What does a pair of wire and plastic spectacles share with a papyrus and sunlight based sanitary pads? The obvious thing is that they both won the Siemens Stiftung’s Empowering People Award that was held in Nairobi yesterday. The other thing is that they are very important items that solve major problems in the developing world yet made from very simple technologies.
Take the pair of wire and plastic spectacles for instance; a pair is made of a single strand of wire and two plastic lenses and costs less than Shs. 85 to produce. This means that the spectacles can retail for less than Shs. 200. Currently eye glasses retail for prices ranging from Shs. 3,000.
The sanitary pads made of papyrus and sunlight? I would really like to get the details of how this works and corresponding performance level. The other product that took a share of the 200,000 euros was a Jumpy Water Boiler that cooks food and disinfects water for rural communities.
The spectacles took the first prize of 50,000 euros from the Siemens Stiftung’s Empowering People Award, the sanitary pads got 30,000 euros for the second place and the cooking disinfecting technology got 20,000 euros in third prize.
Rolf Huber, Managing Director of the Siemens Stiftung said he believed all finalists’ innovations could help people in developing countries:
“By empowering individuals, we can empower communities, with long-term effects. We had 23 winners today, but by embedding solutions in operative projects and business models, we will be able to create many more winners in the world.”
A community prize (€3,000), based on votes, went to Gregor Schäpers from Mexico for solar reflectors for baking, cooking, and generating steam.
These innovations are cool; but as you might have noticed, the first and the third prizes went to German and Scotland respectively which are developed countries. I do believe that we as a people in the developing world understand our needs better and we need to psyche up and innovate competitive products so that the prize monies from such awards remain with us to uplift us from the “developing countries” menace. Kudos to Moses Musaazi from Uganda who took the second prize money that will benefit Ugandans it whatever small way.
The Siemens Stiftung wants to empower people to actively address today’s social challenges. Together with partners, the foundation designs and implements local and international projects with the aim of promoting responsibility and self-initiative. The foundation is committed to enlarging basic services and social entrepreneurship, promoting education and strengthening culture. The Siemens Stiftung pursues an integrative approach and stands for responsible, impact-oriented and innovative project work.