Rhodes University kenya

Rhodes University kenya

Rhodes University students win international accolade

Date Released: Wed, 24 April 2019 14:05 +0200
Four Rhodes University PhD Chemistry students were awarded the top position in the 2019 Hult Prize Challenge for their electronic and electrical waste management system. Team E-Smart, Nobuhle Ndebele (24), Lindokuhle Nene (25), Reitumetse Nkhahle (26) and Gauta Matlou (29) participated in the 2019 Hult Prize Regional Summit held at the Brookhouse International School in Nairobi, Kenya, from 19 to 20 April 2019.

In its 10th year, the Hult Prize challenged innovative University and College students from across the world to a social-entrepreneurship start-up that will create 10 000+ meaningful jobs in the next decade. The Team E-Smart business model, which aims to create job opportunities for the youth through collection of electronic and electrical waste materials and further recycling, repairing or repurposing into new market products so impressed the judges that they were awarded the top position against 45 other teams from across the world. Rhodes University was the only South African university participating in the challenge.

Welcoming the participants in this year’s challenge, the 42nd President of the United States of America, Bill Clinton said: “Young people feel stuck. It is this feeling of being stuck that makes them vulnerable to resentment, and then to divisive political rhetoric and conspiracy theories like the ones we are witnessing today around the world. If you feel economically stuck and socially displaced and there is no lifeline and no options… I therefore believe that this challenge, to develop an idea that provides meaningful work for 10,000 young people within the next decade, is particularly important in the current global environment”.

Team coach and Senior Lecturer at Rhodes Business School, Dr Tshidi Mohapeloa said she decided to help the students to understand the business language as they are scientists. “I am impressed with how they adapted and understood the business world. This is an opportunity for them to become entrepreneurs,” Mohapeloa said.

Team E-Smart Leader, Gauta, said: “The reason we chose a business model based on electronic waste is because these electronics have hazardous components in them.”

Lindokuhle said they have decided to be the youth that is going to stand and create things for themselves. “We are the driving force and agents of change and improvement in our country. We want to lay a platform for generations to come after us, they must know that as a human being, you can do anything you put your mind to. Students must not limit themselves based on specific disciplines that they are doing,” said Lindokuhle.

According to the Team E-Smart South Africa annually produces about 316 thousand tons of electronic waste. Only about 12% is collected and recycled and it is exported to other countries. The team want to contribute to the economy and while also promoting proudly South African goods. “The electronic waste that is currently not collected and recycled or repurposed will raise about R15 Billion for the South African economy,” added Lindokuhle.

The team plans to visit schools across the country to raise awareness about electronic waste and its dangers while inspiring young people to open their minds to the endless opportunities and works hard.

Following this win, the team will spend eight weeks in the United Kingdom for the Hult-Prize Acceleration program starting on the 27th of July 2019. The program aims to prepare the 25+ winning teams from different regional summits for the final pitch competition where the best business idea will win $1 000 000 as a start-up injection.

On 15 May, the Politics and International Studies department at Rhodes University, in association with the East African Society (EASoc), hosted a dialogue with the Kenyan Ambassador to South Africa, H E High Commissioner Jean Kamau.

Eden Grove Blue was beautifully decorated with the Kenyan and South African flags placed side-by-side, a symbol of African unity. Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Peter Clayton, said the dialogue was well timed, considering that it took place during Africa month and Rhodes University’s International Week.

Chaired by Politics lecturer, Shingi Mtero, the theme of the talk was Kenya’s democracy and its prominent role in the region. To start the conversation, Mtero probed on Kenya’s journey to becoming one of the most stable democracies in the region, to which Ambassador Kamau detailed the history of the country’s democracy. Kenya gained independence from Britain in 1964 and started as a multiparty democracy.

With time, those principles changed and the country moved to a single party democracy. Ambassador Kamau recalled the late 70s and 80s as a very dark period for the country, “The single party democracy was not responsive… it was far removed from the tenures of democracy. If you were not a member of the ruling party, you couldn’t access services and there was no space for civil society to organise.” The year 1992 marked a turning point as the Constitution reverted to multiparty elections. However, the dominant party was still able to manipulate and control state organs.

Kenya’s transition to a Constitutional democracy did not happen overnight as the country spent about eight years debating the form the Constitutional amendments would take.

Ambassador Kamau prides herself in the fact that the Constitution makes it very hard to tamper with Kenya’s electoral cycle that happens every five years.

Ambassador Kamau explained that Kenya’s democratisation has not been smooth sailing. For instance, the 2007 electoral process resulted in violence and a negotiated settlement. “In 2017 again, we had again a Supreme Court decision that determined that the elections were not free and fair and called for a repeat,” the ambassador expressed.

Presidential candidate, Raila Odinga withdrew from the re-elections then went on to call himself “the president of the people”. Mtero asked Ambassador Kamau what her views on this are, and she responded with the Barack Obama quote, “Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions”.

Kenya has become an important force in the East African region, and Ambassador Kamau said her country would like to play a significant role in the area of peace and security in the region. Kenya has contributed to peacekeeping programs in neighboring states like Burundi and Somali and even going beyond the region into Liberia and Sierra Leonne.

“In terms of peace and security, this is one area we feel strongly about and we want to maintain that strong presence and contribution,” she said proudly. Ambassador Kamau went on to speak about the strong bilateral relationship between South Africa and Kenya, citing Jacob Zuma’s visit to Kenya in 2016 as a symbol of that.

The question and answer session sparked rigorous dialogue about topics ranging from the representation of women in parliament, Swahili as a continental language, tribalism, and Kenya’s information technology.