Hillel's Tech Corner: Israeli innovation makes an impact in Africa

Innovation: Africa is an NGO with a mission to bring Israeli solar and water technologies to rural African villages. Read that sentence again.

June 7, 2019 23:53
4 minute read.
INNOVATION: AFRICA is an NGO with a mission to bring Israeli solar and water technologies to rural A

INNOVATION: AFRICA is an NGO with a mission to bring Israeli solar and water technologies to rural African villages. . (photo credit: Courtesy)


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When I started this weekly column, it was clear to me that I wanted it to be a little bit different than all the other columns about Israeli technology. Enough has been written about Waze, Mobileye, and all the other incredible consumer and business startups being built in Israel. I figured I would focus on impact technology, innovation that is making the world a better place.

However, if it was going to be a column about impact technology, this organization should have been the first one that I featured. Innovation: Africa (http://innoafrica.org/phone/projects.html) is the ultimate manifestation of what it means to be a “Light Unto the Nations!”
Innovation: Africa is an NGO with a mission to bring Israeli solar and water technologies to rural African villages. Read that sentence again.

Founded in 2008 by Sivan Ya’ari, the organization provides solar energy to schools and medical centers and pumps clean water throughout villages across Africa.

I have met Ya’ari at multiple events and panels over the years. This woman and the team she has built around her and her vision are simply outstanding. 

Innovation: Africa takes inspiration to a whole new level. At the risk of sounding even more like I work in their marketing department, I encourage you, I challenge you to watch one of their YouTube videos and not cry.

What you’ll find are videos of African children who have never seen, felt, or drank fresh running water who often have little hope of a better life to break the cycle of poverty. Then with a modest transformation, these same kids experience euphoria dancing around with Sivan and her team and thanking them and Israeli technology for the blessing of clean water.

I doubt I need to explain to you how paralyzed you are without fresh water or how we take little things for granted like the flicking of a switch to turn on a light in the darkness. But in 2019, these villages are still in the dark and know these challenges all too well.

Since founding Innovation: Africa, Ya’ari and her team have installed solar energy, water and agricultural technology in more than 250 rural African villages across 10 African countries. Just a small sample – 42 projects in Malawi, 119 in Uganda, 34 in Tanzania, 26 in South Africa, three in DRC, six in Senegal, and 11 projects in Cameroon. This year they expanded to Eswatini (previously known as Swaziland) and Zambia.

Like a goodwill ambassador for Israel, Ya’ari and Innovation: Africa are working with UNICEF to provide clean water and bring light to 35 more medical centers to internally displaced peoples camps and refugee camps across Cameroon. The solutions are simple, which makes their work immediately impactful and provides a long-term sustainable solution. Amazing to see the United Nations recognizing and working with an Israeli organization.

Innovation: Africa engineers have recently developed their latest product, which is called the “Energy Box.” Inside, this small rectangular device has all the components needed to provide solar power to an entire school or a medical center with lithium-ion batteries, an inverter, control charger, and LED bulbs, which are all produced in Israel. This new long-lasting and durable solar system will provide energy to any facility for more than 10 years with no maintenance required.

With the support of the Rothschild Caesarea Foundation, Innovation: Africa is in the process of selecting 10 engineers from Tel Aviv University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology to help their engineering department with the development of the new Energy Box. The Israeli student engineers and the Innovation: Africa team will be in Malawi and Cameroon in the next few months for installation, testing and training local engineers.

The innovation does not end with the installation of these life changing systems. Innovation: Africa has developed a UN award-winning remote monitoring technology which enables them to efficiently monitor all the solar systems and pumps throughout the villages, making sure it is all working. If anything breaks, they get an alert and the local team fixes it.

When you visit the Innovation: Africa website, the first text you see is “The Israeli heart and mind just transformed the lives of 1 million Africans forever.”
I could not have said it better myself.

You know; speaking of impact technology, as opposed to just regular businesses, this stuff takes time. What I mean is, you can change your product in a normal company and see instant results. When it comes to changing the world, seeing results takes time.

Innovation: Africa is the exception to the rule. What they do for these villages, for these children, is instantly felt and experienced. This phenomenal organization, in just a little over a decade, has impacted more than 1.5 million lives across Africa, providing them with access to vaccines, light and water. One and a half million people. That is the equivalent of 20% of the entire Israeli population.

This is Israeli Innovation at its very best!

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