress

Avalon chief executive and Afri-Tec founder, AB Moosa, shows the Afri-Tec Alert that operates off a smartphone and can be independently activated by a panic button or smartphone. Supplied image.

Avalon chief executive and Afri-Tec founder, AB Moosa, shows the Afri-Tec Alert that operates off a smartphone and can be independently activated by a panic button or smartphone. Supplied image.

Published Dec 11, 2021


Johannesburg - At a time when women remain at risk of physical and sexual assault, kidnapping and even death, a South African entrepreneur has come up with a solution, which he hopes will shift the balance back in their favour.

AB Moosa and his team have designed a unique smartphone-based app. Known as Afri-Tec Alert, it’s premised on the user’s circle of family and friends, who are instantly alerted if there is any problem – even if it’s only the user arriving late at the destination they said they were going to.

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The second innovation is the development of a panic button that can be carried as a button or incorporated into a smartwatch. When the panic function is activated, the tracking device is activated allowing the circle to raise the alarm for law enforcement and climb into their own vehicles to physically give help too.

Moosa, a Henley MBA graduate, better known as chief executive of the Avalon Group, the internationally acclaimed independent film exhibitor and distributor that his grandfather co-founded more than 80 years ago, is a believer in technology as a disruptor. He formed Afri-Tec five years ago, in tandem with the Empire Partner Foundation, as part of his belief that technology can be used as a force for good in the right context.

“We believe that many of the challenges that face South Africa and the world can be solved through tech,” he says.

Every month, the two organisations host a weekend hackathon.

“We bring together techies and disrupters and we give them a challenge each month, whether it be around healthcare, safety or payment solutions among others. They have from Saturday to Sunday to come up with a solution which they then present to experts in that field. The foundation gives the winning team funding to develop it, and works with them to find out if there is an opportunity to get someone to invest in it,” Moosa explains.

“As part of that vision, crime and safety was a big challenge that we wanted to address, especially gender-based violence.”

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The app, which has been two-and-a-half years in development, is now available on Android, IOS and Huawei platforms. It’s simple to use in every aspect and it can also be disguised as an ordinary app, which is especially important in situations where the person is a victim of domestic violence and their partner is highly suspicious of their behaviour and very controlling.

The app allows for a range of detail to be loaded onto it; the registration, make and colour of your car, as well as your tracking company if you have one, in the case of hijacking. It can hold your medical details, medical aid and name of your doctor. Friends on your alert list can even see the battery level in your phone. The alert also allows you to post a quick voice message, in case you can’t type.

“You can put in whatever details would be relevant in a potential emergency situation, given that you won’t be able to remember everything offhand when it happens, nor will your circle know this information.

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“It’s about acting as quickly as possible and providing in an easily accessible manner as much information on hand as possible, once there’s an alert,” says Moosa.

Sometimes you don’t even to activate an alert; if you haven’t arrived at the end of your journey and confirmed this to your friends by a certain time, the alert will trigger itself. The app also allows the user to take photos or videos of a crime or accident scene and make a report, which you can then file or submit to the relevant people.

The importance of the panic button is that because these operate on radio frequencies, its signal cannot be jammed, plus there is 90% RF coverage of populated areas in the country.

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The app is also useful for emergencies which haven’t evolved into full-blown crises, like finding the nearest police station or hospital and has on board resources on what to do if you are a victim of crime, sexual assault or gender-based violence, with quick dial buttons to contact specialist help.

“I’ve been a brand ambassador for an NGO called the Advice Desk of the Abused, dealing with gender-based violence for 15 years, so this is something that is close to my heart. The reason we have added all these resources is because things can escalate very quickly and if you don’t have a safety plan, they can spiral out of control,” says Moosa.

“On our specific GBV button, when you press it, we have five key pre-populated messages to choose from which were provided by gender-based violence organisations. This then sends out your respective chosen message to your circle who will get the alert along with your current live location,” he explains.

In addition, your phone number will be linked with a shortcut for your circle to be able to call you and check your status. Afri-Tec and the Empire Foundation are now engaging with corporates to partner with them to roll out the service nationwide, and perhaps even globally.

“This is not a business to consumer model, but rather a business-to-business proposition, because we don’t believe victims of gender-based violence should be the ones paying for their own protection. We are looking at companies who want to commit their CSI budget to a project like this in tandem with our foundation, which will give them section 18 benefits and which we can then roll out to the necessary NGOs working in this space to ensure that the people who need this app most get it.”

Henley Africa dean and director Jon Foster-Pedley is immensely proud of Moosa and excited about the Afri-Tec Alert app.

“We always pride ourselves on building the leaders who build the business that will build Africa. In AB, we’ve got someone who is not just an industry leader in film and entertainment in southern Africa, but also a tech fundi too. What’s really important is his deep-seated belief in the use of technology to change lives for the better, and in particular solve South African problems.

“AB’s a wonderful ambassador for Henley Africa. He’s a true lodestar for our other MBA students and graduates. I have no doubt that this app is going to be a real game-changer in the battle to empower women in the war against gender-based violence, and I really hope that he will get the support from corporate South Africa that this project deserves.”

The Saturday Star