African tech start-ups get nod for aerospace accelerator

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Two South African start-ups will participate in the six-month accelerator programme.
Two South African start-ups will participate in the six-month accelerator programme.

Two South African tech start-ups, WiPo Wireless Power and Elemental Numerics, are among the 10 African start-ups selected to participate in the 2018 edition of the Airbus Bizlab #Africa4Future accelerator programme.

Airbus Bizlab Africa4Future is a joint accelerator undertaking between Airbus global aerospace accelerator BizLab and Make-IT in Africa, an initiative by the German Agency for International Cooperation.

Launched in 2017, with the objective to encourage and support entrepreneurship in Africa, the programme seeks to build bridges between the aerospace industry and the different players in Africa.

Pretoria-based WiPo Wireless Power develops wireless power chargers for businesses, conference centres and other venues for the charging of mobile devices, laptops and drones.

Based at the University of Cape Town, Elemental Numerics was established to commercialise the elemental software that has been developed by founder, professor Arnaud Malan, of the university's mechanical engineering department.

The top 10 African tech start-ups selected are actively working on solutions related to unmanned logistics, including automation and drones, electrification, blockchain, artificial intelligence, data analytics, and material composites and manufacturing.

They were selected from 314 entries representing 19 African countries, received when the challenge was opened in October.

Implemented by the Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology and innovation consultancy Innocircle Consortium, the programme entails two bootcamps in Africa and one in Europe, with international aerospace experts.

"The 10 start-ups will participate in a six-month accelerator programme, consisting of intense technical and business development support, as well as gain opportunities to become an Airbus supplier," explains Samsana Ismail, communications manager for Africa, Middle East and international at Airbus.

"The programme includes the three-day kick-off Rocket Days event in Nairobi in January; technical development Rocket Days in Toulouse and Berlin in March and a 10-day business development Rocket Days in Cape Town in May."

The continent's young and increasingly tech-savvy population is likely to be the driving force behind Africa's socio-economic development, notes Ismail.

As a global aerospace accelerator, Airbus BizLab says it is ideally suited to help African start-ups transform innovative ideas into viable and valuable businesses.

In doing so, it increases the aerospace industry's engagement with hardware and software innovators and entrepreneurs in Africa while helping to nurture the establishment of competitive entrepreneurial ecosystems on the continent.

The programme will culminate with Demo Day events at the biennial Paris International Airshow and an event in Germany from 19 to 26 June, when finalists will launch their products, define their collaboration with Airbus, and announce their investment commitments in front of representatives from across the aerospace industry.

The 10 finalists are:

  1. Elemental Numerics (South Africa): Provides elemental software to the design of machines and components, ranging from aircraft to heart valves.
  2. WiPo Wireless Power (South Africa): Offers convenient wireless power chargers for businesses, conference centres, airports, restaurants and other venues for the charging of mobile devices, laptops and drones.
  3. Astral Aerial (Kenya): Provides drone services for humanitarian cargo transport, surveillance and emergency response.
  4. Cote d'Ivoire Drone (Ivory Coast): Develops locally-manufactured drones for various applications.
  5. Lentera (Kenya): Applies remote sensors to monitor and transmit environmental data to enable more efficient and smarter farming.
  6. Maisha ICT Tech (Ethiopia): Deploys locally built drones for delivering medicines, blood and healthcare items to remote and rural areas.
  7. MamaBird (Malawi): Provides a platform to help governments, NGOs and other organisations deliver vital life-saving supplies to remote communities.
  8. Map Action (Mali): A solution offering real-time online urban mapping to identify problems affecting water supplies, hygiene and sanitation.
  9. MobiTech Water Solutions (Kenya): An online real-time water monitoring solution that allows businesses, homes and water-service providers to manage their available water using an app-based dashboard and instant messaging.
  10. Track Your Build (Nigeria): A novel infrastructure management tool for construction and operations.
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