Student Start-up Competitions at partner universities in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda

Student start-up competitions were the first activity carried out by the newly established Innovation Hubs in the partner Universities in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda. The implementation of the start-up competitions was a real challenge due to the restrictions imposed by the PC governments for containing the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. Our African partners showed a high level of flexibility in organizing the events:

  • Some partners had to postpone the competition several times due to the closure of their institutions (e.g., Kibabii University and Lira University);
  • Some had to spread the phases of the competition in time to comply with the covid-related restrictions (e.g., Kisii University);
  • Some managed to merge the AHEAD start-up competition with relevant initiatives held by their universities to create synergies and to benefit from better attendance that was otherwise limited in the Covid times (e.g., Kenyatta University, Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology, The State University of Zanzibar, and Mount Kenya University);
  • Some partners – after announcing the competition – did not receive any submissions and had to find an alternative way to implement the competition. Hence, Makerere University and Kyambogo University organized training for students that aimed to improve skills for developing innovative start-up ideas. The learning material for this training was based on the AHEAD module “Inclusive and grassroots innovation” and the final assignment that suggested describing an innovative idea using the Business Canvas Model.

Here are the details of the competitions:

  • Kenyatta University (KE): Investors’ conference: pitching innovative ideas (23.09.2021) – 10 participants & 10 innovation / start-up ideas;
  • Kibabii University (KE): KIBU Innovation Challenge 2020 (22.10.2020-28.10.2020) – 9 participants and 5 innovation / start-up ideas;
  • Makerere University (UG): Training for development of start-up ideas (23.09.2020) – 16 participants;
  • Catholic University of Eastern Africa (KE): Forum 2021 Call for Innovations Challenge (22.09.2021-08.10.2021) – 4 participants and 4 innovation / start-up ideas;
  • Kisii University (KE): Kisii University Innovation Challenge 2020 (15.07.2021-10.09.2021) – 7 participants and 7 innovation / start-up ideas;
  • Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology (TZ): Innovation competition: DIT Teaching factory flagship projects (05.01.2021) – 11 participants and 11 innovation / start-up ideas;
  • State University of Zanzibar (TZ): SUZA’s case challenge competition (12.09.2021) – 30 participants (5 groups * 6 students) and 5 innovation ideas;
  • Lira University (UG): Start-up competition: call for innovation ideas (10.07.2021) – 8 participants and 8 innovation ideas;
  • Mount Kenya University (KE): Student innovation competition (03.09.2021-24.09.2021) – 20 participants and 20 innovation ideas.

The total number of participants in the competitions was 115. 70 innovation ideas were submitted and pitched.

The implementation of the competitions allowed PC HEIs to involve more students and staff in innovation activities. At individual level, it helped students to develop skills related to development and pitching of innovative ideas.

The winners of the competition in Kibabii University took part in the final project conference, hence had an opportunity to disseminate the ideas of their innovation.

Kenyatta University combined the final round of the competition (pitching of ideas) with the final project conference (Investors’ conference). Hence, the students had a chance to present their ideas to potential investors.

Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology and The State University of Zanzibar organized their competitions in line with the Teaching factory methodology and Problem-solving methodology, accordingly. Both methodologies implied solving of real-life (industry or community) problems. Hence, the innovative ideas offered by the contestants were communicated directly to the solution seekers for implementing the sought improvement.

Mount Kenya University helped innovators to showcase their ideas at the Agricultural Society of Kenya (ASK) and the National Commission for Science, Technology and Innovation (NACOSTI) Science week (annual event). Hence, the results of the competition (innovations) were presented at national level; as a result of this effort, 20 innovations have been registered for patents at the Kenya Industrial Property Institute (KIPI).

All winning ideas are being incubated in the AHEAD Innovation Hubs.



Picture: Kenyatta University - Group Photo of innovators who
pitched their idea at the Investors' conference



Picture: Kenyatta University - Student innovator pitching her idea - 
Malaika Vitals Watch



Picture: Kibabii University - openning of the Innovation Challenge



Picture: Kibabii University - Student innovator pitching his idea



Picture: Kisii University - Students working in the Innovation Hub
on the application for the start-up competition 


Picture: Kisii University - Student innovator in the Innovation Hub
preparing for the start-up competition