In a previous post here, this blogger announced that among the topics to be discussed at the 6th Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES) was the protection of intellectual capital with a sharp focus on intellectual property (IP). In addition to the IP Workshop on the first day, there was a Creative Economy Workshop on the second day. According to this workshop’s introduction, the creative industries (arts, entertainment, fashion) are attractive to many young people but few understand the business behind these industries and how to tap the creative economy to give them returns. On the workshop’s panel was a group of successful creatives who are turning the creative arts into sources of revenue, jobs and wealth creation.
In addition to the above, this blogpost will profile some of the top products and services pitched during the Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) Tech-I Competition at GES which recorded over 790 applications from 74 countries in the sectors of agriculture, energy, healthcare, and information communication technology.
During the GES, several workshops discussed funding options for entrepreneurs including Specialty Incubators, Innovation Hubs, Venture Capital, Private Equity, Crowdfunding, Angel Investing, Competitions, Grants etc. However the IP Workshop was a reminder to entrepreneurs that regardless the source of funding, it is imperative that all IP assets are protected and relevant agreements such as Non-Disclosure Agreements are in place. During the IP Workshop, it was emphasised that IP is territorial therefore entrepreneurs whose products are in foreign markets must ensure that their marks and inventions are protected in those foreign markets. In the popular case of trademarks, the panel noted that the ARIPO Banjul Protocol was not very useful to entrepreneurs at this stage and that they should rather use the Madrid System which offers broader coverage on the African continent and internationally. Colombe, the panelist from Rwanda gave the example of her fashion label INCO which she discovered was already registered as a trademark in Europe underscoring the importance of pre-clearance trade mark searches. Another important point discussed during the IP Workshop was that entrepreneurs must consider where to house their IP considering tax laws and benefits, ease of IP enforcement among other considerations.
During the IP Workshop, Tammy, the panelist from Namibia generated a lot of interest in the commercialisation of traditional knowledge in Africa. Tammy is the proprietor of Mbiri™ Natural Skincare which has created an essential oil extracted from the resin of Namibian Myrrh, which is wild-harvested by the Himba people of northwestern Namibia. The Himba women have been using for centuries as an ingredient in their traditional perfume. Tammy explained that her products are approved under fairtrade and are monitored to ensure the sustainability of the raw ingredients which means that the harvesters are being treated fairly and truly benefit from the plant product being processed. Therefore every Mbiri™ product bought filters benefits right down to the harvesters not only in Namibia, but in Africa. Tammy explained the underlying legal framework for traditional knowledge and genetic resources is the Nagoya Protocol known in full as the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
During the Creative Economy Workshop, there was mention of Nollywood, Nigeria’s thriving film industry which is worth an estimated $5 billion US Dollars. In particular the focus was on Nigeria’s new President Muhammadu Buhari who has vowed to save the country’s entertainment industry from pirates. In the IP Workshop, it was opined that the solution to fighting piracy in Africa was licensing. In the Creative Economy Workshop, the case of Nollywood and other creative industries throughout the continent was indicative of the lack of an enabling environment facilitated by the government. It was also noted that creative economy entrepreneurs needed to formalise their businesses and conduct thorough research/analysis on the various creative industries. As Dorothy, the panelist from Kenya noted, creatives must put more “business” in “show business” by acquiring business skills and investing in branding and marketing. The creative economy entrepreneurs also underscored the importance of mentorship and supporting each other in developing niche localised business models.
During the first GES panel discussion with Presidents Obama and Kenyatta, we were introduced to three exciting products and services created by young entrepreneurs namely “Akirachix” – an IT training centre for women by Judith Owigar, “Hello Tractor” – a service where two-wheeled GPS-enabled tractors that allow usage tracking, data gathering — on geo-location, market trends, uptake and tractor demand that allows farmers to request, schedule and prepay for tractor services via SMS messaging and mobile money by Jehiel Oliver and “Teddy the Guardian” – a smart teddy bear that measures heart rate, temperature and blood-oxygen level when a child hugs or plays with it by Josipa Majić.
At GES 2015, the winner of the GIST Tech-I Competition in the Start-Up Stage was Carlos Bernal from Mexico. Bernal’s product “GlucosAlarm” is a sensor which is positioned inside a toilet bowl to measure the level of glucose present in the user´s urine, which allows the user to analyze their glucose levels quickly and from the convenience of their own home. The user need only activate the sensor using the Bluetooth from a smartphone, and urinate in the toilet in a normal fashion. The sensor then calculates the concentration of glucose present in the urine and sends the results back to the smartphone which activated the sensor. In second place, fellow Kenyan Taita Ngetich stole the show with “Illuminum Greenhouses” which are specially designed greenhouses equipped with sensors to automatically irrigate and monitor water consumption and greenhouse state by SMS alerts to the farmer with an online portal. In third place, fellow African Blessing Mene from Nigeria with “UNFIRE” which tackles the high cost of poultry/livestock feeds by producing novel, culturally acceptable feeds that are highly nutritious and low cost.
Other big GIST Tech-I Competition winners at GES from the African continent include:
(1) Rudi Cooke from South Africa whose company, Water Bros seeks to remodel water distribution by putting high-tech water purification within reach of the local community using reverse osmosis technology;
(2) Mojisola Ojebode from Nigeria whose company Bioresources develops crop protection agents for the bio-protection of cowpea seeds against weevils;
(3) Charles Batte from Uganda whose company Tree Adoption Uganda with Tree Capital has a Tree Capital program which enables Ugandan youth with agri-business ideas in rural communities to access start up capital and provide training;
(4) Samson Fiado from Malawi whose product EasyBooks Accounting Package is an Accounting Software developed to manage business data for any small & Medium Enterprise seeking to establish a user friendly Accounting System for their business accounts; and
(5) Tendekayi Katsiga from Botswana whose organization Deaftronics manufactures high quality affordable solar powered hearing aids.
All in all, this blogger enjoyed the GES experience which was proof of some of the great potential on the African continent. To echo the words of President Obama during GES:
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”