Strathmore is taking one problem at a time and beginning to solve it, even before it launches its engineering program. They are looking into social problems and creating innovative solutions around such problem.
One of the social problems they are looking into is the problem posed by hawking in Nairobi. Many, including the city fathers, see struggling hawkers as a menace, unlike many large cities where hawkers sell their wares and leave their stations clean.
Our hawkers, on the other hand, in most cases dumb their garbage in their work environment, thus weakening their case for continued use of their workspace.
Yet the problem is not of their making. City governments often are oblivious to an enabling environment to facilitate entrepreneurship.
Strathmore University in collaboration with Solar E-Cycles Kenya Ltd, have come up with a new product dubbed SOLAR CARGO BIKE in their mobility product line. The bikes should carry the hawker’s cargo as well as waste baskets.
The solar-powered electric product comes in two models for urban and rural environment and both can be equipped with refrigeration to curb waste. The first one is a three-wheel configuration that carries up to 100kg and the heavy-duty four-wheel configuration that carries up to 300kgs.
SUPPORT LEGITIMATE VENDORS
The collaboration between industry and the research institution makes it possible to produce industry ready graduates.
The university closely collaborates with government especially in the sale of energy into the national grid having signed a power purchase agreement.
Customers are invited to request modifications to the basic front cargo design to meet their specific needs.
The Solar Cargo Bike is highly adaptable. In addition to generating its own electricity, it can be provided with a 1500W inverter to provide 240V AC power, which will enable vendors with perishable products to refrigerate them and prevent losses.
Besides creating jobs for the many unemployed youth in the country, the university says that these products will have different use cases, including delivery, mobile power generation, street marketing, ambulatory door to door sales, sales and event promotion and waste collection.
Potentially, these products will improve the hygiene of vendors especially food vendors. There will be need, however, to support legitimate vendors to access parking spaces for vending bikes. Without this, success will be difficult.
Strathmore has demonstrated how government, research institutions and private sector can work together for the good of the general citizenry. Other institutions of higher learning must emulate Strathmore to eventually solve our perennial unemployment problems.
Michael Schrage, author of Serious Play: How the World's Best Companies Simulate to Innovate, said "Innovation' isn't what innovators do...it's what customers and clients adopt. “
The writer is an associate professor at the University of Nairobi’s School of Business.Twitter: @bantigito