Professor Francis Oluwole Shode and Master’s Biotechnology student Sibongile Mdlaka from the Durban University of Technology’s (DUT’s) Department of Biotechnology and Food Technology, were given the prestigious opportunity to showcase their innovative products at the 5th International Cairo Exhibition of Innovation (Cairo Innovates) which took place in Cairo, Egypt from 8 to 9 November 2018.
This opportunity of a life-time was made possible by the funding given by DUT’s Research Department under the helm of Professor Sibusiso Moyo.
The exhibition was organised and hosted by the Academy of Scientific Research and Technology (ASRT), Cairo, Egypt. The aims of the exhibition were to stimulate scientific innovation in Egypt and the region through creating a hub that excites people about science and research, connects innovators to enablers and key stakeholders, and allows local innovators to exhibit and commercialise their inventions.
The two-days event included sessions, workshops, competitions, panels, and inspiring stories of rising talents. It also included an exhibition of the latest inventions and innovations, an interactive “Makers Campus”, and a “Junior Scientist” area with a special focus on stimulating the culture of innovation to increase the country’s productivity and competitiveness, and reducing poverty and inequality.
Prof Shode was excited to showcase his innovative product made out of Karobonics which are nutraceuticals developed from Ceratonia siliqua (carob) grown in South Africa, and selected African staple foods such as cowpeas, soybeans, pigeon peas, sweet potatoes, ground nuts, and extracts from edible medicinal plants. They were developed to fight malnutrition and promote good health in infants, youths, and adults with chronic diseases. “Our first brand is SCALAS Nutraceuticals (SN) for children. It was designed and formulated to fight malnutrition amongst under-privileged people. Scalas 1.0 to 1.3 are ready for commercialisation, and Scalas Plus (customised for sicklers) is under prototyping. We predicted a large market for all products in Africa,” he said.
Many people visited Mdlaka’s and Prof Shode’s stand during the two-day exhibition. Both received a lot of attention and many expressions of interest on various aspects of their products and presentations. “The exhibition was concluded with a short ceremony where Mdlaka received a golden award for her innovative Vibra energy drink. It was a remarkable achievement by Mdlaka who shared a table with me during the exhibition. I wish to express my sincere appreciation to Prof Moyo for her support and the University’s sponsorship of my participation in the exhibition,” he added.
Speaking about her win and experience, Mdlaka said people really loved her product which has some health benefits. “Vibra energy drink does not only have low sugar levels, but the form of sugar used as the ingredient is of great advantage as it is a monohydrate form of sugar. These sugars are not easily hydrolysed by our bodies especially for people with diabetics,” she said.
Mdlaka also said that she was pleasantly surprised as she was not expecting such popularity of her product knowing the fact that Arabic people are so skeptical, however, they loved her drink. “I would explain it to them, they would taste it and they would go and invite others to come meet me. I had a fantastic start and had fun as people frequently asked for pictures with me,” she said excitedly.
She also said that both her and Prof Shode were visited by the South African Ambassador and he was really impressed with their products. “We were also visited by the evaluation panel who had evaluated our stands, products and asked questions about the project and products. We were also visited by the president of The Academy of Scientific Research and innovation Technology, who was also really impressed by what we were showcasing at the exhibition,” she said.
All in all, both Prof Shode and Mdlaka had an experience of a life-time in Cairo and are keen to see their products become commercialised, going forward.
Pictured: People showing keen interest in Prof Francis Shode’s and Sibongile Mdlaka’s innovative products at the Cairo exhibition.
Professor Francis Shode/ Waheeda Peters