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African Innovation At Its Best: GIST Finalists

The Global Innovation through Science and Technology Finalists have been announced. The top 15 idea stage finalists are: Adwoa Asiedua Boateng, Ghana; Alim Khamitov, Kazakhstan; Cynthia Ndubuisi, Nigeria; Dessy Aliandrina, Indonesia; Eshmuradov Dilmurod, Uzbekistan; Gargy Lahiry, Bangladesh; Onyedikachukwu Igili, Nigeria; Islam Azeddine Mennouchi, Algeria; Jossué Amador Andino, Honduras; Mixon Faluweki, Malawi; Muchu Kaingu, Zambia; Pavel Santos, Dominican Republic; Sartika Kurniali, Indonesia; Sheldon Duncombe, Jamaica and Waleed Jan, Saudi Arabia. To celebrate the African scientist who make us proud we have chosen to highlight a few.

The GIST initiative is led by the U.S. Department of State and the American Association for the Advancement for Science (AAAS).

GIST (Global Innovation through Science and Technology) operates at the intersection of science & technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship to empower individual innovators and to strengthen entrepreneurial ecosystems.GIST empowers young people to use their science and technology (S&T) based ideas to commercialize new products and create companies that address economic and development challenges. GIST takes innovators from around the world, augments their skills, builds networks, and connects them with mentors and investors – from New York to Silicon Valley – that can help them realize their ambitions. Since 2011, GIST has mentored over 3,500 startups, generated over $21 million in financing, and engaged over 1 million innovators and entrepreneurs. Learn More about GIST

Below are the proposals submitted for the GIST competition by Mixon Faluweki (Malawi) and Cynthia Ndubuisi (Nigeria).


Due to the advancement in mobile phone communication in Malawi, use of cellphones is common both in urban and rural areas. Beside the known cost of buying airtime by cellphone users, many rural cellphone users spend a lot of money on paying for charging the batteries of their phones. These costs are on top of the high airtime tariffs that puts a lot of pressure to the poor rural population. In Malawi, an average daily income for an individual is below 1 USD. Other forms of energy such as solar energy are very expensive making it difficult for many rural citizens to access them.

The most reliable mode of transport in Malawi is a bicycle as discovered by the 2010 Malawi Demographic and health survey conducted by NSO. It is reported that about 47 % of the rural households own a bicycle. Also a large group of men both in urban and rural areas run a bicycle taxi service called kabaza in local language. Many of these people do not have home electricity. It is for this reason that Padoko charger, that uses the bicycle, has been designed and developed to ease the problem of paying for charging their phones’ batteries.
faluweki bicycle
The charger takes advantage of the existing bicycles that are readily available to the people in Malawi. The few components used to fabricate the charger makes it relatively cheaper than other phone chargers currently on the market. The ability to charge a phone in a comparatively shorter period of time than available chargers makes it a preference over the rest. Also the charger will not have extra running costs for users. Furthermore, Padoko charger could charge the batteries for an MP3 player and a rechargeable torch. The latter will see many people stop using paraffin lamps thereby reducing indoor pollution.

The Padoko charger uses a bicycle dynamo whose output is regulated to a stable DC power at a 5V and 400-500mA. It does not need too much energy to work, once the wheel starts revolving, charging begins. It can also charge almost every mobile phone.

If implemented, the charger has the potential of serving approximately over six million people. Due to the high number of people owning bicycles and the increasing number of mobile phone users in villages plus the burden of paying money for phone charging makes the innovation very marketable. Furthermore, bicycle taxi operators could use the same innovation to charge phones for their clients hence increase their income. The technology would see Malawi make Phone chargers for the first time in history and also create employment for many which will boost the economy of the country.

My plan is to open a small company that will be manufacturing this product and make it accessible to all potential users.

Being a third year university student pursuing Bachelor of Education Science degree, majoring in physics, I have the technical know how that is required to run the business. My educational courses have offered me a chance to study leadership and management. Other individuals include my two supervisors: Dr Justice Mlatho and Dr. Chomora Mikeka from Physics department, Chancellor College who could offer the necessary support in the business.

The leadership structure comprises of the manager (myself), an accountant and technical staff. As a manager I would oversee all company proceedings, plan and delegate duties to the company staff. In conclusion, the Padoko charger is a solution to the problem faced by many phone users in Malawi who do not have access to electricity but use a bicycle for transport.


The Problem

According to Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations; Nigeria being the world’s largest producer of cassava, produces about 40 million metric tons of cassava annually and generates over 12 million metric tons of cassava peels of which is perceived as useless and often burned openly by farmers to dispose of it cheaply. This releases more than 10 million tons of toxic carbon monoxide and other forms of pollution in the atmosphere damaging the air and health quality of people living in the communities.

Potential Impact

a. Reduced harmful effects caused by the traditional practice of burning cassava.

b. Increased economic benefit for both cassava processors (sellers) and goat farmers (buyers).

c. Increased quality of life and productivity/Increased career prospect.


This project is comprised of five innovations:

a. A simple technology (a drying platform for the cassava peels to be used instead of burning the waste)
b. A new product (clean dried cassava peels that can be sold as goat feed),
c. An educational component (a diet prescribed to goat farmers, designed by animal scientists that utilizes cassava peels and maximizes the growth rate and health of the goats)
d. Access to credit (facilitating micro-credit loans to build drying platforms), and
e. A new market mechanism (linking cassava processors and goat keepers).

This innovation provides a measurable economic benefit to both cassava processors and goat farmers with average annual incomes less than $2 a day. Original estimates suggested an annual increase of $384 USD and $198 USD respectively (“Development Marketplace Proposal #4345,” 2008, p. 2) and early evidence indicates gains closer to $635 USD a year (DM TEAM, October 1, 2010).

Competitive Advantage

a. The Nigerian Ministry of Agriculture estimates the livestock consumption of low income earners (i.e. market potential) as approximately $24 billion per annum and $66 million per day. In recent years maize production in Nigeria has not kept pace with demand. This may be attributed to inadequate production due to climate change coupled with the food-feed competition for this grain and its increased use for bio-fuel production in the developed countries. There is therefore the need to explore alternative cheaper feed sources for poultry/livestock feeding (e.g. goat, sheep, etc.) and sun-dried cassava peels have recently proven to be the best and most sustainable alternative.

b. The Department of Animal Production, University of Illorin Nigeria, in the Bioresource Technology Journal asserts, “High cost and poor quality of feeds and feed stuffs have been identified as the greatest constraints impacting livestock production in Nigeria. The high cost of maize (key ingredient) for livestock feed formulation is crippling the Nigerian livestock industry. The most logical step therefore is to formulate livestock feeds from non-conventional and non-competing (with human beings) ingredients by utilizing by-products and waste -from farmers and food-processing companies, which are not directly utilizable by man. Sun-dried cassava peels make a very attractive option.

Science and Technology

Animal scientists from the University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria designed a specific diet for the goats, comprised of dried cassava peels (30%) and grasses, legumes and roughages (70%) that maintains the health of the animals (reducing the cost of antibiotics and risk of death) and minimizes the time needed for the goats to reach their full growth (at which point they can be sold). In most cases the growth time is cut in half and the input cost of feed is drastically reduced, increasing the profit margin of the farmers by roughly $198 USD a year.

Sun-dried cassava = fatter goats and happier farmers

In Africa, where 87 million tons of cassava is processed annually, only 6% is used as livestock feed. In comparison, 32% of the cassava produced in Latin America is used for livestock feed and in Asia, the number is over 40%.

Why customers would want the product/service:

a) Reduced production cost.
b) Reduced time of livestock growth.
c) Healthier and fatter goats generated for goat farmers, etc.


1. Securing funds & partnerships

2. Distributing through already existing distribution outlets.

3. Engaging women vendors and local youth groups in the marketing and sale of our product.

7.) Team:

1. Cynthia Ndubuisi: CEO – Co-founder, Textile & Polymer Technologist, Ahmadu Bello University, Nigeria. Social entrepreneur, specialized in niche social networks.

2. Stephen Ugochukwu Ugwudi: Co-founder, product manager.

3. Clinton Ndubuisi: Co-founder,marketing and expansion officer.

4. Director of Research and Innovations: Mrs Esther Kantiok; she’s a consultant for the National Agricultural Extension Research Liaison Services and other research bodies.

Participant Information Courtesy of The GIST Initiative led by the U.S. Department of State, and the Tech-I competition implemented by AAAS, 2014. Learn More