KAMPALA:Steven Kakooza is the winner of the Presidential Award for Uganda in the East African Youth Innovation Forum.
His innovation, the Kawu card, enables student cardholders to receive, withdraw, or spend money without the need to have a mobile phone, tablet or other gadget. A parent only needs to download the Kawu app for parents onto their own mobile gadget, and then use it to load funds onto their child’s Kawu card.
The parent can track the child’s spending on the app, while the child can go to a Kawu agent and check the balance loaded into their cards as well as withdraw the cash he or she needs.
Kakooza is among six winners — one each from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan — who were formally unveiled during the Forum.
The presidential awards seek to recognize outstanding applications developed by East African youth as well as outstanding youth innovators who are enabling the local innovation eco-system.
The youth innovation programme was advertised in the media in each partner state and on the EAC and EASTECO websites. Applications were accepted online from eligible young innovators below 35 years of age in eight priority categories — namely, agriculture, health, education, climate change and environment, ICT mobile applications, energy and infrastructure, industrialization and trade, and aeronautics and space technology.
“The East African youth innovators were selected competitively from the six EAC countries,” the judges said. “The selection was based on the following criteria: Originality, marketability, scalability, social impact, and technical aspects.”
The entries were evaluated by a national panel of experts comprising the ministries responsible for Science, Technology and Innovation, the National Council of Science and Technology, and ministries responsible for EAC Affairs in each partner state, together with other stakeholders.
The Forum itself was held in Kampala, Uganda, from 8-9 November. It brought together young researchers, developers and innovators, entrepreneurs, finance actors, academia and public policy makers to discuss the regional situation and latest trends in research and development as well as innovation and product development.
Among other things, the Forum addressed itself to the challenges that the youth in the region face in advancing their talent in technological development, in addition to the opportunities available for innovation in the regional marketplace and globally.
This way, it is hoped that the Forum will have offered a platform to catalyse the effective engagement of young people in steering the course of future developments within the East African Community (EAC) through innovations.
The conference was organized by the East African Science and Technology Commission (EASTECO), under the auspices of the EAC.
The Forum aims to create a regional platform that will stimulate and support young innovators in generating scientific and technological innovative solutions to social needs and to meet market demand.
The Youth Innovation Forum further hopes to enable the youth to create social enterprises that aim to cure social problems through innovative practices. It is aimed at empowering youngsters to steer their own initiatives and contribute to the building of a prosperous and independent society.
The East African Science and Technology Commission (EASTECO) is a semi-autonomous institution of the East African Community (EAC). The operationalization of the Commission was finalized in 2015 with the appointment of a Secretariat. The EASTECO headquarters offices are in Kigali, Rwanda.
The main objective of the Commission is to promote and coordinate the development, management and application of Science and Technology in the Partner States (composed of Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, and Uganda).
Therefore, EASTECO has an overall function of coordinating and facilitating the activities of the EAC Partner States and national science and technology institutions to promote the development and application of science, technology and innovation in all its aspects.