Innovation:Africa, an American-Israeli organization, is one of the three winners of the 2019 InnoDip Award for innovative diplomacy.
By ALAN ROSENBAUM
Innovation:Africa, an American-Israeli organization that brings Israeli solar, water, and agricultural technologies to rural African villages, is one of the three winners of the 2019 InnoDip Award for innovative diplomacy. The award, established by the Abba Eban Institute for International Diplomacy at the interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, will be presented at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference on Thursday, November 21 in Jerusalem.Sivan Ya’ari, founder and head of Innovation:Africa explains how the organization came into being. “About 21 years ago I was hired to work for Jordache, at one of their factories in Africa. When I went to the villages, I realized that their main challenge was a lack of energy. As a result of not having enough energy, there was no electricity, light and refrigeration, which resulted in a lack of clean water, limited access to vaccines and medicines, and little schooling.” Without electricity to pump clean water from the aquifers located under their feet, people spend hours searching for water every day, only to find dirty and contaminated source. Ya’ari returned to the United States, received a Master’s degree in energy from Columbia, and while still a student, started bringing solar energy systems to the villages.Today, Ya’ari and her team train local engineers to install solar energy to power schools, medical centers and pump clean water from beneath the ground. With solar energy in medical centers, qualified doctors move to remote villages, people receive vaccines and nurses deliver babies safely at night. Students can study at night and for the first time, use computers. Using solar energy to pump water, taps are installed throughout villages and drip irrigation lets people grow their own crops all year round.The public committee chaired by Amb. Ron Prosor chose Innovation:Africa Makers as a winner because it “exemplifies people to people diplomacy. They distribute Israeli innovation directly to where it is needed the most. It has a great scale of impact and impressive positive influence on people’s lives in the most neglected areas of the world.”Ya’ari explains that African governments value Innovation:Africa’s work. “They want to learn from Israel, and we are always welcomed. It has helped to strengthen relations with Israel.” She adds that when the residents experience clean water, they say that God has answered their prayers from Israel and Jerusalem. “It is a win-win situation,” she says.“By bringing Israeli technology to Africa, we have a system that allows us and the government to monitor the solar systems remotely, so at any moment they can see how much water has been pumped from each village, and how much energy has been consumed. She adds that Uganda has sent their own engineers to learn from Innovation: Africa’s staff. “This has helped to also transfer the knowledge and technology to more people,” she says.Since 2008, Innovation:Africa has completed over 250 installations helping over 1.5 million people. It is currently implementing its solar energy solutions in ten African countries, including Uganda, South Africa, Cameroon and Ethiopia.Innovation:Africa, with its innovative solar energy solutions, is helping Israel and Africa at the same time, and improving relations between people around the world.