Hack the Normal | From Africa for Africa: Meet the Winning Innovations for Sustainable Living, Healthy Living and Financial Solutions in Africa

Through the Hack the Normal initiative, Defy, Africa’s stalwart home appliance company, aims to contribute to the advancement of African-led projects that  seek to secure the sustainability of trade, natural resources, and life on the continent.

Defy, a leading manufacturer of home appliances, recently hosted the Hack the Normal online hackathon in partnership with ATÖLYE to inspire and facilitate the development of new ideas and projects that aim to make people’s lives easier.

Supported by Defy’s sister company, Beko, hackathon participants had the opportunity to develop new products, services, and business models with potential for commercialisation and to address existing challenges in Sustainable Living, Healthy Living and Financial Solutions.

The hackathon focused on the individual, social and material impacts of a more sustainable approach to energy, water, food, and trade. It aimed to develop solutions by establishing a fertile and digital environment that brings together multiple disciplines such as design, technology, sociology, psychology, human resources, management and communications.

During the two-and-a-half-day hackathon, participant teams received training in a variety of areas including problem discovery, solution development, prototyping and storytelling. They were also given the opportunity to fine-tune their concepts with the assistance of expert coaches and mentors from the fields of business, technology, and design. In addition to the learning program, Hack the Normal hosted a public program that included keynote speakers, panels and discussions open to both participants and the wider community.

Teams from 52 countries came together with 294 mentors and coaches to find ways to effectively navigate and adapt to common challenges prevalent in Africa. Teams and projects were chosen from a pool of over 1,000 applicants with projects at various stages of development (idea, prototype, ready-to-use product, pivot product, etc.).

The winning ideas in the Sustainable Living category were a reliable and durable cooker that uses biogas energy; a platform to create adjustable, multifunctional shoes in localised supply chains for low-income households; and a platform to connect and support volunteers.

Winning projects in Financial Solutions ranged from solutions that allow customers to use products as services through subscription to a web-based solution that collects, compares, and presents remittances for individuals and SMEs, as well as a blockchain-based solution for fast and secure trade without third parties.

The Healthy Living winners included a product that functions as a container and filter for rural communities to transport large amounts of filtered water; a healthy food delivery service that provides personalised nutrition solutions; and an application that allows patients to provide feedback on their hospital experiences which is then used by Artificial Intelligence (AI) to detect discrimination trends.

“Our core goal is to improve the quality of life for all Africans: from our employees to our loyal customers and to those who, like us, believe in the betterment of society, the environment and the continent,” said Evren Albas, CEO of Defy Appliances. “Defy is more than a company, it is a large ecosystem of innovators who are driven to bring about positive change in the lives of our consumers and improve the state of our world. With Hack the Normal, we developed a collaborative platform to discuss sustainability issues, healthy living and new financial technologies to support growth in Africa. It’s very encouraging to see such strong interest from innovators around the world. I congratulate all the winners and hope that these innovations will have a real impact on people’s lives.”

Following the hackathon, selected project teams will receive a total cash prize of $30.000 and will have the opportunity to work with Defy to further develop their projects. Winners will receive promotional support and access to customers through Sub-Saharan African channels, as well as access to sales opportunities, investment networks, acceleration and incubation programs, and ultimately, access to users and Defy’s ecosystem.

About Defy

Defy Appliances (Pty) Ltd is Southern Africa’s largest manufacturer and distributor of major domestic appliances. The company markets its products under the Defy brand and offers the consumer a full range of kitchen, laundry and small domestic appliances. Established in 1905, Defy made its debut by manufacturing the first electric stove in South Africa. Over the last 115 years, the brand has further entrenched its footprint in South African households through manufacturing durable goods such as gas ovens, washing machines, dryers and ovens. This led to Defy becoming the biggest white goods manufacturer in the country while presenting the largest product range in South Africa.

In 2011, Defy was attained by leading Turkish home appliance group, Arçelik. Having operations in the durable consumer goods industry with production, marketing and after-sales services, Arçelik offers products and services around the world with over 30,000 employees in 23 different production facilities in 9 countries. Arçelik is one of the world’s 100 most sustainable corporations and has been listed on the Dow Jones Sustainability Index under the Household Durables Category.