WEF Africa’s women innovators revealed
The World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa took place in Kigali, Rwanda last week. Last Friday, the results of the forum’s search for top African women innovators were finally revealed to much excitement. There is no denying that African innovation is on the rise; unfortunately, women innovators and entrepreneurs tend to be pushed to the backburner. WEF on Africa sought to address this by focusing on women for its innovation prize. WEF found companies operating for less than three years, earning revenue for at least a year, and that have positive social impact. It is hoped that this move will encourage women entrepreneurs and that the winners will inspire other women.
The five innovators are from Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda. The women work in sectors as diverse as insurance, alternative energy, health, ICT and food processing. Ugandan Natalie Bitature started Musana Carts to eliminate the reliance on charcoal or kerosene stoves by creating environmentally friendly, solar-powered vending carts. Audrey Cheng from Kenya established the Moringa School to encourage training in digital skills for youth, and was host to Nairobi Tech Week this year.
Lilian Makoi Rabi is Tanzanian, and she created bimaAFYA a mobile application that offers health insurance packages at reduced costs for people with low income and/or working in the informal sector. The app answers the problem of affordable health insurance in African countries and has plans to expand regionally and in West Africa by 2017. Rwanda’s Larissa Uwase launched the Carl Group which comes up with innovative ways to process food using local staples. The group is in a partnership with the University of Rwanda in creating spaghetti made from sweet potatoes. Nneile Nkholise from South Africa is the woman behind the iMED Tech Group which utilizes mechanical engineering to design breast and facial prostheses for cancer and burn victims. The group solely employed African women under 30 years old.
The five winners were invited to the WEF on Africa forum where they had the opportunity to connect and network. Outside the five winners, five women were shortlisted and given special mention, including Mercy Kitomari, the owner of Nelwa’s Gelato, which supplies high-end ice-creams and sorbets and employs only women in Dar es Salam, Tanzania; and Ghanaian Louisa Ofusuah Obimpeh’s Pooparazzi, which uses human waste to generate fuel.
What else can be done to encourage women entrepreneurs in Africa? Let us know your thoughts in a comment below or on Twitter @rafeeeeta