In our Newsroom, you find all recent information on the “empowering people.Award”. Through our articles, videos and interviews you can gain insight in all aspects surrounding the Award and the foundation’s area of work in basic supply and entrepreneurship. Media representatives can also download our press releases, photos and further information.


“empowering people. Award” Newsletter

The 23 excellent winners of the “empowering people. Award“ have been announced, the workshop and the Award Ceremony in Nairobi, Kenya, are in the past. But one thing has become absolutely clear: This was only the beginning! All participants in the exciting program in Nairobi had the great opportunity to take part in an unprecedented interaction of creative thinkers, dedicated entrepreneurs and experts from all continents.

It all started with the launch of the competition in Rio in June 2012 and reached its climax with the presentation of the winning solutions in Nairobi.

Congratulations in particular to our three main winners of the “empowering people. Award”. Martin Aufmuth and his OneDollarGlasses are a perfect example of simple technology, which can be applied easily. The solution includes a robust business model, which creates work, skills and opportunity. Martin realized that a simple innovation with wire and plastic could make a difference to 150 million people.

Our second placed winner, Ugandan electrical engineer Dr. Moses Musaazi, solves a basic need of girls and women with his “MakaPads - sanitary pads” made from papyrus. The raw material is locally-produced and sustainable, the energy source is solar power, and the employees, mostly women, develop new skills and secure their work opportunities.

Our third placed winner is a Scottish plumber who developed a marvellously simple device, which heats and disinfects water. David Osborne and his team have already brought their innovation to several East African villages, where it has been received with enormous enthusiasm.

The highly anticipated Community Prize voted for by the "empowering people. Award" online community was also announced and awarded to Gregor Schäpers for his innovation Solar Reflectors.

Selecting the top three winners was surely the hardest part for our international jury. All of the 23 laureates developed something innovative and have demonstrated how the simple, yet intelligent application of technology can assist people in developing nations. And even these 23 were chosen from many hundreds of excellent ideas. We salute them all.

The hard work will continue: now already the newly created community is involved in a number of projects working on further technical developments, some on further and broader implementation, others in new partnerships. The Siemens Stiftung will continue to provide a fertile ground for interaction and development. We will keep you updated and we hope that you will continue to stay involved and provide your energy and expertise to this growing creative and dedicated crowd.

Rolf Huber
Managing Director

The winners of the "empowering people. Award".

Keeping good company in Nairobi

It was no coincidence that the “empowering people. Award” ceremony was held in Nairobi. The Awards were the grand finale of an inspiring two days where our finalists also met innovators, development specialists, financiers, government officials, academia, civil society and international organisations attending the G20 Challenge Cross Sector Forum. Among the many excellent contributors were keynote speaker Prof. Njuguna Ndungu’u, the Governor of the Central Bank of Kenya, who emphasized his appreciation of innovative, scalable and commercially-viable ways of working with low-income people in developing countries. Inclusive business, he said, holds the key to unlocking Africa’s potential. We agree completely.

Also in Nairobi, Siemens Stiftung joint Managing Director, Nathalie von Siemens, shared a platform with senior leaders of the African Development Bank, African Union, UN Development Programme and the head of the economic policy and financial sector division at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Nathalie stressed that while technology helps, it is most powerful when combined with social and financial innovation. This was also a major theme at our Nairobi workshop, organized with the Community Impact Development Group (CIDG), where a whole variety of business models were discussed by our finalists, and by fellows of our partner Ashoka.  

Brainstorming session during a workshop.

The Empowering People Workshop - A valuable platform for business innovation

The “empowering people. Award” laureates as well as their local implementation partners came to Nairobi not just for the ceremony, but also for an intensive workshop where they could share ideas about business models, technology marketing and how to sustainably build up and grow their enterprise and reach more people with basic need problems.

After an early start, and having navigated Nairobi’s hectic traffic, “empowering people. Award” delegates gathered at the 88mph innovation hub together with colleagues from the Community Impact Development Group (CIDG).

Everybody agreed that it was a brilliant networking forum to learn about each other and to explore mutual challenges, from managing growth to ensuring the solutions are both profitable and accessible to poor communities. A variety of business models came under scrutiny, with each of the profit, non-profit and hybrid options securing roughly equal attention.

Katrin Pütz explaining the Biogas Backpack.

Spotlight on Solutions

With only a few hours to go before the announcement of the top three winners, 13 of the nervous and excited “empowering people. Award” laureates were given the opportunity to promote their invention and its social impact in the ‘Spotlight on Solutions’ session.

One by one they went onstage with their products and took the spotlight - with just three minutes to tell an expert audience as well as fellow finalists a compelling story of how their technical innovation work and how they meet basic needs. Each awardee got enthusiastic ovations and approval from the appreciative audience as they paraded their solutions, ranging from intelligent solar power and biogas concepts to a portable incubator, a fish farm in a shipping container, and sanitary pads from papyrus.

When it was time for the Award Ceremony, everybody knew that even if they didn’t get chosen for the first place, they would still be going home as winners.

The "empowering people. Award" trophies.

empowering people. Award winners announced in grand finale

Eighteen months of the "empowering people. Award" came to a spectacular conclusion in Kenya as the three global innovation winners were announced in the Tsavo ballroom at the Nairobi Hilton hotel.

About three hundred guests, including representatives from development work, foundations, NGOs, politics, academia and scores of local and international journalists filled the venue to learn who had won first, second and third prize.

“We are harnessing the power of technology to meet basic needs and empower people to improve their social and economic conditions,” Siemens Stiftung Managing Director Nathalie von Siemens said in her opening remarks. “Simple, yet intelligent technology can unleash the potential of developing countries.”

She praised the jury for their excellent choices; selecting innovations which can change the way communities access basic services and which at the same time help to develop businesses and income opportunities. “Technology is very powerful, but technology alone won’t solve all the pressing problems we are facing today. It is important that technological innovation is combined with social and financial progress,” Nathalie von Siemens said.

While the jazz music of popular local musician Eddie Grey created a great atmosphere, excitement grew during the Award Ceremony until finally it was time for the big moment.

First, one by one twenty runners-up teams were called up onto the stage. Each of them was awarded with 5,000 Euro. The Community Prize voted for by the online "empowering people. Award" community, which has continually grown since the launch of the competition, was also much sought after. The Prize was awarded to the solution Solar Reflectors. The invention utilizes solar energy for cooking, allowing the sustenance of many businesses in areas where energy costs are high. Gregor Schäper from Mexico was delighted to receive the “people’s vote” as well as hardware for his project to the value of 3,000 Euro. And finally there were only three left, filling the room with anticipation. Who would win the first prize, the German with his OneDollarGlasses, the Ugandan engineer with his MakaPads, or the Scottish plumber and his Jompy Water Boiler?

Proudly wearing his Scottish kilt, it was David Osborne who was called up to receive the third prize of 20,000 Euro, followed by second place Moses Musaazi, who received award money of 30,000 Euro. By this time everybody knew that the first winner of the “empowering people. Award” is Martin Aufmuth with his OneDollarGlasses. He took the stage accompanied by resounding cheers and won the highest prize money of 50,000 Euro available for his project.

Congratulating the top winner, representative of the competition premium partner KfW Development Bank director Haje Schütte, noted that the OneDollarGlasses could potentially meet the needs of 150 million people who need spectacles but can’t afford them.

“Martin and his team have demonstrated that they can really produce glasses for only one dollar,” he said. “It is a sustainable business, a life changer, and what a great impact it has, enabling children to go to school and to read, and older people to work longer.”

“The jury saw this innovation’s huge social impact and its potential as a sustainable business model…this is a super proposal, absolutely outstanding.”

Modest, but with a huge smile, Aufmuth told an emotional story of his first outreach to a rural community in Rwanda and the first person to test the glasses. “It was a sixty year old man and when he put them on, his eyes went bright and he started smiling – and then he said ‘I can see my house, I can see my neighbour’s house’ and he said he would save money to buy the glasses.”

“And this is a story representing 150 million people in the world who need these glasses,” Aufmuth said.

He explained how the project was rapidly expanding, with OneDollarGlasses already being produced in Rwanda, Burkina Faso and Bolivia; and with training scheduled in Ethiopia, Malawi and Nicaragua.

Also, Aufmuth made a startling economic revelation, noting that poor eyesight comes at a cost of US$120 billion in lost income from children who can’t learn at school and parents who can’t work. “That’s the value of the annual global development aid budget, so if we manage to supply all these people with simple OneDollarGlasses, we could double the development budget!”

Proud winners with their trophies.

Over to the Prize Winners…

Despite the buzzing and highly exciting atmosphere at the Award Ceremony in Nairobi, our “empowering people. Award” reporters found a few minutes to have a chat with the top three prizewinners. This is what they had to say:

OneDollarGlasses – Martin Aufmuth

“I am delighted to have won the “empowering people. Award”. Thanks to awards such as this, I can continue to provide visually-impaired men, women and children in developing and emerging countries with glasses that they can afford. These glasses have a huge impact on lives in such communities: People can work, go to school and also maintain social connections by participating in community life.

My project began when I picked up the book “Out of Poverty” by Paul Polak. Here I read for the first time about something that would change my life. Polak expressed an idea about an important invention that did not yet exist: A cheap pair of glasses affordable to people who live on 1 US-$ per day. I thought that this was a shame and continued reading. A few days later I happened to see glasses for 1 Euro in a discount store and wondered how glasses for 1 Euro can be bought in a rich country like Germany whilst it wasn’t possible in poor countries. This is when I realized that I had to act and I wanted to make my vision a reality. I developed a machine where these glasses can be produced and also offer training courses where people can learn to produce the OneDollarGlasses and to adapt these glasses to the patients.
I would like to thank Siemens Stiftung for their recognition of our work. Together, I hope, we can have a positive impact on the lives of many people."

You can watch the video here.

MakaPads – Moses Musaazi

“I am thrilled to have won second prize in the Siemens Stiftung’s “empowering people. Award” – and to be recognised for a simple, local and sustainable technology which can change the lives of millions of girls and women. Girls, women and families are the real winners. We have developed the only biodegradable sanitary pads available in Africa, using local papyrus and solar power. Thanks to the “empowering people. Award”, millions of people in Uganda and the rest of the world now know about our MakaPads, and we look forward to making them available for everyone. This is a real simple but innovative technology, which empowers girls by helping them to stay in school when they menstruate. Also, it has the added benefit of creating jobs. Our papyrus sanitary products are called MakaPads – from Menstruation Administration Knowledge Affordability – and ‘maka’ means ‘home’ in the Luganda language. As this is a successful home-grown product, I hope it will inspire other Ugandan innovators as well. We have demonstrated that a sustainable biodegradable product can compete with international products at a much lower cost. Tests by the Ugandan National Bureau of Standards show that sanitary napkins compare favourably with more expensive super-absorbent imported pads. There are 34 brands of sanitary pads in Uganda, and all except MakaPads use chemicals to enhance absorption. Now we need to market the MakaPads in Africa and East Africa, and then my dream is to hit the international market. This award will make it easier.”

You can watch the video here.

Jompy Water Boiler - David Osbourne

“Innovation and ideas come from the strangest places. I’m a plumber from Scotland but I grew up in an industrial part of Johannesburg close to a dynamite factory, an international airport, and a power station. I suppose this is what got me interested in the potential of engineering and technology. I’m a keen traveller, and when I visit developing countries it really pains me to see how many people are not having their basic needs met when I know that really simple technology could so easily meet these needs. Technology is of course what enabled rich countries to develop and to provide the basic services, such as clean water, that so many people take for granted. Our third place “empowering people. Award” has given us the opportunity to be profiled on a global innovation platform, and it is already helping us to take our Jompy Water Boiler to more communities in Africa, which will benefit from its sustainable provision of clean drinking water.

Combined with the Siemens Stiftung’s support and incentives we look forward to making the Jompy Water Boiler very widely available to those who need it most.”

You can watch the video here.

Presentation of SimGas GesiShamba rural biogas digester.

Inspiring ideas for the future

The awardees returned home from Nairobi filled with new ideas to develop markets and opportunities for their innovations. Among them is Alan Fleming from Cape Town, the inventor of the fish farm in a shipping container. Alan is planning to invite the South African science and technology minister to catch some of his fish and cook them for community leaders, and local and international funders. This is a creative platform for consultations on how the fish farm can be rolled out to provide jobs, skills and nutrition for communities in South Africa. Alan tells us that the publicity he received from the awards has inspired sales and partnership enquiries from all over the world. We look forward to hearing more.

Almost immediately when the Award Ceremony was over, many of our laureates were heading back into the poor rural and urban communities to continue promoting and testing their ideas.

Peter Muchiri Ngatia (AMREF Worldwide), Rolf Huber and Nathalie von Siemens (Siemens Stiftung) with the MakaPads team.

International profile for our inspiring winners

From Uganda and England to Germany and Tanzania, the ”empowering people. Award” and our winners have been promoted and profiled on print, television, radio and social media channels. The BBC’s popular website, with 40 million visitors, carried a major photo essay, and we all enjoyed watching a long television feature on NTV Uganda. The morning after the awards, Managing Director Rolf Huber of the Siemens Stiftung and second placed winner Dr. Moses Musaazi spent twenty minutes live on Kenyan TV and we’ve featured prominently across East African media.