Tomorrow's solutions today as young entrepreneurs present their vision

Prof Thenjiwe Meyiwa (VP: Research, Postgraduate Studies, Innovation and Commercialisation)

On Tuesday, 22 February, young South African innovators, many of them Unisans, pitched for a place in the 2022 International Blue Ocean Awards. 

Hosted by Unisa, the BlueOceanCorners City Final Jury event (the first step towards securing a place at these awards) was held at the institution’s Kgorong Function Hall and streamed live. Click here to watch a recording of the event.

Judging was done virtually by a team of international judges.

The Blue Ocean Awards were started in France in 2014 as a key ecosystem and innovation event inspired by the Blue Ocean Strategy, which is a business tool to help new and existing entrepreneurs to extract new value from existing markets by focusing on non-traditional areas and non-customers and their needs. 

The South African leg of the Blue Ocean Awards was launched in 2020 during the inaugural Tshwane Inter-University Innovation Challenge. The winners of this challenge participated in the Blue Oceans international competition in 2021, presented in partnership with the French Embassy in Pretoria.

Following the success of the Blue Ocean Awards, the BlueOceanCorners initiative was launched on 17 November 2021.  The aim is to train Blue Ocean Strategy facilitators in South Africa and introduce the Blue Ocean Strategy to as many incubation programmes and entrepreneurs as possible. Similar training sites are organised in various parts of the world.

The partners in the South African Blue Ocean collective include Unisa, the Durban University of Technology, the Tshwane University of Technology, University of Pretoria, eThekwini Municipality, City of Tshwane and City of Johannesburg.

Also in the partnership is the Technology Innovation Agency, as the primary funding partner, together with the French Embassy in South Africa and accelerators such as the Baobab, Tshimologong and TuksNovation.

All these partners are coming together to create an ecosystem that will allow for greater development of competitive and sustainable future businesses in future, to grow our economy, build capacity and improve our country.

During her opening remarks, Professor Thenjiwe Meyiwa, Vice-Principal: Research, Postgraduate Studies, Innovation and Commercialisation at Unisa, emphasised the importance of national and international partnership in addressing societal challenges. She briefly touched on sustainable developmental goals (SDGs) as guidelines in making a difference worldwide. ‘We all want to see an Africa that is peaceful with no poverty, crime, and corruption,’ she said.

Meyiwa stated that Africa can progress through partnership in the education sector, government, and communities.

Speaking next, Yongama Skweyiya, Manager: Commercialisation in Unisa’s Directorate: Innovation, Technology Transfer and Commercialisation, said, ‘Seven projects were allowed to be pioneered by the cities of Johannesburg and Tshwane, and participants will implement their business strategies in the cities to test whether they are functional. I am very proud that Unisa and South Africa hosted an event that will benefit Gauteng and, quite possibly, the global community.’

Some of the young innovators who pitched their solutions

Entrepreneurs at the event presented their innovative products and services to show how they will tackle societal challenges through their businesses. Participants were from Unisa, the University of Pretoria’s TuksNovation, and accelerators Baobab and Tshimologong.

  • Ann-Connect (Unisa) – Presented by Bonginkosi Mabaso, Mbuso Ngcongco and Mmatsatsi Letsiya

With Ann-Connect students are able to access exams and video interviews even when the connection is lost. It will assist them with connectivity issues.

  • TuksWaste – (TuksNovation) – Presented by Kanayo Asomugha, Brighton Zongondi and Shereen Mbele

The project recycles paper, cardboard, polystyrene and commingled substance. It also addresses the issue of unemployment by creating more jobs).

  • The Power Cycle (Unisa) – Presented by Thabang Bogopa and Nkamogeleng Matloga

The project recycles plastic to create locally manufactured bicycles that will also be able to generate power. This will reduce mobility problems and broaden access to power. The target market is high school students from rural and township areas.

  • Agro Organics (Unisa and Tshimologong) – Presented by Itumeleng Moroenyane, Caroline Matenchi and Ruth Schmidt(absent)

The project offers farmers a path to sustainable agriculture by assisting them in understanding the complexities of fertiliser and monitoring tools, finding the right solutions and thus decreasing the risk of failure when adopting new solutions.

  • Parents Education (Unisa) – Presented by Nokuthula Mzizi, Nokukhanya Sebiloane, Sindisiwe Sibiya and Watoto Wazania

The project addresses illiteracy and the poor performance of learners at schools. The proposed solution is to convert homes to re-enforcement environments involving parents, thus bridging theory to practise between school and home.

  • E-Token (Tshimologong) – Presented by Bami Oni and Brandon Sibanda.

The project aims to help residents who need energy for business, maintenance and staff comfort, but find it expensive, by providing redeemable energy sustainability credits to them regardless of the current energy tariff structure.

  • Untold Histories (Baobab) – Presented by Siboniso Bophela and Jean-Luc Koenig

This project aims to gamify heritage tourism and thus enrich the tourist experience in a fun and engaging way by providing an augmented reality virtual experience leveraging off Pokémon GO technology.

Thabang Bogopa

Itumeleng Moroenyane

Nkamogeleng Matloga

Judges interacted with presenters virtually to get a sense of how entrepreneurs intend on reaching their business goals and to gain clarity on their presentations. The entrepreneurs selected by the jury will go through to the next round of the awards to be held in May 2022.

*By Lesego Chiloane-Ravhudzulo, Journalist, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2022/02/25

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