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)
Farming is a science, and it certainly won’t be as successful as you would like with simple guess work. I can attest to this with my failed farm experiment in Ghana, in which the soil and rainfall just was not suited to Jatropha, a so called wonder crop, that was not wonderful at all! Often farmers in Africa use experience to inform themselves as to what to plant when and how, and although this is useful knowledge to have, it doesn’t provide the accuracy to guarantee a successful farm.
UjuziKilimo, from Kenya, use sensors to do record data from farms, including on the soil, so that farmers may inform themselves easier on what kind of fertiliser and seeds to use, as well as expected weather and best practices. Farms are often unique in their circumstances, and definitely change between regions. By compiling a comprehensive data library, UjuziKilimo are able to gain insights through Machine Learning and data analytics, to make sure that farmers get the right information at the right moment.
This will also enable small African farms to mitigate against climate change, which is especially effecting farmers in Eastern and Southern Africa. Farmers receive information via text message, and are then able to share the message on to other farmers. Farming is the backbone of most African economies, and should continue to be developed to hold up economies. Too many countries rely upon imports, but Africa has the land to be the bread basket of the world. Apps that support farmers to develop their farms will help achieve this.
Sustainability is at the heart of much of the worlds conversation on innovation. The Sustainable Development Goals have given the world a guidelines on what they need to achieve in the coming years, and changed can be made in any field. (If you country wants to make a change they can use this really cool tool to know what changes effect what!)
Building is not often thought of when talking about sustainability, but Ecovon see it differently, and believe there can be major changes made in building materials we use today. Building in Africa has often been done using sustainable materials. Everyone will probably have the image of an African rural house, built using mud or clay in their head, and yes, still to this day there are lovely building built the same way in many parts of the continent. Most houses use wood, which is only sustainable of from certain stocks and treated in a particular way.
Ecovon have re-designed how the new generation of building materials is made. They create newly engineere
d wood, made from coconut husk and sugar cane bagasse. With this, they are able to supply the market with formaldehyde-free, bio wood alternatives, which are far more sustainable. Sugar cane and coconuts are harvested and sold in great volumes across the continent and the husks are often just wasted. This would even give added revenue to those that sell.
Artificial intelligence is huge right now. Some are scared it will make take over their jobs, and others are excited that it will make more things possible. It can be employed across industries, to make things more efficient and leave us with more time for other things. It is also vitally important in the health sector, and could help us with solutions for more diseases.
MIMS, co founded in Guinea, sought to change the way research was done in genomics by integrating AI and their own scientific expertise. Their platform provides life scientists with bio informatics. It integrated groundbreaking technologies. It can manage incredible amounts of data, which usually would take a long time to analyse, by sending it to an expect, or going through the lengthy process of using a service. When the data is received in can be analysed within a day, and even interpreted by the AI, making the whole process faster, and easier for the researcher.
Life scientists will be empowered and personalised medicine will now be more and more possible. It will give them more time for creativity, increase efficiency and, very importantly, enable better standardisation. It can be used in academia, hospitals, health organisations, pharma, biotech and agri-food industries perform self-serve genomic research and biovigilance. Amazing technology that could have a profound effect on the world.
There are so many amazing technologies that were showcased at this years NEF, and one blog simply does not have enough space. We shall find the time and cover another three in a subsequent blog! Stay tuned!