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E230 000 for ESCCOM innovation challenge

By Bahle Gama

There is over E230 000 up for grabs in seed funding and cash prizes for start-ups that are innovation-oriented in the country, in fields like education, agriculture, e-commerce, ICT connectivity, and clean energy among other thematic areas.

This was disclosed by Eswatini Communications Commission (ESCCOM) Manager Technologies Lwazi Maziya during the National ICT Innovation Challenge launch that was held at the Hilton Garden Inn, which targets the youth of Eswatini, from emaSwati aged ages 18 to 40.

The Eswatini Communications Commission has partnered with the Central Bank of Eswatini (CBE), Centre of Financial Inclusion (CFI), Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA), and UNESWA amongst others towards the initiative. 

According to Maziya, 15 startups will be shortlisted to showcase their technology to a panel of judges and the three with the best innovative prototypes will be awarded seed funding or cash amounting to the aforementioned amount respectively.

He stated that the funding will help these startups commercialise or put their products on the market.

“Prototypes must be commercially viable to be on the market within two years”, he said.

The eligibility criteria entail submitting a proposal that shows the project has been thoroughly researched and has a clear relevance to ICT’s incorporated and solution to problems being addressed, the novelty of the project, proof of concept, team diversity, and indigenous capacity to develop and support solution and the interested participants should be duly registered with the Commission.

Meanwhile, ESCCOM Chief Executive Mvilawemphi Dlamini called for the youth of Eswatini to participate in the challenge for start-ups, new and long existing.

The CE was speaking during the launch of the challenge which will run from February 6 to March 17 under the theme “Promoting Sustainable Digital Service Development in Eswatini”, which he said could not have come at a better time as the country still emerges from the pandemic, “innovation will be key for the success of our digital agenda”.

“We expect the youth and already existing start-ups to strongly participate in this exciting initiative, which we want to foster an innovation ecosystem that will be sustainable and give entrepreneurs every opportunity to create commercially viable solutions”, he said.

Dlamini stated that the radical ideas that are shown by the young people in Eswatini represent a glimmer of hope even during disruptive times in lives in terms of technology revolutions.

He stated that technologies like ChatGPT are changing AI human-facing platforms, making interaction with computers seamless and a big value add. These are some of the technologies that the country should explore to accelerate positive growth in the ICT sector and foster innovative solutions. 

“We strongly believe that Innovation should not be the ultimate purpose, but rather the ideal means to introduce impactful change. Further, if Innovation is to bring about Impactful change, it should be Sustainable, Measurable, Agile, Relevant, and Time boundTime-bound. This is a SMART Innovation Initiative”, he said.

Elaborating, Dlamini said the challenge is meant to further unearth that one small start-up with a high-risk appetite but with high potential and support then them to have a breakthrough to commercialise their solution that is proudly developed and engineered in Eswatini.

“As a national Initiative, our goal is to establish networking opportunities for entrepreneurs in the ecosystem by exposing them to necessary research-based information, knowledge, and services”, he said.

He further stated that at the heart of the initiative is the desire to enable Eswatini’s youth population the opportunity to expand their problem-solving skills and abilities to address challenges in our economy and live up to their full potential and bring commercially viable solutions to the fore. 

“One way of achieving this is through the Innovation Challenge which will push individuals to participate in conversations and research work that will help build their knowledge and capacity. For the young and ambitious, this is a great opportunity to act and bring about change in your respective communities with breakthrough technologies. The Digital Economy is here with us and research tells us that there is a huge risk of the gap between those said to be rich and poor widening if a business is to carry on as usual,” said Dlamini.

Yet in all this, the CE said Eswatini has a rare opportunity to take the lead in addressing all forms of exclusion whilst at the same time creating new sustainable innovations at a pace that has never been seen or imagined. 

He added that in the event there is a failure to adopt a radical approach in the way things are done in Eswatini, Vision 2022 will remain a pipedream, adding that he hoped the launch would be a building block for the innovative landscape in the country, particularly those aligned with ICTs.

Dlamini also extended an invitation to all corporates, government agencies, partners, and angel investors to come to the party and ensure the challenge becomes an innovation disruptive platform for Eswatini, going forward.


Seed Funding/ Cash Prizes

First Place

E100 000

Second Place

E75 000

Third Place

E55 000


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