E-Fest: A Day of Innovation and Competitive Spirit

We were inspired and excited by the innovation and passion showcased by the winners and all participants in ALA’s annual Entrepreneurial Festival (E-Fest) competition. The five finalists presented creative solutions to problems on the continent in the arts (Arthub), mental health (Bluespace), women’s safety (Safespace), education (Enlight), and sustainable energy (Fairy). This year’s winning team, Fairy, aims to build an energy-saving community generator made from biomass with the intent of supplying sustainable and affordable electricity to low-income communities. 

E-Fest is the annual ALA event that showcases the ideas that our Year 1 students have developed and incubated over the course of their Original Idea for Development (OID) unit. Our Year 1 students engage in entrepreneurial leadership in the second term of their first year where they apply a human-centered approach to identifying real needs and opportunities on the continent and finding real solutions to solve them. This series is divided into two units, starting with an Individual OID (iIOD), where students explore a series of interests and identify a problem in their home country, and then design a solution to solve that issue. The second unit ends with the Team IOD (tOID) section, where approximately 30 teams of students identify Pan-African grand challenges and design solutions to combat these challenges.

E-Fest is a day of celebration and competition on campus. The students come ready to present in their best afro-formal attire starting the day at 8:30 . Although the event focuses on the Year 1 students’  innovative solutions, the Year 2 students are engaged and involved heavily in order to support their entrepreneurial growth. Each group of Year 1 students presents to 3 judges (Year 2 students/Staffulty members) and 1 facilitator (Y2 Student). They have just 7 minutes to present and 7 minutes for the Q&A section and are graded on their Communication and Complex Problem Solving skills.  These are the solutions that the students showcase during the preliminary round of E-Fest.

In the afternoon, the Student Enterprise Fair took place. This part of the day was a celebration to acknowledge the incredible work that the Student Enterprises have completed over the course of the year. The Student Enterprises, run by Year 2 students, had the opportunity to advertise their Enterprises to the rest of the community and sell their products. The Year 1 students experienced the fair with baited breath as the 5 top-scoring teams were announced to the community during the SE Fair.

Ssanyu Sematimba, the leader of this year’s E-Fest and Entrepreneurial Leadership faculty member shares, “Our hope as the Entrepreneurial Leadership Department is to encourage our students to innovate, and establish their business ideas. The challenge for students in Africa is to become conscious and responsive in providing relevant solutions in their environmental, social, and economic context. Design thinking is a global language with cross-cultural interaction in which our students are expected to be global industry players, and therefore intend to remain relevant within the global industry space. The Entrepreneurial Leadership curriculum /E-fest provides every opportunity for them to be sharpened and groomed as such.”

The ideas of the five winners will join the community of Student Enterprises at ALA.  The Student Enterprise program provides ALA students the opportunity and experience to lead and operate an Enterprise on campus. In combination with the project-based learning practice, external stakeholders are brought in as Board Members to help guide students and hold them accountable for their work. There are three Board Meetings per year which have been proved to be increasingly beneficial, as students have realized they can leverage the Board Members expertise as well.