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Uganda Innovates

Heard about bike ambulances? They are reducing maternal mortality rates in rural Uganda

 

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Bike ambulance driver Grace Kakyo transports a patient in northern Uganda. Photo Credit CA Bikes

Here is how a well executed fast and simple plan is managing to reverse the trends of maternal health care system in Uganda. From going to remote areas and helping pregnant women, the Bike Ambulances are improving lives of pregnant women in many villages in Uganda with high maternal mortality rates, leading to a healthier future.

Before 2015, health and community workers in hard to reach areas in Uganda lived in a dilemma. They had to trek to impenetrable villages trying to save expectant mothers lives. Most roads were not friendly to cars and they had one solution- carrying the pregnant women on their backs or on homemade stretchers. To cut the long story short, many did not make it to hospital. They died on the way.

Fast forward to 2015 and now, a light is beaming bright at the end of the maternal health care system tunnel in Uganda. Bike ambulances are the reason. The reason why many pregnant women in rural Uganda are now singing to the glory of a simple, fast and cost effective way they are reached in, in remote areas.

Bike ambulances are unstoppable. On the dusty and muddy roads in remote areas whether Uganda or in any other low developing country, two wheels are better (and reliable) than four. Where a vehicle ambulance may take two hours to reach, a bike ambulance can take thirty minutes.

In some areas, you find that an expectant mother has to travel over 30 kilometers to reach a health center where they have to deliver and out of say 70% of expectant mothers who go for antenatal care I, only 20% go back to deliver meaning there are so many who remain back home and  delivery is done by Traditional Birth Attendants (TBA) which number you can’t tell and that’s why bike ambulances are reversing this trend vigorously.

The bike ambulances idea is a simple one. They are two-wheeled ambulance trailers that can be easily connected to virtually any bicycle or motorcycle. When a patient needs to be moved, the Village Ambulances offer a safe alternative to the precarious boda-boda (motorcycle) ride that would traditionally be used to transport many Ugandans, or worse, being left at home to suffer rather than seeking the help the patient needs.

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The motorbikes have gone to over 10,000 callouts in four years. Photo credit: ITV

They are here to reverse trends indeed. According to the 2011 Uganda Demographic Health Survey, Uganda’s maternal mortality rate was found to be 438 per 100,000 live births.  

On the other hand, the MDG 2014 report by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa together with the African Union, African Development Bank Group and the United Nations Development Programme on assessing progress in Africa toward the MDGs, to date 95% of Ugandan women receive antenatal care from a skilled provider at least once, 57% deliver babies in a health facility under the supervision of a skilled provider. Furthermore, 33% of the mothers received a postnatal checkup within two days of birth.

The new emerging statistics by the United Nations Economic Commission only shows one thing, that there are positive strides in achieving zero maternal deaths which directly and indirectly, can be attributed to bike ambulances.

This innovative idea however, was invented by Chris Ategeka, a graduate of Engineering from the University of California who returned back to Uganda in 2013 to help contribute to the reduction of Maternal death in Uganda and founded Rides For Lives.

Ategeka founded Rides For Lives, a nonprofit that invests in training local healthcare professionals so as to create a sustainable workforce and manufacture locally sourced medical vehicles with the mission of improving medical access and economic opportunities to those that are the most vulnerable.

In an interview with NPR, Ategeka and Ride For Lives stated that they have managed to support the fabrication of the bike ambulances  at centralized workshops in local villages which has led to the distribution of more than 1,000 bikes and bike ambulances throughout Uganda.

Only 100 bike ambulances can transport about 10,000 expectant mothers a month. Put another way, this is 100 lives saved every year after deploying just one of their ambulances to a district each year. With over 200 Village Ambulances distributed in over 23 districts across Uganda it doesn’t take a mathematician to work out that this equates to over 5,000 lives saved every year thanks to their innovation.

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Bike ambulances are loved because they are fast, affordable and can reach remote areas. Photo credit: Kissito Health

 

However, the question remains, how are young mothers getting access to these bike ambulances and how can we have more of these?

Many young mothers continue not having access to antenatal care services in different parts of the country. Still, a big number of them do not have information about the existence of bike ambulances to help significantly reverse this trend.

This is where district leaders and civil society must come in to advocate for increased funding and awareness of the innovative idea. This idea, can be transformed then into greater heights and before we know it, it will be a major turning point in the history of maternal mortality rates in Uganda.

Simon Otiga, The Vice Chairperson of Soroti District while at the launch of the ambulances in the district on January 27, 2015, urged the beneficiaries to use them so as to boast the maternal health care system of the district and reduce on the maternal deaths.

The Speaker of the ninth Parliament Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga while launching the ambulances last year at parliament, encouraged MPs to advocate for more bike ambulances to be distributed to all villages in Uganda so as to reduce on the maternal mortality rates.

Initiatives like these and others being implemented players in the health sector like the Voices For Health partners for example FOWODEReproductive Health Uganda, Reach A Hand, Uganda and UHMG to mention but a few, could help in saving lives of many young mothers all over the country who continue to die because of failing to get access to fast, cost effective and reliable services. That is when we will achieve a big step towards reducing maternal deaths in Uganda.

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Uganda Innovates

How Ensibuuko is building Life Changing ICT-Mobile solutions for the under-served Rural Poor

Almost four years ago when youth unemployment was at its peak and everyone was clamoring for a steady job, Gerald Otim decided to walk into the world of self employment. Having had a humble beginning, he was no stranger to starting small and therefore he ventured into the building a solution that would improve financial service delivery in rural communities.

In 2014, Gerald a Fin-Tech Entrepreneur and a graduate of Development Economics at Makerere University together with David Opio, co-founded Ensibuuko, a Ugandan ICT startup that is modernizing the way financial cooperatives (popularly known as SACCOS – Savings and Credit Cooperatives) manage data and deliver financial services.

“We are providing modern electronic banking infrastructure to financial services entities unique to the developing world. Our main service is a cloud-based banking software platform for micro-finances and SACCOS. The platform automates business processes, customer and transactional data, and provides standard accounting and reporting functionality for Ensibuuko’s customers.” Gerald explains.

Ensibuuko’s software is a cloud-based MOBIS Micro-Finance Software first designed at the Kampala based ICT hub, Outbox and is creating a solution that allows for web services even in rural areas with poor telecom infrastructure thereby contributing significantly to the efforts for financial inclusion in Uganda and across Africa.

The Start Up’s software is also integrated to the mobile phone network allowing users to access their account via mobile phone — they can check the balance, make deposits and withdraw. This improves access and quality of service delivery.

“Our solution is integrated with Mobile Money thus people in hard-to-reach places can be part of the easy access of the service. We are now using partnerships with mobile Network Operators to deliver a dedicated internet bundle that enables institutions access the solution on cloud even on weak networks for just 30,000 shillings a month ($8).” Gerald notes.

The platform therefore exists to equalize financial services in Uganda as is the case in many other African countries where banks are urban based. People in rural communities will be served mainly by a cooperative institution.

According to Ensibuuko, there are major issues in the financial services sector in the developing world: Banks are concentrated in major towns, Services are expensive and loans have interest rates of not less than 24%. It is part of the general problem of poor and expensive financial services infrastructure in all of the developing world. Instead of working with banks, most people will prefer a non-bank financial institution mostly in the nature of a Cooperative financial institution such as a Savings and Credit Cooperative (SACCOS) or Credit Union.

Through Ensibuuko, Gerald has created a platform that is bringing financial services to the developing world.

“These institutions usually have no access to modern infrastructure and they rely a lot on human resources for their operations as they continue rudimentary means to manage financial information and make decisions.” Gerald notes.

To date, Ensibuuko’s business volume is 151 SACCOS reached in 2 years. Of these, 14 are newly signed, 35 are active on the Mobis platform and 102 are on their current pipeline in Uganda. There are over 14 other institutions in 3 other African markets that are currently in business with Ensibuuko through its recently established  franchises in Zambia and Tanzania. Ensibuuko has raised 1 Million USD in funding (500,000 of which came through a recent Equity investment deal) and maybe the first ever ICT startup with Ugandan only founders to raise this much funding within its first two years of existence.

Inefficiency, human error, fraudulent tendencies have become typical of these institutions and is undermining their role in delivering financial services to the under-served. In Uganda there are over 6000 registered SACCOS serving 18 million people. It is estimated that there are over 300,000 of such institutions in Africa. By using technology to strengthen financial institutions, Ensibuuko has the potential to significantly disrupt the rural financial services sector not just in Uganda but across Africa.

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

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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