Fidel Makatia Omusilibwa, HSC is a 24-year-old Kenyan innovator and First Class graduate from the School of Engineering at Kenyatta University. As the student representative at IEEE Kenya Section and founder of AFECS LTD, Fidel fervently believes that engineering and technology are very powerful tools that could a really long way in solving the challenges we face on the African continent.
His journey in innovation took a wild turn in March 2020 when this maverick led a team of 15 students to design and develop the first African designed and developed ventilator. This one of a kind machine includes Swahili in its language features, allows remote ventilation and by using a tablet, one can connect to and monitor more than one ventilator further bridging the wide patient to doctor ratio in Kenya and Africa. Made from locally available materials, the TibaVent also costs considerably lower than most brands.
In his journey as an innovator, Fidel has no doubt experienced some challenges, with the most prominent being the negative attitude our society often has for locally developed technology. There is a notion out there that if it’s locally made, it will not work. Seeing as Africa has been a consumer market for far too long, there are also very few developed standards for engineered products which in turn makes the approval process for these products quite long and tedious. Further, access to nancial support and mentorship for youth innovators is also quite an uphill task due to the fact that most investors have little to no condence in local innovation.
However, Fidel notes that the journey has had its sweet spots despite the challenges. For starters, he owns two patents and has sold some units of the machines he’s developed. Further, he was awarded the leaders in innovation fellowship by the Royal Academy of Engineering, UK, the 2020 United Nations person of the year- principal innovator award, the UBORA 2020 project of the year and the Head of State Commendation by H.E. the President of Kenya in December 2020.
The brilliant innovator notes that meaningful youth engagement could truly shift the landscape of technological innovation not only in Kenya but the global south. Ideally, this would involve the government and other stakeholders supporting local youth-led innovations and companies. For example, if a local company makes a machine, the relevant stakeholders should either acquire the machine or partner with the local company to make sure the machine is better. Further, these innovators should be involved in the creation and implementation of policies that protect local innovators from foreign-based counterfeit products. Fidel also notes that creating a stand-alone Ministry for Innovation aside from Youth affairs would ensure that enough resources are focused on technological innovation, thus creating an enabling environment for more youth innovators to succeed.
He also believes that young people should be included in the formulation of financial policies that favor start-ups by youth. At present, he maintains that Kenyan youth innovators often have to hire foreign CEOs so that they’re able to raise seed funding for their start-ups. And we fervently agree with him that would not be the case if young people were meaningfully engaged so as to boost youth-led technological innovation in Kenya.
As we commemorate International Youth Day 2021, his call to action for his peers is quite simple, “It is possible, it can be done and has been done. The hardest part is actually believing you can do it. The rest is very easy to do.” Here’s to Fidel, a true #ChampionKwaGround
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_empty_space height=”10px”][vc_single_image image=”11881″ img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”50px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row dpr_row_content_sizing=”full_width_content” content_placement=”middle”][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_empty_space height=”10px”][vc_single_image image=”11885″ img_size=”medium”][vc_empty_space height=”10px”][vc_custom_heading text=”Leila Abdulkeir Isaak” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:center” google_fonts=”font_family:Open%20Sans%3A300%2C300italic%2Cregular%2Citalic%2C600%2C600italic%2C700%2C700italic%2C800%2C800italic|font_style:700%20bold%20regular%3A700%3Anormal”][vc_custom_heading text=”President,
Kili County Youth Advisory Council” font_container=”tag:h4|text_align:center|color:%23e41c40″ google_fonts=”font_family:Open%20Sans%3A300%2C300italic%2Cregular%2Citalic%2C600%2C600italic%2C700%2C700italic%2C800%2C800italic|font_style:400%20regular%3A400%3Anormal”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]
Leila Abdulkeir Isaak is the President of the Kili Youth Advisory council, Team Lead at Youth Voices Action Initiative (YVAI) and a (YALI Cohort 38) Civic Leadership Alumni. She is also a member of Youth Power Hack in Kenya and coordinates Adolescent Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (AYSRHR) Programs in Kili County through the Adolescent and Young people Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (AYPSRHR/HIV Strategy & Policy of 2020-2025.
Leila also wears the hat of youth innovator being a software developer whose app “SwiftUs” (curated to support young people access services at their preferred health facilities is set to be launched in August 2021. Having been at the forefront of policy development at the county level to specifically meet the needs of adolescents and youth, Ms. Abdulkeir believes that there is nothing for youth, without youth. For young people to truly benet, they must be involved as equal partners and not just beneficiaries in all aspects of society.
MYE for Leila means engaging youth in all phases of a program cycle. Involving youth in design, implementation and evaluation activities can lead to more effective and appropriate programming by improving impact, retention and sustainability. This is no different for technological innovation. By meaningfully engaging young people in this sector, they are better placed to succeed due the fact that their inclusion spurs incredible creativity to curate solutions to the numerous challenges they face. This is reinforced by the potential young people have to offer in the innovation sector; skills, knowledge and uncanny ability to create more opportunities for their peers.
Leila would love to see the government allocate technical and financial resources towards supporting youth innovators build their capacity to contribute to the innovation sector, particularly at the grassroots level.
Alvin Mwangi is a 25 year old youth expert, passionate about advancing Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) for young people. He is also a Team Lead at Youth Empowerment Movement Kenya (YEM Kenya). True to his passion, Alvin has been actively engaged in digital and social media campaigns around Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights Issues. Through the Youth Empowerment Movement Kenya (YEM Kenya), he has also spearheaded online and oine campaigns on social, health and reproductive health issues respectively focusing on the need to create awareness and access to holistic health services and strives to advance the meaningfully engagement of adolescents and young people on these issues.
When asked about meaningful youth engagement for youth innovation, it’s as simple as the fact that about 70% of Africa’s population is made up of young people for Alvin. In Kenya alone, 25% of the population are youth aged 18-34 years old. As such, it is undoubtedly in the best interest of the African population for young people to be meaningfully engaged in all aspects of society, technological innovation included. Meaningful engagement of young people goes beyond inviting young people to listen in, to pray, to take notes and other “light duties” that are considered for the young people who in most times are mistaken to be “inexperienced.” It is vital that young people play a central role at the decision making table.
He asserts that young people are very creative, fast thinkers and extremely innovative. Kenyan youth possess diverse skills and knowledge that enables them to innovate around current and emerging health and social issues amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. By meaningfully engaging young people in the innovation space, it goes without saying that more youth innovators will be better placed to succeed. And truly, we’ll all be better o for it as a result, seeing as these innovators will be empowered enough to innovate timely solutions to the social and health challenges we’re currently facing on the African continent.
For instance, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a lot of innovations provide solutions to emerging challenges arising from the adverse impact of the novel virus on life as we know it. Kenyan youth recently developed the rst locally made ventilator, addressing shortages resulting from the strain of the pandemic on healthcare systems. Imagine, how much more young people would innovate if they were meaningfully engaged in the formulation and implementation of policies that create an enabling environment for technological innovators to succeed.
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_empty_space height=”10px”][vc_single_image image=”11881″ img_size=”full”][vc_empty_space height=”30px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row content_placement=”middle”][vc_column width=”1/3″][vc_empty_space height=”10px”][vc_single_image image=”11897″ img_size=”medium”][vc_empty_space height=”10px”][vc_custom_heading text=”Eliutherius Juma” font_container=”tag:h2|text_align:center” google_fonts=”font_family:Open%20Sans%3A300%2C300italic%2Cregular%2Citalic%2C600%2C600italic%2C700%2C700italic%2C800%2C800italic|font_style:700%20bold%20regular%3A700%3Anormal”][vc_custom_heading text=”Pan-Africanist Techpreneur
& Co-founder /CEO, Paylend Africa” font_container=”tag:h4|text_align:center|color:%23e41c40″ google_fonts=”font_family:Open%20Sans%3A300%2C300italic%2Cregular%2Citalic%2C600%2C600italic%2C700%2C700italic%2C800%2C800italic|font_style:400%20regular%3A400%3Anormal”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_column_text]
Eliutherius Juma is a performance-driven entrepreneur with a keen eye for detail and founder of Paylend, a n-tech company that is helping MSMEs boost their growth. This is achieved by helping small businesses access digital tools to run their businesses smoothly and be competitive in this digital era. Over the past couple of months, more than 500 shops out of the 2000 shops registered on the Paylend platform have experienced a signicant transformation. Important to note is that young people have not been left behind on this platform, running their own small enterprises. Paylend in itself proves to be revolutionary due to the fact that it provides an avenue for these young people to increase their sales by reaching more people on the platform. By using Paylend often, youth can also access credit to advance their businesses and pay it back after a set period of time.
Aside from being entrepreneurs, Juma believes that young people are the most innovative demographic among our population. While technological innovation is benecial towards solving our circadian problems, innovative ideas are expensive and need to be treated as such. Unfortunately, it’s currently very easy for investors to buy large portions of a local company’s equity and run away with their ideas. To protect youth innovators, the Paylend founder insists that the government should take charge and create policy frameworks to protect intellectual property.
Further, mechanisms should be put in place to prevent foreign investors from owning more than 51% of local companies. This will no doubt protect youth innovators, by creating an enabling environment for them to succeed in their innovation journeys. Meaningful youth engagement would ensure that young innovators are able to push for resources such as education on how to le patents and copyrighting intellectual property, all of which should be at every entrepreneur’s disposal. For youth innovators to succeed, their meaningful participation at decision-making levels would see regulators working closely with incubation labs to ensure that youth innovators can understand the impact of their ideas from the regulator’s point of view.
In his final remarks, Eliutherius maintains, ”Every youth innovator needs to take up the initiative to be vocal about their ideas. Young people should not take the back seat when it comes to taking charge of the future.
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Author: Beatrice Nyamwenge Okech
Co-Authors: Fidel Makatia, HSC, Leila Isaak, Alvin Mwangi and Eliutherius Juma