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By Mc Donald Chapalapata, a Contributor

Mitchell (left) and Fudzulani during the announcement on Friday

National Bank of Malawi (NBM) plc and the ICT Association of Malawi (ICTAM) have made a call for submissions from Innovators for the 2020 Innovation Jam Challenge, results of which will be announced at the Annual ICT Innovations Awards scheduled for 11-12th December 2020.

This follows the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between NBM plc and ICTAM to manage the Innovations Jam from 2019 to 2022 in a bid to enhance innovation of both products or services and processes within industries and societies across the country.

Making the joint announcement on Friday in Blantyre, ICTAM President Bram Fudzulani said the objective of the Innovations Jam is to promote innovative ICT based solutions in the country by encouraging and rewarding excellence in original inventions or innovations.

“We expect the Innovation Jam to provide a platform for the industry to interact and promote innovations that can have a ripple effect on the national economy in accordance with Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS III). This will also serve as a platform for nurturing hidden ICT talent in the country, which can be used to simplify manual business processes and procedures,” said Fudzulani.  

The 2020 Innovation Jam submissions will primarily focus on categories namely Agriculture (Agritech), Health (E-health), Education (Edutech), Financial Technology (Fintech) and Artificial Intelligence.

“As the world recovers from and adjusts to the new normal created by the COVID-19 pandemic, a looming question is how to avoid reverting to the cumbersome and cautious legacy practices and risk-averse decision-making that had hobbled innovation performance in many organizations. The Jam will provide for a platform to engage policy makers on ways in which we can move forward with the local innovations at national level while supporting job creation opportunities,” explained Fudzulani.

Fudzulani said the innovation forum will focus on working with solutions with scalable impact and market ready concepts.

He said among other criteria for submission for the awards are that those submitting must be Malawians and they must be willing to work with hubs if selected for the incubation and acceleration of their innovations. There are no age restrictions for entrants, but the products brought forward should at least have a working prototype.

NBM plc Head of IT John Mitchell said the Bank is keenly interested in leveraging on innovations to drive industries and communities, especially at a time when unexpected disruptions such as Covid-19 abruptly alter market trends.

 “Digital Inclusion is well aligned to the Digitalization focus of our five-year strategy as a Bank and therefore we continue to work with ICTAM on the Innovations jam and other ICT related initiatives. As a Bank of the Nation, we are committed to providing a platform for innovators to reveal work that will benefit the entire country,” said Mitchel.

In 2019, the top two winners in the Fintech category were flown by NBM plc on an all-expenses paid trip to Kigali, Rwanda to attend the Africa Tech summit while the second runner up received a K1million cash prize.

This year, the deadline for receiving submissions for the Innovations Jam is the 16th of November 2020 and the shortlisted innovations will be released on 27th November 2020.

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