I am not sure how I missed this, but last week, the 2nd Nairobi Innovation Week took place at the University of Nairobi. The event showcases innovations in Kenya, creates a platform for innovation to be promoted and also encourages innovation policy discussion.

The event was also attended by President Kenyatta, who has increased funding for innovation to the University of Nairobi by $1 million, in order to support innovators and universities in pushing innovation in Kenya. More governments need to step up and support the development of the tech and innovations sector in Africa.

“I remain encouraged by the innovative initiatives being undertaken by the University of Nairobi. This University has remained true to its status, being our oldest and most distinguished institution of higher learning,” Kenyatta said.

This year there were some really clever innovations and inventions showcased at the event, which really capture what I have been trying to say about Africa’s innovation potential. African solutions for African problems really shined through.

One innovation that was most acclaimed was the airtime app, Ocharge. Many of us in the Europe and America no longer use a pay as you go contract, but in Africa, topping up the phone is till a daily task. Ocharge enables users to top up from their phone and receive rewards for doing so. Points are received for every top up and those can be used to redeem special offers at restaurants, cinema’s, travel agents and many more.  Incentivising mobile customers in Africa is not a new thing. Many network providers offer deals such as free calls after midnight, or a free phone call after every 2 phone calls, but this is the first incentive scheme that I have seen offering non mobile related rewards.

The dangers of fuel leaks are a major problem, which can cost people financially and physically. George Fundi has invented a solution which detects liquid petroleum gas leaks. The sensor will  set off an alarm when it detects a leak, potentially saving lives and also saving financial losses. This invention could be commercially but will be most useful in households, which often use LPG as cooking gas.

Liquid petroleum gas sensor
George Fundi and his LPG sensor (photo- James Kariuki, Nation Media Group)

Another sensor based innovation was the mobile phone signal detector invented by Ambrose Mwango. The sensor can be installed in prisons to detect mobile phones, which are apparently being used to allow gang leaders to run their businesses from inside the prison. The detector alerts anytime a phone is used to make or receive a phonecall or text message. This is an example of tech coming out of Africa that can be scaled and used anywhere in the world.

One of my favourite innovations is Eneza Education.  Eneza is a system to enable Africans to access education. They already have over 800,000 learners across the continent who are able to access courses and assessments and interact with live instructors. Eneza is enabling children from all kinds of backgrounds to access much needed education. From the cities to war zones, children are getting education that they didn’t previously have access to. Life changing!

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Solar powered lawn mower (Photo -James Kariuki)

Another cool invention is the solar powered lawnmower. In the last month I have spoken a lot about solar power (the Kayoola solar bus in Uganda and the Solar Sisters) and this is another invention that fights against lack of energy. This lawnmower is less than half the price of a normal lawnmower, coming in at $200, and will enable a more cost effective and quiet way of mowing ones lawns. Innovations like this, that bing down the price of purchasing and usage enables more individuals to access them and use them for work. The machine was presented by Mr Wamalwa, who was their on behalf of his students from Sangalo Technical Training Institute.

The NIW is a great example of how well funded tech companies and individuals with small invention come together and both be excited. This event saw the likes of IMB and Safaricom, big tech firms, mix with Mr Wamalwa and his Sangalo students. Inspiring the next inventors and designers, who are key to the future of Africa.

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Newspaper pencils!

Other innovations included Jazani, a data collection tool that uses the internet and mobile phones to collect its data, Wabcom, the best performing M-pesa dealer and Green Pencils Ltd., who use old newspaper instead of wood to make eco-friendly pencils. I heard also of a generator that powers itself that was showcased, but I can not find any further information on this. Does any one know anything more?

I am searching for a list of all the innovations at NIW. If you know of any more, please let me know on Twitter and don’t forget to like and share this post!


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