In the early part of the year 2020, MTN Uganda launched the MTN for Good campaign with the intention of awakening youth to the fact that they can achieve their dreams if they pursue them. To participate in the campaign, the youths were required to submit a one minute video in which they talk about their enterprise and where they would like to take it.
Douglas Smith polled the highest public votes beating over 100 other participants to emerge the overall winner in the inaugural campaign. Douglas runs a non-governmental organization, Sportrise; a local company that is using plastics to make soccer balls to support the engagement in sports as a way of influencing social change among children and youth.
He founded the company with a sole purpose of championing social change for disadvantaged children through sports such as soccer that provide platform for children to spend time engaging in health habits
As a way of drawing Douglas closer to the realization of his dream, MTN Uganda has enrolled him to the MTN Foundation Youth Empowerment Program alongside his four colleagues [winners of the MTN for Good Campaign]; Joseph Semayengo; Brick maker, Julius Tusingwire; programmer, Brian Maw; music producer, and Tony Ayebare; founder Online Butcher —will be the inaugural participants of the six month long training.
Douglas embarked on a research and revealed that most of the soccer balls used in Uganda are imported and are expensive, making them a scarce yet they are the most important equipment for soccer. He also noted that the imported soccer balls easily wear out due to the rough conditions of the pitch yet they are also very costly.
“In addition to being expensive, these balls were easily wearing out because of our rough play grounds. So we needed to make balls specifically meant for our rough play grounds,” Douglas says. “So that is how I decided to embark on this research of how to make these balls locally so that they are not only affordable but also durable and matched to our conditions,” he adds.
This challenge inspired Douglas to introduce a new commercial venture in which he uses plastic waste to make balls by melting it to make affordable yet long lasting balls that can withstand the nature of Uganda’s soccer pitches.
Currently, the balls are sought after by both football clubs and institutions such as schools among other people.
“There is more demand than the balls we can supply,” Douglas says, noting that despite the low level of production due to the financial challenges that are hampering his expansion, customers continue to place orders for the balls.
Notably, MTN Uganda last month revealed winners of the MTN Foundation youth empowerment program, and is to offer them technology training, in the key thematic areas of: Agriculture, Education, Health, Technology and Youth Empowerment —as the country embraces the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).
The program is focusing on skills that will drive co-creation of innovative digital products and solutions to solve the country’s problems in education, youth empowerment, health and agriculture. This comes at a backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic that has demonstrated the immense need of digitalized systems to keep businesses and communities afloat in times of catastrophic circumstances.
Editor’s Note: MTN For Good Winners are subsequent beneficiaries to the MTN Foundation youth empowerment program. We shall run their five profiles this week, one everyday, starting with Douglas Smith.