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There is no limit for Drop Access as they win the green startups contest

  • By Pamela Okutoyi
  • September 9, 2021
  • 0 Comment

A start-up developing a technology ,VACCIBOX, that will slash vaccine waste in the health sector has won this year’s Climate Launchpad (CLP) competition, a green ideas competition organized by the European Institute of Technology (EIT), Climate-KIC, with the support of the European Commission. This win grants Drop Access the opportunity to represent Kenya at the Africa regional finals and a cash prize of Ksh 150,000 to develop their idea.

“When I got my baby in 2019, I faced a lot of challenges getting her vaccinated. Living in the rural Makueni, our clinic turned us away for reasons that the vaccines had spoiled. In addition, the clinic faced unreliable power challenges to preserve the vaccines,” says Norah Magero, co-founder of Drop Access during the CLP Pitch competitions. “With the pandemic, Kenya needs to vaccinate each citizen against the COVID-19. However, the big question is; does the country have the infrastructure, the energy, and the technology to deliver such an immense programme?”

Drop Access, a women-led and youth-led NGO in Kenya, founded in 2018 by two sisters who wanted to positively transform rural and grassroot communities, believes that VACCIBOX will cut vaccine waste by 80%.

VACCIBOX is a 100% locally manufactured portable solar-powered fridge designed to transport and store vaccines, blood and blood products, and other medical items.

It has a capacity of 40 litres and a temperature range of 2 to 10 degrees Celsius.

Being easily portable means it can be mounted on a motorbike or boat when deploying healthcare facilities to rural, remote and inaccessible areas. 

VACCIBOX also has a data management platform that healthcare workers can remotely monitor data collection in real-time. Asides from that, the technology is manufactured in Kenya, presenting a huge market for the locals. Early tests of the product have had encouraging results.

Norah Magero, a mechanical engineer and certified energy manager within the team has said: “Winning this award takes VACCIBOX to the next level. We can now further develop our technology to ensure every child in Kenya has access to a vaccine regardless of their demographic. “Our vaccine waste management technology has the potential to massively reduce vaccine waste, all while saving institutes energy and money.”

The idea was presented under the theme of Clean Energy. For this theme, accepted ideas revolved around storage, smart power grids, integrating wind, solar and bioenergy, carbon capture, carbon mitigation of chemical and industrial processes and efficient energy use in buildings.

Other big prize winners on the day were:

Wable Maji Safi Solutions

The enterprise has developed a Virtual Water ATM, M-Safi, designed to be a stand-alone pay and go using sim application (any phone with M-Pesa) to enhance clean and safe drinking water in decentralized community water points.

Men drinking from an M-SAFI ATM

The innovative team were frustrated with existing challenges to access clean and affordable water in the underserved populations. They hope the product will help 5million people access clean water by 2026 and cut down deforestation by 60% within communities served. 

Coming second in the national finals, Wable Maji Safi Solutions will be representing Kenya at the Africa regional finals and also walked away with a cash prize of Ksh 100,000 to develop their idea. 

Clean Energy 4 Food Security

The innovation has won a cash prize of Ksh 50,000 and a chance to represent Kenya at the regional finals with their invention, Free Air Battery (FAB), which proposes to provide affordable off-grid energy services to rural off-grid households in Kenya.

FAB is cost-effective and robust, made from mature industrial components that can hold and discharge energy over extended periods (10+ hours). It can operate in extreme conditions without performance loss. FAB is non-polluting, designed for the circular economy, made of 95% metal components, and easily recycled after a 30-year operating life. 

They hope the easy-to-use innovation will provide affordable and decentralized renewable energy to 1,000 off-grid households in two years.

The judges said they were really intrigued by the significant innovations presented to them. Jesse Mbuthi, CEO, Laikipia County Development Authority, said, “It was terrific judging such great ideas, all of which have potential to make a real and lasting impact on the world.

“Picking the prize winners was not easy, but Vaccibox’s clear vision for a product that can create change, starting at a very local level with the potential to scale up across customer segments and geographies, really impressed us.

“I thank all of the participants for their great ideas and the work that has gone into these pitches, and on behalf of all the judges, we are looking forward to creating pathways to ensure they develop into viable businesses.”

The three winners will be representing Kenya in the Africa regional  finals on the 28th of September 2021. The competition will be attended by 30 African start-ups from ten African countries. Once all the regional finals have been completed, a grand international final will take place in Europe. The CLP finalists will compete in front of an international jury. The top 10 competitors will receive a $12,000 prize and a Golden Ticket to the prestigious EIT Climate-KIC incubator programme.