University of Nairobi, Riara students feted for their technological innovations

Mariam Salim

Mariam Salim of the University of Nairobi and her teammate present Hygiea innovaton at the ihub on October 25, 2023. 

Photo credit: Pool

Six Kenyan innovators have been feted for developing technologies aimed at finding solutions to common challenges facing society.

The students, from the University of Nairobi and Riara University, have won funding and a trip to Germany to showcase and develop their transformative technologies and exchange knowledge with leading researchers in various fields on the international stage.

The winners were recognised for developing diverse prototypes aimed at creating solutions to challenges in agriculture, healthcare, energy, technology and the circular economy.

They were unveiled on Saturday (October 28), where 12 innovators and startups showcased their talents during an event dubbed UNIINNOVATORS Startups at iHub in Nairobi.

The programme, co-funded by the Co-creation hub, GIZ and Make it in Africa, is dedicated to promoting innovation and startups on the continent.

The selection was done by a panel of judges comprising industry experts, researchers, analysts and experienced professionals in the innovation and technology space.

The core of the programme was to highlight and rank the best student-led innovations based on the uniqueness of the project, scalability, creativity, market reach, research credibility and target audience demographics, among other factors.

Mariam Salim's team from the University of Nairobi took first place with an innovative solution that uses machine learning technology and camera surveillance to ensure hand hygiene compliance among healthcare workers.

It aims to solve the problem of hospital-acquired infections, which affect 1.7 million people and are responsible for 199,000 deaths a year.

MS Nafisa Agil, a medical student at UoN, came second with Dev Health, an innovation that aims to improve the lives of patients by fostering effective communication and understanding between healthcare providers and the deaf community.

Another award went to Josiah Mbote and Jannice Odhiambo, pharmacy students at UoN, for their project on a saliva-based device for early detection of breast cancer that is accurate, affordable and easy to use.

Also from UoN, Martina Sukawa and her team with an innovation on a platform to empower pregnant women by providing information and educational resources, location-based connectivity to health services, telemedicine consultations, appointment scheduling and a social platform for community support and shared experiences.

Students from Riara University came fifth and sixth with their EJ Smartfarm 254 by Elijah Cheruiyot and the Grey Water Blue project by Carol Emannuela and Allan Obat.

University of Nairobi Vice Chancellor Prof Stephen Kiama stressed the importance of nurturing, incubating and funding student-led innovation at the university level, as the sustainability of the future depends on innovation and technological advancement.

Noting that the youth bulge in Africa is both a curse and a blessing, he reiterated the need to empower them to solve Africa's problems through innovation.

His counterpart from Riara, Prof Peter Gateru, for his part, noted that "universities should be a place where students create things, not learn things".

"So the key question for us in academia is how do we transform education to be about student outcomes that change or transform society," the don said.