It's time we took pride in frugal innovations

A traditionally preserved fish being sold. [File, Standard]

Data from the world intellectual property office (WIPO) shows that Africa registers very few innovations, going by the number of patents granted. That data could be misleading, giving the impression that there are no innovations in Africa.

Visiting rural and urban areas in Africa suggests the continent is overflowing with innovations, but they are not registered or protected. But they are innovations.

They are frugal innovations - using the available resources to address local problems.

Such innovations have been with us for generations. They have kept society going. With Western education such innovations were demeaned and we helped in that. Think of a few past innovations and current ones.

We had treatment for most ailments and they still work. I recall old ladies using mole dung as a treatment for measles. Medics confirm it works. And Croton tree leaves for treating wounds. Mention any ailment and there was a cure, with few side effects. But with time, we came to believe that is primitive.

Think of food preservation using salt, drying, using honey, and other methods. How about making alcohol? Was that not innovation?

Think of it today. How do you mop your house? How do you dry firewood? Think of using "waste" like old plastic containers as cups or for storage. Seen boys using cans to make toys? Recycling is real!

Seen lamps made from old oil cans and a piece of the blanket as wick? Is that not innovation?

Even in urban areas, innovations are plenty. School metal boxes? But going to shop has muted that innovation. Visiting Kamukunji could give you an idea of urban frugal innovations. Mechanics are experts in frugal innovation too.

Such local innovations are cheap and environmentally friendly. But as we grow affluent, we prefer imports or "industrial products". How many have an earthen pot in the house? Not the "metal pot" on sale in Eastlands?

It's time hustlers took pride in frugal innovations, solving their problems using available resources. Such innovations serve them well, save money and keep them going. Did you see how frugal innovating flourished during Covid-19? Why did we kill that spirit? What frugal innovations do you have? Talk to us