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Rise of An African-Induced Innovation – Solar Powered Car in Kenya

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Kenyan student, Samuel Karumbo, has graced Kenya and Africa with an amazing solar-powered car.

Before, the history of science and technology in Africa received little or no attention compared to other regions in the world. It had become a common thing to read mostly negative things about Africa. Today, however, that conception is fast changing as African countries like Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, South Africa are fast making their way in the technology industry.

There have been an increased number of great technological developments in Africa from startups to inventions. Though most of these innovations are emerging from the thriving of tech hubs popping up across Africa, most of the technology transforming the continent comes from elsewhere.

However, Africans can still boost of progress in the Technology industry. It is in Africa that we will hear of inventions like; Ugandan Engineers Mamaope jacket that can detect pneumonia, Cameroon’s Arthur Zang’s tablet that monitors your heartSteamaco electricity grid in Kenya that can provide electricity for a whole village.

Also, we are talking of the latest developer of a solar powered car that is making rounds in Kenya. The solar powered car was developed by a 30 year old Kenyan student Samuel Karumbo. His childhood desire to own a less expensive car motivated him to come out with this innovation – transforming dream to reality

Benefits of a Solar Powered Car

The invention of a solar powered car is practical in a continent characterized by very hot climatic conditions. The car uses energy from the conversion of the sun’s energy into electricity through the exchange of photons and electrons inside the solar cell. Thus, the availability of sun at all time during the day, gives everyone the opportunity to have this car without cost for maintenance.

A solar powered car has many benefits that make it fit for the African environment. Some of them are;

  •      It produces no harmful emission in the air when it is running
  •      Its motor is much more efficient and quiet than the gasoline engine.
  •      The motor does not produce vibrations and it is generally smaller and  maintenance free.
  •      The car is much lighter.
  •      The car does not require refueling and oil changes since it uses the sun to get its energy
  •      He said the vehicle depends heavily on gravity when on descend.
  •      The motor acts as a generator for producing energy for later use.
  •      The car can cover about 50 km in a day.
  •      This hybrid car can also be used to charge phones or provide home lighting.

In other to achieve a complete dream, Karumbo is appealing for financial support for his project.

There is always this problem of funding that always pops up. And this has been a major barrier for young inventors, creators and entrepreneurs in Africa. Unfortunately or fortunately, most funds for African technology do not come from philanthropists. They come from foreign investors who always expect returns.

Challenges faced by Young African Inventors and Creators

Access to capital

Young inventors and startups in Africa face a severe lack of capital that would allow them to grow their businesses beyond local, informal markets.

Physical infrastructure

According to Ndubuisi Ekekwe, founder of the African Institute of Technology, while rapid advances in internet penetration are improving the innovation atmosphere, basic components of infrastructure like power, roads, post offices are still severely lacking. Investments in these basic building blocks will allow businesses to expand more rapidly and make their operations more efficient.

He added that many potential foreign investors are scared away by corrupt public institutions and the seeming inability or unwillingness of African legal systems to enforce property rights and IP protection.

Most African inventions are geared towards solving the problems faced by Africans. For example, Dougbeh Chris Nyan born in Liberia  worked with Scientists both in Liberia and America to invent a battery-powered device that provides a quick and cheap test for seven different infections at a time. It is generally common to find a person in Africa diagnosed of different diseases, thus making the invention Africa-induced.

African governments should encourage young creators and inventors to bring inventions that will come to solve an African problem. This will lead to Africa’s rise in Technology in the nearest future.

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Innovation

“Let’s make Africa a digital Africa,” Jack Ma tells entrepreneurs

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From Madagascar to Liberia, Africa’s “digital lions” are preparing to roar, speakers said at an event co-organized by UNCTAD, the Alibaba Business School and the Jack Ma Foundation at South Africa’s Wits University on 8 August. The day-long e-commerce and technology event featured an announcement by Jack Ma, co-founder and executive chairman of Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, of a $10 million prize fund for African internet entrepreneurs, to be known as the African Netpreneur Prize. “Let’s make Africa a digital Africa,” Mr. Ma said at the event, dubbed Netpreneurs: The Rise of Africa’s Digital Lions. Mr. Ma, who currently serves as UNCTAD special adviser for young entrepreneurs and small business, said he always believed that “when everything is ready it’s always too late” for entrepreneurs. Their role is to create the conditions to prosper, not wait for them. Former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon said by video that he would sit on the African Netpreneur Prize advisory board. “All young Africans should seize the opportunity to aim high,” Mr. Ban said. “Put your best foot forward and I look forward to your application to the African Netpreneur Prize.”

Jack Ma in South africa

Around 30 African graduates of the eFounders Fellowship Programme, launched in 2017 and run by UNCTAD and the Alibaba Business School, also attended the event. “Those of us from Africa, and friends of Africa, are facing the challenge of how to convert the young talents emerging in Africa into a dividend and not a curse,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Mukhisa Kituyi said.

“As everyone keeps telling them ‘go and make employment for yourself,’ how can we make it possible for them to create employment?” he said.

“Since last year, UNCTAD and Alibaba have been recruiting a number of young net entrepreneurs and sending them to Alibaba Business School in Hangzhou, China, for a short intense training on the possibilities on electronic market platforms, gaining visibility on the global market through remote technology and liberating small-scale producers through a conscious, purposeful impact investment in linking them to the electronic market.”

Dr. Kituyi described these eFounders fellows as the start of “an army of impatient entrepreneurs” that will ignite a digital revolution in Africa.

Kenyan eFounder fellow Catherine Mahugu described her journey as a technology professional and entrepreneur. After her encounter with Alibaba in Hangzhou she founded an e-commerce coffee export firm.

Another, Nigerian eFounder fellow Adetayo Bamidura, founded MAX, a platform that uses mobile apps to connect businesses and commuters to safe and affordable motorcycle-taxis on demand.

Africa’s opportunity

17958413 – finger is touching african continent on virtual map

South Africa’s science and technology minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said “innovation coupled with entrepreneurship is the engine of growth of any modern economy”.

“The emerging fourth industrial revolution, which will affect and change the whole world, demands that we invest in information and communication technology infrastructure – otherwise we will be spectators of this revolution and not active participants,” she said.

Wits University acting vice chancellor Tawana Kupe asked “Where is Africa in the fourth industrial revolution?”

Three panel discussions were held in answer, the first on how governments and policymakers can nurture innovation in the digital economy.

Botswana’s investment, trade and industry minister Bogolo Kenewendo said the “last mile” of internet infrastructure was often the hardest in Africa, but “policy infrastructure” in terms of laws, regulations and government awareness of the issues was at least as important.

South African economist Miriam Altman agreed, and said that digital infrastructure was often seen by African governments as “something extra” on top of traditional infrastructure needs like water and electricity.

University of Johannesburg vice-chancellor and principal Tshilidzi Marwala added that he thought governments should make provision for free Wi-Fi, as well as “virtual economic zones” to spur investment.

Lion cubs

“I have to be honest, the digital economy concept has been so slow to catch on in governments,” Ms. Kenewendo said.

This included in “soft” policy areas like education as well as in “hard” infrastructure like broadband, she said.

For Ms. Altman, “kids get it,” but “institutions often don’t.”

She said that basic standard-setting and building a digital infrastructure was incumbent on governments – not just in Africa – and e-commerce would flow from that.

Ms. Kenewondo said that young digitally-aware Africans should not afraid to be disruptors because “what we have now clearly isn’t working for us”.

“I encourage you to throw away your caution,” she said.

Panellists agreed that the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was a welcome step toward freer regional circulation of goods, but much work remained to be done on transport logistics and connectivity.

Investing in talent

A second panel addressed access to capital and investment.

Mara Corporation founder Ashish J. Thakkar said that with M-Pesa, Kenya’s mobile money system, covering 98% of that country’s GDP, Africa had proved that it could develop, use and exploit new technologies.

AfricInvest venture capital director Selma Ribica said that M-Pesa’s success, and that of Nigerian ecommerce giant Jumia and others, was itself a spur to investment capital and now it was pouring in – to the tune of $500 million in 2017.

However, she cautioned, so far this flow of investment was unevenly distributed in a few sectors and mostly to just three African countries: Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa.

IFC Venture Capital’s Africa head Wale Ayeni said that “angel investing” was in its infancy in Africa but this was changing.

A third panel considered skills gaps and employment for young people.

Wambui Kinya, chief strategy officer of Andela, a full-service tech talent agency which spots, trains and places African developers and other technology professionals, urged businesses in Africa not to look outside the continent for their technology service needs.

“Africa has the tech talent they need,” she said.

Hubs and ecosystems

Mr. Kupe said Wits University had launched a digital innovation hub five years ago in partnership with the private sector with students working in areas as diverse as fintech, health and gaming.

“Our challenge is to make digital life the ‘new normal’,” Mr. Kupe said of his university’s commitment to future-forward education. “We must change our mindset.”

Anna Ekeledo, executive director of AfriLabs, a community of 100 innovation hubs in 30 African countries aiming to build technical and entrepreneurial skills and engage in policy advocacy, said that the linkage between academia and innovation hubs needs to be strengthened.

She said she was looking forward to scaling businesses as a result of trade reforms under AfCFTA, and other ways of turbocharging the “enabling environment for digital ecosystems”.

As well as the panellists, eFounders fellows, students, other participants and dignitaries, the event was also attended by UN Women’s executive director, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, and China’s ambassador to South Africa, Lin Songtian.

 

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