Innovation: Africa’s Great Leap Forward
In terms of innovation, Africa’s outlook is more positive than ever and the continent is leapfrogging its global counterparts in various sectors. The amplification of GDP growth in some parts of the continent (such as Nigeria) and the overall stability of African economies during the worrying economic downturn of recent years speak volumes for Africans’ determination to push the development agenda forward. However, there is still a long way to go.
According to the African Innovation Outlook of 2010, Africa suffers from a lack of an adequate, African-led, science, technology and innovation (STI) system of indicators in support of evidence-based policies. This was attributed to the continent’s use of traditional development approaches that ignored the role of measuring science and innovation activities in the socio-economic transformation of the continent. With such a deficit, it would be a challenge for job creation and poverty eradication to take place as R & D can be a great source of employment creation for Africa’s growing youth population. There is great need for Africa to find innovative solutions in order to curb issues of poverty and mass unemployment.
The Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA) is an initiative that was set up by the African Innovation Foundation (AIF) to honour and encourage innovative achievements that contribute toward developing new products, increasing efficiency or saving cost in Africa. Specifically, the award targets technological breakthroughs in such main concern areas as manufacturing and service industry, health and well-being, agriculture and agribusiness, environment, energy and water and ICTs. The IPA was launched with a mandate to reverse the STI deficit through the mobilization of leaders from all sectors to fuel African innovation across Africa in key sectors. This in turn promotes science, technology and engineering as a rewarding career path among African youth while encouraging entrepreneurs, innovators, funding bodies and business development service providers to exchange ideas and explore innovative business opportunities.
The prize targets innovations by Africans for Africa. Africans in the Diaspora are also given the opportunity to apply if their innovations will to make a significant impact on Africa. A cash prize of $100,000 USD is awarded to the best innovation overall, and the innovations with the best business potential and the best social impact receives $25,000 USD each respectively. This year, the IPA finalists are:
• Ashley Uys (South Africa)
OculusID Impairment Screening
The OculusID Impairment Screening device is designed to measure pupil response to light emissions. The pupil response can then be measured against pre-determined benchmarks. These benchmarks are applied to measure substance abuse, physiological defects and even fatigue. The device is a far less invasive procedure than existing methods.
• Daniel Gitau Thairu (Kenya)
Domestic Waste Biogas System
The Domestic Waste Biogas System is a new type of biogas digester which utilizes any material capable of decomposing instead of relying on animal dung to generate gas. Materials that can be used include dirty water, leftover food, spoiled grain, and vegetable and fruit peelings. This makes biogas usable even by households that cannot afford animals.
• Elise Rasel Cloete (South Africa)
GMP Traceability Management Software CC
This software is programmed to capture, store and trace data about livestock and enables data to be captured in real-time. The data is then stored in an ear tag placed on livestock and backed up on a remote server.
• Joshua Okello (Uganda)
This innovation is a low-cost mobile phone based antenatal diagnosis kit that captures foetal heart beat sounds and provides diagnosis which is sent to the mother through SMS. The data can also be uploaded to cloud storage.
• Logou Minsob (Togo)
This is a device designed to replace the mortar and pestles used in preparing the popular West African dish, foufou. The “FOUFOUMIX " is a small electrical food processor that allows generates discreet, quick and hygienic foufou in 8 minutes, substantially reducing the amount of time needed to prepare the dish, while also enhancing the hygienic conditions during production.
• Dr. Nicolaas Duneas and Duarte Nuno Ferreira Pires (South Africa)
Altis Osteogenic Bone Matrix (Altis OBM™)
Altis OBM is the world’s first injectable bone-graft product containing a complex mix of various bone growth compounds derived from porcine (pig). It is used to stimulate the host’s own tissue regeneration system in a way that leads to the healing of a fracture or bone void, much in the same way as occurs in a normal unassisted fracture healing processes.
• Maman Abdou Kane (Niger)
Horticultural tele irrigation
The "Horticultural Tele-Irrigation system is a technological process that allows growers to remotely control their market garden irrigation system through a mobile or landline regardless of geographic location.
• Melesse Temesgen (Ethiopia)
The Aybar BBM is a low-cost farming device that can be used by farmers to plough fields that are usually waterlogged and helps them easily drain the water. This turns soils or fields that were otherwise unavailable for farming into high yielding fields.
• Sulaiman Bolarinde Famro (Nigeria)
Farmking Mobile Multi-crop Processor
The innovation uses centrifugal forces to process cassava, sweet potatoes, soy, she-nuts, grains and cereals. It helps to separate the tubers from liquid, particles and impurities/toxic elements. The extractor is designed to replace the present crude fermentation and pressing technology which is extremely slow and wasteful and offers limited output and profitability. The extractor reduces a process that normally takes 3 - 4 days into a 5 minute process offering higher quality product outputs.
• Viness Pillay (South Africa)
WaferMatTM is a tasty paediatric formulation of ARV therapy in the form of a wafer that dissolves within 3 seconds of being placed in the mouth. The wafer makes the process of administering the drug to children easier and also makes absorption more efficient.
The winners of the IPA 2014 will be announced at an awards ceremony on 5 May in Abuja, Nigeria, where keynote speaker, the Honourable Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Nigeria’s Minister of finance, will highlight the importance of innovation to unlock Africa’s potential for sustainable development and economic growth. This will coincide with the 2014 World Economic Forum on Africa which will champion the theme ‘Forging Inclusive Growth, Creating Jobs.’ As Jean Claude Bastos de Morais, AIF Founder, explains: “Fuelling innovation and investing in people’s potential to create their own wealth is, in my view, a key driver of global development, As global leaders gather for the World Economic Forum on Africa to discuss approaches to deliver on Africa’s promise, these innovators demonstrate that the best way to build Africa’s capacity is to invest in local innovation and entrepreneurship.” With appropriate structures being established by initiatives such as the IPA and Innovation Hubs being set up all over the continent, a brighter outlook towards building up a spirit of entrepreneurship, poverty eradication and job creation through innovation can be fostered.