Last year, Unilever held a contest for young entrepreneurs with the most innovative solutions that seek to change the way things are being done in our societies and now two participants have received recognition for their innovations.
Both of Ugandan nationality, 27 year-old Charles Batte and 26 year-old Daviv Opio were among the top seven finalists selected from the contest and the beneficiaries of the 2014 Unilever Sustainable Living Young Entrepreneurs Awards held last month in London.
Opio was recognized for a solution dubbed Ensibuuko, a mobile and web application that helps integrate SMS and mobile money services for the purpose of handling savings as well as enabling loans to smallholder farmers in Uganda.
And for Tree Adoption Uganda (TAU), an initiative that provides mentoring and training funded by trees planted by entrepreneurs and sold to companies in effort to reduce carbon footprint, Batte was awarded for introducing a practical solution to a major environmental challenge.
As finalists, the two young entrepreneurs from East Africa will be provided with an opportunity to grow their entrepreneurial skills by being part of a mentoring programme that is scheduled to last for 12 months.
In addition to the recognition award, the two Ugandans were awarded funding support of €10,000 (Ksh 1 million) each; to aid them in realizing their ideas and scaling their solutions to become fully fledged businesses.
Prior to the awards ceremony on January 27, the seven finalists took part in a four-week online development programme, followed by a three-day accelerator workshop in Cambridge, United Kingdom to help develop their ideas.
The awards programme is an initiative by Unilever in partnership with the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL) and is aimed are recognizing young innovators (under 30) who have come up with practical solutions for major societal problems.
In just its second year, Paul Polman, the CEO Unilever says more innovators were able to become part of the contest program, with every one determined to make a difference.
“Young entrepreneurs are really welcoming access to the right support to help them lead the development of entrepreneurial responses to a changing world,” said Polman.
The overall winner was 21-year-old Daniel Yu, founder of Reliefwatch, asoftware that helps medical clinics in developing countries to digitize and manage inventory records for better patient outcomes. He received funding support of €50,000 (Ksh5.2 million).
“It is a clear sign that East Africa and Africa as a whole has a talented pool of young innovative thinkers who are ready to lead from the front in matters sustainability and to find local solutions to global challenges.” said Marc Engel, Unilever CEO for East Africa and emerging markets.