Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in partnership with the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, and The Innovation Village have awarded three Ugandan startups that emerged as winners in the NINJA COVID-19 Response and Recovery Business Challenge. The three startups; M-Scan, Zetu Africa and Ecoplastile had outstanding innovative business models and technologies in response to changes in social and economic activity of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The startups have each received a cash prize of USD$30,000 (approx. UGX108.7 million) as well as get a business development support from JICA to scale up their innovations.
Fukase Yutaka, Chief Representative JICA Uganda said, “JICA recognizes the important role startups play in the development agenda —and moving forward, we will focus on supporting Uganda and facilitating startups grow through different initiatives that range from technical, financial, and business opportunities with global partners including those from Japan.”
The competition that launched last year targeted 19 countries; Angola, Burkina Faso, Botswana, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tunisia, Uganda and Zambia. This saw Uganda’s M-Scan emerge out as the overall winner in the competition.
Japheth Kawanguzi, The Innovation Village Team Lead said the emergence of M-Scan as the best innovation in Africa is confirmation of Uganda’s growing creativity and competitiveness in the startup ecosystem.
M-Scan having emerged as the overall winner in the competition —received 15 motorbikes from JICA to ease mobility while reaching out to expectant mothers in the communities. The motorbikes are an addition to the cash prize and business development support they received.
JICA launched the completion in 2020 amidst the Covid-19 pandemic which saw a total of 2,713 African startups participate in the challenge. Three winning startups were selected as winners in each country receiving a cash prize of USD$30,000 each.
Mobile Scan Solutions Uganda Limited (M-Scan)
M-Scan is a low-cost mobile ultrasound devices that seek to reduce maternal mortality by early detection of risk factors and easy accessibility to affordable ultrasound services for use in low and middle-income families.
Zetu Africa manufactures ‘SeatPack,’ a school bag that performs the duty of a desk, by turning it into a chair with a writing pad. Offered at a 10th of the price of a wooden classroom desk, the school bag targets underprivileged and refugee school children aged 5 – 13 years.
Ecoplastile recycles and transforms waste plastics using a chemical-free plastic extrusion technology called waxy 11, into durable plastic timber and roofing tiles, providing an alternative to wooden timbers. It concurrently tackles the challenge of post-consumer waste pollution, waste management, deforestation, and climate change.