Johnson & Johnson Launches Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0

Winning Africa-based innovators and startups eligible for mentorship and US$50,000 in financial support and resources to help bring their ideas to market


Nairobi, Kenya – November  2018 — Johnson & Johnson has launched the Champions of Science Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0, a continent-wide competition calling on African innovators to submit ideas for innovative technologies, products and solutions that have the potential to create positive impact for African communities.

Now in its second year, the 2018 Africa Innovation Challenge is open to innovators and entrepreneurs from Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria & Ghana among other African countries. The challenge focuses on identifying scalable and sustainable solutions to six major health and environmental problems for Africa’s population.

“The growing number of innovation hubs throughout Africa is sparking a new generation of entrepreneurs who are innovating and finding new solutions for issues facing their communities,” said Josh Ghaim, Chief Technology Officer, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc.

“Our goal is to expand our support for the region’s entrepreneurs by pushing the boundaries of creative solutions to meet several areas of urgent need. With six new solution categories, Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0 represents an extraordinary opportunity for the region’s growing community of innovators to showcase new ideas with the potential for broad societal impact,” added Ghaim.

On his part, Seema Kumar, Vice President, Innovation, Global Public Health and Science Policy Communication, Johnson & Johnson noted that the company was working with entrepreneurs around the world to relentlessly pursue innovations that advance and enhance the health of everyone.

“This is an exciting time to be part of Africa’s rapidly advancing innovation ecosystem, which recognizes that people and patients across the continent are waiting for urgent solutions. The Africa Innovation Challenge provides an important platform to support emerging entrepreneurs and help accelerate the development of unique, sustainable health care and environmental solutions.” Said Kumar

The Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0 is designed to address the critical unmet needs of the continent and local communities in Africa while providing support to Africa-based entrepreneurs in creating innovative health care products and services.

Among the selection criteria, entries must demonstrate the potential for scale from proof of concept stage to long-term sustainability. Challenge participants with the best solutions will receive up to US$50,000 in funding and mentorship from the global network of scientists, engineers and business managers within the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies to bring new solutions forward.

Submissions are open to all African countries from one or more individuals, teams or companies; subject to certain eligibility requirements set out in the terms and conditions for the challenge. The submitted health care solutions will be evaluated based on their ability to meet the following criteria:
1) Idea submission addresses at least one of the six challenge categories.
2) Idea submission is innovative and creative. 3) Idea submission is scalable.
4) Idea submission outlines how the award would help the applicant(s) reach a critical milestone within the timeframe of a single year and provides a full commercialization plan.

To apply to the Challenge and review the applicable terms and conditions, please visit the Africa Innovation Challenge website. The deadline to submit applications is January 16, 2019. Award recipients will be announced in 2019.

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About solution Categories for the Africa Innovation Challenge 2.0

The challenge’s six new solution categories aim to address significant threats to Africa’s health care systems and environment:

  • Botanical Solutions: In this category, we are seeking naturally-derived, plant-based solutions that tap into traditional knowledge and deliver consumer health and wellness benefits through topical application.
  • Packaging Innovations: This category is seeking sustainable innovations for packaging of single-dose units and other affordable product sizes that will reduce or eliminate waste, while protecting the product.
  • Mental Health: We are seeking innovations that create awareness for mental illness as a public health problem and offer solutions for patients, caregivers, and their communities to address these issues.
  • Health Worker Support: In this categories, we are seeking innovations that support the wellbeing and resilience of nurses, midwives and community health workers at the heart of delivering care.
  • Digital Health Tools: In this category, we are seeking digital tools (including apps and other mobile/web/data enabled tech) that can inform, educate, communicate and connect people to treatment, support and care through their reach and information and improve health outcomes especially for women.
  • Essential Surgical Care: For this category, we are seeking innovations that promote access to timely, safe, and skilled surgical care.

The first Johnson & Johnson Africa Innovation Challenge, launched in November 2016, sought novel ideas with a focus on three critical health areas: promoting early child development and maternal health; empowering young women; and improving family well-being. The three winning concepts embraced these themes as well as the goal of creating ongoing, sustainable businesses. They included;

  • The Big Idea: Reusable Feminine Hygiene Products

Francoise Nibizi, founder and executive director of SaCoDé, Burundi

Johnson & Johnson mentoring and funding helped Francoise to scale up production of Agateka pads fourfold, opening two new manufacturing locations and creating training and permanent jobs for 20 young women.

  • The Big Idea: Hands-Free Faucets to Fight the Spread of Diseases

Grace Nakibaala, CEO and Founder of InnovAsepsis, Uganda

After one year of support, patent and trademark applications have been filed for the PedalTap™ device, the device is now being manufactured in Uganda, and the device has been installed in several public bathrooms, reducing the risk of infection and saving water.

  • The Big Idea: Natural Skin Products That Support Small Farmers

Mahmud Johnson, founder and CEO of J-Palm, Liberia

With Johnson & Johnson’s support, Mahmud was able to create 330 new jobs in Liberia, broaden his product portfolio of organic palm kernel oil cosmetics and grow sales by 1100%.