UCT student team wins top innovation prize

A student team from UCT won a top prize at the Global Social Venture Competition (GSVC), which is held annually at the University of California, Berkeley, in the USA.

The UCT team was named one of the top five initiatives worldwide for their project, Khusela – a low-cost fire-detection device for informal housing – and took the GSVC People’s Choice Award in the global round, competing against hundreds of entries and winning out against 18 finalists in the last round.

The GSVC is the world’s pre-eminent social business plan competition, providing aspiring entrepreneurs with mentoring, exposure and prize money to transform their business ideas into positive real-world impact.   

Khusela, which means “protect” in Xhosa, is a low-cost fire-detection device and integrated alert service designed for shack-dwellers worldwide. In South Africa, there are an average of 10 shack fires a day, with someone dying in a shack fire every other day, according to Abahlali baseMjondolo, a South African shack-dwellers’ movement. 

“Our proactive early-warning system networks individuals within communities and with the authorities to mitigate the loss of life and property caused by shack fires – a global human tragedy,” says Francois Petousis, co-founder of Khusela, who is currently undertaking a master’s degree in inclusive innovation at the UCT Graduate School of Business (GSB). “There are one billion shack/slum-dwellers across the globe, and that is set to soar to 1.4 billion by 2020.”

Khusela is based on the engineering honours thesis of Petousis. The team further consists of Samuel Ginsberg, David Gluckman, Emily Vining, Max Basler and Paul Mesarcik. 

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