Business and Economy

Innovators from Africa recognised at Commonwealth 70th anniversary

The Duke of Sussex presented prizes to innovators in international development at a garden party celebrating the Commonwealth’s 70th anniversary in London.

Fifteen trailblazers won the Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Innovation for Sustainable Development Award, with winners attending a special ceremony on Friday, 14 June.

Amongst them was Elizabeth Kperrun from Nigeria (pictured below), CEO of Zenafri – a company that simplifies learning for African children and young adults by creating mobile applications and video content that educates them in their native language.

Upon receiving her award from Commonwealth Youth Ambassador, Prince Harry, she said: “This award will give us more visibility. It goes a long way towards helping us achieve our objective of making education more accessible for under-privileged kids in Africa.”

Fellow winner Rosette Muhoza from Rwanda (pictured above) founded the social enterprise My Green Home, which recycles plastic waste by mixing it with sand to make eco-friendly paving stones.

She said: “This award represents perseverance, possibility and pride. One of the biggest challenge we have is finding support. We want people to encourage social entrepreneurs – these are the people who don’t sleep because they are trying to solve the problems in our communities.”

John Oroko (Kenya), Chukwudi Anyanaso (Nigeria), Peter Rubashumira Tibigambwa (Uganda) and Franca Ma-ih Sulem Yong (Cameroon) were also recognised.

Each award winner received a trophy, a certificate and a £2000 prize. They were selected by an independent jury, based on the impact for potential of their innovations to advance one or more of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

The initiative seeks to showcase impactful innovations and forward-looking solutions that help countries advance the Commonwealth Charter values.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “I am impressed by the talent that is mobilised and multiplied through Commonwealth connection.

“There are also many other inventors and innovators of all ages in every country and community of the Commonwealth and it is they who drive us on towards a future of health, hope and harmony.”

It is hoped the competition will help shine the spotlight on revolutionary ideas that could improve prosperity, protect the planet, promote peace and justice and encourage partnerships in the Commonwealth.

This is the first year of the awards, which were open to all citizens and organisations of the 53 Commonwealth member countries.

Full list of winners

Rosette Muhoza, Rwanda (pictured top)
My Green Home is a social enterprise that is addressing the challenges of urban waste management, promoting green cities and fighting climate and plastic pollution through recycling.

Elizabeth Kperrun, Nigeria (pictured above)
Zenafri simplifies learning for African children and young adults by creating mobile applications and video content that educate them in their native languages and in contexts they understand. This also teaches children across the world about Africa’s culture, history, languages and heritage. With a focus on early education and gender, the applications have already been downloaded over 120,000 times with 2000 people using the apps every single day

Wayne Neale, St Lucia
Greening the Caribbean is an innovative St Lucia company that tackles environmental challenges to mitigate the effects of climate change, protect the ocean and agricultural economies and promote sustainable livelihoods.

Christopher Nesbitt, Belize
Maya Mountain Research Farm’s primary innovations include the use of tropical staple food trees in the agroforestry system, the application of biochar from crop residues to premium cultivars of cacao, turmeric, vanilla, and timber with cooperative family labour as the economic driver.

Alfred Bubba Cook, Australia
As part of its Panda Labs innovation programme, World Wildlife Fund Australia experiments with new approaches to solving complex global social and environmental challenges. This includes exploring emerging technologies like block chain.

John Oroko, Kenya
Selina Wamucii is an inclusive mobile phone driven digital platform and social enterprise for smallholder farmers that promotes prosperity by empowering smallholders/pastoralists to earn sustainable incomes.

Chukwudi Anyanaso, Nigeria
The People and Planet Life Foundation focuses on the need to tackle extreme rural poverty and hunger among female and small scale farmers by boosting agricultural production to support self-sustaining growth and employment.

Commonwealth Games Canada, Canada
Commonwealth Games Canada focusses on the integrated sport development and sport for development programming to promote individual and community social development, and build national sport system capacity.

Nitesh Kumar Jangir, India
Saans is a neonatal breathing support device for low resource settings, with multiple powering options, which maintains respiration and oxygenation in premature neonates with RDS (Respiratory Distress Syndrome) by providing constant airflow and pressure to keep the lungs open during transport to a tertiary care setting.

Ata Ul Haq, Pakistan
Youth Association for Development Pakistan promotes women’s empowerment and peace through its 4Ps philosophy (Peace, Promotion, Prevention and Protection). The project has influenced policy change to legally safeguard the women and girls who have been affected by sectarian conflict.

Leilua Lino, Samoa
Leilua was raped by her own biological father at age 9 and was evacuated under Samoa Victim Support Group’s (SVSG) shelter and care in 2011. In 2018 she walked tall to court and achieved justice against her father who is now imprisoned for 29 years.

Following her traumatic experience, she created a Peace Garden in 2017 as her way of healing from her experience of gender based violence. She fronts the ‘Positive Movement Campaign’, which has reached 20,000 children to date.

Peter Rubashumira Tibigambwa, Uganda
The Prisons’ Justice Change makers programme aims to address the barriers prisoners face to access justice such as lengthy pre-trial detention, inadequate access-to-legal advice and information, inadequate coordination and collaboration between the Justice, Law and Order Sector actors and prisons and inadequate utilisation of alternatives to incarceration.

Franca Ma-ih Sulem Yong, Cameroon
With studies linking social media use to increased rates of anxiety and depression, Franca Ma-ih Sulem Yong started the DigCit SDG project to direct young people’s energy towards positivity by encouraging them to use these same tools used for negativity towards contributing to the SDGs.

Joanna Ewart-James, United Kingdom
The Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) has been advocating for the Commonwealth to take effective measures to achieve SDG8.7 since 2016 across the Commonwealth. SDG8.7 which aims to eradicate forced labour, end modern slavery and human trafficking and secure the prohibition and elimination of the worst forms of child labour, including recruitment and use of child soldiers, and by 2025 end child labour in all its forms.

Mohamad Shafie Taib, Malaysia
The Malaysian Government set a target of 45% carbon reduction for each State. Melaka supports Malaysia’s Vision 2020 to be a high income low carbon developed nation with a minimum GDP per capita of USD15,000 by the year 2020.

The programme’s goal is to institutionalise the use of day-to-day green technology in non-urban communities so that green living permeates all levels of Melaka society to consistently preserve the environment, instil the culture of low carbon living and manage solid waste sustainably.

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