The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) in partnership with Outbox, a local business incubator, hosted on Thursday the closure event for the second cycle of the Up Accelerate programme. The initiative, funded by UKAID and endorsed by the Ministry of Information, Communications Technology, and National Guidance, supports young Ugandan entrepreneurs who are building social businesses to address sexual and reproductive health issues. Through this programme young innovators are provided with seed funding, business training, mentorship and technical guidance to turn their innovative ideas into reality.
Phyllis Kyomuhendo, a team member of Mobile Scan Solutions (Mscan), a low-cost mobile ultrasound device to support health workers diagnose pregnancy progress in low-resource settings, was among the four teams presenting their solutions at the event. She explains: “Up Accelerate has enabled us to improve our product development and financial management processes.” This means M-Scan will soon be ready to go to market, providing a low-cost and effective means of following up the unborn baby’s development inside the mothers’ womb in resource-scarce environments.
For Noella Aryanyijuka, working on EcoSmart Pads, her team’s dream to provide environmentally sustainable, affordable sanitary pads for women and girls from low-income backgrounds is close to becoming a reality: “We have transformed tremendously not only as a startup but as a team. We have learned how to run a company, manage finances, how to network and improve our product development process. We are much closer to launching than we were early this year.” EcoSmart Pads are made of bagasse, the absorptive matter that remains after sugarcane is processed. The use of sugarcane bagasse reduces EcoSmart Pads production costs and makes them more affordable to the consumer.
The iDrain and DigiHealth startup leads, Julius Ssebaketta and Jacqueline Mutumba, also presented their solutions at the closure event. Their business proposal to the over 150 representatives from the private sector, development partners, academia and young people sitting in the hall was a low-cost chest drainage system to remove excess fluid accumulations in the lungs and a mobile and web solution to support collection and real-time data analysis during health outreaches. The event provided the young entrepreneurs with the opportunity to raise follow-on funding and explore new partnerships that can enable their products to access the market.
Dr. William Lubega, co-founder of The Medical Concierge Group and one of the judges at the event, highlighted: “These startup teams are showing the way to other young Ugandans. Through their businesses, they are contributing to Uganda’s growth and coming up with new, more effective ways of doing things.”
The young startup teams in the Up Accelerate programme have benefited from the expertise of a wide range of institutional partners, including Deloitte, Makerere University, Clinton Health Access Initiative, Medic Mobile, UNFPA and the Uganda Health Marketing Group. “The programme provides young startups with the unique opportunity to tap into a diverse network of individuals and institutions across Uganda, who have volunteered their time and expertise because they believe the innovative solutions developed by these young entrepreneurs will make a real difference to the reproductive health of Ugandans,” shares Richard Zulu, team leader at Outbox.
Since September 2016, the Up Accelerate programme has reached over 1,000,000 young Ugandans through online and offline platforms and supported 7 teams of twenty-six (26) entrepreneurs to develop their ideas in the area of sexual and reproductive health into market-ready products.