Six youth innovators — one each from Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda were honored with Presidential Awards at the East African Youth Innovation Forum. The forum was organized by the East African Science and Technology Commission (EASTECO) and held in Kampala early this month.
The Forum brought together young researchers, developers & innovators, entrepreneurs, finance actors, academia, and public policymakers to discuss the regional situation and the latest trends in research and development as well as innovation and product development.
Among other things, the Forum addressed the challenges that the youth in the region face in advancing their talent in technological development, in addition to the opportunities available for innovation in the regional marketplace and globally.
This way, it is hoped that the Forum will have offered a platform to catalyze the effective engagement of the youth in steering the course of future developments within the East African Community (EAC) through innovations.
During the Forum, six youth innovators including a Ugandan, Steven Kakooza received Presidential Awards. The awards sought to recognize outstanding applications developed by East African youth as well as outstanding youth innovators who are enabling the local innovation ecosystem.
“The East African youth innovators were selected competitively from the six EAC countries and the selection was based on the following criteria: Originality, marketability, scalability, social impact, and technical aspects,” remarked the judges.
The entries were evaluated by a national panel of experts comprising the ministries responsible for Science, Technology, and Innovation, the National Council of Science & Technology, and ministries responsible for EAC Affairs in each partner state, together with other stakeholders. Thus, selecting the final 6 winners.
The winners received a cash prize of USD$5,000 (approx. UGX17 million) that they can use to improve and grow their innovations.
Kakooza who emerged as the winner of the Presidential Award for Uganda developed a Kawu Card, an innovation that allows students to keep their money and spend it during their hard times at school. Because students aren’t allowed to have mobile phones at school, their parents/guardians download the Kawu app which they use to load money onto their child’s Kawu card — the student can check or withdraw money through Kawu agents stationed at the school.
The Kawu app also allows parents/guardians to manage their child’s expenditures and also teach them financial discipline.
Kakooza wasn’t available to comment.
The awards were eligible to young innovators below 35 years in eight priority categories — namely, agriculture, health, education, climate change and environment, ICT mobile applications, energy and infrastructure, industrialization and trade, and aeronautics and space technology.
The Forum aims to create a regional platform that will stimulate and support young innovators in generating scientific and technologically innovative solutions to social needs and meet market demand.
The Forum further hopes to enable the youth to create social enterprises that aim to cure social problems through innovative practices. It is aimed at empowering youngsters to steer their own initiatives and contribute to the building of a prosperous and independent society.