The World Economic Forum on Africa took place in Kigali, Rwanda this week. Leading up to the pivotal event, a call for applications from young female innovators was publicized. Five winners were selected as winners of the Africa’s Top Female Innovators Challenge. The winners hail from Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda.
These dynamic young woman are innovators in the areas of mobile health insurance, solar-powered vending carts, biomedical materials, IT training and food processing.
Africa’s future lies in the hands of its youthful population. But, while the region’s start-up businesses are gaining confidence and scale with a growing number of innovations achieving recognition beyond the region’s borders, much more must be done to create an enabling environment that allows entrepreneurs to flourish. This is especially the case for women entrepreneurs, whose potential is far from being optimized. This was the reason for a World Economic Forum challenge to find Africa’s top women Innovators.
The criteria for the challenge required entrants’ companies to be less than three years old, be earning revenue for at least a year and have proven innovation and positive social impact. A shortlist of winners was selected from a panel comprising experts from across Forum stakeholder groups. After protracted deliberations, the World Economic Forum announced the winners of the Africa Top Women Innovators Challenge 2016:
· Natalie Bitature, Musana Carts, Kampala, Uganda: Musana Carts has used frugal innovation to develop environmentally friendly, solar-powered vending carts. With a price point of $400, each Musana Cart saves 3,000 tons of carbon emissions and improves the health of cities by eliminating pollution from charcoal and kerosene stoves.
· Audrey Cheng, Moringa School, Nairobi, Kenya: Audrey Cheng established Moringa School to enable a whole generation to gain the skills they need to compete in the digital economy. Two years on, graduates work in the top tech companies in the region, earning on average 350% more than before they completed the coursework.
· Lilian Makoi Rabi, bimaAFYA, Tanzania: bimaAFYA offers mobile micro-health insurance for the low income and informal sector, enabling healthcare services by drastically reducing costs with its completely mobile, paperless solution. bimaAFYA plans to expand to Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria and Ghana in 2017.
· Nneile Nkholise, iMED Tech Group, Bloemfontein, South Africa: iMED Tech Group uses additive manufacturing to design breast and facial prostheses for cancer and burn victims. The company only employs African women under the age of 30 with research backgrounds in mechanical engineering.
· Larissa Uwase, CARL GROUP, Kigali, Rwanda: CARL GROUP is improving the health of the nation by innovating new food products from a staple crop, the sweet potato. An agronomist by training, Larissa Uwase’s latest innovation, in partnership with the University of Rwanda, is to make spaghetti from the vegetable.
The winners were invited to the World Economic Forum on Africa in Kigali, Rwanda, where met other social entrepreneurs and impact investors, and take part in conversations relevant to their expertise and interests.
In addition to the five winners, the judges also wished to give special mention to the following five shortlisted entrants:
· Oyindola Honey Ogundeyi, FashPa Online, Nigeria: Vertically integrated online fashion retailer
· Mercy Kitomari, Nelwa’s Gelato, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania: Fast-growing supplier of high-end ice creams and sorbets, employing only women
· Louisa Ofusuah Obimpeh, Pooparazzi, Accra, Ghana: Pooparazzi harvests human waste to make methane gas, fire briquettes fertilizer and fuel
· Evelyn Namara, !nnovate Uganda: Mobile vouchers that are used by farmers to redeem for seed from agro-dealers
· Elizabeth Nyeko, Mandulis Energy, Uganda: Develops, owns and operates biomass plants
“I strongly believe that the 21st century will be Africa’s century, that its young population has the potential to build a world where they are not only materially better off, but also where things are fairer, more sustainable and more tolerant than at any other time in history. But this will not be achieved unless women are able to make a full contribution. This is why we are showcasing Africa’s best female entrepreneurs in Kigali this week,” said Elsie Kanza, Head of Africa at the World Economic Forum.
The Forum would like to thank external members of the judging panel: Amini Kajunju, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Africa-America Institute and Member of the Global Agenda Council on the Economics of Innovation; Rapelang Rabana, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, ReKindle Learning and Global Shaper; and Arun Sharma, Director-General, Next Einstein Foundation.
More than 1,200 participants from over 70 countries took part in the World Economic Forum on Africa in Kigali, Rwanda, from 11 to 13 May 2016. The theme of the meeting is “Connecting Africa’s Resources through Digital Transformation”.
The Co-Chairs of the 26th World Economic on Africa were Akinwumi Ayodeji Adesina, President, African Development Bank (AfDB), Abidjan; Dominic Barton, Global Managing Director, McKinsey & Company; Tony O. Elumelu, Founder, The Tony Elumelu Foundation, Nigeria; Graça Machel, Founder, Graça Machel Trust (GMT), South Africa; and Tarek Sultan Al Essa, Chief Executive Officer and Vice-Chairman of the Board, Agility, Kuwait.
Photo Credit: World Economic Forum / Benedikt von Loebell