Homegrown innovation feeding Africa’s tech hub

20 Feb, 2017

Africa is taking a great leap forward into the digital era. But as tech advances, innovators should never be far behind. Smartphones and social media may be ubiquitous, but our continent still lags behind in other basic infrastructure, such as reliable power. This gap has created the perfect environment to be our own ‘world-class tech innovators’. Here are some innovations that can make SA the new tech hub:

From the rural parts of the Eastern Cape, Zuko Mandlakazi and his team of engineers and social entrepreneurs are developing a wearable wrist device that detects sound and communicates to the user through vibration and LED lighting. This device is called Senso. Senso, conceptualised with the blind as primary user, has the capability to alert the user of their surroundings. The device can be used to monitor a child’s movement or to track a pet or a car. The project is currently in its final stages and ready for production. Senso received a GAP ICT Award and the SAB Foundation Social Innovation Award.

Founded by award-winning entrepreneur, innovator and speaker Jaco Gerrits, CrashDetech is a smartphone app that runs silently in the background of your phone. Once installed and subscribed, it automatically detects serious vehicle crashes and reduces emergency response times by pinpointing the crash location. It also ensures appropriate medical attention by providing vital patient information.

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The app uses smart drive detection technology to switch on when the driver starts driving and begins monitoring the trip. It’s available to download on iOS and Android devices.

Density is a challenge all urban informal settlements share and a major risk factor that enables the rapid spread of fires. In order to provide sufficient warning, a communal alert is required. This prompted Samuel Ginsberg, Francois Petousis, Paul Mesarcik, Emily Vining, Max Basler and David Gluckman to develop Lumkani, an early warning system to reduce the damage and destruction caused by the spread of shack and slum fires in urban informal settlements.

Since its inception, Lumkani has distributed detectors to over 7000 households in total. They’re already detecting fires and creating the value envisioned, while collecting insightful data around the technology, the fire challenge and the human experience. But it doesn’t end there, Lumkani’s next phase is to send, in real-time, the coordinates of fires to the municipality’s emergency response personnel.

Many science students desperately need resources to guide them through the academic program. This was the reality for Bathabile Mpofu, who create Nkazimulo Applied Science, a start-up that manufactures and supplies science kits for high school learners to improve understanding and performance. The ChemStart kit was developed following CAPS basic education curriculum guidelines and is being used by learners from grade 8-12 since its launch in June 2016.

Who says we should look to Silicon Valley for innovation? It’s here.