A Ugandan innovator, Grace Nakibaala, is one of three winners of Johnson & Johnson's first Africa Innovation Challenge. The winners were announced at the Global Entrepreneurship Congress held in Cape Town, South Africa, early this month.
The Africa Innovation Challenge, launched in November 2016, solicited novel ideas with a focus on three critical health areas: promoting early child development and maternal health; empowering young women; and improving family well-being.
Nakibaala’s innovative idea, Pedal Tap, seeks to prevent disease transmission and reduce water use. Project Pedal Tap will develop hands-free solutions for hand water taps in Uganda. Its partners will also help create manufacturing capabilities, using mostly recycled materials, to support ongoing business.
The other two winning ideas were Project Kernel Fresh from Liberian innovator and Project Agateka from a Burundian innovator.
Agateka project will develop a sustainable solution to support girls who are unable to afford menstrual pads and underwear is an important need for young women. The project will provide a direct health solution as well as the opportunity for women and girls to generate income in Burundi. With the inclusion of health information, the initiative also provides health education to support improved sexual and reproductive health.
Project Kernel Fresh sources natural palm kernels from smallholder women farmers, increasing their income. The entrepreneur cold presses the palm kernel oil to be used in organic cosmetics. The project will also create jobs for young women by training them to sell the products throughout Liberia.
“The three winning projects demonstrated a strong benefit to local communities and the ability to empower young women, and they also have the potential to deliver ongoing economic support. We look forward to working with these entrepreneurs over the course of the next year to help them build sustainable operations.” said Josh Ghaim, Chief Technology Officer, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Inc.
Each of the three winning recipients will receive funding as well as mentorship from scientists, engineers, and operations members from the Johnson & Johnson Consumer Research & Development organization and other areas of the company.
“Africa is one of the fastest growing regions of the world, and Johnson & Johnson is proud to support this growth through strong collaborations that encourage innovation and accelerate advancements in the continent’s health systems,” said Paul Stoffels, M.D., Chief Scientific Officer, Johnson & Johnson.
“We are seeing a surge of activity among entrepreneurs and health system leaders to develop important solutions that overcome longstanding health and societal challenges. By working together, we hope to bring meaningful solutions to patients and consumers more rapidly, to help cultivate the next generation of scientists, and to support Africa’s entrepreneurial base.”
The competition is part of the company’s eighty-five year commitment to supporting entrepreneurs, science education opportunities, and health systems across the continent.