Cultivating Innovation: Unleashing Youth Power in Science and Agriculture

Story by Juliet Sithole 

Office of Advancement and Public Affairs Media Graduate Trainee

Africa University’s Innovation Hub, in collaboration with the College of Health Agriculture and Natural Sciences (CHANS), recently hosted a captivating event aimed at propelling the next wave of scientific and agricultural trailblazers. The occasion? A riveting student pitch contest where ingenious minds gathered to present their game-changing ideas before a distinguished panel of judges.

From pioneering farming methodologies to revolutionary environmental solutions, participants were tasked with pitching concepts poised to revolutionize the scientific and agricultural landscapes, not just in Zimbabwe, but far beyond. 

Ms. Washaya, the Innovation Manager, set the stage with her opening remarks, emphasizing that the contest transcended mere competition—it stood as a celebration of youthful brilliance and a testament to the region’s commitment to sustainable progress. She urged students to seize this platform as an opportunity to showcase their emerging talent.

Innovation Manager Ms. Yolanda Washaya

Structured in two phases, the contest commenced with proposal submissions, followed by a live pitch event. Out of sixteen commendable entries, the top ten were selected to pitch their visions directly to the judges, each team given a succinct five minutes to convey their project’s potential impact and feasibility.

In the judges’ feedback, the essence of the contest’s significance shone through. By challenging students to confront community challenges head-on and proactively seek solutions, events like these are pivotal in harnessing youthful energy to drive eco-friendly initiatives and sustainable practices.

Ultimately, the Bio-digester Technology (BioTech) team emerged triumphant, securing a research seed grant to further develop their groundbreaking concept, which focuses on biogas, bio-fertilizer, and electricity production. Redias Mbal, representing BioTech, expressed profound gratitude for the opportunity to showcase their vision, underscoring their commitment to sustainable development.

Recognizing the exceptional caliber of ideas presented, the second to fifth runner-up teams—2 Green, IntraLims, Biosentinel, and Starbridge Engineering—were rewarded with incubation support from the Hub. Beyond financial backing, these incentives offer invaluable mentorship and real-world opportunities for idea implementation.

But the impact didn’t end there. The Innovation Hub organized a ‘Design-thinking and Entrepreneurship’ workshop for all participants, equipping them not just for future pitches, but also for the journey beyond university, ensuring that the seeds of innovation planted here continue to flourish in the real world

As the Hult Prize 2024 Journey begins….

Pitch contestants of the various Africa University teams pose with their certificates after the event

The curtains rise on the 2024 edition of the Hult Prize, the theme resonates with boundless promise—UNLIMITED prospects! At the Global Finals event in Paris, former United States President Bill Clinton unveiled this year’s challenge, marking the competition’s 15th anniversary with a flourish of anticipation and innovation.

Africa University once again takes center stage in the Hult Prize Challenge 2024, reaffirming its commitment to drive innovation and sustainability on a global scale. The journey began with fifteen teams vying for recognition, narrowed down to six finalists who stood ready to seize the top spot.

Director of Events, Mr. Maphosa, injected dynamism into the event, offering insights and posing thought-provoking questions on innovation and artificial intelligence.

In the arena of social venture ideas, the teams presented solutions to contemporary global challenges. Starbridge captivated with their vision of an aquapod—self-deployed solar-powered water purification, while BiDox proposed biometric documentation for accessible information. Nexa advocated for investing in dreams while fostering sustainability, and Reagan Technologies unveiled climate-smart pavement tiles generating electricity from footsteps.

Amidst the fervor of competition, Reagan Technologies emerged triumphant, their innovative climate-smart pavement technology earning them the coveted first position. Jeffery Takunda Murungweni, Genius Mukichi, and Simbisai Clotilda Mangwiro, representing Reagan Technologies, expressed their elation and shared words of encouragement for fellow participants, emphasizing the importance of determination and commitment.

The winning Reagan Technologies team members pitch to the judges

In his closing remarks, Africa University’s Dean of Students, Dr. Farai Chinangure, underscored the imperative of research and knowledge dissemination, urging students to partake in pitch contests and contribute to the legacy of success.

As we bid farewell to the regional stage, we extend our best wishes to Reagan Technologies as they carry the Africa University flag to the Regional competitions in June, determined to make an indelible mark on Africa’s future.