Rwandan nominated for Rwf160m Innovation Prize

Nyakarundi (centre) and some of his staff. He has developed a technology that uses solar energy to power devices such as telephone and connect people, especially rural communities to internet. Courtesy.

A Rwandan entrepreneur, Henri Nyakarundi, who developed a renewable energy App that helps connect rural communities to solar-power device charging and internet has featured on a list of top 10 nominees for the African Innovation Foundation (AIF)’s 2018 Innovation Prize for Africa (IPA).

The AIF prestigious Prize is worth $185 000 (about Rwf160 million), which is shared among contestants with the winner getting US$ 100,000, while the runner-up is given US$ 25,000. The special prize for social impact innovation is also allocated $ 25,000, while each of the remaining seven nominees receives a voucher worth $ 5,000, according to information from the award organiser.


The top 10 IPA nominees’ innovations came up with technological solutions to address issues in the sectors of agri-business, public health and well-being, ICT, energy, environment and water use and management.


This year’s Call for Applications with its theme “African innovation: Investing in Inclusive Innovation Ecosystems” attracted more than 3000 applications from 52 African countries, a statement issued on Thursday by the award organisers says.


“It’s a privilege to be nominated for the prestigious prize and be part of other great Africa innovators,” Nyakarundi told Sunday Times on Friday.

Nyakarundi created Shiriki Hubwhich is a Smart Solar Kiosk powered by solar panels and equipped with large capacity batteries, sensors of Internet of things and a custom designed router, offering device charging, and low-cost connectivity among other services.

His innovation, organisers say, is an ideal solution for digital connectivity to rural populations and temporal settlements such as refugee camps.

The technology makes it possible to charge 30 phones at once using USB cables.

Last year in (2017), Nyakarundi said “we served around 40,000 customers with our solar kiosk.”

“I developed this technology to help people, and to provide services especially for poor people, people with low income,” Nyakarundi said.

“[With] the kiosk, because we use solar technology that’s affordable, we charge phone using solar technology, we power Wifi system using solar technology, so that allows us to lower the cost for the use in rural areas,” he said.   

Speaking during the announcement of the nominees in Zurich, Switzerland, on September 13, 2018AIF Chairman, Walter Fust said “Now in its seventh year running, we have witnessed multi-million-dollar businesses emerging from the IPA initiative, with health, environment/energy and agricultural innovations leaving imprints across the African continent and beyond.”

“Our theme this year prompts the need for increased collaboration between government, business, industry, innovation enablers and the community to further realise African prosperity and economic freedom,” Fust observed.

The purpose of the African Innovation Foundationis to increase the prosperity of Africans by catalysing the innovation spirit in Africa, and wants to see needs-based innovation and change happen.


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