Startups winners at SAB Foundation social innovation awards

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Tech startups have taken home a share of the ZAR12.5 million (US$866,000) awarded to winners of the SAB Foundation Social Innovation and Disability Empowerment Awards 2018.

The 20 winners of the awards were announced last week at an event in Johannesburg, with first place winners taking home more than ZAR1 million (US$70,000) each for their innovations.

The Social Innovation Awards are aimed at innovators, entrepreneurs and institutions with prototypes or early-stage businesses that solve a social problem.

The first prize of ZAR1.3 million (US$90,000) was awarded to Hustlenomics, an affordable housing provider, while second place went to Farmru. The startup took home ZAR90,000 (US$62,000) for its tech solution for smart farming, which uses soil moisture, humidity and light sensors connected to a micro-controller to monitor the environment and trigger automatic irrigation when it is required.

The third place prize of ZAR750,000 (US$52,000) was awarded to Spaza Credit, a microfinance solution created by Invoiceworx for retailers in the informal sector, such as spaza shop owners, who are often unbanked and have limited access to finance.

All of the finalists received either a Development Award or a Seed Grant worth between ZAR200,000 (US$14,000) and ZAR500,000 (US$35,000).

The Disability Empowerment Awards are aimed at promoting social innovations that improve the quality of life for people with disabilities through assistive devices, training or employment. The overall winner was Clothes to Good, which recycles donated clothing and resells it in bundles to beneficiaries. NPO Steps Clubfoot Care was second, while the third place prize went to VoQoL, a voice-activated tech device that gives quadriplegic and paraplegic people the freedom to control their home environments using verbal commands.

“Through the awards, the SAB Foundation finds, supports and scales social innovations that demonstrate a sustainable business model while solving a critical social problem,” said Ntandokazi Nodada, SAB Foundation social innovation project manager.

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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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