The U.S. Embassy, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), and iCog Labs celebrated the successful conclusion of SolveIT! 2019 on August 17, 2019.
SolveIT! 2019 is a nationwide innovation competition in its second year that encourages young Ethiopians to develop innovative projects, promote entrepreneurship, and solve local problems through technology. Participants from fifteen cities participated in the Solve IT 2019 competition: Arba Minch, Aksum, Dire Dawa, Gambella, Harar, Semera, Assosa, Adama, Bahir Dar, Jimma, Jigjiga, Gondar, Mekelle, Hawassa, and Addis Ababa.
The winners of this year’s competition were Melkamu Taddese and Memberu Zeleke, who won 100,000 birr for their joint project, the creation of a 3D printer. Second place went to Dawit Getachew and Hanna Workineh, whose project was a machine that converts plastic waste into fuel and electrical power. Hanna Tilahun and Hume Degbesa took third place for their Yegna project, a monitoring device that tracks the frequency and strength of uterine contractions by controlling the drip of oxytocin.
SolveIT! 2019 received nearly 2000 project applications from throughout Ethiopia. The overall project included hands-on entrepreneurial training sessions throughout the country, hands-on mentorship of teams who developed 63 innovative products and services, and a week-long boot camp in Addis Ababa, which culminated in a national competition with 112 youth entrepreneurs.
The United States and Japan remain committed to empowering young entrepreneurs to solve problems using technology, software, and hardware to create more jobs and economic opportunities across Ethiopia.
At the closing ceremony, U.S. Ambassador Michael Raynor highlighted, “By supporting these programs and investing in their young participants, we’re investing in their capacity to find solutions that help their families, their communities, and their country. The overall result will be a stronger Ethiopia, which is the outcome we all want to see.”
Japanese Ambassador Daisuke Matsunaga stated, “I believe emerging technologies or leap frog technologies could change the world, especially in Africa. Talented youths are key for a country’s future. We are going to continue our support for human resource development.” In his closing remarks, JICA Chief Representative Makoto Shinkawa said, “As a follow-up to Solve IT 2019, JICA is launching an acceleration program to further nurture the talent that has emerged through this competition. The accelerator will begin within the year and include the opportunity to train overseas.”
Betelhem Dessie, Solve IT project adviser said, “SolveIT! is more than just an innovation competition; it’s a community of young and capable individuals who have a vision of changing their country for the better. SolveIt! is expanding its reach everyday through our alumni and partners.”