#FallingWallsLab is a 3-minute world-class pitch competition, networking forum and stepping stone for students and early-career professionals from around the globe by the Falling Walls Foundation (FWF) in Germany. The FWF – channelling the iconic image of the crumbling concrete blocks of the Berlin Wall in 1989 – are on a relentless pursuit to find out: Which are the next walls to fall? To answer this question, FWF hosts the annual Falling Walls Science Summit in Berlin where winners from the Falling Walls Labs events – which take place at renowned academic institutions around the world – compete on the global stage.
In September 2022, I had the privilege of of taking part in the Falling Walls Lab Cape Town event at the University of Cape Town (UCT), which was hosted by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation. I gave a 3 minute talk titled Breaking the wall of smallholder farmer poverty in which I spoke about FoodPrint and how we are using WhatsApp and blockchain technology to provide farmers with production records, financial services and connect them to markets.The novelty in our approach is how we are combining existing and ubiquitous apps like WhatsApp and 4IR tech to provide both utility and agency to users in emerging markets who find themselves in low tech environments (unreliable internet/low resource smartphones etc).
Looking at the numbers, there are 33 million smallholder farms in Sub-Saharan Africa from which 70% of the continent’s food supply is produced. Looking at the bigger picture, there are 600 million smallholder farms worldwide producing ~1/3 of the world‘s food. However, smallholder farmers comprise a large proportion of the world’s poor living on less than $2/day but this can be remedied through the use of accessible technology to provide credit, insurance and access to markets.
Out of 12 participants, the top 3 were awarded prizes – I was awarded 3rd place. The overall winner – Emma Horn – went on to represent UCT at the Falling Walls Science Summit in Berlin where she placed 2nd overall!
Here is a link to the highlights of Falling Walls Lab Cape Town – watch here. Special mention to UCT for hosting and Friedrich Naumann Foundation for putting together the event.