Four local startups win funding in Unicef Uganda Innovation Challenge

Four local startups were this past Thursday each given Shs77 million through the UNICEF Uganda Innovation Challenge after convincing judges that they can innovatively address challenges faced by children in Uganda.

The challenge was organized by UNICEF, the funder — in partnership with Outbox, an innovation and entrepreneurship support organization.

SeatPack is solving lack of affordable, classroom furniture by providing a school bag that turns into a mobile bamboo classroom chair with a writing surface to help primary school children read and write in more dignified conditions indoors and outdoors.

This is not the first prize this startup has won, as it received about $20,000 from the Total Startupper Challenge in 2019 and has also showcased its product at international events like the Vivatech Expo in Paris.

Safe Water Harvester uses solar to trap humidity/water vapour from the atmosphere to provide clean and affordable water to the underserved rural communities, schools and communities at any time.

Fine Reed Limited says it has “innovated a highly scalable briquette supply chain in Uganda that will significantly reduce Uganda’s unsustainable demand for charcoal and firewood, which make up the majority of Uganda’s energy demand.”

“Our briquettes are cheaper, burn hotter, longer, and cleaner than traditional charcoal,” the company says.

KAINOAfrica is an EdTech product that provides nursery schools and parents in Uganda with access to quality curriculum aligned with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and delivered to their learners using our web and mobile applications and is able to teach children how to read and write in only one month.

The startup has also previously won $27,000 from the National ICT Initiatives Support Programme (NIISP).

In a statement, UNICEF noted that the winners will also “receive six-month mentorship, social business training and linkages to partners in the market to enable them to realize and implement their ideas”.

The statement also indicates that 285 people had applied to participate in the fund of which 168 were ineligible. The eligible 117 applications were vetted and reviewed through a competitive process.

“The challenge is specifically focusing on early childhood survival and development; improving access to basic education and adolescent development for girls and boys aged 13 – 19; and ensure that children are free from all forms of violence, abuse, neglect and exploitation, including harmful practices,” reads the statement.

“At UNICEF, we encourage innovation as it offers out-of-the-box and non-conventional solutions to challenges facing the realization of children’s rights. With new innovative thinking, we can take child survival and development to new higher levels of excellence. Innovations offer agility, efficiency, and effectiveness,” said Dr. Munir Safieldin, UNICEF Representative in Uganda.

Richard Zulu, founding partner and Outbox Hub Lead said, “The UNICEF Uganda Innovation Fund Challenge is an initiative that will further grow the social entrepreneurship movement in Uganda, where young people and other private sector actors are encouraged and supported to address societal challenges in sustainable ways. Getting the private sector to co-create and collaborate with development partners is a good recipe for innovation.”

The UNICEF Uganda Innovation Challenge is planning to launch another call for applications where other participants will have an opportunity to have their solutions and ideas supported by the same initiative.

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