The focus on innovation is emerging as a key theme in the Africa Union’s long-term strategy, Agenda 2063, as Africans find better ways of solving local problems and innovation on the continent continues to grow. Despite challenging factors such as access to capital, inadequate infrastructure and poor technical manpower, Africa is brimming with a rising generation of creative-thinking innovators who are constantly developing new technologies to help simplify lives and transform societies. Here are a few recent innovations made in Africa by Africans.
Uganda’s multipurpose tractor
Last Thursday, Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, unveiled a multi-purpose tractor called the MV Mulimi at the University’s Agricultural Research Institute. The three-wheel mobile innovation is made out of a combination of wood and steel, and has several functions other than ploughing fields and transporting farm produce.
The MV Mulimi also pumps water for irrigation, threshes maize and can charge phones. While demonstrating its capabilities at the launch, Prof Noble Banadda, who led the development project, noted that the machine has its five compartments clearly defined for the five functionalities.
The tractor can pump water from depths of up to seven metres to a radius of 33 metres, it can thresh half a ton of maize in an eight-hour shift and its wheelbase allows it to carry up to two tons of produce. The MV Mulimi comes with a three-disc plough, which will save farmers time and stress as the tractor’s plough is faster and easier to use.
Malawi’s mobile security software
Prince Muta and Isaac Washa are graduates from the University of Malawi who recently designed a mobile security system that alerts users with a text message whenever there is an intruder or fire at their homes.
Seeing the increased number of fire out breaks and cases of breaking and entry in Malawi, Muta, a graduate of journalism, and Washa, a graduate of electrical engineering were moved to design and develop the app out of empathy and a need to change things.
The software innovation works by installation and registration; once the software is installed in the home of a user, the person’s phone number(s) is then registered into the system. The software sends mobile alert to the owners once there is a fire outbreak, or an intruder in the house.
The system works on every type of phone and is not barred by distance. “The user can receive alerts anywhere they are, so long there is a proper network on their phone, for instance, if they have a house in Blantyre and they have gone to Rumphi, the system indicates the exact location of disturbance in their house,” said Muta.
The software was also developed with a set of backup batteries so the absence of electricity does not hamper workability.
Tanzania’s drone technology
On a quest to revolutionise farm surveillance technology in Tanzania, a team of six university students are currently building a drone to enable farmers monitor their crops. A drone would basically make for quick and easy surveillance of any situation or mishap, like the condition of the crops, or a fire hazard.
“Technology is meant to simplify people’s lives,” said Maisam Pyarali, one of the students. “And this team came together to see what we could do, realistically, within our time frame.” Pyarali said it’s inefficient and time consuming for farmers to monitor their crops by walking or driving around, particularly when they own a large farm.
The team also highlighted other significant aspects of the drone innovation for agriculture in Tanzania, including affordability, and maintenance. “It costs almost $3,000 (Sh6.5 million) for a good drone, but we reverse engineered the whole thing when we got on the drawing board thereby minimising cost as much as we could.”
Regarding maintenance, the team is readily available to serve as experts and mechanics in the event of any mechanical problem.
Currently, the drone is flight-ready as the team have just concluded its first phase of development, which they started designing July 2015. Now they are seeking funds for the next phase, which is adding a state-of-the-art camera for the surveillance.
Malawi’s mobile banking application
At an award ceremony organized by Mhub in Malawi last month, Tamanda Pius, a student at Lilongwe Technical College, Malawi, was presented with an award for developing a mobile application called Mobi-Bank to ease mobile phone transactions.
Supported by Google, Mhub is training and engaging young girls in application development under the supervision of Rechel Sibande, a technology enthusiast and the founder of Mhub.
Pius was one among several other female students from colleges around Lilongwe who received awards for developing mobile applications that solve common problems in the society. “I am very happy to be associated with Google…I have learnt a lot here at Mhub Technologies,” she said. The award ceremony came at the end of a two-week workshop where young girls were trained on how to code and develop mobile applications using Google’s MIT Application Inventor platform.
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