CauseTech crowdsourcing startup ideas for Burundi renewable energy


CauseTech, a new private sector initiative aimed at crowdsourcing breakthrough ideas, products and emerging technologies to support the work of UNICEF, has launched its first contest, looking for renewable energy solutions for Burundi, the most energy-poor country in the world.

The first CauseTech contest is an initiative of the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council and the Business Performance Innovation (BPI) Network. Contests aim to promote social entrepreneurship and aggregate the world’s best and brightest startups, innovators, technologists, and entrepreneurs in a global open innovation ecosystem.

In Burundi, only three per cent of the population is connected to the central electrical grid, with the vast majority of the population reliant on simple biomass fuels such as wood, coal, and kerosene, to meet their cooking and lighting needs.

The challenge, which will run until August 31, is to find sustainable renewable energy solutions to electrify rural Burundi. The winner will be announced at the annual Base-of-Pyramids Convention, which will take place this year in Mexico City, with the winning solution to be tested in the field in Burundi and potentially scaled across regions.

“We hope private sector partners will step forward here to provide funding for crowdsourced innovation challenges such as the Burundi Challenge and to help us engage smart minds in solving real-world problems UNICEF workers are facing in the field,” said Donovan Neale-May, executive director of the CMO Council and BPI Network.

“UNICEF is committed to ensuring innovative solutions be scaled to address needs for all,” said Dr Sharad Sapra, director of the UNICEF Global Innovation Centre.

“Despite incredible developments and technological advances across the globe, there are still many populations that are remote and deprived.”

Shapra said CauseTech was developed to be a connector between relevant actors in the value chain, to ensure innovative solutions can be successfully implemented and scaled across regions and contexts.

“Achieving our goal of reaching every child requires disrupting ‘business as usual’. New ways of thinking have to be developed. Assumptions and strategies must change. That’s why innovation is so important,” he said.


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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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