Connect with us
Header

Uganda Innovates

This startup is promoting energy access to rural farming communities in Uganda

By Elizabeth Nyeko

Innovation is a manifestation of creative strategic and tactical thought. That said, the novelty of a product, service, or business, alone, is fleeting, and isn’t a hallmark of ‘disruptive innovation’.

So, what is Disruptive Innovation?

In entrepreneurship, the term disruptive innovation tends to be almost automatically attributed to software startups, and/or the impact that their innovation has in the lives of people or in the ways that businesses operate.

Typically, the “appy clappy startups” as I call them, the Ubers of this world, are instantaneously considered to be disruptive innovators. However, the Harvard Professor, Clayton Christensen, who authored “The Innovator’s Dilemma” and invented the term “disruptive innovation”, recently weighed in with the view that Uber, despite its immense successes, is not technically a “disruptor” in the classical sense of the term, because it did not “create an entirely new market”, nor did it gain its “initial foothold in a low-end market ignored in favor of more profitable customers”. Commenting on the role of innovation in the prolific international expansion of Uber, at an FT Innovate conference in London, Michael Mandel, the chief economic strategist at the Progressive Policy Institute in Washington DC, suggested that “Uber’s real innovation has been in working with governments around the world”.

Steve Jobs and Henry Ford on the other hand, are names that are undeniably synonymous with disruptive innovation. With the introduction of affordable cars for the masses, Ford permanently transformed the automobile industry. Meanwhile Jobs created new markets with innovations that significantly disrupted the music, telecoms and technology industries at large, and he is said to have won a further 141 patents since his death in 2011.

Software Doesn’t Always Enable Innovation

In an article published in the Harvard Business Review, ‘IT doesn’t matter’ Nicholas Carr suggested that “What makes a resource truly strategic –what gives it the capacity to be the basis for a sustained competitive advantage –is not ubiquity but scarcity. You only gain an edge over rivals by having or doing something that they can’t have or do”. Along this vein of thinking, one could argue that by providing all businesses across an industry, a single standardized way of doing things (i.e. testing candidates, training employees, revenue generation, or indeed any critical operational process etc.), the vendors of software that introduce ubiquity, to make ‘life easier’ in the short-term, also have the ultimate effect of stifling innovation and consequently diminishing differentiation within their customers’ businesses…

But Software is a Powerful Tool

More broadly, the technology industry is undoubtedly firmly at the forefront of innovation. However, its value creation strategy has notably shifted over time, from an initial focus on hardware in 1980s, to software in the 2000s, and the past decade has ushered an age, in which software is increasingly, no longer considered significant innovation in itself, but a tool to create value and impact. As we progress into an increasingly digitized world, with even more software developers, the current abundance of software that’s largely free to use, can only increase, as aptly demonstrated by the dominance of the likes of Facebook/Twitter (no pun intended), which are evidently disruptive innovators.

Disruptive Innovation in Uganda’s Energy Access Market

The Plant in Nwoya district

The Plant in Nwoya district

Based on Christensen’s definition, one example of a truly disruptive innovator in the energy access market, is Mandulis Energy, an enterprise developing software-enabled renewable energy microgrids. The company is working in partnership with French NGO, ACTED, to deliver affordable, reliable and productive rural electrification to off-grid rural farming communities in Uganda.

1.3 billion people in the world lack access to electricity, including 80% of Uganda’s population of 39 million. “We use biomass power to deliver an integrated solution to the perennial global challenges: energy security, food security, climate resilience and poverty alleviation” said Elizabeth Nyeko, Co-Founder of Mandulis Energy. The company couples its proprietary software with an innovative business model that delivers a ‘triple bottom line’ –of economic, social and environmental returns, and has the potential to transform the world’s approach to rural economic development. At COP21, Emilie Poisson, the ACTED Director for Africa, referred to the venture, as an exemplar model of “how governments, private sector and NGOs, can join forces and work effectively to deliver climate resilience and poverty alleviation”.

me

 

Launched in Northern Uganda, where a pilot project is operational, the social enterprise is currently developing an 8MW (500kW x 16 sites) prototype for the Practitioners Dialogue Climate Initiative program supported by the German government’s international development entity, GIZ GmBH, which consumes biomass supplied by 15,000 farmers. The startup has ambitions to scale across Uganda and internationally, in countries with similar fundamentals. “We go wherever rural communities lack access to electricity. As long as there are farmers to provide a sustainable and renewable source of biomass, which in our case is simply agricultural waste”, said Peter Nyeko, Co-Founder of Mandulis Energy. A study by Uganda’s Ministry of Energy, found that agricultural waste aggregated at agro-processing centers across Uganda can power 1650MW –nearly double the country’s current power generation capacity.

Comments

comments

Uganda Innovates

Makanika Dot Com is looking to transform the way motorists access service providers 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.

Comments

comments

Continue Reading

Uganda Innovates

Here’s What You Need to Know About The Upcoming Uganda Public Health Youth Symposium

Uganda is set to host the first ever Public Health Youth Symposium that shall bring together various health experts with majors in social economic development, health policy, innovation, service delivery and advocacy to mention but a few. There will also be participants from social-political movements, business start-ups, social enterprises, civil society, international organizations and public institutions from Uganda and across the world.

The Public Health Youth Symposium (PHYS) is an avenue for the Ugandan public health community and professionals to communicate connect and collaborate on the latest public health efforts and findings. It will be a gathering of public health practitioners and multiple partners from government, academia and private organizations that share a common interest and dedication in protecting, preventing and promoting the health of the nation.

Follow updates here or use this hashtag  #PHYS2017 on social media.

 

The Expectations from the Symposium in Uganda

The Symposium seeks to turn young people into advocates, activists, champions and change agents by empowering them with information and skills on Sexual and Reproductive Health, HIV/AIDS, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Management, Human Rights, Project Planning and Management, Evidence Based Advocacy, Communication, Social Entrepreneurship and Critical thinking using a problem-solving and learning environment. In addition to the above, they will also gain leadership skills, networking skills, analytical skills, interpersonal skills and team work skills.

 

It is aimed at connecting youth to share experiences and learn from each other on the selected themes, discuss challenges they face and plan way forward to address them. It will bring youth in touch with their peers, researchers, entrepreneurs, influential speakers and development partners.

The theme for this year’s symposium is “Public Health: A Driver to Achieving Sustainable Development Goal 3”.

Objectives

  1. Create a national platform for young peoples’ discussions and understanding of how public health issues hinder social economic development of Uganda.
  2. To understand the role of public health in achieving National agendas and SDGs in Uganda.
  3. Create a platform where young public health innovators in public health showcase their work to various stakeholders and promote a multidisciplinary approach in health innovation.
  4. Create visibility for young people’s decision making ability on public health at (community and national level) the Ministry of Health level in Uganda.

 

Public Health Ambassadors Uganda (PHAU) is a registered not for profit youth led and youth serving organization comprised of young people working on issues of sexual and reproductive health and HIV awareness using health promotion, youth empowerment, social entrepreneurship and ICT for Health.

Registration

The one day symposium will he held on 9th November, 2017 at Hotel Africana. Click here to apply.

Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis up to the deadline of 30th October, 2017 hence you are encouraged to apply as earlier as possible. Should you need to get in touch with the organizers, write to us at info@phauganda.org

Connect with us through InstagramFacebook , Vimeo , website and Twitter

Comments

comments

Continue Reading

Uganda Innovates

These innovators have created an app that addresses the challenge of drug stock outs in public health facilities

Health centres in Uganda face a serious shortage of drugs, many of them essential drugs, and this has always continuously caused a deep concern amongst citizens and health workers, and development partners alike.

These challenges could be attributed to the shortages in budget allocations by the Ministry of Health, or lack of clear monitoring of drugs distribution in health centres spread out across the country, among other reasons.

For example, Daily Monitor quoted a June 2015 report by the Budget Monitoring and Accountability Unit of the Finance ministry that paints a grim picture of public health facilities. The report shows that for a whole year, more than 90 per cent of public health facilities reported non-supply of ordered medical items, including drugs and stationary. Close to three years later, the perennial problem of drug shortage has not been resolved.

DrugDash a Ugandan startup is trying to solve this problem.

DrugDash is a decision support system that is enabling health centers and drug distribution players capture data on drug supplies and consumption so as to better understand consumption trends through easy to understand visualisation tools that support accurate decision making.

“The application has two ends. It has a mobile end and web app. The information is fed from the mobile application on devices like tablets or simple Android mobile phones at the health centres where stock is taken, issues are recorded, and monitoring of the stock happens at the district Health Office where the web application sits.” Solomon Kahuma, the Software Developer DrugDash explains.

The data on medicine stock levels are viewed on a web application in simple graphs and other ways which are easier for responsible personnel to interpret and make informed decisions.

“We believe that more lives can be saved if the stocking of drugs in Government districts can be optimized. We must leverage technology to enhance decision making and ease coordination between the district health centers and the central government medical stores.” Joanitah N Nalubega the Project Finance Officer explains.

Solomon from DrugDash explaining how the application works to health officials. (Photo credit: DrugDash)

Therefore, DrugDash seeks to solve the problem of poor decision making in drug ordering at health facilities due to under utilisation of data collected and stored in paper forms, leading to poor stocking of needed  within a community.

This was witnessed when the solution was deployed to ten (10) health facilities in Bukedea (Eastern Uganda) with support from the UpAccelerate initiative which enabled DrugDash to receive seed funding to develop and test out their solution in Bukedea District in Eastern Uganda.

Receiving the $10,000 seed funding from UNFPA’s UpAccelerate program. (photo credit: DrugDash)

“The current process has been a challenge because it is not easy to know which item is missing in facility X or which item is over stocked in Facility B but with DrugDash, this makes it easy for you to track the supplies.” George Akol the Medicines & Store Manager Bukedea District noted.

The mobile application is very easy to use because even with power shortages that render desktop applications in these facilities ineffective, the mobile devices can be charged and used anywhere.

In the end, DrugDash will save more lives by enabling better informed decision making and smooth coordination amongst the health centers that give people access to healthcare and the central drug stores.

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

Comments

comments

Continue Reading

Most Popular

Close

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This

Share This

Share this post with your friends!