You may remember that during my trip to Kenya I paid a visit to the Nairobi Innovation Week (NIW) offices to speak to Dr Omwansa about the event and his thoughts on the future of innovation. (If you have not seen the video you can check it out here. It is very interesting) Now we have seamlessly slipped into March, with the year running away from us already, but, no fear this is a good month. The NIW will jump into action on the 5th of March and will showcase the future innovators that will drive Kenya forward. Kenya is hellbent on taking an innovative lead in Africa, and this event is part of that process.

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A couple of days ago the NIW announced a shortlist of 100 start-ups shortlist of 100 start ups that would be featured during the course of the week. With over 350 entries it must have been hard work whittling them down, and that hard work is not over. Each start-up will pitch, and will again be cut down to the 15 most promising. As usual, we will pick a few that have caught our attention and feature them here.

The Usalama Application

During my time in Kenya, I was often warned that I shouldn’t go to certain places because of safety concerns. Of course, because of curiosity, I tried my best to go to most of those places or events despite the risk. (It is no fun to just sit in a sterilised hotel room!) But of course, safety is a real concern for many, and not just in Kenya! Major cities across the world all have areas in which it may not be safe to go. As a traveller, I did not have the number of the emergency services in mind, (and even sitting here, I don’t have my local emergency number in mind) which would have caused problems if I was to get into any kind of trouble.

Usalama is a fantastic solution for this! Their application enables you to contact the emergency services and an emergency contact, with no hassle and no time wasted. With just a shake of your phone the app opens and you can select from a list of options, including burglar, road rescue, ambulance, or even armed robber. It will then send a message to the emergency services and emergency contact, detailing the issue and offering a location. The app is very well thought out, and enables discreet opening, just by shaking. For circumstances like armed robbery, there may need to be an even more discreet way of informing others, and even a record and track function built into the app automatically if a certain button is pressed.

Majik Water

Water is life and without it, everything becomes a struggle. In Cape Town currently, they know exactly those struggles, with the city completely running out of water. Despite water saving measures, which some have no kept to, the dam has run dry, and now even simple human rights like being able to wash yourself is becoming a problem.

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Majik Water prototype

Majik Water have come up with a solution for all communities that experience water shortages. Across the world so many go without access to drinking water. Images from the 80s in East Africa may spring to mind, but it is not just those devastating droughts which are the issue. Many are collecting their water from unsafe sources, causing disease in the community. But, if there is air, there is water, according to Majic Water.

They are remarkably generating 10 waters a day with a small off grid solution using hydrophilic material. After searching for optimum materials that could capture the water. They settled on desiccant materials, which are sponge like and began to have immediate success. They have proven that the system works, and can now go on to scale it out to needy communities. A litre of water will work out at less then $0.01, which will completely democratise water throughout the world. In a time where climate change is threatening even more droughts, this is an incredible solution.


Farmers do not have it easy anywhere in the world. They have to combat sometimes unpredictable weather and potential disease, which can impact yields and selling price of produce. They have to draw on experience and the experience of others, as well as watching what is happening to the farms of other during a season, in order to make sure that their land performs as efficiently as possible, and that isn’t always easy. Especially as many farmers across Africa do not have access to up to date information, or knowledge of new farming practices.

SmartSHAMBA aims to at least help farmers a little to maintain their farms, by collecting reams of location specific data, which is stored in an agricultural data warehouse, which can be analysed and sent out to farmers with information specific to their crop, in a location, and a particular time of the season. For example they may receive weather information and pesticide prediction and advice on other farm inputs. This will enable farmers to implement better planning, utilise the right tools, methods and inputs and increase their yield.

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This will all help strengthen the agricultural sector throughout Africa, so that less reliance can be placed on food imports, as it is currently. Farmers also need to be able to coordinate with others, in order to make sure that their is a steady supply of the staple foods, and not a glut, or shortage. It is also important for their to be a better processing culture across the continent, so if there is a glut, products can be repackaged and stored, or used in other products.

The Nairobi Innovation Week will begin on Monday the 5th of March, and is well worth a visit. The event will inspire many others in Nairobi, and across Kenya to continue to follow their innovative dreams and create solutions to African problems.

If you know of any innovations in Africa, an innovation that is changing lives, or you also want to be a guest blogger, get in contact with us on Twitter @inventiveAfrica or via email. Please share the blog with your network on Twitter and Facebook.

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