Leading from the front: Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Talon Garikayi honored for trailblazing innovation

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Tawanda Chiwara- Africa University Managing Editor

At the heart of most creative innovations is the need to provide solutions to challenges. While challenges differ in scale and magnitude, the ability to introduce the solutions at the right time is what makes the difference. As the saying goes, necessity is the mother of all invention, and true to this is a remarkable milestone that is set to place Africa University at the heart of data analytics and artificial intelligence in Zimbabwe. In a further nod to Africa University’s transformative drive in innovation enterprise, Professor Engineer Talon Garikayi, the institution’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor, was recently presented with an award for a national systems construction project on energy development, maximization and sustainability in the energy sector from the Zimbabwe Institute of Engineers.

This prestigious honor awarded by the country’s professional engineers body is in recognition of his work on the national fuel management project. This system links the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe and banks to monitor the national fuel reserves, and operations of service stations with regard to compliance and use of foreign currency disbursed by the central bank. All the information is placed on a dashboard and allows for the application of data analytics and artificial intelligence to aid in decision-making. The system maximizes on sustainability by pulling the plug on financial leakages and market indiscipline in the fuel sector through the use of technology. The efforts of Prof. Garikayi and his team of six developers, including another of our own, Terry Gomera, a Graduate Trainee in the i5Hub, is testament to what can be achieved when passion, dedication, and vision converge. “As a university, we now have a degree in Artificial Intelligence. We now need to optimize this system’s performance so that it gives us real-time information for decision-making. So our students in the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences will now be involved in a rigorous activity of creating a data analytic network for the management of ZiG-based fuel in Zimbabwe,” he said. Faced with the challenge of service providers who were unwilling to be monitored, they found their back against the wall. However, determination, government support and the affinity to create generational solutions to age-long problems eventually carried the day. “Attitude is everything. I always say to aspiring innovators, generate ideas, work in teams and everything else, money included, follows. It is important to always think commercially. Good ideas eventually always attract support and capital.”

He added: “This award means a lot to me personally, as well as Africa University. Sustainability projects are not easily rewarded. Having one’s work validated by industry peers makes it all more special. Credit to the team for all the hard work that went into this innovation. Working with students and upcoming innovators keeps me motivated. Having an opportunity to mentor young creative minds fuels my passion to keep striving for more.” Prof. Garikayi emphasized the need for students to continue on a path to seek knowledge. He noted that because challenges unlock our thinking, aspiring innovators must constantly assess the communities they live in to understand the problems they face so that they channel their passion into projects that make a difference for generations to come. His vision is simple, “Let us do things that are impactful to our communities.”

Exciting times beckon for Africa University students in the field of engineering and applied sciences as this door that fosters a culture of innovation and forward-thinking opens. Africa University in keeping with Education 5.0, which spotlights the need to innovate, industrialize, and add value to outputs in higher education, continues to shine in the advancement of contextually relevant and student-centered education in Africa.