Innovation:Africa – Turning the lights On
S ivan Borowich- Yaari, is the founder of Innovation: Africa, an organization that has so far impacted the lives of over 1 million Africans.
In 2006, Sivan a native Israeli living in New York, worked for a multinational clothing company in Africa and later for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The experience provided her with first-hand exposure to the poverty that exists on the African continent. “Only when I found myself in Africa did I understood what true poverty really meant,” says Sivan.
She tells the following account of her epiphany: “One day I walked to the nearest infirmary, which was eight kilometers (4.9 miles) away from the village. Upon my arrival, I discovered a long line of people waiting to be treated including a woman who had just given birth a few days earlier. I asked to see the doctor and was told he was not there. I approached the nurse and asked her about the long line of people waiting for treatment and vaccinations. ‘There are no vaccinations because we do not have a refrigerator because there is no electricity,’ the nurse explained. It was night time by the time I made my way back from the clinic and darkness covered the entire village.”
“I had given birth twice in Israel via C-section procedures. Had I lived in Africa, I would not have
survived. Many women die during child birth due to severe understaffing. When I grasped the situation in the village, it was difficult for me to remain indifferent to these people’s hardships.” After considering the advanced technological efforts and innovations in her native country, Sivan decided she could make a difference to the lives of the people in these African villages and in 2008, she started her own organization, Jewish Heart for Africa, now called Innovation: Africa.
Since then, Innovation: Africa, based in New York, with offices in Israel and a 501-c non-profit, has provided electricity (using Israeli solar panel installations), clean water, food and proper medical care to more than 1 million people in communities throughout Ethiopia, Tanzania, Malawi,
Uganda, South Africa, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Senegal. They use a custom designed
remote monitoring system built by Israeli engineer Meir Yaacoby that collects data from the solar systems and sends that information to an online server accessed from any computer anywhere in the world. “By knowing how much energy our projects are producing and consuming, we can predict problems before they start,” explains Sivan. “The demand is so great, you look into the eyes of the children – everyone needs it.”
Nabweye Village in Uganda, is one African community out of many that has so far benefitted from Innovation: Africa. Located in Mbale district, it is home to 1200 people and is situated 4 kilometers
from the nearest town. The only source of water for the community was a pool of dirty water and the
waiting time for water was most severe in the mornings, when the school children needed to fetch water for their families before they went to class. Usually the wait was up to 2 hours. The average
family’s water consumption was between four to six 20-liter jerry cans that needed to be refilled at least 3 times per day. Four surrounding villages utilized this only source of water and it was no surprise that the villages reported multiple cases of severe diarrhea, typhoid and other water-borne diseases.
On April 14th, 2016, Innovation: Africa provided the community of Nabweye Village with 10 water taps accessing 2.5km of clean water for the first time. This was one of hundreds of similar installations undertaken by this Israeli NGO.
In December 2015, Globes, Israel’s leading business magazine, recognized Sivan as one of the “40 Under 40 Most Promising Israelis” and Forbes Israel, in August 2016, named her one of the “50 Most Influential Women in Israel.” In September 2016, Sivan was asked by the Israeli government to address the United Nations General Assembly session on “Israeli Innovation in Africa & Developing Countries.” The goal was to strengthen the relationship between Israel and African countries. In attendance, was over 700 leaders and heads of state.