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Innovation that solves for the nation! Ideas to unlock South Africa’s future…

Imagine an urban aquaponics farm that feeds local communities? Or an App that allows you to share information about poor road conditions? Or even, an electrical grid storage battery… These concepts are not so far off from being realised, thanks to the RE:SOLVE Challenge.

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South Africa is full of untapped ideas that hold the potential to solve for the pressing challenges experienced by the people who live here. This – combined with the impact of COVID-19 on the country, which revealed a deep necessity to re-examine and re-imagine how we do things – is what sparked the RE:SOLVE Challenge.

This purpose-led, design thinking challenge, which calls on the entrepreneurial and creative spirit of South Africans to rebuild and pave the way forward, was launched in October 2020. RE:SOLVE is now in its 2nd iteration, with the new 2021 Call for Entry open until 31 October 2021.

Funded by the City of Cape Town, and organised by the Craft and Design Institute (CDI), RE:SOLVE invites individuals and teams to co-create bold and innovative solutions with a focus on areas such as transport, hygiene, food security, education, medical care, retail and micro-enterprises. The top big ideas that are identified through the challenge receive kickstart funding to fast-track their early stage development.

In 2020, approximately 200 applicants entered their big ideas. From this intake, 10 South African innovators were selected to receive grant funding to prototype their ideas, all connected by the common thread of providing solutions. Their inspiring ideas highlight the innovative solutions that can surface when South African entrepreneurs are given a platform.

Take 2020’s Matshidiso Mabe for example. Mabe turned to digital solutions to put children at the centre of learning with a chat App that aims to create a learning triangle between the ECD (Early Childhood Development) educator, learner and school community. It is designed to help capacitate schools through professional development tools and strategic programmes.

Coming from a background in interior and graphic design, Hazel Suttill channelled her creativity into a box that holds disaster relief goods and care packages. Once used, the box can be converted into furniture, providing a solution that is two-fold.

Looking to combine community and transport, while putting a new spin on taking to the streets, Mcebo Shange’s innovation is an AI mobile and web App that could make the collection of data about deteriorating road conditions faster, cheaper, and easier. He is creating a crowd economy platform that enables anyone with a vehicle and smartphone to become a road condition data capturer.

While Shange’s platform focuses on roads, Sandile Mtshiki’s idea focuses on vehicles. He innovated the Phola Auto Table – a versatile, robust, foldable and portable accessory for vehicles that could tap into a range of markets.

Jessica Murphy, a teacher, tapped into her agricultural passion to take forward a simple, sustainable, innovative product that could help to transform arid sites into abundant food gardens. Today, her idea exists in the form of Harvest Moon Grow Box, a company which provides all the materials, tools, information and seeds required to start an organic edible garden in a biodegradable box, including an Olla irrigation pot.

Also taking an ingenious approach to agriculture, Suzanne Smit’s urban farming idea was close to home in the literal sense. Her concept is geared to setting up indoor aquaponic growing facilities in local communities. It is a sustainable farming methodology occupying less space and requiring less water than traditional farming methods, critical barriers in many communities. Her vision is to make locally-grown products available without the costly expense of transport and packaging.

Community and dignity are at the heart of Nomtandazo Sicolo’s idea. Sicolo was a passionate student working in a call centre when she submitted her idea. With RE:SOLVE she was given the chance to venture into the world of low-cost housing and modern banking, developing an innovative idea that utilises Stokvel savings.

Like Sicolo, Ross Eyre and Che Coelho looked to modern approaches to money, leveraging a background in design and entrepreneurial experience to produce a digital mutual-credit currency designed to redeem cost-effective networking services. It would be the first asset-backed currency of its kind.

Teri Kruger and her team combined their competencies and her energy expertise to develop a solar powered grid storage system – using locally produced Li-ion batteries. This idea provides purpose-built containerised battery and mini-grids systems or units that can be sealed, shipped and operated anywhere, including grid-tied areas.

Zamani Manqele used his background in catering and manufacturing to ideate a smart grocery bag handle that not only counteracts the hand strain from carrying heavier grocery bags, but also has a GPS distress button for emergencies.

The RE:SOLVE Challenge gave these South Africans the opportunity to realise their ideas and helped them develop their first prototypes. Watch them share their thoughts here: The success of the first iteration has formed a launch pad for the second round of the Challenge, which hopes to inspire further innovation.

Once the 2021 Call for Entries closes at 17h00 on 31 October 2021, 80 ideas will be shortlisted to participate in an eight-month programme. After this, 6-8 participants will be announced and given the opportunity to prototype their ideas via their share of a total of R100 000 in grant funding on offer.

RE:SOLVE Challenge applications are online only, via: