We first met Aminah Rufai during the HackForGood 2018 competition at the University of Lagos. She is a graduate of the University of Benin with a bachelor of science degree in chemical engineering and has also earned a master of science in biomedical engineering degree from the University of Lagos.
During HackForGood 2018, Amina was on Team i-Hack which developed a solution for the agricultural sector to help prevent produce spoilage during transport from farms to markets. Together with her teammates, she developed a device that used sensor data to measure temperature, light and humidity levels, and enzyme activity in fruits and vegetables to make predictions that could help prevent food waste.
In recognition of the high level of expertise that Amina brought to Team i-Hack, she was awarded the HP & YTF Prize for the Best Display of 21st Century Competencies!
Youth for Technology Foundation’s 3D Africa program was honored to host Belgian Minister of Digital Agenda, Philippe de Backer, and his Silicon Lagoon Mission delegation when they came to Lagos, Nigeria for three days in March to connect with the vibrant tech startup community.
Members of YTF’s 3D Africa team and some of our HackForGood alumni attended a co-creation workshop organized by Cc-HUB with the Silicon Lagoon Mission. After touring “the Hub”, innovators from Nigerian startups were paired with a representative from a Belgian startup in a similar industry.
Aminah was on Blockchain/Fintech innovation team which developed an idea to address the problem of loan access for small business owners who lack the resources to provide collateral. Their solution was an interface that incorporates blockchain and mobile USSD, connecting lenders and/or investors with business owners.
At the conclusion of the co-creation session, the startup teams pitched their final ideas to the other Mission delegation. Aminah’s team was selected as the winning entry and was awarded a trophy by Minister de Backer. She was also selected to represent her team on a trip to Belgium!
On the Move
When Amina set off on her trip to Belgium, she’d never traveled outside of Nigeria before. “This was quite a fascinating experience for me as I had never boarded a train before, nor a plane,” Aminah said, “So a lot of first-times for me.”
Aminah reports experiencing a very warm welcome from Frederick Tibau from Startups.Be and Julie de Bergeyck from Close the Gap. She had the opportunity to share a meal with Julie’s family, and got the opportunity to do some sight-seeing with both Frederick and Julie during her 5-day visit.
Aminah had a full schedule of networking and attending informative workshops and classes while in Belgium. She attended two workshops at the Google Digitaal Atelier (Google Digital Garage) where she learned how to effectively use digital trends and social media platforms for business purposes. “It was quite interesting learning how to reach out and grow your business on the international scale with just the power of digital tools,” she says.
During a visit to the Close the Gap headquarters, Aminah got the opportunity to pitch the Fruit Scanner that she’s been working on with her i-Hack team since the 2019 3D Africa HackForGood competition. “My team and I are working on redeveloping this device into a smart device with artificial intelligence and Internet of Things implemented,” Aminah says. “AI will enhance real-time analysis and predictions, while the IoT will promote automation of tasks, communication between devices, and monitoring of stocks.”
Aminah toured the fabrication labs at Vrije University Brussels (VUB) and the Startlab at Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB). The StartLab is an acceleration program that supports student entrepreneurs as they develop their products from the ideation phase in the Test Lab through to launching a company and connecting to potential investors in the Launch Lab.
During visits to the DigitYser, Hive5, and BeCentral tech hubs, Aminah learned about many of Belgiums most exciting tech startups. One of the startup founders she met at Hive5 was Marie-Laure Jonet, who co-founded Diversicom, an organization that provides training and support for disabled job seekers and helps connect them with employers.
“I spoke to Marie at length,” Aminah says. “She is such an inspiration, I was left completely stunned after my talk with her. It had such an impact on me.”
Aminah again had the opportunity to meet with Minister of Digital Agenda, Philippe de Backer, on her trip. “It was so kind of him to create time to meet me,” Amina says. She was gratified that Minister de Backer had developed such an interest in her Fruit Scanner project, even going so far as to arrange a meeting for her with Jonathan Berte, CEO of Robovision.AI.
The willingness of the leaders and innovators that Aminah met in Belgium to offer their assistance in connecting her with others who could help her project succeed was such a shining example of the generosity and collaborative spirit that made the Silicon Lagoon Mission such a success. Geoffroy de Chabot-Tramecourt, Director of Research and Development at Janssen PMP, not only kindly provided Aminah with feedback on the feasibility of her Fruit Scanner project and insights on the agricultural sector, he also provided introductions that could prove to be very valuable in the future.
“I had one of the best times in my life,” says Aminah. “This trip has been such an amazing experience. I was inspired and motivated by the people I met. The friendliness and warmth I felt, the love and support, all these had so much impact on me.”
Aminah and YTF would like to extend our special thanks to everyone at Close the Gap and Startups.be who made her trip such a success.
“Thank you all so much, thank you for your support and encouragement, and thank you for making this trip a huge success. I hope to make an impact and inspire many others with this journey and the knowledge gained so far,” says Aminah.