Botswana hosts first makeathon

The first for Southern Africa, students will tap in into industry experts present to make things that work right there at the “Smart Green Botswana Makeathon 2019,” which is a prelude to the Africa Startup Summit, Afric’Up


As part of propelling the country towards the 4th Industrial Revolution, the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry will next week host the first-ever “Smart Green Botswana Makeathon 2019.”

At the Makeathon, innovative young Batswana will provide solutions to real business challenges and develop prototypes centred on smart mobility, smart automation, smart farming, the Internet of Things, robotics and artificial intelligence (AI).

The scene of this unprecedented event will be the University of Botswana’s Faculty of Engineering, Block 250, which is located at the corner of Julius Nyerere Drive and Tlokweng Road, from 18 to 21 November.

The Makeathon will be delivered through the Special Economic Zones Authority (SEZA) with technical support from the University of Botswana (UB) and the Botswana International University of Science and Technology (BIUST).

A Makeathon is an innovative educational event where students are challenged to create functional solutions for industries under real life conditions and within a set period of time. The idea is to bring together designers, creators and developers from different fields under an environment such as innovation labs where they can transform their ideas into functioning prototypes that can eventually become tangible products for the market.

Industry representatives are usually invited to sit in the audience and provide expert advice, which enriches the learning process. “Makeathons are about having fun while creating solutions, learning on the go and increasing network reach by interacting with fellow innovators and industry experts,” said Event Coordinator for the Makeathon, Neo Mahube.

At a time when every industry is being impacted by the disruptive power of technology, Makeathons are a breath of fresh of air as they encourage innovation for sustainability. They are usually themed around creating solutions that are environmentally friendly and unique.

Makeathons also encourage collective thinking for innovation, which is about team work, collaboration and learning from one another. Collaboration is important for Industry 4.0 (fusion of digitalisation with traditional industrial processes) because the Internet of Things has enabled creation of smart factories and cross-linked production processes in which international teams collaborate across the globe within immersive virtual environments. Digitalisation of education has also made learning more collaborative.

The “Smart Green Botswana Makeathon 2019” will be the first in southern Africa and the second in Africa after the Smart Green Tunisia Makeathon, which was attended by students from Botswana. Botswana has also sponsored students to attend makeathons in Spain and Germany. The “Smart Green” Botswana Makeathon 2019 is part of the Africa Startup Summit, Afric’Up, which is dedicated to Innovation, Digitalization and Education 4.0.

To deliver the makeathon, the ministry has roped in two international partners, Dr Stetter ITQ and VDMA. Dr Stetters ITQ is a Spanish company that believes that makeathons are a fast and effective way of getting new ideas and producing first prototypes fast. The company has hosted makeathons around Europe involving students and senior engineers from multinationals. Dr Setter ITQ is especially concerned about education, which is the reason they regularly organise events and workshops for both local and international students.

The Mechanical Engineering Industry Association (VDMA) represents more than 3,200 member companies in SME-dominated mechanical and systems engineering industry in Germany and other European countries. With 1.35 million employees, VDMA’s mechanical and plant engineering sector is Germany’s largest employer and the backbone of the German economy. VDMA is the largest network organisation for mechanical engineering in Europe. The association represents the common economic, technological and scientific interests of this diverse industry. Its technical expertise, industry knowledge and straightforward positioning make it a recognised and valued point of contact for companies as well as the general public, science, administration and policy makers.