Kenyan Start-up Named Winner in Global Prize

  • Kenyan start-up found Norah Magero
    Kenyan start-up founder Norah Magero.
  • A start-up co-founded by Kenyan Norah Magero was named the global winner of a prize from Cisco valued at Ksh29.9 million (USD250,000).

    In an event held on Tuesday, August 23, Drop Access, the start-up founded by Magero, was crowned as the winner of the Cisco Global Problem Solver Challenge, defeating over 1,200 entries from 99 countries across the globe.

    With the title, the company received a reward of Ksh29.9 million (USD250,000) to advance its VacciBox technology.

    VacciBox is a portable, low-cost solar-powered fridge for use in healthcare facilities that don’t have a reliable cold chain to store vaccines.

    A VacciBox designed by Drop Access.
    A VacciBox designed by Drop Access.

    In her announcement, Cisco Executive Vice-President, Francine Katsoudas, noted that Drop Access was among the 15 winning teams from the prize's sixth edition that would benefit from the Ksh119 million (USD1 million) price.

    "This year’s competition generated nearly 1,200 submissions from teams in 99 countries. From this amazing array of teams and ideas, 15 winning teams were selected from 10 countries, including five not represented among previous winners: Australia, Colombia, Denmark, Ireland, and Pakistan. We are also thrilled to report that 67 per cent of our 2022 winners have a woman founder.

    "In response to the growing urgency to respond to the climate crisis, this year we introduced five new Climate Impact and Regeneration Prizes totaling Ksh35 million (USD300,000). These prizes recognize solutions that can reduce or remove greenhouse gas (GHG) from the environment or regenerate depleted ecosystems," she stated.

    Norah founded the company in 2018 alongside James Mulatya with the aim of positively transforming rural and grassroots communities.

    In the competition, Drop Access was followed by India's A2P Energy Solution which received Ksh11.98 million (USD100,000) for creating an AI-based platform called Carbon2Climate that identifies biomass burning points across India so crop residues can be collected, converted into biofuel, and sold to buyers.

    Three organisations including Beamlink (USA), PowerWells (Australia) and PurCity (Denmark) received Ksh8.99 million each (USD75,000).

    Drop Access has continued to trailblaze in technology after winning numerous awards both continentwide and globally.

    In June 2022, Norah Magero became the first Kenyan and second woman to win the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation.

    With the prize, she won Ksh3.6 million (£25,000) for the same VacciBox innovation.

    “VacciBox was designed with our local challenges in mind. It’s versatile, reliable and localized. We’re ensuring that it works the way healthcare workers need it to work for the conditions they face each day so that they can save lives without worrying about technology,” she celebrated at the time.

    Inside the lobby of Cisco offices
    Inside the lobby of Cisco offices.