NEWS July 5, 2024

Innovations in Kenya Target Manufacturing Industries to Alleviate Poverty

Manufacturing may be the sector in Africa that offers a path out of poverty, and it is propelled by award-winning products in development now - Dr. Kamau Gachigi, Gearbox

Manufacturing may be the sector in Africa that offers a path out of poverty, and it is propelled by award-winning products in development now, Dr. Kamau Gachigi at Gearbox in Nairobi, Kenya, says. Dr. Gachigi founded Gearbox, a non-profit makerspace where prototypes are developed, and made his remarks at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ Innovation Showcase (ASME ISHOW), an accelerator program for innovations that solve challenges in underserved communities.

Manufacturing provides a real chance for Africa to address its social and economic challenges, Dr. Gachigi says.

“There are very deep pockets of poverty in the continent and to get out of this we need to probably grow at about 8 percent for 10 years. And that’s a huge challenge. But probably the only sector that can do that is manufacturing, which these innovations are targeting,” he adds.

The innovations are the seven finalists from throughout the African continent, including medical devices, a field seeder and new designs in sustainable energy for cooking. Dr. Gachigi was one of the judges who selected three startups as winners in June. The winners will share (USD) $30,000 in grant awards and technical support.

The three winners

The Ugandan startup Che Innovations is one of the ISHOW Kenya winners with “NeoNest,” a low-cost warming device for preventing neonatal hypothermia during ambulance transportation of premature babies from rural villages hours away from hospitals.

Afya Lead, based in Dar es Salam, Tanzania, won with “Mkanda Salama,” a patented, non-invasive, affordable device designed to address postpartum hemorrhage, a leading cause of maternal mortality globally.

And Mega Gas won with their women-led community kitchens powered by renewable energy in Kenya. The initiative provides a clean environment where families, especially those from low-income settlements, can prepare a meal using renewable energy. The energy is biogas derived from garbage. The uniqueness of this innovation by Megagas Alternative Energy and the engineering aspect of harvesting cooking gas from garbage was enough for the judges to award them the remaining spot.

Iana Aranda, President of Engineering For Change and Sr. Director of Engineering for Sustainable Development at ASME, noted that the three winners join a global network of innovators while developing their products under the guidance of judges and engineers.

The ASME ISHOW hardware accelerator is open to individuals and organizations taking physical products to market that will have a positive social and environmental impact and that improve the quality of life around the world. Each year, ASME ISHOW matches up to 21 innovators with appropriate experts to ensure that the proposed hardware solutions are technologically, environmentally, culturally, and financially sustainable. To date, ISHOW has enabled over 230 startups from more than 35 countries to solve critical quality-of-life challenges for vulnerable populations worldwide.

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