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Uganda wins big in Eastern Africa innovation grants

Last week, Uganda scored big in the Eastern African portion of the Youth Spark Innovation Grants (YSiG) with 11 of the 17 winners in the region from Makerere University.

According to organisers of the award Makerere’s Resilience Innovation Lab, over 400 applicants were received for the YSiG call, early this year. The applicants were drawn from Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The competition coordinator, Nathan Tumuhamye, reported that Uganda won 11 awards worth $5,000 (Shs 17.5m), while three went to Tanzania, two to Rwanda and one to the Democratic Republic of Congo for the initial six-months incubation period.

“The applicants presented projects that we expected to address the resilience challenges facing Africa, in the areas of climate change, public health, improving water access, chronic conflicts and entrepreneurship,” Tumuhamye explained.

Presenting the awards, the chancellor of Kabale University, Prof George Mondo Kagonyera charged the innovators to shame the doubters in the Western world.
“The lack of confidence in our researchers has been the biggest problem for Africa ... I want to encourage you to work harder than those who don’t take you seriously. Always match them or get better and the sky will be the limit,” he said.

He added that even in Uganda, there were those who had made their business to dismiss innovators, labelling them as non-starters.

“They can’t distinguish between innovation, invention and discovery ... you innovate what has already been done and discover what is already there before inventing what doesn’t exist,” he added.

The chief of party of the Makerere Resilience Africa Network, Prof William Bazeyo, added that the innovators had only themselves to challenge to get better.
“If you have been in the same village all your life and failed to realise that what you do is innovation, you are cheating nature,” Bazeyo said.

Acknowledging the awards, the principal of the college of Health Sciences at Makerere, Prof Charles Ibingira, advised the winning grantees to use the money to improve their projects so they can qualify for the next level of grant applications, due later this year.
“That money is like a seed; if you plant it, you will enjoy the fruits, however, if you eat it – that will be it forever,” he said. “Everything is possible only that we limit ourselves and that is the greatest limitation.”

He conceded that due to efforts by students to improve the health situation, he would work for the creation of a public health think tank to improve the situation in the sector.

THE 11 INNOVATIONS
Fruit cycle: A pedal-operated cycle that keeps fruits and vegetables fresh. It is powered by the pedalling mechanism.
Biomass dryer: A rapid agricultural produce dryer that utilizes briquettes
BV-Kit: A phone-based tool that tests for early vaginal bacterial infections.
Wekebere: A phone-based tool that monitors foetal conditions.
Localising production of Boar semen: This looks at local production of reagents that can keep boar semen for long.
Lightbulb: A web-based tool that links businesses to customers.
Eco cold room: Creating cold rooms for perishable agricultural produce using plastic damped bottles.
E-musawo: A telemedicine platform that links remote health centres to medical specialists in referral centres.
Waste to wealth: A better briquette-making machine that uses domestic rubbish and mixes it in the right proportions to produce robust briquettes that last longer.
Pedal water tap: A no-touch water tap operated by a foot pedal. This is meant to reduce infections that are picked off water taps.
Low-cost digital grain moisture metre: In a bid to reduce post-harvest losses, a digital grain moisture metre shall help ensure that grains are at the right moisture levels prior to storage.

Jimirasire

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