One of the goals of the ResilientAfrica Network (RAN) is to support the student innovation ecosystem through identifying students with promising ideas towards addressing resilience gaps in African communities. To that end, the Southern Africa Resilience Innovation Lab (SA RILab) in collaboration with University of Pretoria MakerSpace launched a student innovation essay contest on 21 August 2015. The contest was focused on identifying innovations that are currently being implemented by communities in Southern Africa or new ideas that can be implemented to address challenges encountered by Southern African communities in the context of HIV/AIDS. About seventeen applications were received from three universities (University of Pretoria and University of Limpopo) in two countries (Malawi and South Africa). The contest was targeted at making a financial award to 3 top essays.
Among those selected for award, the first was a project focused on the establishment of a mobile education information facility that bridges the information gap between basic education and higher education in rural communities. The second placed application seeks to build, install and operate capillary solar still for clean drinking water in informal settlements. The solar stills can be manufactured using locally supplied, easily obtainable, relatively inexpensive materials thereby ensuring cost-effectiveness through low resolution prototypes. The third placed application seeks to ameliorate the nutritional problems of livestock and increase the resilience of communities through the use of alternate feedstuffs during the period of droughts. An indigenous legume tree called Acacia karroo or sweet thorn, widely distributed and abundant in this region is proposed as the source of leaves that can be harvested for feedstock production. The tree possesses attributes such as high growth rates, drought tolerance, and adaptation to acidic infertile soils and resistance to large temperature variations.
In addition to the price money awarded to the three top innovations, four additional student contestants were taken to the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) celebrations co-hosted by the Limpopo Polokwane Municipality and Limpopo Fablab where they made presentations of their ideas. Such an opportunity is one of the efforts the SA RILab is making to ensure the visibility of student innovations and taking them out of university environments to the communities where they can be questioned to better improve their prototypes.