What a day it was! After years of thinking, designing, experimenting, testing and evaluating, the National University of Lesotho (NUL) launched the much-awaited NUL Innovation Hub. Three buildings were opened by His Majesty and Chancellor, King Letsie III, on the day. These were not the buildings containing laboratory products anymore. They were the buildings of businesses!
That is because NUL means business these days.
(Apply here for the Second Phase of the NUL Innovation Hub :http://bit.ly/nul-innovation-hub-proposals)
One building incubates 10 businesses [we will tell you about them], another incubates Sebabatso yogurt and another incubates Bohlale biscuits and the three all form part of the NUL Innovation Hub.
It is the three in one.
“The NUL Innovation Hub,” the King explained, “was a highly ambitious project with multidimensional aspirations. It intended to start with innovative business ideas and to help them develop products that are not only acceptable to the market but can also survive and sustain the challenges of outside world.”
All the projects in the hub mean business. Each of them is a company in its own right, and they are ready to start delivering products to the market as soon as yesterday.
“I always ask people who talk to me about NUL this question,” said the obviously elated Professor Nqosa Mahao whose hard-work and vision were on display. “Which NUL are you referring to? Because there is the NUL of yesterday and there is the NUL of today.” What people saw then, was the NUL of today, he said.
That is why throngs of excited people hailed from Maseru, the capital and from all of the country to witness the opening of the hub [ba ne ba tlo inoesa ka nkho].
And they liked what they saw.
“For years, I have been praying that Lesotho should one day rise to the occasion and make its own products for goodness sake,” said one captivated admirer. “I never thought that the day would come in my life-time. I feel like my prayers have been answered. ”
As they toured the hub, members of the audience were awestruck. First they were walked through the electronics mini factory. In it were the famous Pius IV egg incubator whose sophistication helps it beat many of its competitors, especially in the area of humidity control.
The much more developed version of NUL Pitsa was on display. You will remember Pitsa to be that “pot” with which you will make “motoho,” beer, wine, yogurt, skin creams, soap and many more. It is ready for mass production as soon as tomorrow.
In one factory, those who came were welcomed with another delight—the much awaited mohalalitoe soap. A machine that NUL designed along with South African designers was introduced. The machine is capable of making up to 600 soaps in a day!
Brace yourself, mohalalitoe is coming!
Two combined factories greeted the NUL Innovation Hub enthusiasts with artificial stones and waste paper-based furniture and vases. The colorful and textured artificial stones, the proponents said, will change Lesotho’s physical landscape like never before, “when people visit your land,” observed one thinker, “they are greeted first, not by you, but by the architecture of the buildings in which you dwell.”
The new paving, cladding and facing stones were on their own league.
Many people could not understand the products of waste paper that made amazing vases and furniture and had the strength of bones. They are market ready and they are making their way out of the hub into the markets soon.
Just when the attending innovation enthusiasts thought they had seen enough, there was more, much more in store for them. They entered a different territory, a territory of smart sorghum based muesli. You got it right, that food you enjoy with milk in the morning. Made by a company called sorghum choice, the muesli is in its own league when it comes to texture, taste, and peculiarity.
Next door was another factory which was not only producing chicken, from its own chicken farm, but it was also producing meat products such as sausages and mincemeat.
In the digital age, the hub would be incomplete without the digital guys. So the enthusiasts entered a room full of computer gurus. For a start, one team was working on sign-language interpreter, a system that takes English sign-language to English text and English text to English sign language.
Another guru was demonstrating a system that could detect lung cancer cells much more efficiently.
Then they were outta the building, only to move to the yogurt factory. On the way, the king’s entourage stopped at the university gate to witness a brilliant system that knows every NUL student by the name so it could give them access to the campus. We will tell you about this later.
Beyond that famous Sebabatso yogurt factory, the entourage headed to the elegant Bohlale Bakery which produced sorgum biscuits, muffins and rusks.
In his speech, the King summarised the whole thing quite well: “The idea [of the NUL Innovation Hub] is to create job-creators instead of job-seekers. Obviously, this would significantly reduce our over-dependency on neighbouring countries.”
It was a day to remember.