Yesterday, 12th April 2018, I sat in the audience of the Seedstars Summit filled with pride. After a few days of activities, the grande finale showcased Seedstars’ best innovations of the year. Over the course of the year, the Seedstars team, who are positioned in emerging markets around the world, search for the best innovations and start-ups. With over a 1000 applicants, they take the time to whittle them down to 65 finalists, of whom 12 would compete on the final day in a live pitching competition on the main stage.
Of the 12 live pitchers, 4 were from Africa, the highest proportion from any region. The African innovators to take to the stage were the Nigerian medication marketplace Medsaf, GiftedMom, a health information platform from Cameroon (Who we have featured on the blog previously), EMGuidance a South African medical content aggregator, and Ghanaian agricultural platform, Agrocenta. With a huge number of African innovators, and participants at the Seedstars Summit, each African speaker got a huge cheer welcoming them onto stage.
Teaching is an amazing field that I loved working in. The chubby smiles and faces with sparkling eyes full of hope staring at you everyday. It takes a heart that cares to transform lives no matter what the circumstances are. I recall some of the personal experiences that touched my heart every year with some of my students. Every day after extra lessons we would unintentionally find ourselves talking about issuesthat troubled them internally. Listening to their struggles and assisting in any way we knew giving the students hope to hold on.
I found myself being a counsellor, a listener and mentor without qualifications. One outstanding matric class of 2012 still amazes me. Most of my students came from very poor backgrounds and were struggling a lot with fees, but Of all 3 matric classes we had, they were the best in all subjects, includingmathematics, english and science. No one can imagine the joy, pride and excitement I felt every prize giving day for that year.
Exam time came and we had 53 bachelors out of 70 students that were set for exams. Sadly, only 15 of the 53 managed to make it to university. The rest could not afford university fees and neither could their families. Had I a blossoming bank account, I would have wiped all their sorrows away an helped them with their fees. .Alas I was just their humble teacher had nothing but myself to offer and echoes of my comforting words sinking deep in their hearts. None of them ever saw university doors.With a heavy heart I still keep touch with some of them. In different directions where they shouldn’t be life has taken them. The guilt I carry every time I see them rips me apart.”Is that all I could do” I still ask my self.Continue reading “Did You Know you can now easily get scholarships in Africa?”→
Our previous two blogs featured the Next Einstein Forum, which took place in March. The event seeks to promote African scientific excellence to the rest of the world, and to find the next brilliant scientists and mathematicians from the continent. It is such an exciting and important initiative, that this blog will be the third in the series of blogs about this year’ NEF. We will once again feature some of our favourite innovations from the Challenge of Invention to Innovation (Ci2i), an innovation challenge that shortlisted 16 finalists from over 130 entrants.
For a general overview of the happenings of the event, including the inauguration of a new African scientific journal, and our thoughts on why it is such an important theme, you can check out this blog. Do see other featured innovations from the Ci2i, see this blog
Molepse Bio oil/powder
We say it often, but it important to note that agriculture forms the backbone of many African economies, and, whilst there are often other greater sources of income, farming is vitally important. If it is not supported and developed, then the African continent will continue to rely on food imports. With the available land, this is simply not necessary, if the sector is managed properly.
Part of the process of ensuring that farms maximise their yields, and send a maximum amount to market, is to make sure that crops are stored properly after harvest. Post harvest losses are one of the major reasons for food insecurity. If Weevils enter a crop they can completely decimate it, so farmers need to take measure to protect against this. After four years of research, Donatus Njoroge of Kenya found the perfect mix of locally growing weeds, which are then mixed and turned into oil or powder. This has been found to be extremely effective by local farmers to repel major insect pests, such a Weevils. Farmers were able to store their maize for 6 months, which means it can reach until the next season.
Apart from being a natural product (and it is important to create natural products) another reason that they are more effective than artificial pesticides is that different pests effect different crop types. Molepse was effective with all types of pests. The affordability, as well as the fact that is natural, could change the fortunes of many farmers across the region.
Rachel Sibande, from Malawi, is already a renowned African innovator. Some may even call her an innovation celebrity! In 2013 she established the first innovation, mHub, in Malawi. She has also won various other awards, including one from Google.
At this years NEF, she showcased her idea to use Maize cobs as a bio fuel. Up cycling has been quite popular world wide, and finding new uses for waste products takes that to a new level, especially in the energy sector. Maize is a staple food throughout much of the continent, and therefore that an millions of cobs available, which usually go to waste. Sibande plans to use the to run a gasifier based electrical system, which will be able to be utilised by local communities, schools, health centres and local businesses for their energy needs. It is not only power which will be generated, rather like Ecovon, they will create new building materials from the ashes from the power system, to create cheap housing, as well as boosting employment.
Sibande’s innovation is upcycling upcycling! Power is a problem in many communities, as are building sustainable affordable housing. She is solving the problem by using a waste product that is found all over the continent. This rising star of African innovation will continue to find herself in the limelight with this idea, and surely many more! In fact, she was the winner of the NEF Ci2i, and it is clear that she is great supporter of other women in technology. In her winning speech she said “This is for the daughters of the continent. May they thrive in science to innovate and invent more home grown solutions.” Amen to that!
Education is a big development issue across the continent. Access to schools is for many a major problem. Parents often require their children to help them out with work, or perform many other tasks, many have to walk long distances to school and others simply can’t afford to attend. Within schools there can be other hurdles to jump over. I have seen on occasions sub standard teachers, inappropriate learning environments, and a distinct lack of access to information. And, if there are not things for children to read, they will struggle with basic written and verbal communication, and fail to learn other things.
There are a number of services in Africa that aim to give better access to information for students. But few of them are accessible in local languages with English and French the go to languages. But that also leaves the issue of a cultural disconnect, because local dialect is as important as learning a more widely spoken one. Hadithi! Hadithi!, created by eLimu, is a literacy app for 6 to 8 year olds, which contains stories written in local languages, by local teachers. Languages from Kenya, Uganda, Somalia and South Sudan are currently being used to help young students read and learn. The application covers the local curricula, and contains sentence making, spelling, letter tracing and games.
eLimu also have a number of other products aimed at other age groups. They also help train teachers to integrate technology into schools, and have revision help for students, with past papers and notes accessible online.
In 2020 NEF will have its next edition in Kenya, but in the mean time they will continue to support the best of the best in Africa to become the world’s next generation of scientific excellence. Keep your eyes open for more African scientific break throughs, that now have a platform to tell the world.
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Last week the Next Einstein Forum took place in Nairobi, which brought together some of the greatest minds in Africa, scientists as well as business leaders, to promote African scientific excellence, as encourage the future of Africa’s mathematical and scientific sector. For a general overview of the happenings of the event, including the inauguration of a new African scientific journal, and our thoughts on why it is such an important theme, you can check out the previous blog.
The Next Einstein Forum, like many African events currently, also promote innovation specific innovations from the African continent. Each time they hold the event, they choose 16 finalists, from over 100 applicants, who feature at the event. This time around was the second edition of the Challenge of Invention to Innovation (Ci2i). According Mr. Thierry Zomahoun, President and CEO of AIMS and Founder and Chair of Next Einstein Forum to “The NEF Ci2i challenge rewards research based innovations and products that have a direct impact on our communities. The selected finalists’ innovations address climate change, various health challenges and push the envelope by proposing new data science or advanced (deep tech) technologies.”
In this blog we showcase a few of our favourite finalists! (But of course, all of them have fantastic innovations that could shape Africa)
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.
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.
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 Continue reading “Did You Know Nairobi is showcasing 100 innovative Start-ups?”→
All of last week we were at the Co-Willing conference, situated on Africa’s best beach, Diani beach. But the time came for us to pack our bags and leave paradise, and a conference which has enhanced enthusiasm, and provided great inspiration from great presentations on a wide range of topics such as solar, bee keeping, education systems, health, and even campaigning advice!
But whilst other packed up to go home, I couldn’t leave Kenya without heading to Nairobi, though of by many as the innovation capital of Africa. The journey was a long one, using the incredibly efficient train service between Mombasa and Nairobi, but eventually I ended up at the University of Nairobi, in the C4D lab to speak to the Nairobi Innovation week team. A year ago we wrote about their 2016 edition, so it was amazing to be there a year later to see what they are doing!
The Nairobi Innovation Week is one of the most exciting events in the African innovation calendar. They bring together people from all sectors, public and private, NGOs, startups, you name it. The exciting new ideas, created mainly by Kenyans, but also from around the East African region, will be showcased throughout the week. There will also be an award for the 15 most promising innovations, which usually shows some of the trends for the coming year. There is still a chance to sign up, so check out their site and showcase your innovations! This years theme is “Innovating for a Better Tomorrow”.
I was fortunate enough to be able to interview the Chairman of NIW, Dr Tonny Omwansa. Check out what he has to say about the NIW and his view on the innovation trends of 2018 below. (Please excuse my mispronunciation of Nairobi through out the interview! It really was a long day!)
Thank you to NIW, Dr Omwansa and George Masila, the communications officer, for hosting us at the NIW offices. We are still in Kenya, so please get in contact if you want to talk to us about your innovations. Just reach out to us on email@example.com
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Another year is already over, and it has been an exciting one! As Christmas approaches, and 2018 peaks its head over the horizon, it is time to look back on 2017 and enjoy the innovative gifts that it has brought us from Africa!
The innovative African year has followed the expected trends with Fintech, Agriculture, health, education and renewable energy all receiving a lot of attention from Africa’s creative minds. It has also been a year in which innovation awards, and summits focussing on the topic of innovation in Africa have been very popular, and have also made a difference to many Start-ups in Africa; offering them funding, technical and business support to help develop their innovations to become world beaters.