Open Innovation Boost to Start-Ups in Africa

Published May-02-16

A mobile phone-based family planning system and a mobile platform for farmers to market their livestock win an open innovation competition designed to encourage innovation in Africa.

Orange, France

The Story:

Open Innovation Boost to Start-Ups in Africa In Africa as in many other parts of the world, the start-up and entrepreneurial community is thriving and alive with novel ideas. However, getting concepts to market is hardly ever a straightforward affair, especially when companies are just starting out.

Often what is needed is a leg up, such as an open innovation competition, which can provide valuable exposure as well as the possibility of winning cash awards to help get concepts off the ground.

Encouraging African Innovation

To help stimulate innovation in Africa and to support local talent, the 2015 Orange AMEA Developers Challenge was launched across 13 countries in Africa and the Middle East. They included Botswana, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast and Jordan.

“With data usage and familiarity with smartphone services growing day by day, the region [Africa] is ripe for innovation and we want to be part of the process that makes a positive and meaningful impact on the lives of Africans,” said Marc Rennard, senior executive vice president, Africa and the Middle East, Orange.

The open innovation contest offered start-ups the ability to use Orange's application programme interfaces (APIs) to help them overcome some of the challenges of designing their products. Among the barriers are: 1) the fact that smartphone use in several countries is still emerging and 2) low banking penetration in some areas, which makes it difficult to charge digital products.

Rich Reservoir of Ideas

The open innovation contest highlighted the breadth and depth of innovative thinking in the telecommunications field in Africa. There were proposals across numerous sectors,
including agriculture, education, energy and healthcare.

Approximately 1,200 proposals were submitted to the contest website and from this creative pool of ideas, the jury initially selected ten projects per country. These were then subsequently whittled down to 12 finalists, and from their number, the top three winners were chosen.

Open Innovation Winners

The overall winner was FarmConnecta from Botswana for creating a mobile marketplace for livestock trading. Users can access market data and locate lost cattle via a single mobile phone. For their innovation, the company received a prize of 10,000 euros (approximately $USD 11,300).

The second place award went to a start-up from Egypt called Nilebot, for their hardware and software solution for real-time water quality measurements in fish farms. Among its features is a warning system. Should there be a decrease in water quality that threatens the lives of fish, the system sends an alarm message to a user's mobile phone.

The third place winner was Cycle M, a start-up from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Their innovation is a family planning system for mobiles. With it, women can calculate their menstrual cycles and other important dates to help them avoid unwanted pregnancies.

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