Innovation Prize for Africa is an annual award co-founded by the Africain Innovation Foundation and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa to mobilise and honour the achievements of African innovators and entrepreneurs who deliver market oriented solutions for African-led development. Inspire Magazine spoke with Zeinou Abdelyamine, the winner of the 2012 IPA Runner Up prize about his winning invention, work and future plans.
Inspire Magazine: Could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Zeinou Abdelyamine: I am Zeinou Abdelyamine, I am an industrial chemistry graduate from Algeria. After spending 13 years in the United Arab Emirates between 1994 and 2007, I returned back home and established a start-up company called Bit Bait Algeria. I am the author of two patents, which are registered at the Algerian institute of industrial Property (INAPI) and PCT (WO/2010/094291), on manufacturing completely natural and chemical free insecticides and rodenticides. I am also actively involved in research and development of new environment friendly pesticides.
IM: Can you describe to us what the winning invention is in simple terms?
ZA: Our company specializes in pest management. The product of the invention that won us the IPA Runner Up prize is a chemical free natural insecticide and rodenticide in the form of gels, pellets and capsules. It’s a non-toxic 100% natural pesticide that uses a physical rather than a chemical eradication method. It works because it contains natural elements, some of which attract insects, rodents and stimulate their appetite and one of which has an extermination action. Specifically, a dose of a baked gypsum component takes action at the digestive level. This slow and progressive action is the main reason for the absence of antibody development in the insect, and does not induce any mistrust among rodents. Gypsum is a mineral substance that does not degrade in time and so its action is permanent.
Because of its natural element composition, the product of the invention has no effect on human health, animals, farmland and the environment in general. The manufacture of baits is produced in a safe manufacturing process, since it leaves no residue or waste whether solid, liquid or gas.
IM: What led you to the invention of this product?
ZA: The idea behind this invention started off as a project in 1997 in Dubai where I developed a boric acid formula that can be used in the pesticide industry. However, this particular product contained LD50, a harmful chemical that hindered its wide use. This led me to start researching how to use natural ingredients for the manufacturing of pesticides in 2001. So I developed an industrial process that produces environment friendly pesticides.
IM: What makes this invention relevant now, and how does it compare to existing solutions?
ZA: The fact that existing pesticides use chemicals that are harmful to human health, food safety and agricultural land and damaging to the environment makes Bit Bait natural ingredients based pesticides superior.
Note that rodents or insects tend to become resistant to toxic chemicals and anticoagulants used today. These products target the nervous system and blood circulation, the rodents and the crawling insects are able to develop immunity to these products to survive. As for Bit Bait, it attacks the digestive system, making rodents and insects unable to fight back, so it does not generate immunological memory for rodents and insects.
We also developed a production method that does not require water and does not generate waste products. This process prevents the formation of chemical residues and any resulting side effects of chemicals. The active ingredients are available in every country over the world. So I’d like to think that this invention contributes to a technological revolution because it opens a large door to researchers to develop new formulas by industrializing the old formulas and hence replace chemical pesticides with pesticides based on natural components.
IM: What are the relevant industries that could benefit from your invention in Algeria, Africa and the world in general, and what are the potential implications of this invention for these sectors?
ZA: The domestic market for these products is of course huge. This is because consumers nowadays are more aware of the health issues related to the use of pesticides, and so they require more and more non-toxic products. Our key mainstream partners, those that could benefit from our invention are pest control companies, city councils, farmers, breeders, chemists, grocery stores and supermarkets in Algeria. Winning the IPA prize has also encouraged us to extend our market to Africa and export plans are underway. This will enable us to reach an even wider market and enable more customers to benefit from the unique advantages of this natural product .
IM: So, how do you feel about winning the Runner-up Innovation Prize for Africa?
ZA: I feel very happy. Winning the IPA prize was a huge honor because it’s a recognition of the importance of our innovation and a first step for our invention to reach the international market and to become an international brand. The financial boost is very helpful, and will certainly push our company further as it will provide more opportunities for research and development.
IM: What are the next steps for this invention and your work in general? What are your plans for the future in terms of developing further solutions?
ZA: The initial manufacturing process of the natural insecticide and rodenticide was a semi-automatic process. This is now being extended to enable a larger scale production process to accommodate exports to Africa and Asia. We are also currently looking for investor to open new factories to extend our product to reach the American and European market. We are also currently extending our products range to anti-scorpion and a anti-snake, which are both in the final phases of development. An anti-fly and an anti-mosquito repellent are also in the research phase.
What we really seek to do is to globalize the idea of “from nature to nature”, to return to the traditional methods when humans protected themselves without harming their health and their environment, we want to contribute to stopping the use of dangerous chemical formulas and stopping harmful chemicals from damaging our planet.
IM: What would you say are the challenges facing young entrepreneurs in Algeria, and what advice would you give to those who wish to set up their own R&D based businesses and companies?
ZA: As you know, launching a start-up company is very challenging especially in developing countries. A lot of this is to do with the lack of support either from the government or from other established companies and successful businessman. In our case we received a lot of help from another startup company called MedafCO-Alinov. So my advice is to try and use any consulting services available throughout the development of their products, business plans and companies. The role of the Internet and the good grasp of the English language are also essential tools for the success of a startup business and should not be underestimated. For those looking for immediate help, they should note that Alinov and Mowgli Foundation go on partnership this year 2012 to form a consulting business for start-up companies. So, they should get active and check them out.
IM: Many thanks for speaking to Inspire Magazine.
ZA: It was a pleasure to speak to inspire magazine, especially that it’s run by Algerian scientists and researchers, and I’m happy to see that you are working to promote Algerian talent for a better future for Algeria, Africa and the world.