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Uganda Innovates

Athieno Mary Lucinda is changing girls’ lives one sanitary pad at a time.

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She stood up in class, her classmates laughed at her. The boys said that she had slaughtered a chicken. They made fun of her for a long time. She couldn’t afford sanitary towels, the anxiety of the monthly period coupled with the embarrassment she had faced which would have destroyed her self-esteem as a young girl instead stirred her resolve.

Meet Athieno Mary Lucinda a YALI fellow, the founder of Eco-Pads a social enterprise dedicated to the production and distribution of reusable pads and environmentally friendly to girls in Uganda.

“That experience kept me wondering what I would ever do to save a girl the embarrassment I had gone through. While at university, I went to volunteer with Kadama Widows Association where I am the Executive Director now and as I interacted with the girls, they had similar challenges. I then started saving part of my stipend to make the pads and that was my aha moment.” Lucinda says.

The sanitary pads are distributed to young women in rural Uganda. These Eco-pads are Menstrual Kits that are made from very high performance fabric and provide comfort and supper protection for a period up to 12 months.

“The Eco-pads project started in 2008 as a local thing trying to just help girls in the community. In 2014 we realized we can improve on quality and start selling for sustainability and we have been growing daily from just the local community to many parts of the country with over 20 full time  and 35 part time employees.”

“I am most proud of last year when we reached 50,000 girls with Eco-Pads, the feedback from the girls attending school daily is heart-filling. The involvement of parents and the whole community in the cause is great. We have reached over 75,000 community members on Menstruation being an issue and how they support. Mentored over 10,000 girls” Lucinda says.

There are challenges that are still to be overcome. Being a local product, Lucinda’s biggest challenge has been in marketing and getting the product to be known, convincing the clients that it is a good product since it is new. The very first money that they used was grant money that they used to buy equipment and set up and buy some few materials.

Despite the challenges, she has mentors that encourage her when things are going down hill. my “Atuki Turner the ED of Mifumi, Tracey the founder of glad rags U.S, Mary Mosinghi the ED of KwaAfrica. They remaind me that I need to remain a learner and humble in whatever I do.”

At the heart of this project is the desire by Eco pads that every girl child remains in school. Eco-pads give affordable sanitary pads for girls, because many miss out of school during their menstruation. They are competing against appalling statistics 80% of Girls in Uganda are absent from school during their periods. 70% of female students reported difficulty of attending class attentively due to menstrual related problems. 90% of the poor women and girls do not use (off-the-shelf) sanitary pads, but instead improvise with unsanitary materials. Prior to their first period only 51% of girls had knowledge of menstruation and its management

“We educate girls on MHM, conduct mentorship sessions and educate the parents and teachers on the need to support girl child. We shall continue to do something regardless of the tide. One sanitary pad at a time.” Lucinda says

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Uganda Innovates

Fundi Bots, a Lab that is unleashing Ugandan robotics genius

By Hugues Safari and Ninahazwe Lucia Bella, (Yaga Burundi.)  and    (Habari DRC)

At a time when most African educational systems no longer meet the expectations of “geek” students, a robotic lab, Fundi Bots, was born in Uganda, founded by Solomon King who himself dropped out of the University, tired of “studying for exams. ”

The intelligent and calm, Solomon King says, with a wide smile.  “I am not a rebel, I am just a man disappointed by our education system.” He rolled up he sleeves and had to so something about it. From this frustration,  Fundi Bots, a robotic lab,  that receives engineering enthusiasts from the age of six was born.

The word fundi means engineer in Swahili.

“Here in this lab, we put more focus on practice than on long theories. Our schools and universities train people to just take exams! But nothing practical. He says. This reality is unfortunately that of many African countries.

Based in Kampala, the Ugandan capital. Solomon King is the Ugandan who 16 years ago, left the university after just a semester. He formed passionately alone on the internet. In his early days, he won two awards in 2014 (Echoing Green Fellowship and Ashoka fellow) with his achievements in robotics and computer science. Today, he wants to help thousands of young people to reveal their talents.

Fundi Bots has a learning room where everything is removable and mobile: this is the case for walls, furniture and the laboratory.

“Everything is mobile here, we can customize the learning room according to what we want. It’s our magic here, “says Rosebell Nsita, Public Relations Officer at Fundi Bots.

Like her team leader, she too was disappointed by the education system, before discovering her talents in human relations in this organization. Rosebell has been passionate about art since she was very young. But the theory lessons of Ugandan universities have not helped her to pursue her passion. She explains that it is especially by taking inspiration from her experience that she had this desire to help other young people discover their potential through Fundi Bots.

“Classes are free when you register with Fundi Bots and learners are guided in courses of their choice. We have opened this lab specifically for students who feel dissatisfied with what they are learning at university. We teach them the basics of computer science, mechanics and electronics. We do everything so that they learn in a fun way.”

Henry (in black) facilitating a session.

Fundi Bots has proved his skills, so much so that today he is asked in primary and secondary schools in Uganda to provide practical courses in parallel with the theory. This generates an income for the administrative expenses of the lab, which is added to the external financing already collected by Fundi bots. Learning in this lab is via robots.

This way of learning through practice aims to make students learn better and faster. Some have better grades in their universities after their internships at Fundi Bots. “Our methods have recently helped a young person who throughout his school career was terrible in physics. But after learning from practice here at home, her grades in this class have improved. He distinguished himself and he does science at the university, “says Rosebella

Henry, 26, is a trainer at Fundi Bots. It is he who guides us around the laboratory. A treasure room for our eyes that had never seen robots invented by Africans. Wooden rover, with printed cards with exceptional diagrams, or a 3D printer.  We were amazed by everything we saw: respect for the proportions and details of these robots.  “Personally, I would like to change people’s lives through robotics. I plan to work on an agricultural application to allow Ugandan farmers to increase their output and household income. ” Henry says.

It should be noted that Henry has a university degree, but says that he  learned almost nothing concrete. Fundi Bots is the school where his abilities have been enhanced. Today, his greatest joy lies in his ability to create new concepts, which he could not have achieved elsewhere other than in the Lab Fundi bots, he believes. For Solomon King, changing or impacting one life is already a success – dozens of stories of lives changed positively since Fundi bot’s inception.

“We have already had more than 3,000 learners in our walls, and the following years we intend to extend to Rwanda and Tanzania  with the help of our partners.” Solomon King deplores the fact that the Ugandan government, which has promised to integrate the best practice provided by Fundi Bots into the national education program, is yet to deliver on its promise.

“As usual, they promise more than they realize,” said Solomon King. He remains confident for the rest of the program and his ultimate dream is that by 20 years, Africa will have caught up in technology and youth employment.”But if possible we would like to do it in less time,” he hopes confidently.

Like this story or have something to share? Write to us: info@thisisuganda.org, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Uganda Innovates

9 Co-Working Spaces for Start-Ups in Kampala

Co-working spaces are a great alternative to working from home or in a crowded coffee shop. Whether you need an office for a day or six months, co-working spaces are ideal for freelancers, start-ups and business travelers.

The spaces offer connectivity, a concentration of digital resources, and a proper work infrastructure where there may otherwise be none. They are affordable, full of startup geeks like yourself and probably cooler than any office your startup could afford. So, feast your eyes on the following 10 coolest co-working spaces available in Kampala.

Tribe Kampala

Tribe Kampala is one of the newest co-working spaces in Kampala. It offers monthly subscription coworking space in Kisementi, Kampala providing affordable, flexible access to a prime workspace to work, learn and meet. Tribe Kampala is open to individuals and teams working in diverse domains of expertise. It’s designed to give you a spacious, uplifting and open environment. Surrounded by great eateries, coffee shops, shops, bars and restaurants – there is no shortage of places to meet your friends, colleagues and clients.

Part of Tribe Kampala co working space. (Photo credit: Tribe Kampala)

Design Hub Kampala

Design Hub Kampala is becoming one of the most popular co-working spaces in Kampala. The 2000sqm renovated warehouse recently opened its doors to a collaborative work environment where different people (entrepreneurs, freelancers, designers, writers, product developers, marketing minds, tech start-ups, and makers) can feel comfortable working on their own projects, while having the possibility of sharing, engaging and in essence, creating together with others.

Design Hub is one of the most spacious co-working place in Kampala (internet photo)

Hive Colab

Founded in 2010, Hive Colab is noted as being one of Africa’s first innovation hubs of note along with the IHub. Hive Colab incubates companies and startups critical to Uganda’s technology ecosystem. It focus on technology verticals that we consider cornerstones to the country’s emerging digital economies: financial technologies (fin tech), medical technologies (med-tech), educational technologies (ed tech), agricultural technologies (ag tech), and technology for governance (tech4gov).

A team at Hive Colab. (Internet Photo)

The Square

The Square is one of the most popular destination for some of the networking events around Kampala. Located on 10th Street Industrial Area. The co-working space is a flexible work-space. Desk space, Office Space, Meeting Rooms and Event Space make it a convenient one-stop shop for your business needs.

BBC Focus on Africa presenter Sophie Ikenye interviewing artist Cindy Sanyu at the Square. (Internet photo)

The Mawazo Innovations Hub

Mawazo Hub offices. (internet Photo)

The Mawazo Innovation Hub has created a unique space for high-tech entrepreneurs, academics, researchers and venture capitalists to meet, network and collectively work towards growing the Ugandan economy through innovation. Its value-adding business support services contribute to the growth and globalization of technology rich enterprises in an environment that promotes innovation and enhances competitiveness for knowledge-based entrepreneurs. Thee Hub is located on Plot 593 block 28 Off Mugazi Awongererwa Rd, next to Makerere University.           
       

The Innovations Village

The Innovation Village is a leading destination entrepreneurs in Uganda call home. Located at 3rd Floor Block B & C Ntinda Complex, it’s purpose is to deliberately grow innovation by putting in place a platform that challenges assumption, ignites thought and questions status quo. As a launchpad for innovators, The Innovations Village bring together partners, startups, investors and researchers to act as one force for good.

Innovations Village is one of the creative and well designed co-working spaces in Kampala. (Internet photo)

Outbox Hub

In one sentence, Outbox Hub is “The launchpad for new ideas”

Since its launch in 2012, Outbox Hub has been helping new and upcoming African entrepreneurs interested in using technology to build high growth companies with workspace, mentorship, and training programs. Through partnerships, Outbox Hub helps them raise money for their ventures and access markets. It also works with students, developers, researchers and organizations to build inclusive communities that entrepreneurs can tap into for talent and collaboration. Outbox is built on the principles of sustainability, solving real problems, collaboration, openness and transparency, commitment and personal excellence.

A session in progress at Outbox. (Internet photo)

VentureLabs East Africa

Found at Plot 7, Binayomba Road, Bugolobi, VentureLabs East Africa Hub runs as a co-working space for innovative start-ups and small companies. A like-minded, entrepreneurial community, members are central to the VentureLabs network, but work independently of the venture development process. It brings together global and local networks of entrepreneurs, developers, research partners and investors to explore, incubate and launch innovations. These are designed to deliver venture returns, along with systemic social and environmental change.

Part of the co-working spaces at VenturesLabs. (Internet Photo)

The TechBuzz Hub

TechBuzz Hub is a collaborative working space focused on youth capacity building and startup development. It offers co-working space and access to business development services such as mentorship, consultancy, incubation, associate networking services, training and seminars.

The interior at TechBuzz Hub. (Internet photo)

Think we missed out any worksing space(s) or have something to share? Write to us: info@thisisuganda.org, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Uganda Innovates

This platform is changing how motorists access service in Uganda

Anyone who owns a car in Uganda will tell you that finding a good mechanic that is trust worthy and won’t steal your car parts when you leave your car overnight is a relief.  Makanika Dot Com  is  looking to transform the way motorists access service providers especially garages, as well the way providers get clients .

Makanika dot com collected data on worthy garages around two of the country’s cities (Kampala and Entebbe) to build the mobile application. The firm has built a data base of garages that motorists can access, and also buy car accessories like alarms, radios, lights. when in need through an app.

“When a motorist is stranded, they go into the app and send a repair request to the nearest garage. The garage, which has a dedicated application is notified about a stranded customer, they get in touch, solve their problem and get paid.” Michael Richard Katagaya the co- founder says.

Makanika which is also means mechanic is not only offering fast, reliable, convenient and secure way of sourcing car repair and accessories, but is also offering mechanics an opportunity to make more income, and transforming garages into stronger businesses through training and access to opportunities. The website and mobile app is now live.

Although the idea was conceived in 2012 with fruitless attempts to take off, it only became formal, with the incorporation of the company, in 2015. Since inception, they have grown their network of garages from zero to about 200 (several hundreds of mechanics), spread across Kampala, Entebbe, and a pilot site in Mbale.

 “We secured support from a tech hub – Hive Colab, we have worked with mentors to refine our idea.” Michael said.

What drives their passion is that they believe in an economy with high unemployment, growing initiatives that are looking to transform the informal (Small and Medium Enterprises – SMEs) and service sector work, is very critical.

Uganda’s Youth Unemployment Rate is 80%. Many young people are employed in Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) including garages. Most of these businesses are quite informal and find it hard to benefit from the growing potential of technology. For example most garages have their mechanics sit and wait for clients (motorists) to come to them. At the same time, their clients are looking for a nearest, good garage. This is a disconnect that could be solved by technology so that mechanics get more jobs to do and motorists save time.

In the recent years, Uganda has experienced a rapid growth in the automobile market, with automobile population more than doubling in the last decade. Between 2012 and 2013 there was a 38.7 percent increase in newly registered vehicles from 96,598 in 2012 to 133,945 in 2013.

This boom comes with an increasing demand for automobile services including repairs, services, car enhancements like sound and security. It is arguably true that the number of such providers has tremendously grown, finding a reliable one maybe hard as people keep complaining about dealing with crooks. Also, in case of emergency like a car breaking down on a long road trip or in the middle of the night, with no access to one’s regular provider e.g. mechanic, they may have no starting point.

It is such challenges that we intend to solve. These services will be hinged on the increased number of telecom and internet users. The Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) indicates that last year, Uganda’s telecom subscribers hit 19,506,5502  in 2014, and that the total number of internet subscribers increased by 33.6 percent from 2,692,705 in 2012 to 3,625,559 in 2013. Obviously, these figures have tremendously increased and this will provide an opportunity for this venture.

Makanika Dot Com has changed the lives of the clients that use this service.

During the pilot phase for the mobile application we had between 50 and 70 active users. These are people to whom we have delivered reliable automobile garages, especially in emergencies. We have about 200 garages (over 2000 mechanics on our network) – although not all of them are on our mobile application.

These numbers both of garages and users are growing very fast as we get reviews and intensify marketing. And so far. Feedback from both clients and the mechanics we work with; we are making a difference. For example, a good number of garages are assured of work, almost on daily basis – this builds trust in their work as a source of employment.” Katagaya Said

As of now, they have not encountered any major challenges in their operations, save for the need for funding to scale fast, now that our concept is proved, appreciated by both clients and garages/mechanics.

“In five years, we will have broken even and extended our services across East Africa.” Michael Katagaya Says.

Like this story or have something to share? Write to us: info@thisisuganda.org, or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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