Saturday, October 24, 2020

Botswana readies to celebrate African innovation ingenuity

Preparations for the prestigious Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA) awards scheduled to take place on June 22-23 at Gaborone International Convention Centre (GICC) are at an advanced stage.

Addressing journalists during a press briefing at BIH last week Friday, Director of Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA), Pauline Mujawamariya Koelbi said the competition has attracted 6000 competitors from 50 African countries since 2011. This year’s event attracted 900 competitors from which ten finalists were nominated. 

“Out of the ten finalists four are from South Africa, three from Nigeria while Kenya, Egypt and Benin each have one,” she said.

She said the fact that Botswana as a host does not have even one nominee does not mean that Batswana are not innovative. Rather, she said nominees’ work impressed the jurors more. Themed, “Made in Africa”, this IPA premier innovation initiative in the African continent, offers a grand share price of US$150 000 and incentives to spur growth and prosperity in Africa through home-grown solutions.

Koelbi said June 22nd, which is the first day of the awards, will be focused on building capacity for competitors as they will have the opportunity to mingle and discuss business. There will also be a press conference where a video documentary on the history of the event will be shown. Also on the same day, innovators will be given time to present on their innovations and be introduced to intellectual property rights. Lawyers might also be there and pro bono services might be discussed.

On the 23rd, which is the last day of the awards, Koelbi said an innovation village will be set up where traditional food will be served at the kgotla. He also said there will be story telling at the kgotla.

Prior to the announcement of the winner, an expert panel will deliberate through live pitching sessions and one-on-one assessments with each nominee. 

All nominees have various remarkable projects which cover different fields. Nigerian Dr. Eddy Agbo invented the Urine Test for Malaria (UMT). UMT is a rapid non-blood diagnostic medical device that can diagnose malaria in less than 25 minutes.  UMT uses a dip-stick with accurate results in just 25 minutes. 

Beninian, Valentin Agon, invented Api-Palu an anti-malaria drug treatment developed out of natural plant extract. It is significantly cheaper than available anti-malarial drugs.

Dr. Imogen Wright of South Africa innovated Exatype; a software solution that enables healthcare workers to determine HIV positive patients’ responsiveness to ARV drug treatment. According to WHO, 71% of people living with HIV/AIDS reside in Africa.

Dr. Kit Vaughan, also from South Africa innovated Aceso; an imaging technology, capable of performing full-field digital mammography and automated breast ultrasound at the same time, dramatically improving breast cancer detection. 

Egyptian Dr. Youssef Rashed innovated The Plate Package (PLPAK) a robust software solution that assesses the architecture of building plans or technical drawings, determining structural integrity of the end design. PLPAK applies the boundary element based method to analyse and view practical design on building foundations and slabs.

Nigeria’s Olufemi Odeleye invented The Tryctor; a mini tractor modelled on the motorcycle. By attaching various farming implements, it can carry out similar operations as a conventional tractor to a smaller scale. 

Yet another Nigerian, Godwin Benson, invented Tuteria; an innovative peer-to-peer learning online platform that allows people who want to learn any skill, whether formal or informal, to connect with anyone else in proximity who is offering that skill. 

Samuel Rigu from Kenya has innovated Safi Sarvi Organics; a low-cost fertiliser made from purely organic products and waste from farm harvests, designed to improve yields for farmers by up to 30%.

Andre Nel a South African innovator has innovated Green Tower; an off-grid water heating and air conditioning solution based on solar power that uses advanced thermos-dynamics to create up to 90% savings in electricity consumption.  Water heating and air conditioning systems can account for up to 60% of energy consumption in a home or building. 

Yet another South African innovator, Johan Theron innovated Power Guard; which enables consumers to determine the maximum amount of power supply required for daily operations. Consumers can thus reduce their power demand, especially during peak times, leading to a more efficient power supply, and helping to reduce power cuts.

BIH Public Relations Manager, Tigele Mokobi highlighted that the initiative encourages grassroots innovations. He said they have gone through the length and breathe of the country, covering both rural and urban centres motivating people to showcase their innovations. He emphasised that even indigenous knowledge is promoted because it has to be documented lest some people from elsewhere start documenting it first and then claim it to be theirs.

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