• As the curtains came down in Kigali, which was hosting World Economic Forum, five winners of the conference’s challenge to find Africa’s Top Female Innovator were announced.

    The dynamic young women are innovators from a range of fields including health insurance, solar-powered vending carts, biomedical materials, IT training and food processing. They hail from Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, and Uganda.

    Africa has the youngest population in the world and reports indicate that it will double by 2045. In regards to this, several global leaders have indicated that Africa’s future lies in the hands of its youthful population. The region’s start-up ventures are gaining confidence and scale with a number of them being recognized beyond the region’s borders. However, there is a need to create an enabling environment that allows entrepreneurs to flourish. This is particularly the case for women entrepreneurs, whose potential is far from being optimized. This was the reason for a World Economic Forum challenge to find Africa’s top women Innovators.

    “I strongly believe that the 21st century will be Africa’s century, that its young population has the potential to build the world where they are not only materially better off, but also where things are fairer, more sustainable and more tolerant than at any other time in history. But this will not be achieved unless women are able to make a full contribution. This is why we are showcasing Africa’s best female entrepreneurs in Kigali this week,” said Elsie Kanza, Head of Africa at the World Economic Forum.

    The challenge required entrant companies to be less than three years old, be earning revenue for at least a year and have proven innovation and positive social impact. Here is the list of the winners of the Africa Top Women Innovators Challenge 2016:

    Audrey Cheng, Moringa School, Nairobi, Kenya

    Moringa School established by Audrey Cheng is aimed at enabling a whole generation to gain the skills they need to compete in the digital economy. For the past two years, graduates work in top tech companies in the region, earning on average 350 percent more than before they completed the coursework.

    Lilian Makoi Rabi – bimaAFYA, Tanzania

    Lilian Makoi’s bimaAFYA a mobile micro-health insurance is targeted to the low-income and informal sector dwellers. With its completely mobile, paperless solution, it offers reduced healthcare services. BimaAFYA plans to expand to Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria and Ghana by 2017.

    Nneile Nkholise – iMED Tech Group, Bloemfontein, South Africa

    iMED Tech Group’s goal is to design breast and facial prostheses for cancer and burn victims. The company only employs African women under the age of 30 with research backgrounds in mechanical engineering.

    Larissa Uwase – Carl Group, Kigali, Rwanda

    An agronomist by training, Larissa Uwase’s latest innovation, in partnership with the University of Rwanda, is to make spaghetti from sweet potato. Carl Group is improving the health of Rwandans by utilizing the nation’s staple crop.

    Natalie Bitature – Musana Carts, Kampala, Uganda

    Using economic innovation, Musana Carts develop environmentally friendly, solar-powered vending carts. With a price point of $400, each Musana Cart saves 3,000 tons of carbon emissions and improves the health of cities by eliminating pollution from charcoal and kerosene stoves.

    The following were also recognized:

    • Oyindola Honey Ogundeyi, FashPa Online, Nigeria

    • Mercy Kitomari, Nelwa’s Gelato, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

    • Louisa Ofusuah Obimpeh, Pooparazzi, Accra, Ghana

    • Evelyn Namara, !nnovate Uganda

    • Elizabeth Nyeko, Mandulis Energy, Uganda