Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in partnership with the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation and The Innovation Village, has awarded three Ugandan start-ups for their innovative business models and technologies in response to changes in social and economic activity following the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic.
These startups won the Uganda Chapter of the NINJA Business Plan Competition, dubbed the NINJA COVID-19 Response and Recovery Business Challenge.
While commenting on the recognition of the start-ups, The Innovation Village Team Lead, Japheth Kawanguzi, said the emergence of Uganda’s M-Scan, a developer of low-cost mobile ultra-sound devices, as the best innovation in Africa is confirmation of the country’s growing creativity and competitiveness in the startup ecosystem.
“COVID-19 has accelerated the need for us to be innovative. But one other thing it has accelerated in my view as an entrepreneur is that nobody has all the solutions. It has flattened the curve for all of us to put up our hands and share our contributions to solving challenges and for me that is the call to the entrepreneur,” Kawanguzi said at the award ceremony.
He also emphasised the need for more players including government and international organisations to support entrepreneurs to position Uganda’s innovations to compete locally and globally. The three winners of the Uganda chapter have received $30,000 each, as well as business development support from JICA to scale up their innovations. M-Scan, the winner of the competition on the African continent, also received 15 motorbikes from JICA to ease its mobility while reaching out to expectant mothers in the communities.
“As JICA, we recognise the important role start-ups play in the development agenda and moving forward. We will focus on supporting Uganda and facilitating startups grow through different initiatives that range from technical, financial, and business opportunities with global partners including those from Japan,” Fukase Yutaka, Chief Representative JICA Uganda said.
JICA launched the NINJA Business Plan Completion in 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The competition targeted 19 African countries including Uganda, Angola, Burkina Faso, Botswana, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia, and Zambia.
A total of 456 start-ups participated in the Uganda chapter of the competition amongst whom, three start-ups emerged winners after a rigorous selection process. At the continental level, 2,713 startups participated. Of these, M-Scan Uganda Limited emerged as the overall winner in Africa.
Mobile Scan Solutions Uganda Limited (M-Scan) (M-Scan) is a developer of low-cost mobile ultrasound devices that seek to reduce maternal mortality by early detection of risk factors and easy accessibility to affordable ultrasound services for use in low and middle-income families. M-Scan is also the overall NINJA Challenge winner on the African continent.
In a bid to solve the problem of unfurnished classrooms in Uganda, Zetu Africa manufactures the Seat Pack, a school bag that performs the duty of a desk, by turning it into a chair with a writing pad. Offered at a tenth of the price of a wooden classroom desk, the school bag targets underprivileged and refugee school children ages 5 – 13 years.
Ecoplastile recycles and transforms waste plastics using a chemical-free plastic extrusion technology called waxy 11, into durable plastic timber and roofing tiles, providing an alternative to wooden timbers. It concurrently tackles the challenge of post-consumer waste pollution, waste management, deforestation, and climate change.