Two East Africans Charles Batte, 27 and David Opio 26 are among the top seven finalists in last year’s young entrepreneurs contest run by unilever. The Uganda citizens were feted earlier this year at the 2014 Unilever Sustainable Living Young Entrepreneurs Awards held in London on January 27.
The annual competition, now in its second year, taps practical innovative solutions to the world’s biggest sustainability challenges. Charles Batte founded Tree Adoption Uganda (TAU), which provides mentoring and training funded by trees planted by entrepreneurs themselves and sold to companies seeking to reduce their carbon footprint. David Opio, on the other hand, created Ensibuuko, a mobile and web application that integrates SMS and mobile money services, to handle savings and enable loans to smallholder farmers in Uganda.
The overall winner of the 2014 Unilever Sustainable Living Young Entrepreneurs Awards was 21-year-old Daniel Yu, founder of Reliefwatch, a software 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) and the other six finalists €10,000 (Ksh 1 million) each.
The finalists will take part in a 12-month mentoring programme to hone their entrepreneurial skills. The Awards programme, delivered by Unilever in partnership with the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL), recognizes young people aged 30 and under who have come up with practical, scalable initiatives designed to tackle the challenge of sustainable living.
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. They pitched their initiatives to a panel of judges in London, including entrepreneurs, sustainability experts and senior business executives.
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.