Formed and run by the enthusiasm of a professor and a group of students from Dar es Salaam Institute of Technology (DIT), the STICLab forms an unique and enabling environment to experiment and develop innovative solutions to the prevailing issues in Tanzania and beyond. The enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit of these people has resulted in a number of businesses in various fields, water being one of the examples.
It was almost three years ago, when we first met people working at the STICLab and at the time, they were participating World Bank’s Negawatt Challenge in Dar es Salaam. The team had built a prototype of a coin-based water vending machine, Maji Pesa, to ease the collection and transparency of water payments at water distribution points. Since, the team has developed Maji Pesa further, and a mobile payment option is included together with a range of other improvements in the technology and business model.
Over 30 of these water ATMs have been sold across Tanzania, and Mr. Njau is one of STICLab’s customers who is now running his water business with the Maji Pesa water ATMs. In the past Mr. Njau would have needed staff to collect the payments, but now the ATMs take care of this automatically, together with tracking the collected revenues and amount of water sold. To this water distribution point Mr. Njau has also established office and retail spaces, which he is renting to other entrepreneurs – these water distribution points often serve as natural meeting points and attract people as they might be the only source of water in the community. Thus, besides providing a source of income for the entrepreneurs of STICLab, the Maji Pesa is enabling its customers to set up transparent water businesses and create hot spots for other businesses to be established around the Maji Pesa water ATMs.
This example of STICLab and Maji Pesa, highlights the importance of supporting young entrepreneurs and building their capacity and networks through e.g. provision of working spaces and laboratories, such as STICLab, as well as programmes, such as the Negawatt Challenge, to build business and technological skills and meet stakeholders, collaboration partners, mentors and funders.
SticLab is a technology innovation centre that provides a futuristic technology development environment for scientists, makers and innovators. The center offers its users full access to lab and Workshop equipments that help them easily do their tasks, starting from idea conception to product and/or service development. More information: http://sticlab.co.tz/.
Negawatt Challenge was a global innovation competition and accelerator programme by The World Bank and other partners. More information: http://www.negawattchallenge.com/.