East African Youth Innovation Forum: Six Youth Innovators Recognized by the EAC

By Mark Kawalya

Six innovators each from the six countries of Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan, Kenya, Burundi and Tanzania, have been recognized with Presidential Awards at the East African Youth Innovation Forum. Organized by the East African Science and Technology Commission (EASTECO), the forum was held in early November in Kampala, Uganda.

The event was attended by developers and innovators, young researchers, entrepreneurs, finance players, public policymakers who came together to make deliberations on regional affairs, innovation and development, as well as trends in research and development.

The forum also discussed the challenges the youth in the region face in advancing talent in technological development as well as some of the available opportunities for innovation in the regional and international marketplace.

The goal of the forum was to act as a catalyst for effective engagement of the youth in spearheading the direction of future developments in the East African Community using innovations.

The six young innovators, including the Ugandan (Steven Kakooza) were awarded in recognition of developing innovative applications and for shining as innovators that are making worthwhile contributions to the local innovation ecosystem. The awards sought to recognize outstanding applications developed by East African youth as well as outstanding youth innovators who are enabling this ecosystem.

According to the judges, the East African youth innovators were selected competitively from the six EAC countries, and the selection was based on the following criteria: originality, marketability, scalability, social impact, and technical aspects.

The selection process was carried out by a national panel of experts, made up of representatives from the ministries responsible for science, technology and innovation, the National Council of Science and Technology, and ministries responsible for EAC Affairs. The winners walked away with a cash prize of USD $5,000 to further their innovations.  

Kakooza, who came out on top in the Uganda category, developed an innovation called the Kawu Card. The card acts as a storage for students’ pocket money, enabling them to withdraw it when the need arises at school. With no access to mobile phones in schools, the innovation enables parents to load money directly onto their students’ cards by simply downloading the Kawu application. Students can withdraw cash from Kawu agents that are stationed in schools.

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