SA firm wins innovation prize

2013-05-08 08:50
Smart solutions are being proposed for Africa. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Smart solutions are being proposed for Africa. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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African innovation

2013-05-07 14:36

Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais explains the vision of the African Innovation Prize in this YouTube video.WATCH

Cape Town - A South African's company's idea to lower the cost of animal feed for farmers has won the African Innovation Prize.

The firm, AgriProtein Technologies, was awarded their $100 000 prize at a gala dinner in Cape Town on Tuesday night after having been selected from 10 finalists.

AgriProtein uses fly larvae and organic waste to produce a new source of sustainable African animal feed. The company has partnered with the Animal Nutrition Department of the University of Stellenbosch to develop the technology.

The prize is mean to support local innovation that has the capacity to improve the lives of Africans, said the prize founder.

"At the end of the day, it's not about technology only; you have to widen the definition of technology. If you have population that has needs and you understand these needs, but you have products are coming from the Europe or the United States and they not cover the needs... I believe it's important to have the people from here understand the needs of the people here," Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais told News24.

Development

He insisted that technological solutions in Africa needed to be developed by Africans and the prize serves both as support to entrepreneurs as well as marketing for local solutions.

Bastos de Morais runs the Quantum Global Group in Switzerland with assets in excess of $8bn and founded the African Innovation Foundation to encourage local solutions to challenges on the continent.

"If you do not foster that, help it; support it [local innovation], you will always stay where we are now, and that is importing technology," he said.

Many parts of Africa have stunted development due to corruption and poor governance, but Bastos de Morais is bullish about the prospects for companies to innovate "beyond the model" so that it makes change inevitable.

"It is the phase you're in that it is difficult to go around corruption. It has to be the goal to make it better. There I believe you don't have to copy the models of the others, but you have to be innovative in that space," he said.

Other prizes awarded include a $25 000 award to Hassine Labaied and Anis Aouini from Saphon Energy for creating a bladeless wind convertor and Sanoussi Diakite received $25 000 for developing a thermal powered machine that husks 5kg of fonia - a West African cereal - in minutes.

Exposure

Several South Africans made the list of finalists, and participants said they were just grateful for the exposure that the nomination generated.

"The recognition of being nominated has been an enormous honour for us and for me personally. It really does help with the years of sacrifice that one puts into coming up with something which, at first, maybe you're a bit sceptical," Andi Friedman, Mobenzi managing director.

Bastos de Morais laughed when asked if he was idealistic, but said that the ideas were necessary to move Africa forward.

"I'm an idealist, but I'm also a pragmatic guy, so I'm a good mix."


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