Towards the end of 2018, the ACC programme in Tanzania, TULab, as part of the Coalition for Urban Transitions, ran a competition to elicit urban service delivery innovations. TULab Outreach Coordinator, Reshian Kanyatile, managed the competition on-the-ground. What began as a ‘fun idea’ to raise the profile of urban innovation, especially in Dar es Salaam’s so-called “informal’ sector, evolved into one of the more profound and inspiring components of the broader 3-year programme.
The technicalities involved a small financial reward for three entrepreneurial individuals and organisation that had a track-record in addressing challenges in Tanzania’s largest city. Entrants to the competition were encouraged to explain how their inventions or processes complied with the following criteria:
- Provides a critical urban service
- Overcomes a “wicked” urban service delivery challenge that is required to deliver urban development
- Draws on a technical, economic or social innovation
- Has a track-record of success in the past 5 years, with a minimum of one year’s implementation activity
- Demonstrates systemic benefits. That is, it does not lead to mal-adaptation or the transfer of risk to the environment or adjacent communities
- Is scalable to affect at least 1,000 houses and is not specific to a single household problem
Over 60 applicants applied, 10 outstanding projects were shortlisted to present to the TULab, and in a difficult process three project were identified: (1) Arena Recycling that produced construction bricks from recycled plastic, (2) Divine Biocalcium which recycled egg shells into dietary, pharmaceutical and agricultural calcium, and (3) Toolboksi that linked artisans with work via a mobile phone platform.
Common to all the short-listed projects was a resource efficiency that contributed to a circular economy, cost-efficiency that made them competitive and the harnessing of digital technology. While not intended for youth exclusively, most of the entrants were young, and the competition revealed the astonishing capacity for entrepreneurship and innovation among Dar es Salaam’s youth. Government officials and donors present, noted the need to harness this capacity in addressing tricky service delivery and urban development challenges.