North Africa’s Mai Nagy has emerged winner of the ATU Africa Innovation Challenge 2020. The 31-year old Egyptian national who will be taking home $5,000 is the creator of a virtual science lab that allows students to conduct science experiments virtually. The innovation, according to Ms. Nagy, has been structured to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic which has forced the shutdown of schools in many countries in the continent.
“Today, students lose the benefit of carrying out experiments in school laboratories. Our innovation seeks to fill this gap,” she said, defending the initiative.
The competition, launched by the African Telecommunications Union, a specialized agency of the African Union in the field of telecommunications, was designed to identify and support young African innovators who have developed innovations useful for benefiting the fight to contain COVID-19’ and possibly other emergency situations in Africa in future. The ATU believes that investments and commitments in ICT will be the fastest way to support economic growth and bring more Africans into the fast-growing Digital Economy.
Event chief guest Joseph Mucheru, Kenya’s CS for ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs, recognized ICT as an important driver for social and economic development. “As the ICT community, we have chosen to be part of the solution at a time when the problem is too dominant,” he said, expressing his approval for the competition format.
His sentiments were underscored by title sponsor representative, Huawei Group VP Mr. Tao Hou who noted that: “If we can build more networks, digital skills and content, we can reduce inequality in Africa – enabling those in remote areas, or the disadvantaged, to access quality education and healthcare”. He called on local developers to come up with local solutions that will solve local problems, highlighting Huawei’s efforts on the continent with OpenLabs, Huawei Cloud and Huawei’s AppGallery as tools they can use. Mr. Hou also noted that Huawei is trying to enhance digital skills through initiatives such as the DigiTruck in Kenya and school based programs in Senegal and South Africa so that all Africans can benefit from these winning innovations.
Also awarded at the ceremony was Kenya’s Abdinoor Yerrow who bagged $3,000 and Cameroun’s Bequerelle Matemtsap Mbou who received $1,000. Yerrow’s submission, a mobile application designed to bridge the language barrier in learning, enables rural learners to access basic literacy and numeracy in their local dialects. The entry was awarded second position. Ms. Bequerelle’s entry which came third in the competition is an electronic kit that helps protect crops from damage caused by animals. The kit works by emitting ultrasound which is annoying for animals, inaudible and without effect on humans.
ATU Secretary General John Omo, speaking at the forum, thanked the Challenge partners for their support and affirmed that the Union is keen to pursue cooperation with institutional investors, bilateral or multilateral providers of finance, and other sources to further support the competition winners.
“Our aspiration is to be as helpful as possible in identifying, testing and highlighting innovative adaptation approaches with potential to be replicated and scaled,” he said.
Other than the title sponsor Huawei Technologies, the Challenge also attracted the partnership of Intel Corporation, GSM Association, the International Telecommunications Union and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, Egypt.
Intel Corporation’s Government and Policy Director for Africa, Dr. Bienvenu Agbokponto Soglo expressed the desire of Intel to sustain its relationship with the Challenge winners beyond the award ceremony. “Our shared experience in the recent months in combating COVID-19 has been extraordinary. It is our conviction that enabling and accelerating access to digital infrastructure through extensive partnerships will support this fight,” he said. Dr. Bienvenu was also the head of the evaluation committee. His sentiments were shared by Mr. Wadé Owojori, Director of the GSMA Innovation Fund.
The event also recognized the top two participants from each of the regions of Africa. Those awarded in this category include, Yasmin Eldeeb (Egypt), Kudakwashe Clinton Nyamhuka (Zimbabwe), Mouhamadou Lamine Kebe (Senegal), Tiisetso Masilo (Lesotho), Olusegun Adegun (Nigeria) and Placidius Rwechungura (Tanzania).
Delivering a recorded speech, Egypt’s Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Mr. Amr Talaat, agreed with his counterpart from Cameroon Libom Li Likeng Minette on the importance of winners to build partnerships that will help realize accessibility of the innovations.