Tech

Over 20 innovative solutions for Africans’ hardships unveiled

Search for ways for spreading them widely has begun

TUESDAY April 26, 2022

PHOTO | ALCOR FUND

By Tranquility News Reporter, Tanzania

Over 20 prototypes that respond to various community and industrial needs are up for grabs to investors to develop them into large-scale goods and services.

Innovators from Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology (NM-AIST) displayed the innovative solutions that are ready for commercialisation at Gran Melia Hotel in Arusha, Tanzania, recently.

The prototypes included of biogas stoves, animal grazing system, fish feed, leather turning, digital application system, botanical biopesticides, water filter, waste management system and smart card for water sale.

Others were of an automated surgical gown, smart ugalicooker, navigation system for the blinds, automatic fare metering system for motorcycles (bodaboda) and tricycles (tuk tuk), smart industrial electrical energy analytics and forecasting system, dry system machine, and electric vehicles.

The East African Business Council (EABC) and the NM-AIST had jointly organised the first Academic-Public-Private Partnership (APPP) Forum and Exhibition which brought together over 120 innovators, investors and financial institutions from across the region.

The East African Community (EAC) Secretary General, Dr Peter Mathuki (Left), presents a flag of the community to President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo to mark the launch of the verification mission on DRC admission into the bloc mid last year. Dr Mathuki says the DRC admission into EAC expands the vast endowment of natural resources, calling on academic institutions to build skills and knowledge of young professionals in research, innovation, science and technology in order to benefit from the natural resources and improve the livelihoods of East Africans. PHOTO | FILE

Officiating at the forum and exhibition, the East African Community (EAC) Secretary General, Dr Peter Mathuki, was optimistic that deliberate investment in higher education and research would yield fruitful growth in the community.

Dr Mathuki observed that East Africa had to build skills and capacities in Information and Communication Technology and innovation among young professionals for them to exploit abundant natural resource the region is endowed with.

“It’s unfortunate that such resources remain untapped due to combined factors, including lack of conducive environment at both national and regional levels,” Dr Mathuki said in a speech read on his behalf by Ms Flavian Busingye, the EAC Director of Customs, stressing: “This can be realised through the APPP.”

Limited and fragmented national markets were creating constraints for realisation of economies of scale, he said, enumerating other gaps in need of skills and technological know-how as production information, infrastructure, inadequate investments, maintenance of existing road network to reduce transaction costs and inadequate energy production.

The region is also challenged by lack of specialised skills and knowledge in emerging technology fields, including biotechnology and material science which lead to shortages in the industrial sector.

Growing up in rural Tanzania, Professor Askwar Hilonga (sipping water) suffered from waterborne diseases throughout his childhood. He used his scientific expertise in nanotechnology and his local knowledge to develop a filter based on nano materials. The low-cost and sustainable water purification system dubbed Nanofilter is particularly suited to the needs of local people in Tanzania and Africa. PHOTO | COMMONWEALTH INNOVATION

“At the secretariat, we have an internship programme for graduates,” said Dr Mathuki, stressing that the APPP should also consider engaging university graduates for them to use facilities of the industries.

The NM-AIST Vice Chancellor, Professor Emmanuel Luoga, said the research-based university and technology producer was building strong relationships with the private sector in a bid to share its benefits with the society and eventually attain the ‘sustainable Africa we want’.

One of the exhibitors, Professor Askwar Hilonga, said the Tanzania government had acknowledged that the water filter he invented at NM-AIST had contributed to the decrease of waterborne diseases by 42.9 per cent in Arusha alone.

“My mission is to become a millionaire not in terms of cash only, but also in saving millions of lives,” said Prof Hilonga, explaining that WHO had admitted when certifying the low-cost water filter dubbed Nanofilter that it performed at 99.999 per cent.

Prof Hilonga said Compassion International had just ordered 4,600 water filters worth Sh1.2 billion (about $44 million). “We are also signing a contract to supply filters to the Kenyan market. The filter is already in Zambia where we have opened an office,” he explained.

He pleaded with the government to consider supplying the water filters locally manufactured at A to Z Textile Mills in Arusha at learning institutions and health facilities in a bid to further cut down waterborne diseases in the country.

Mr Moses Kanyesigye, the YouLead Africa Regional Coordinator of Youth in Trade, Business and Entrepreneur, says competition compels an innovator to create more prototypes and quality products. PHOTO | YOULEAD AFRICA

Mr Moses Kanyesigye, the YouLead Africa Regional Coordinator of Youth in Trade, Business and Entrepreneur based at MS-Training Centre for Development Cooperation in Arusha, advised the NM-AIST innovators to target the continental market for their products to enjoy the principle of the rule of origin.

“You will not pay tax when you are sending your shoes to Uganda. The knowledge gap you need is on how you can move to Uganda without barriers,” he said.

Had the NM-AIST students teamed up as one innovator and pitched one proposal, they could attract a capital of up to $5 million from USAID, he hinted.

“Don’t fear competition, it makes you innovate more and have quality products,” said Mr Kanyesigye as he challenged organisers of the next forum and exhibition to engage ministers to listen to challenges facing the young entrepreneurs.

Mr John Mongela, the Arusha Regional Commissioner, urged the NM-AIST and EABC to organise the forum and exhibition annually and to extend it to other regions.

The Arusha Regional Commissioner, Mr John Mongela, stresses a point during a past event. PHOTO | FILE

Mr Mongela said the promotion of science, technology and innovation was an essential ingredient for driving industrialisation, sustainable development and solving emerging challenges such as climate change and unemployment.

“The government has set competitive policies to support strong, diversified, competitive and resilient economy which can effectively cope with challenges on development and easily and confidently adapt to the changing markets and technological conditions in the regional and global economy.

The African Development Bank, WISE-Futures, Centre for Research, Agricultural Advancement, KCB Bank Tanzania, Hanspaul Industries Limited, E-Motion Africa Limited, TAHA Group and A to Za Textile Mills funded the forum and exhibitionΩ

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