Reducing Post Harvest Loss Pitch Night Event

EVENT REPORT: Freetown Pitch Night 2024 (FPN)

DATE: February 14, 2024

VENUE: Limkokwing University, Hill Station

THEME:  REDUCING POST-HARVEST LOSS

INTRODUCTION:

The first edition of the 2024 Freetown Pitch Night event is dedicated to addressing post-harvest loss in Sierra Leone. The February edition was hosted at the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, Hill Station, Freetown, on the 14th of February 2024, themed: REDUCING POST HARVEST LOSSES. The theme was chosen as a way to address global challenges and how to ensure food security for a world-growing population whilst ensuring long-term sustainable development for Sierra Leoneans.

As an entrepreneurship support-led organisation, Innovation SL is geared towards nurturing the entrepreneurial ecosystem to accelerate growth, disruptive and value-creating start-ups by creating a strong and efficient ecosystem that sows viable seeds for Sierra Leone innovators and businesses.

The host Ms Francis Beresford Renner started the event by welcoming the audience to the first edition of the Freetown Pitch Night 2024 and gave a synoptical background on post-harvest loss.

Mr. Francis Stevens George, MD/CEO of Innovation SL, delivered a heartily welcome speech that created a sense of purpose. He stated that the theme was chosen as a result of the feasibility studies on vegetable cold chains that Innovation SL conducted. Innovation SL was selected by ILO to conduct the research. From the findings, 51% of women who engage in agriculture are the most affected people and post-harvest loss is affecting every Sierra Leonean.

According to the African Post Harvest Institute report 2022, 17% of the grain we harvest in Sierra Leone is lost, and 12% of the total rice production which is approximately 890 tone, 110,000 tone bags is lost.  15% of vegetables are lost. In a developed country the loss rate is about 20%, in a developing country like Sierra Leone it is about 40% loss.

Statistically, the agriculture sector is made up of 65% of our GDP employment but the level of productivity is so low.

As an ESO our modus operandi is partnership. We have the honour to partner with WFP and

Our focus this year is to bring more entrepreneurs into the ecosystem whose ideas will help to address this problem. “Every small solution is a solution, it doesn't mean to be big,”  said Mr Francis Stevens George.

The event was attended by the Irish Ambassador, H.E Aidan Fitzpatrick and his wife Niamh Fitzpatrick and various dignitaries such as Madam Yvonne, head of the World Food Programme and Ahmed Nanoh of SL Chamber of Agriculture Development. 

Madam Yvonne, head of the World Food Programme said that the WFP is committed to fighting hunger in Sierra Leone and for that reason, they are happy to partner with Innovation SL to host the post-harvest loss pitch night. According to her, the fact of the matter is that we must consume what we produce, and not only about production. She promised to work with young people, especially entrepreneurs to revamp the business sector.  

Ms Francess Beresford-Renner informed the panel of judges to introduce themselves. The panel consisted of three judges whose names are:

Kadijah  Isata. Jalloh(UN Women), William Hopkins(WFP) and Papa Njai(Milton Margai) 

At this point, pitchers were informed to utilize five minutes to pitch their business idea and two minutes for both judges and pitchers to ask questions and to respond to questions being asked.

PITCH COMPETITION 

The first pitcher Foday Ibrahim Kamara from Fortelleum is the CEO and founder of Fortelleum Agric. Fortelleum Agric is an organisation that is committed to tackling post-harvest loss for fruit and vegetables by using solar photovoltaic technology. Solar photovoltaic technology(solarized cooling box) is an innovative cooling system that is designed to extend the shelf life of vegetables especially lettuce, carrots and tomatoes that is sustainable and environmentally friendly; reducing the need for traditional cooling methods. The Fortelleum solarized cooling box can consume the least energy, and least operational cost and has a temperature and humidity control system making their products unique and different from their competitors.

As an organisation, they have been working closely with farmers to ensure that there is enough fruit and vegetables during post-harvest. In a bid to solve the frustration faced by farmers, the organisation has been solving problems like expensive cooling options, lack of good storage facilities, pest and disease infestation and high loan interest.

Due to the huge market demand, they have decided to innovate the first-in-kind mobile affordable and accessible design for cooling that is suitable for off-grid and remote areas and can be easily adapted among target and users.

The judges asked how the technology can be accessed in terms of cost. In his response, the technology cost $155.

Another judge asked if this technology is being used what will be the shell life of the product and the capacity in terms of volume?

He responded by saying that the product would last for 4 weeks and it could have a volume capacity of 10-15kg.

He was advised to review his statistic figure since the one he presented is not up-to-date

Abubakarr Fofanah the second pitcher explained that his business, Agro Links aims to solve the problem of Post-harvest loss for Vegetables (Cucumber, Pepper, Tomato & Cabbage) for local farmers in rural communities due to inadequate storage facilities and transportation means for goods by providing transportation and storage facilities for local farmers.

In his presentation, Mr Abubakarr elucidated the business model, market validation and marketing plan.

During the Question & Answer session, the judges asked how is he going to find the vehicle and how is he going to address the issue of petrol price.  He responded by saying for a start he would use a tricycle in the placement of the vehicle and as time elapsed he would venture to use the vehicle. As a way to tackle the petrol issue, he will go to his identified customers to prevent him from wasting fuel in search of a client. 

He was advised by one of the judges to consider the farmers as his key partner and how there would be a win-win intervention and not to be too mindful about making a profit. Since post-harvest starts from the harvest he should have captured how the process will be done, and his method of arrangement with the farmer should also be considered.

Another judge asked how he was going to scale up his business. He responded by saying they would start little and the more farmers we have the bigger we become.

The third pitcher for the night, Kumba Sandi and Alice Marian Gbondo, the CEO of EcoFresh, is a young dynamic female entrepreneur who over the years has developed a strong passion for agriculture. EcoFresh is a 24/7 solar-powered walk-in cold room for storage for the preservation of perishable foods. They also create a market link for farmers and potential buyers. In that regard, Ecofresh has been playing a vital role in minimising post-harvest losses by providing preservation facilities that have helped promote sustainable income for smallholder farmers.

As young entrepreneurs, they have developed a strong vision of promoting the FEED SALONE initiative to mitigate the problem of vegetable and fruit wastage by Sierra Leoneans. For that reason, they are working assiduously to see every Sierra Leonean have access to proper square meals. 

The EcoFresh business can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and conserve environmental resources. Economically, farmers can maximize profit while promoting secured fresh food and creating employment opportunities for women and youths.

One of the judges asked where EcoFresh is now and where it is planning to go. She responded by saying that they are presently expanding their reach 

Another asked about the rationale behind the $10000. They want to promote their business to other districts.

Are you going to rely on EDSA or not and what the cost said one of the judges? NO, we rely heavily on solar panels to produce electricity that will power our cold room. The cost for cooling is le10 per crate.

The fourth pitcher, Michael Nabieu, founder of Forum for Agriculture, Innovation and Empowerment of Children and Youths-Sierra Leone(FAIECY-SL) goal is to construct and design a state-of-the-art Solar Energy Dryer in Sierra Leone. This facility will cater specifically to the needs of local farmers, providing them with an ideal environment for preserving perishable crops. In his pitch, Mr Michael emphasised that the drying process is completed in the most hygienic and eco-friendly way. He further discussed how solar energy works, his business model, marketing plan and tractions/ financials, and how the business will generate income

The judges asked Michael Nabieu what his contribution was to the project. According to him, he will be educating farmers on the need to use the Solar Energy Dryer and the benefits that follow. Conversely discourages them from using the traditional method of preservation.

He was advised by one of the judges to incorporate people who have backgrounds in hygiene, engineering and food science since he is trying to offer a hygienic and eco-friendly facility

The penultimate pitcher, Kunba Florence co-founder of Eden Agro business is an experienced and passionate entrepreneur who has been working with a team of three members: Mary Dundas, David J.M Bangura and Jenerene Koroma pitch on behalf of Eden Agro.

Eden Agro is an organisation whose vision is to see Sierra Leoneans achieve food sustainability through the dehydration of perishable crops and fruit. They envisage alleviating seasonal fruit and vegetable wastages by adding nutritional preservation to make the fruits and vegetables have an exceptional taste and texture and have a long shelf life. It ushers economic sustainability by creating jobs that yield revenue for sustainable development

Kumba Florence was advised by one of the judges to find an alternative for the coal as the use it is not environmentally friendly, which can lead to massive deforestation. Further, she should consider the structure of her team as it should comprise people who are knowledgeable in terms of hygiene and more.

In the area of certification, our products are certified by the standard bureau said Kunba Florence

The final pitcher, Ibrahim Papanie Mboma is the executive director of Mamawa Muyengay Agric Business Enterprise with years of experience in agribusiness

This business has been in operation since 2021; having five members and has established a customer base in Kenema and Kailahun.

According to Mr. Mboma, the company has been manufacturing a variety of food from cassava plants such: as cassava flour,  garri milk and sugar, animal feed for small ruminant animals and cassava leaf powder. 

As a result of this innovation, there are job opportunities especially for young people by engaging themselves in tailoring work and the network of bag selling. 

According to the panel of judges, the product is attractive but not environmentally friendly and he should be consistent on the packing information. He was advised to try and register all his variety of produce at the standard bureau for the European market and not only Sierra Leone, depicted as having been certified by Local Content. He should try to consider another alternative for plastic for his product to be environmentally friendly. 

THE RESEARCH PORTFOLIO

The research portfolio has an incredible potential to drive a positive change within the realms of innovation and entrepreneurship in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. According to the research lead, Madam Millicent Iye Koiwa said that they have designed, managed and implemented high-calibre projects on entrepreneurship development in Sierra Leone that focused on unlocking valuable insights. These insights have helped connect the right support program and resources to foster collaboration. The team is made up of experts who have developed several businesses, supply chain optimization and have analysed data. The portfolio has partnered with several international organisations such as the International Labour Organisation, Village Capital and the Africa Development Bank.

GUEST SPEAKERS’ REMARK

Joseph Boxall, the founder of Bamboo2, said he developed a love for bamboo2 as a result of its strength. Bamboo2 in other parts of the world is being used as an alternative to iron rods because it cannot easily break, this is a direct substitute. Bamboo2 has three main areas of focus: education, food security and climate change. For food security, it served as a nitrogen fixer and food for livestock. Farmers could integrate bamboo cultivation into their forage system to enhance feed sufficiency and diversity and improve animal productivity, as well as food security. They could use it to irrigate their farmlands. Educationally, bamboo could be used as an artisanal craft,  to make house furniture, musical instruments, paper, bicycles and biodegradable diapers. 

JUDGES FEEDBACKS AND COMMENTS 

The judges expressed their appreciation to all the pitchers for their outstanding performance in pitching their business idea as they are all winners in which three pitchers will qualify for the incubation process. They were encouraged to accept the feedback and work very hard to improve their grey areas. According to the judges they were looking out for a business idea that is sustainable and can address climate change. However, three of them succeeded in convincing the bench and they emerged as the winners.  

CONCLUSION 

Conclusively, certificates were presented to the respective participants, starting from the rear. The judges unanimously agreed and declared  Michael Nabieu, founder of Forum for Agriculture, Innovation and Empowerment of Children and Youths-Sierra Leone as the winner, while Foday Ibrahim Kamara from Fortelleum and Kumba Florence co-founder of Eden Agro business. All three of them qualified for the incubation programme at Innovation SL.

Finally, Mr. Francis Steven-George expressed his thanks and appreciation to both the judges and the pitchers for their amazing work. He informed the pitchers that they are now part of Innovation SL’s 2024 strategy, the incubation, to see that these ideas thrive. 

Madam Yvonne, head of the World Food Programme said that dry vegetables can be used especially for school feeding programmes in Sierra Leone. Teaching cooks how to use both fresh and dry vegetables and to see how solar pilots can be developed. She encouraged pitchers to fine-tune their business model and the tech should be affordable. Mr. Steven-George emphasised that they should fall in love with the people whose problems they want to solve. This can be achieved by using the “low tech” as the ecosystem in Sierra Leone is flourishing because young people are thinking of the problem they want to solve.

Pamella Haruna
Reducing Post Harvest Loss through low tech, scalable and climate smart ideas in the agricultural sector to pitch their ideas and get invaluable business support opportunities.

Innovators wanted! Have a game-changing solution for reducing post-harvest loss , through Low tech , Scalable and Climate smart ideas?

Apply now to showcase your idea at Freetown Pitch Night by Innovation SL.

Your chance to seize invaluable business support awaits – act fast!

To apply kindly click the link below

 

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EVENT REPORT: FREETOWN PITCH NIGHT

DATE: 13 DECEMBER, 2023

VENUE: Limkokwing University, Hill Station

THEME: Sustainable Fashion & Heritage

The monthly Freetown Pitch Night event is dedicated to celebrating and promoting groundbreaking ideas. This month’s pitch night was hosted at the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, Hill Station, Freetown, on December 13th 2023, and started from 4:30pm – 7:30pm bearing the theme: SUSTAINABLE FASHION & HERITAGE. 

Innovation SL is an entrepreneurship support-led organisation that is geared towards nurturing the entrepreneurial ecosystem to accelerate growth, disruptive and value creating start-ups by creating a robust and efficient ecosystem that sow viable seeds for Sierra Leone innovators and business.

The event was hosted by Fatmata Turay, a staff at Innovation SL who started the event by welcoming the audience to the last pitch night event of the year. The event was initiated with a hearty welcome oration delivered by Mr. Francis Stevens George, MD/CEO of Innovation SL, who created a sense of purpose. He highlighted to the audience that “for entrepreneurs to work there should be a need for a pipeline where old and new ideas can thrive in an entrepreneurial ecosystem.” He further applauded Mr. Martin Michael, the MD of Mercury international, for making a ‘conscious decision’ to collaborate with Innovation SL through Freetown Pitch Night providing seed capital of $25,000.  He expressed his appreciation to the entire Innovation team for their dedication in making things feasible.

The Public Relation Practitioner of Mercury International, Mr. Caulker explained that since 2017 Mercury International has been engaging in corporate social responsibility. He further stated that they had decided to partner with Innovation SL through the Freetown Pitch Night to provide a seed capital of $25,000 in total for five sessions of FPN and two out of the five sessions had exclusively been for female entrepreneurs.

The host, madam Fatmata Turay ushered the panel of judges to introduce themselves. The judges consisted of predominantly women, namely: Isatu Harrison (CEO Izelia Fashion World & Creative Hub Africa), Kadiatu Kamara (CEO Vivid Emporium), Beresford Bournes-Coker (Chief Operation Officer, Mercury International) and Joyce Abigail Coulson-Olowu, Lecture IPAM). At this point, pitchers were reminded of the rules, designated five minutes each to pitch their business ideas and two minutes allocated to both judges and pitchers to ask questions and to respond to questions being asked.

PITCH COMPETITION

The first pitcher for the night, Memunatu Bah who happened to be the CEO of Chocco Collection, is a young dynamic content creator and an innovative female entrepreneur who has a strong passion for fashion design. In the evolving world of clothing, Chocco Collection has been playing a vital role in the production of cloth in Sierra Leone. In that regard, most of the waste from the finished products were trashed out causing environmental degradation, especially landfill that has a negative impact of flooding.  As a young female entrepreneur, she developed a strong vision of decreasing landfill waste, bridging skills gaps more especially for girls and creating employment opportunities in sustainable fashion. She aimed to mitigate the problem of environmental degradation by using their textile waste to patch clothes into one-of-a-kind long lasting ones. She has been working assiduously to see every Sierra Leonean have access to sustainable fashion clothes, children’s decorative Arts and household pieces maid from the waste collected from her shop. 

The judges asked what she was offering that is different from her competitor? In her response, she is offering a kids collection. Her finishing torches are not like the regular patch work.  Another Judge asked about the process of collecting scrap materials? In her response, she told the judges that she collects waste textiles from her own Chocco collection to make different outfits. Another judges suggested that she should create a niche using scrap materials and also think about the kind of patch material because kids have sensitive skin.  A third judge asked how she can incorporate Africa into her work heritage? “I incorporate heritage in my work by sewing patches having the Sierra Leone flag” which depict our unique culture as Sierra Leoneans. The portrait also has an embodiment of our heritage creating a sense of patriotism by uphold and illuminating our neglected culture

The second pitcher Abigail Hawanatu Kamara from Dominion Fashion Wardrobe bags as the CEO and founder, a skilled entrepreneur and a certified seamstress, she has been in this business since 2018. As a certified seamstress, she has used to trash out her waste material causing environmental pollution. Recently, she decided to use her waste materials from her shop to produce bags, dresses and accessories symbolising the afrocentric nature of our culture. In a bid to solve environmental degradation, Dominion Fashion Wardrobe will be engaging in stockpiling of wasted/used materials. Due to the huge market size, they have decided to innovate the pyramid shape to design dresses as well as knitting and finishing style to streamline the fashion industry in Sierra Leone making their products unique and different from their competitors. 

During the Question & Answer session, the judges complimented Abigail Hawanatu Kamara for knowing  her target audience, and what they wanted,  however, they commented on her failure to talk about the composition of her team and the role played by each member.  She was further advised to have an idea of her operative cost as that will help her to have an idea of what the selling cost will be. Finally , she was asked by another Judge the cost of making the bag, to which she responded that it cost her le100 to make the bag and she sells it at a minimum price of  le500. 

The penultimate pitcher, John Sawo Koroma, told the audience that they  are designed to manufacture local Africa design bags, and run short skills training programs.The business has been in operation since the year 2000. They have been in a triangle of quality, comfort and affordable designs mixed with Sierra Leone heritage that are worth both home market and international market depicting our afrocentric nature. As a result of this innovation there are job opportunities especially for young  people by engaging themselves in tailoring work and the network of bag selling. 

According to the panel of judges, the product should have a portrait of your organisation by attaching your business logo onto your products. One of the judges asked how  they reduce waste to which he responded that they collect plastic waste from the street and recycle them into waterproof and attach them to the bags. This will prevent the bags from getting spoiled. 

The final pitcher Salimatu Jagitay,  the CEO of  Bella’s Designs is an experienced and passionate entrepreneur who has been working with a team of three members: Ibrahim Salieu, Jeneba Barrie and Dogoluya Sachi Women’s group-Kabala, pitch on behalf of Bella’s Designs. Bella’s Designs  is an organisation whose aim is to preserve and celebrate our tribal cultural fashion sustainably where applicable. They envisage a change in the way people dress in Sierra Leone making them upholding and consuming more traditional dresses like the Leppi and woven cotton as opposed to Western fashion seamlessly. This will create the passion for both producers and designers to pay heed onto cultural heritage regardless of the complexity in producing them. To remedy the situation, they have been collaborating with local artisans, especially vulnerable women, and designers producing tribal clothes having modern designs that suit customers’ needs. It ushers economic sustainability by creating jobs that yield revenue for sustainable development.

The judges asked Salamatu how she planned to make her products sustainable. Response to the question is that, by promoting schools and the environment.  Another judge commented on the heritage aspect saying that her heritage design is well seen in her products such as the Leppi and the woven clothes. These are what our forefathers were wearing to celebrate their uniqueness as Sierra Leoneans. Therefore, bring it once again to the limelight of this generation is a picture of upholding and emphasising the beauty of our heritage  

ISSUING OF  Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW 2023) WINNERS’ CHEQUE

Mr. Francis Stevens-George was charged with the responsibility of handing over the cheques to the winners of the GEW event. He called on important stakeholders such as Mr. Chucks  from invest SL, Papa Njai from Milton Margai university, Joannes Hotagua and madam Mariama Korama, they issued out the cheques respectively, starting from the junior pitchers to the senior pitchers. For the junior pitchers Regina Kumba Turay of Operation Clean my Community  who emerged as the winner, won $1000 as a seed capital while Josephine Quee from Jojo’s Design, clinched the runner-up title having seed capital of  $ 500

For the senior pitchers  N’yillah B. Cawray of  Nyillah’s Design, emerged as the victor having a cheque of $ 2000 and Mariama Mbayoh of  “Kam Rent Ya” bagged the second position having a cheque of $1,500

GUEST SPEAKERS’ REMARK

Oswald Dundas, the winner of the October edition explained that the money that he won has been used  to  transform his Water Light Technology and tackle community issues, especially the carbon footprint.  His vision is converting trash into valuable resources, fostering a cleaner environment, and simultaneously generating employment opportunities. Additionally, he has made a remarkable breakthrough in renewable energy, which he affectionately calls “Crazy.” This innovation aims to supply clean and affordable electricity to communities, thereby reducing their carbon footprints. By addressing the challenges of limited access to reliable and affordable electricity and improving waste recycling, Oswald Dundas introduces the Water Light Technology V1 Battery and Water Light Technology V2 Battery, Which work by ionising an electrolyte made up of saltwater. This transforms the magnesium on the inside into electrical energy.

Mohamed Kamara from ‘Freetown Innovative Hub’ a place where conceived business ideas are made feasible, who is the co-founder explained how the hub has trained and established some business ideas. He maintained that  they are in the business of  recycling used tyres into house furniture such as: chair, table and christmas tree made out of tyres. The Hub also focuses on waste management by the recycling of tyres to minimise the potential health risk of Sierra Leoneans, the brand is committed to creating awareness about climate changes and its impact. He demonstrated a snippet of his work that depicted his successes. He applauded  Innovation SL as a major player that is also nurturing young people who are impregnated with potential business ideas.

Conclusion 

Conclusively, certificates were presented to all the pitchers respectively, starting from the rear. The judges unanimously declared Salamatu Jagitay, from Bella’s Designs as the winner of the 2023 Freetown Pitch Night. The programmes manager of Mercury Radio, Mr. Alexander Thullah presented the cheque of 72,000 new Leones as seed capital to the winner. A cheque of 48,000 new leones was presented to John Sawo Koroma, of CraftyBee as a seed capital. The event concluded with an atmosphere of exhilaration.

Pamella Haruna
SUSTAINABLE FASHION PITCH EVENT

DATE: 13 DECEMBER, 2023

VENUE: Limkokwing University, Hill Station

THEME: Sustainable Fashion & Heritage

The monthly Freetown Pitch Night event is dedicated to celebrating and promoting groundbreaking ideas. This month’s pitch night was hosted at the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, Hill Station, Freetown, on December 13th 2023, bearing the theme: SUSTAINABLE FASHION & HERITAGE. 

Innovation SL is an entrepreneurship support-led organisation that is geared towards nurturing the entrepreneurial ecosystem to accelerate growth, disruptive and value creating start-ups by creating a robust and efficient ecosystem that sow viable seeds for Sierra Leone innovators and business.


The event was hosted by Fatmata Turay, a staff at Innovation SL who started the event by welcoming the audience to the last pitch night event of the year. The event initiated with a hearty welcome oration delivered by Mr. Francis Stevens George, MD/CEO of Innovation SL, who created a sense of purpose. He highlighted to the audience that “for entrepreneurs to work there should be a need for a pipeline where old and new ideas can thrive in an entrepreneurial ecosystem.” He further applauded Mr. Martin Michael, the MD of Mercury international, for making a ‘conscious decision’ to collaborate with Innovation SL through Freetown Pitch Night providing seed capital of $25,000.  He expressed his appreciation to the entire Innovation team for their dedication in making things feasible.


The Public Relation Practitioner of Mercury International, Mr. Caulker explained that since 2017 Mercury International has been engaging in corporate social responsibility. He further stated that they had decided to partner with Innovation SL through the Freetown Pitch Night to provide a seed capital of $25,000 in total for five sessions of FPN and two out of the five sessions would be exclusively for female entrepreneurs.

 

The host, madam Fatmata Turay ushered the panel of judges to introduce themselves. The judges consisted of predominantly women, namely: Isatu Harrison (CEO Izelia Fashion World & Creative Hub Africa), Kadiatu Kamara (CEO Vivid Emporium), Beresford Bournes-Coker (Chief Operation Officer, Mercury International) and Joyce Abigail Coulson-Olowu, Lecture IPAM).

At this point, pitchers were reminded of the rules, designated five minutes each to pitch their business ideas and two minutes allocated to both judges and pitchers to ask questions and to respond to questions being asked.


FPN PITCH COMPETITION


The first pitcher for the night, Memunatu Bah from Chocco Collection is a young dynamic content creator and innovative female entrepreneur who has a strong passion for fashion design.  As a young female entrepreneur, she has a vision of decreasing landfill waste, bridging skills gaps more especially for girls and creating employment opportunities in sustainable fashion. In the evolving world of clothing, she has been working assiduously to see every Sierra Leonean have access to sustainable fashion clothes, children’s decorative Arts and household pieces. The business would have a positive impact: socially, economically and environmentally. This will help curb the problem of waste management and mitigate the issue of climate change.

The judges asked what is she offering that is different from her competitor? In her response, she is offering a kids collection. Another Judge asked about the process of collecting scrap materials? Another judges suggested that she should create a niche using scrap materials and also think about the kind of patch material because kids have sensitive skin

The judges asked how she can incorporate Africa into her work heritage? “I incorporate heritage in my work by sewing patches having the Sierra Leone flag”.


The second pitcher Abigail Hawanatu Kamara from “Dominion Fashion Wardrobe” bags as the CEO and founder, a skilled entrepreneur and a certified seamstress. Relatively, she has been in this business since 2018, seeing a society that can remould wasted fabric into attractive dresses and accessories depicting the Africa heritage. In a bid to solve environmental degradation, Dominion Fashion Wardrobe will be engaging in stockpiling of wasted/used materials. Due to the huge market size, they have decided to innovate the pyramid shape to design dresses as well as knitting and finishing style to streamline the fashion industry in Sierra Leone. Economically, the business is viable as it has been providing jobs for young people. Further, it has helped positively in the reduction of environmental waste that is hazardous to health.

During the Question and Answer session the judges complimented Abigail Hawanatu Kamara for her target audience however, commented on her failure to talk about her team.  She was further advised to have an idea of her operative cost. Another Judge asked the cost of the bag, to which she responded that it cost her le100 to make the bag and she sells it at le500. 


The penultimate pitcher, John Sawo Koroma, CEO of Crafty Bee Fashion World. The CraftyBee Fashion World is a team that is designed to manufacture local Africa design bags, and run short skills training programs.The business has been in operation since the year 2000. They have been in a triangle of quality, comfort and affordable designs mixed with Sierra Leone heritage that are worth both home market and international market depicting our afrocentric nature. This initiative has helped to curb the problem of illegal migration as a result of unemployment and the neglect of our cultural heritage. As a result of this innovation there are job opportunities especially for young  people. 

According to the panel of judges, the product should have a portrait of your organisation by attaching your business logo onto your products. One of the judges asked how do they reduce waste? He responded that they collect plastic waste from the street and recycle them into waterproof and attach them to the bags. This will prevent the bags from getting spoiled. 


The final pitcher Salimatu Jagitay, from Bella’s Designs is an experienced and passionate entrepreneur who has been working with a team of three members: Ibrahim Salieu, Jeneba Barrie and Dogoluya Sachi Women’s group-Kabala, pitch on behalf of Bella’s Designs. Bella’s Designs  is an organisation whose aim is to preserve and celebrate our tribal cultural fashion sustainably where applicable. They envisage a change in the way people dress in Sierra Leone making them upholding and consuming more traditional dressing as opposed to Western fashion seamlessly. This will create the passion for both producers and designers to pay heed onto cultural heritage regardless of the complexity in producing them. To remedy the situation, they have been collaborating with local artisans, especially vulnerable women, and designers producing tribal clothes having modern designs that suit customers’ needs. It ushers economic sustainability by creating jobs that yield revenue for sustainable development.

The judges asked Salimatu how she planned to make her products sustainable. Response to the question is that, by promoting schools and the environment.  Another judge commented on the heritage aspect.


ISSUING OF GEW WINNERS’ CHEQUE

Mr. Francis Stevens-George was charged with the responsibility of handing over the cheques to the winners of the GEW event. He called on important stakeholders who issued out the cheques respectively, starting from the junior pitchers to the senior pitchers.


GUEST SPEAKERS’ REMARK

Oswald Dundas, the winner of the November edition explained that the money that he won has been used  to  transform his Water Light Technology and tackle community issues, especially the carbon footprint.  His vision is converting trash into valuable resources, fostering a cleaner environment, and simultaneously generating employment opportunities. Additionally, he has made a remarkable breakthrough in renewable energy, which he affectionately calls “Crazy.” This innovation aims to supply clean and affordable electricity to communities, thereby reducing their carbon footprints. By addressing the challenges of limited access to reliable and affordable electricity and improving waste recycling, Oswald Dundas introduces the Water Light Technology V1 Battery and Water Light Technology V2 Battery, Which work by ionising an electrolyte made up of saltwater. This transforms the magnesium on the inside into electrical energy.

Mohamed Kamara from ‘Freetown Innovative Hub’ a place where conceived business ideas are made feasible, who is the co-founder explained how the hub has trained and established some business ideas. He maintained that  they are in the business of  recycling used tyres into house furniture such as: chair, table and christmas tree made out of tyres. The Hub also focuses on waste management by the recycling of tyres to minimise the potential health risk of Sierra Leoneans, the brand is committed to creating awareness about climate changes and its impact. He demonstrated a snippet of his work that depicted his successes. He applauded  Innovation SL as a major player that is also nurturing young people who are impregnated with potential business ideas

Conclusion 

Conclusively, certificates were presented to all the pitchers respectively, starting from the rear. The judges unanimously declared Salimatu Jagitay, from Bella’s Designs as the winner of the 2023 Freetown Pitch Night. The programmes manager of Mercury Radio, Mr. Alexander Thullah presented the cheque of 72,000 new Leones as seed capital to the winner and the event concluded with an atmosphere of exhilaration. 

Pamella Haruna
Dare2Aspire Pitch Event 2023

Report: Innovation SL’s Dare2Aspire – Women in Entrepreneurship Event

Introduction:

Every year in November, Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) is dedicated to entrepreneurs and innovators all around the world. The event aims to bring together entrepreneurs globally to inspire and educate them by bringing in key experts, organizations, individuals, and communities to promote entrepreneurship and innovation by providing a platform to foster collaborations, share knowledge, and support aspiring and established entrepreneurs in their journey. The Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) empowers nascent entrepreneurs and those who face systemic barriers to starting and scaling their own companies.

 Innovation SL, an entrepreneurship support organization, plays a key role as the national host for Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) in Sierra Leone every year. We celebrate entrepreneurs and support SMEs and startups by creating an enabling environment through Global Entrepreneurship Week by organizing panel sessions, and pitch events to support budding entrepreneurs with seed funds, networking, partnership, and mentorship.

In collaboration with the Bank Complex Hall Kingtom, Innovation SL organized a transformative event on Day 3 of Global Entrepreneurship Week 2023 – Dare2Aspire: Women in Entrepreneurship. The Bank Complex Hall in Kingtom, Freetown, served as the backdrop for a day dedicated to unlocking the potential of female entrepreneurs.

 

Event Overview: 

 

Dare2Aspire is a dedicated women entrepreneurship event and a pitch night that focuses on the importance of women’s potential to contribute to developing the country’s economy. The event is a multifaceted event set aside for female entrepreneurs during the Global Entrepreneurship Week, offering engaging sessions aimed at empowering and fostering the development of women in entrepreneurship. The Dare2Aspire is Innovation SL flagship program 

 

Exhibition:

 

A diverse array of female entrepreneurs captivated a broad audience with a showcase of their products and services, fostering a collaborative atmosphere and providing a platform for networking through the Dare2Aspire event during GEW as a way of promoting and encouraging female entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone.

Financial Inclusion Session:

JIT Capital led a comprehensive 1hr 30min session, delving into financial management, microfinance opportunities, and alternative funding sources. The goal was to equip attendees with essential financial knowledge crucial for their entrepreneurial journeys.

MD’s Address:

Mr. Francis Stevens George, the Managing Director of Innovation SL and Global Entrepreneurship Network, set the stage with a keynote address emphasizing the pivotal role of entrepreneurship in empowering women. His insights laid the foundation for an event  focused on unlocking the potential of female entrepreneurs.

Panel Discussion – “How to Monetize Your Passion”:

The panel discussion featured successful women who have turned their passions into profitable businesses by sharing their insights and experiences with the audience. The panel was moderated by Yasmin Metz Johnson, the creator of Yasmin Tells, the founder of Tells Trips and Studio Femi, and the director at Mama Lu’s Kitchen. The panelists were Madam Iron-Sky Turay, owner and CEO of Orkusu Organic Herbal Teas, and owner and director of Reunion Freetown. Madam Miatta Marke, co-owner and head chef at Cole Street Restaurant; Mrs. Hawa Turay, Sierra Leone’s first representative to Ms. Universe, CEO of Hawawa Model Management and CEO of Hawawa Boutique; and Madam Latoya Garber, the CEO of Toya’s Creation, CEO and owner of Leone Luxe, and CEO of Luxe assist SL.

Each panelist shared personal stories of turning passion into successful businesses, offering valuable insights into the entrepreneurial journey. The discussion empowered the audience with practical tips, emphasizing the importance of authenticity and perseverance in business. The audience actively engaged with the panel, asking questions and seeking advice, creating a dynamic and inclusive atmosphere.

 

Dare2Aspire Pitch Competition:

 

Eight junior and female entrepreneurs participated in a pitch competition, vying for seed capital provided by Mercury International SL. Winners were announced across two categories:

Senior Category:

Winner: N’yillah Elizabeth Cawray – $2000 for her carpentry business, N’yillah’s Design.

Second Winner: Mariama Mbayoh – $2000 for her real estate locator application.

 

Junior Category:

Winner: Regina Turay – $1000 for “Operation Clean My Community.”

Second Winner: Josephine Quee – $500 for her idea, Jojo’s Design.

 

Closing and Networking:

The event concluded with encouraging words from the judges, fostering a sense of accomplishment among all participants. A networking session provided opportunities for collaboration and partnerships with attending investors.

Guest Speaker’s Insight:

Madam Phebeans Swill, the esteemed guest speaker, delivered insightful statements before the announcement of the results. Her encouraging words resonated with the audience, urging them to persevere and push boundaries in their entrepreneurial endeavors.

Bank of Sierra Leone’s Statement:

The Director of the Bank of Sierra Leone expressed satisfaction with the flourishing entrepreneurial spirit in the country particularly the work of Innovation SL. He commended Dare2Aspire for its inspirational impact on female entrepreneurs. Mr. Sesay highlighted the Global Entrepreneurship Week as a means of supporting the Bank’s mandate through the “Financial Inclusion” portfolio, aiming to provide financial aid. Referring to World Bank reports from 2013, 2014, and 2021, he noted Sierra Leone’s rankings (17%, 20%, and 21%)—indicating a need to address women’s underrepresentation in financial inclusion. BSL data underscores that women in rural communities face significant challenges in the financial sector. Recognizing the need for collaboration, the Bank of Sierra Leone is partnering with Innovation SL, particularly through events like Dare2Aspire during Global Entrepreneurship Week.

 

Conclusion:

Dare2Aspire emerges as a catalyst for empowerment and collaboration in Sierra Leone’s entrepreneurial landscape. Beyond financial rewards, the event’s success lies in the connections made and inspiration shared among participants.

This report encapsulates the achievements of Dare2Aspire and its ongoing contribution to fostering a dynamic and inclusive entrepreneurial ecosystem in Sierra Leone.

Pamella Haruna
Open Idea Pitch Night 2023

EVENT REPORT: Freetown Pitch Night 2023 (FPN)

DATE: September 11, 2023

VENUE: Limkokwing University, Hill Station

THEME: Open Idea

The Freetown Pitch Night Week is hosted by Innovation SL at the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, Hill Station, Freetown, on the 11th September 2023. Innovation SL is an entrepreneurship support led organisation which pivotal aim is to nurture the entrepreneurial ecosystem with high growth, disruptive and value creating start-ups by creating an effective and efficient ecosystem that would be viable for Sierra Leone innovators and business

The event commenced with a warm welcome speech delivered by our esteemed MD/CEO, Mr. Francis Stevens George, who set the stage for an exciting evening of innovation and creativity.

The managing director of Mercury International, Mr. Martin Michael explained that they had decided to partner with Innovation SL through the Freetown Pitch Night to provide a seed capital of $25,000 in total for five sessions of FPN and  two out of the five sessions would be exclusively for female entrepreneurs.

FPN PITCH COMPETITION

Following the inaugural oration, Ms. Lamarahna Bah, one of our Communications Lead, who also was the host for the night, honoured the panel of judges to introduce themselves. The judges included: Ajara Marie Bomah, Herman Chinery-Hesse, John Wearing and Papa Njai each are experts who are endowed with a wealth of experience. The pitchers were designated to utilise five minutes each to present their concepts, which ranged from ground-breaking innovations to revolutionise social initiatives followed by a three-minute Q&A session for addressing potential questions or contributions from the judges.

The 7 pitchers are as follows: Arnold Caulker, Shanu Vandi, Victor Ikoh, Andrew Dosumu, Alfred A. Kamara, Abdul Majid Bah and Oswald Dundas.

The first pitcher Shanu Vandi, an experienced and passionate entrepreneur who has a strong background in software development and project management, pitched on behalf of Connecticket SL Ltd. Connecticket SL Ltd is an organisation which has a vision to change the way people secure tickets to witness events by creating a simple and secured ticketing platform that would have a seamless access to the entertainment industry. The ticket is built with a temper-proof feature to inform if anything has been altered. It exerts economic sustainability by creating jobs that would generate revenue and promote sustainable practices.

The judges asked the pitcher what they will be doing at the gate; and the pitcher answered that they will be scanning the ticket before entering. Another Judge asked the pitcher how they will stop the man at the gate from allowing his relative from entering? Another judges commented that it would be difficult to prevent such to occur

The judges wanted what is/are the feature of the tamper code. Mr Vandi replied that it does have serial code that can be scanned once.

The second pitcher for the night was Abdul Majid Bah from Eco-waste.’ Abdul Majid Bah has the passion to see farmers have a good yield at the end of the year. As a result of this, the Eco-waste organisation has a dire need to solve the issue of lack of knowledge in arable land that is suitable for different kinds of crops planted across Sierra Leone. Eco-waste is an organisation that prides itself in providing an eco-friendly environment to farmers and help them understand the type of soil that is deemed fit to cultivate on.  …… device would significantly aid farmers to understand the moisture and nutritional content of the soil that they are using and the kind of crop to be cultivated.

The judges asked the pitcher what the cost of the product was and the pitcher answered that the product can be purchased for $110. Another judge asked how the farmers can use the product considering the literacy rate of farmers. Mr Abdul Majid replied that they will try training the farmers to use the product. Another judge asked the pitcher what will happen when the temperature is extreme. The pitcher assured them that the produce does has a regulatory system for it effective functioning

The third pitcher Victor Ikoh who happened to be the CEO and founder of ‘The Company’ intends to solve Environmental pollution caused by waste cooking oil through the conversion of waste cooking oil to soaps and Detergents. 

Following the session, the judges provided Victor with some valuable advice. They recommended that he establish partnerships once he has registered his business. Additionally, they advised him to conduct product testing on the soap to identify any potential side effects. Moreover, they suggested that Victor strive to reduce the utilisation of waste materials by 70% by exploring options for outsourcing customised oils to be used as raw materials in his production process.

The forth pitcher, Alfred A. Kamara pitched on behalf of the Bullom Innovation Hub. The Bullom Innovation Hub is a team made up of four members who are manufacturers of local multimedia projectors that are affordable and easy-to-operate in learning institutions, especially those with a huge number of students or pupils per classroom or lecture room. The multimedia projector ( which is their business idea) is a virtual environment designed to reduce the massive use of markers, foster interactive and effective learning environments in an efficient manner. As a result of this innovation there are job opportunities especially for young  people. 

According to the panel of judges, the product should be a Sierra Leone eccentric one. That is the raw material should derive from Sierra Leone unto the finished product.

The fifth pitcher Arnold Caulker of Arnold’s Renewable Energy is a talented innovator with eight (8) years of experience in solar installation. As an electrical installer, he has made a tremendous impact in green energy by creating the low frequency inverter generator to produce constant and clean electricity. It encompassed an auto renewable charging porter suitable for both wind turbine and solar panels, and a thunder-strike protector. These features of low frequency inverter generators help to mitigate global warming. 

In his pitch, he stated that, according to the World Bank report in 2021, 27.49% of Sierra Leoneans are without electricity supply. This has led to the increase in the use of gasoline generators that has a devastating impact on climate change. With the advent of the low frequency inverter generator customers are assured of having a carbon free and noise free environment where they can have access to clean and quality air.

from the judges’ panel a concern was raised regarding  safety measures. Mr. Caulker responded that it has an inbuilt safety component that can protect from high voltage and even thunder strikes, and the charging can last for 20 hrs 

Judges asked about the cost of the product, in response, the price is being determined by the amount of voltage. For instance, 500wt goes for $70 while 1000 wt goes for $140.

Oswald Dundas, the final pitcher, aspires to transform waste recycling and tackle community issues. He has a vision of converting trash into valuable resources, fostering a cleaner environment, and simultaneously generating employment opportunities. Additionally, he has made a remarkable breakthrough in renewable energy, which he affectionately calls “Crazy.” This innovation aims to supply clean and affordable electricity to communities, thereby reducing their carbon footprints. By addressing the challenges of limited access to reliable and affordable electricity and improving waste recycling, Oswald Dundas introduces the Water Light Technology V1 Battery and Water Light Technology V2 Battery, Which work by ionising an electrolyte made up of saltwater. This transforms the magnesium on the inside into electrical energy.

The judges probed the pitcher on the durability of the kinetic energy, bulb warranty, and the cost of his innovation. The pioneer answered that the kinetic energy can last for 120 hrs, and the bulb warranty is 1 yr and can be sold at $11.

Furthermore, he was asked how poultry farmers could benefit from his groundbreaking idea. He answered that the kinetic energy produced from the battery can power up their incubators. 

Additionally, Oswald was advised by the panel of judges to search for possible ways wherein wasted water can be utilised. 

Guest speakers’ remarks

Emily Kumba Fanday from ‘The community’ a peer-to-peer lending platform, who is the CEO and founder explained how the $5000 they won has helped their lending platform to create an avenue for individuals and institutions to lend directly to borrowers in both formal and informal businesses. She explained that the community project was launched in 2022 having a population of 70 people; 30 female and 40 men. She maintained that the community project is an alternative financial  marketplace where micro and small businesses can access quick and easy short-term loans with no collateral or credit history.She added that the grant has helped to increase their operational cost and also they have rented an office space. 

Franklyn Momoh, the CEO of BeenFrantk Ltd., who is passionate about creating unique clothing from old, oversized thrift garments. The desire to make unique and sustainable clothing made him start BeenFrank. BeenFrank is a company that has been offering Sierra Leoneans distinctive and sustainable clothing options that resonate with their values and help mitigate climate issuesHe demonstrated a clip that depicts his successes on the grant received. Franklyn Momoh, passionately expressed his appreciation to Mercury International and Innovation SL. He encouraged Innovation SL to be organising training for young people. The brand is committed to creating awareness about climate change. Through the money they won, they were able to expand the distribution of their products. 

Judges Feedbacks/comments

In her concluding courtesy, madam Ajara Marie Bomah encouraged pitchers to employ a captive motion to create a sense of appeal to their audience when they are pitching out their innovative ideas, they should also be considerate about time when once they have occupied the podium. She added that when presenting their idea they should not elaborate on the aspect of their financial traction as it will make it more complex for them. She advised that it should   be a snippet one in order to avoid complexity

further, she maintained that the pitchers should learn on how to brand their innovation in order to attract investors and consumers. Finally, pitchers should know their direct competitors as it will help them to know the strength and weakness of their competitors as well as their targeted audiences.

Conclusively, certificates were presented to all the pitchers respectively, starting from the rear. The judges unanimously declared Oswald Dundas as the winner of the 2023 Freetown Pitch Night. The MD of Mercury International, Mr. Martin Michaels presented the cheque of $5000 with an equivalent of 110,000 million in Leones as seed capital to the winner and the event concluded with an atmosphere of excitement.    

Pamella Haruna
Exponential Tech., Digital/Industrial Disruptor, Fintech 2023

Thank you all for being here tonight and for joining us in celebrating the incredible advancements in exponential technology. It has been an evening filled with inspiration, innovation, and the limitless possibilities that lie ahead.

First and foremost, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to our esteemed judges and pitchers who have shared their knowledge and expertise with us. Your insights have not only enlightened us but have also ignited a spark within us to continue pushing the boundaries of what is possible.

In any developed society, innovation is at the forefront to promote growth and help ensure the organisation can compete with new market trends. Innovation SL is an entrepreneurship organisation whose pivotal aim is to nurture the entrepreneurial ecosystem and innovation. The programme was hosted by Ms. Frances Beresford Renner. She welcomed all to the Freetown Pitch Night event, where she gave an insight into the importance of innovation and the importance of exponential tech. She added that exponential technology is a technology that comprises a lot of technologies that propel beyond boundaries.

After the introductory speech by the host, the Chief of Operations of Innovation SL, Madam Hassanatu Jalloh, proudly welcomed audiences to the September edition of the Freetown Pitch Night. She further stated that this September edition comes without a cash prize; however, the top two winners would qualify for the October edition, which has a cash prize of $5,000 that will be sponsored by Mercury International. This was immediately followed by the judges introducing themselves and the pitchers were reminded of the rules of the pitch, which included five minutes to pitch and two minutes to answer possible questions from the judges, the pitch event started.

The first pitcher, Shanu Vandi, an experienced and passionate entrepreneur who has a strong background in software development and project management, pitched on behalf of Connecticket SL Ltd. Connecticket SL Ltd. is an organisation that has the vision to change the way people secure tickets to witness events by creating a simple and secured ticketing platform that would have seamless access to the entertainment industry. The ticket is built with a tamper-proof feature to inform you if anything has been altered. It exerts economic sustainability by creating jobs that generate revenue and promote sustainable practice.

After his pitch, the judges asked him what his payment methods are to which he responded that they do use the Orange Money platform for accessibility and reachability. Another Judge asked what strategies he has put in place to tap into 60% of his target audience. He responded that they would be going to beach bars, social clubs, and entertainment centers in order to tap into the market potential.


The second pitcher for the night was Abdul Majid Bah from Eco-waste.  Mr. Bah has the passion to see farmers have a good yield at the end of the year. As a result of this, the eco-waste organisation has a dire need to solve the issue of a lack of knowledge about arable land that is suitable for different kinds of crops planted across Sierra Leone.

Eco-waste is an organisation that prides itself on providing an eco-friendly environment to farmers and helping them understand the type of soil that is deemed fit to cultivate. The device would significantly aid farmers in understanding the moisture and nutritional content of the soil that they are using and the kind of crop to be cultivated.

In their remarks, the Judges asked if the code intervention had anti-thief and weather-proof features. The pitcher responded that the device does have a weather-proof system but lacks the anti-theft feature. However, a person will be deployed to serve as security. Another Judge asked how farmers can access the website; to which he responded that they can access it via WhatsApp sharing. A third Judge asked if any visibility study was conducted and Mr. Bah said yes. They did the visibility study and they were able to know that nitrogen and phosphorous were hugely present in the soil. This makes the production poor.

The third pitcher, Alfred A. Kamara, pitched on behalf of the Bullom Innovation Hub. The Bullom Innovation Hub is a team made up of four members who are manufacturers of local multimedia projectors that are affordable and easy to operate in learning institutions, especially those with a huge number of students or pupils per classroom or lecture room. The multimedia projector is a virtual environment designated to reduce the massive use of markers and foster interactivity and effective learning that would enhance collaboration and effective communication. As a result of this innovation, there would be job opportunities, especially for youth, which would be an economic boost.

In the Q&A session, the Judges asked how disruptive multimedia projector is; and the pitcher responded that it does because it is portable and wireless. A second Judge asked how the pitchers secure materials, to which the pitcher replied that they secure their materials within Sierra Leone. A third Judge asked what the pitcher’s social impact is and he replied that it would increase human capacity-building.


The fourth pitcher, Sulaiman Sesay, is the CEO and founder of Smart & Safety Bus. Smart & Safety Bus is an online rostrum that would have easy access to bus booking and reservation that provide convenience for commuters. The platform has features where bus owners can trace passengers' databases and practice proper time management. This would ensure affordability and a predetermined ticket price at the customer's convenience.

During the Q&A session, the Judges asked what his cost fixed and he answered that the fixed cost changes as time elapses. The second Judge asks if the project is still in the ideation stage or not. The pitcher’s answer was “We are still working on our prototype”.


The final pitcher Arnold Caulker of Arnold’s Renewable Energy is a talented innovator with eight years of experience in solar installation. As an electrical installer, he has made a tremendous impact on green energy by creating a low-frequency inverter generator to produce constant and clean electricity. It encompassed an auto-renewable charging port suitable for both wind turbines and solar panels, as well as a thunder-strike protector. These features of low-frequency inverter generators help mitigate global warming. In his speech, he stated that” according to the World Bank report for 2021, 27.49% of Sierra Leoneans are without electricity”. This has led to an increase in the use of gasoline generators, which has a devastating impact on climate change. With the advent of the low-frequency inverter generator, customers are assured of having a carbon-free and noise-free environment where they can have access to clean and quality air.

The Judges thanked Mr. Caulker and asked him what was unique about his product. The pitcher replied that it is unique because it is an auto-renewable source which is having both solar and wind turbines. A second judge asked if the pitcher had any blueprints for his work since he said it is on YouTube and the pitcher said he does not have it yet. When asked for the cost of the Inverter generator, the pitcher responded that it would cost 140 dollars for 100 watts.

At the final phase of the event, the judges were presented gifts on behalf of Innovation SL before declaring the winner. Certificates were presented to the pitchers, respectively, starting from the rear. The judges unanimously declared Alfred A. Kamara as the winner, followed by Shanu Vandi and Abdul Majid Bah for the Freetown Pitch Night, September edition.

Pamella Haruna
Orange Social Venture Prize 2023 (OSVP)

THEME: Fostering Innovation for Sustainable Development and Gender Equality

 

INTRODUCTION:

The Orange Social Venture Prize Sierra Leone (OSVP) 2023, an annual flagship event of the Orange Telecommunication Company,  took place on August 4, 2023, at Limkokwing University, Hill Station. This event marked the 5th edition of OSVP in Sierra Leone and the 13th edition of Orange Middle East Africa. OSVP Sierra Leone is part of Orange’s innovation strategy and its corporate social responsibility policy, organised in partnership with Innovation SL through the Freetown Pitch Night. The Orange Social Venture Prize in Africa and the Middle East aims to promote Social Innovation for development by gratifying the best technological projects with a positive impact in Africa and the Middle East. Open to businesses under three years old, the competition focused on technological solutions in fields like healthcare, education, agriculture, mobile payments, and sustainable development. Women’s empowerment and gender equality were key themes. Dignitaries including the Minister of Technical and Higher Education, highlighted the transformative potential of technology in societal advancement. Innovation SL’s C.E.O., Mr. Francis Stevens George effectively highlighted the OSVP’s journey of growth, its role in fostering innovation, and its catalytic effect on business expansion. Orange Sierra Leone’s CEO reinforced the corporation’s commitment to nurturing young entrepreneurs, exemplified through initiatives such as the Orange Digital Centers and the Women Centre.

 

PROGRAMME HIGHLIGHT

The event commenced with individual prayers, respecting the diverse audience’s backgrounds. With a sense of anticipation and excitement, the hosts Mr Alimamy, graciously welcomed an esteemed lineup of attendees to the event. Among the honoured guests were the Ministers, Deputy Ministers, who represented the government’s engagement, and the European Union Ambassador to Sierra Leone, symbolising international collaboration. Notably, recognition was extended to the dedicated partners, particularly Innovation SL, who played a pivotal role in making the event a reality. The gathering also included the esteemed panel of judges, the innovative pitchers showcasing their groundbreaking ideas, the Orange Director, and members of the Orange mobile company staff.

Setting the stage for a dynamic competition, the hosts announced the much-anticipated prizes for the winners. Emphasising the event’s commitment to acknowledging and encouraging excellence, it was revealed that this year’s Orange Social Venture Prize national competition winner for the Grand Prize would be honoured with a substantial NLe 100,000 award. Reflecting the event’s dedication to fostering gender equality and empowering women, the announcement continued with the declaration that the women’s category (Tech Queen) winner would proudly receive a noteworthy NLe 50,000 prize. This announcement not only heightened the stakes but also underscored the event’s broader mission of recognizing and celebrating innovation, entrepreneurship, and inclusivity.

REMARKS AND MESSAGES:

Mr Kamal Omar Sheriff Abass, the Head of Public Relations and Corporate Social Responsibility, inaugurated the event. In his address, he welcomed dignitaries and the audience, emphasising Orange’s commitment to technology-driven projects, startups, and gender equality. He highlighted Orange’s role as a platform for Sierra Leonean startups and its dedication to empowering young female entrepreneurs. The address concluded with a glimpse of previous OSVP winners through a testimonial clip, inspiring the audience with the event’s impact on innovation and entrepreneurship. Mr Abass’ speech set the stage for an event focused on innovation, inclusivity, and the transformative power of technology.

 

Mr Francis Stevens-George, CEO/MD of Innovation SL, provided a comprehensive overview of the Orange Social Venture Prize (OSVP) journey. He highlighted how OSVP, which began as a startup venture in 2018, has grown exponentially and found a firm footing in the product market. As the reigning champion, he emphasised the firsthand understanding of the exhilaration that comes with victory. Mr Stevens-George proudly announced Sierra Leone’s remarkable achievement in 2022, securing the esteemed entrepreneur prize and gaining global recognition. He advocated for a shift in focus from monetary rewards to the broader perspective of nurturing business growth. This pivot has led Orange Telecommunications Company to take on the role of vigilant observers, actively monitoring and supporting the progress of winners. Expressing deep gratitude, Mr Stevens-George commended the relentless efforts of the entire Innovation team, with special recognition for Madam Hassanatu Jalloh. Her unwavering dedication in preparing pitchers, even working through the entirety of a week including Saturday, was noted. The CEO/MD also acknowledged Innovation SL’s pivotal role in cultivating a fertile ground for startups and novel projects to flourish. With optimism resonating, the MD voiced his conviction that Sierra Leone is poised for another triumphant victory, echoing his anticipation of claiming the grand prize once again. His words encapsulated not only the growth of OSVP but also the spirit of innovation, dedication, and the promising future that lies ahead for entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone.

 

Sekou Amadou Bah, CEO of Orange Sierra Leone, highlighted Orange’s instrumental role in fostering young entrepreneurs across Africa, with a distinct focus on Sierra Leone. The company’s commitment aimed at establishing a robust platform for emerging businesses, offering crucial elements such as funding and mentorship. A pivotal milestone was reached in February 2019 with the inauguration of the Orange Digital Centre in Sierra Leone, reflecting their dedication to democratizing digital access. Notably, this centre provided young women with the invaluable opportunity to access education and resources in the digital realm. Over the span of a year, an impressive 1600 individuals were trained, and it was revealed that more than half of them were women. Even more remarkable, 58% of these trained individuals successfully secured employment. Orange’s unwavering support for women’s empowerment was further manifested in the creation of the Women’s Centre in partnership with Nicom in 2021. This initiative aimed at empowering women with fundamental skills in commerce, digital technology, and financial management. Mr. Bah proudly noted that over 126 women have already graduated from this program. Mr. Bah also celebrated the accomplishments of previous years, highlighting the triumph of Osman as the 2022 national contest winner out of 17 countries. Additionally, Joseph Koroma’s groundbreaking achievement as the OSVP international grand prize winner for Sierra Leone underscored the nation’s potential on a global stage. Reaffirming their commitment, Mr. Bah reiterated Orange’s pledge to provide young individuals with ample opportunities to embrace the digital landscape. This stance encapsulates their dedication to nurturing innovation, entrepreneurship, and technological literacy among the youth, ultimately driving progress and transformation

Dr. Haja Ramatulai Wurry, the Minister of Technical and Higher Institutions, provided a comprehensive perspective on the Orange Social Venture Prize (OSVP) initiative. She highlighted its purpose to recognize and reward technological projects creating positive impacts in education, health, agriculture, e-commerce, and inclusively for individuals with disabilities, aligning with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Dr. Wurry emphasised the potential of e-learning to empower learners of all ages and the transformative role of technology in healthcare, agriculture, and entrepreneurship. She stressed the empowerment of women as a common thread across various developmental pillars, framing OSVP as a catalyst for gender equality and broader societal progress.

OSVP PITCHING COMPETITION

After Dr. Haja Ramatulai Wurie’s statement, the pitch session commenced immediately, with participants reminded of the pitch rules: each pitcher had five minutes to present their innovative project, followed by a two-minute window for addressing potential questions or contributions from the judges. The pitch session featured a diverse group of 8 entrepreneurs, each showcasing their innovative projects. Among them, the top 5 grand finalists of OSVP 2023 were contending for a significant prize of NLE 100,000, while the top 3 tech queen finalists were competing for a substantial sum of NLE 50,000.

The top 5 grand finalists presented their visionary ideas. Sia Chakanda pitched the KeneCare Virtual Hospital concept, Isha Abdulai introduced Crescent Salone, Andrew Dosumu showcased the innovative liquid air box, Mariama Mbayoh shared the Kam Rent Ya initiative, and James Samba unveiled the Electric Quadricycle proposal.

In the tech queen category, the top 3 finalists presented their groundbreaking ideas. IyeMary Brimah Sallu pitched Pin-up Healthcare, Hawanatu Sesay highlighted the IOT plant monitoring device, and Jenneh Bockarie Barnett introduced Sierrasister.

A distinguished panel of judges presided over the event, bringing diverse expertise to the evaluation process. This panel included Alfred Akibo-Betts, CEO of Betts Firm; Dr. Kadijatu G.A Kamara, Hon. Deputy Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs; Madam Estelle Van Eeckhout, Brussels Airlines General Manager; Mr. Edward Sesay, Orange Director of Wholesales and Roaming; and Madam Angella Leigh, a Software Engineer & Business Support Expert. Their collective insights ensured a comprehensive and well-informed assessment of the entrepreneurial ventures presented during the pitch session.

The First pitcher for the OSVP 2023 night was Sia Chakanda who serves as the executive director of the IMO Tech Solutions LTD. Her innovative project involves a tele-app platform designed to provide specialised medical care accessible to all Sierra Leoneans. Using secured video conferencing, patients can receive personalised medical attention, treatment plans, and digital prescriptions. Additionally, the platform offers secure storage for medical reports that can be exclusively shared with patients. One judge praised Sia for her idea, noting that it aligns with the event’s goal of providing convenient access to doctors for Sierra Leoneans. Another judge highlighted the potential of IMO Tech Solutions to benefit people in remote areas with digital medical care once the initiative is adopted by its intended audience. A female judge inquired about Sia’s backup plan if she didn’t win the competition. Sia shared her second plan, stating that she and her team would continue working on the project regardless of the competition outcome.

The second presenter, Andrew Dosumu, captivated the audience with his innovative idea called the “Liquid Airbox.” This groundbreaking technology aims to combat the rising issue of air pollution and its detrimental effects on the environment and human health. Andrew’s inspiration stems from the alarming increase in air pollution within the country. He highlighted the alarming statistic provided by the World Health Organization (WHO): 9 out of 10 people worldwide are exposed to polluted air. Shockingly, this dire situation contributes to 7 million deaths globally, surpassing even the combined fatalities caused by HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis. Andrew’s solution, the “Liquid Airbox”, endeavors to tackle this crisis by significantly reducing CO2 emissions and improving air quality. Through his pitch, Andrew underscored the urgent need for innovative solutions to address air pollution and its severe impact on public health and the environment. His project serves as a beacon of hope in the fight against this pressing global challenge. On completion of his pitch, one of the judges noted that the liquid air box is an invention that would mitigate the excess of carbon dioxide emission. However, he noted that some people prefer planting trees to investing in the liquid air box.

Isha Abdulai, the third participant among the top 5 grand finalists, introduced her project called “Crescent Salone.” What drove Isha to launch “Crescent Salone” was her personal experience as a sickle-cell warrior. This prompted her to establish a community-driven initiative that focuses on educating individuals with sickle cell disease. “Crescent Salone’s” mission is multifaceted. It aims to educate sickle cell warriors about effective pain and crisis management strategies, offers practical tips for living with the condition, and extends care packages to both sickle cell warriors and marginalized children. Isha shed light on the alarming prevalence of sickle cell anaemia in Sierra Leone. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), when the prevalence of this condition reaches 40% or higher, it is categorized as a severe public health issue. Sierra Leone falls within this category, highlighting the urgent need to address the challenges posed by sickle cell anaemia. Through “Crescent Salone”, Isha is working to make a positive impact on the lives of sickle cell warriors and marginalised children in Sierra Leone, raising awareness, and providing essential support for those affected by this condition.

One of the judges expressed appreciation for Isha’s concept, which focuses on educating individuals with sickle cell disease. The judge further emphasized the value of considering the establishment of a diagnosis centre to cater to a wider population. Another judge raised a question about the geographical scope of the initiative, asking if it was confined to Freetown. Isha responded by sharing her team’s ambition to expand the initiative’s reach beyond Freetown, indicating a desire to impact a broader region.

 

 

Mariama Mbayoh, the fourth finalist among the top grand finalists, addressed the considerable housing challenges faced by Sierra Leoneans, particularly in finding suitable homes in Freetown. She introduced her innovative project “Kam Rent Ya” as a solution to empower housing solutions in Sierra Leone and initiate much-needed change for individuals and families struggling to secure housing. Recognizing the pressing issue of housing scarcity, high costs, and unreliable information by the agents, Mariama launched “Kam Rent Ya” to leverage technology and entrepreneurship in streamlining the housing search process. The platform serves as a bridge between potential renters and reliable housing options by collecting comprehensive data on available properties and their surroundings. One of the core features of “Kam Rent Ya” is its advanced location scouting and data collection methods, allowing personalized housing options for each user.

Moreover, Mariama emphasised that “Kam Rent Ya” facilitates transparent communication between house owners and renters, enabling effective negotiations and fostering informed decisions. The project is poised to empower individuals by offering them the tools to make well-informed choices in locating their ideal homes. Through innovative technology and an entrepreneurial approach, “Kam Rent Ya” strives to alleviate the challenges associated with housing in Sierra Leone and provide a meaningful solution for both renters and property owners.

After Mariama’s pitch, one of the judges asked her if she was going to identify a specialised agent for the Kam Rent Ya platform since she mentioned that she would be dealing with a specialised agent. He also asked the pitcher how she was going to measure the survey to know whether the clients loved what they saw or not. To address this, the judge advised her to conduct a proper survey to know the people who are in need and house owners. Also to be keen in dealing with agents so as to avoid being fraud.

The Fifth and final pitcher of the top 5 Grand Prize finalists happen to be the winner of the 5th edition of the OSVP competition in Sierra Leone with a sum of  NLE 100,000, James Samba, the co-founder and CEO of Sierra Electric. “Sierra Electric” is his project idea to tackle the high rate of people in Sierra Leone losing their lives because of the pollution caused by the cars they drive. He mentioned that the problem does not only end there, it is also interesting to do that to every petrol or diesel vehicle. According to James, they are contributing towards the worsening climate affecting our environment by causing more people to suffer from illnesses such as cancer and other respiratory diseases and this also affects the country’s economy. But he said the most exciting part is that they have a solution introducing BYKA. BYKA is a 100% electric quadricycle that does not rely on fossil fuel, and it does not use either petrol or diesel for its operation.

BYKA innovation is very safe  for parents who can not afford a vehicle to take their child to school because of all its conventional features of safety. In  a situation where there is no light, it ought to believe that the vehicle can power itself so that it can compete with others in the future.

 

In the “Tech Queen” category, the top 3 finalists began with IyeMary Brimah-Sallu, the founder of the “Pin-Up Healthcare Mobile Application.” IyeMary introduced an innovative concept that aims to connect patients with professional doctors or specialised consultants, ensuring they receive the appropriate care. She highlighted a concerning statistic: out of every 10 hospitals, around 600 patients struggle to identify the right specialised doctors for their specific illnesses.

To address this challenge, “Pin-Up Healthcare Mobile Application” is designed to provide a comprehensive list of specialised doctors who can offer accurate diagnoses for specific diseases. This effort is supported by the Sierra Leone Medical and Dental Association (SLEMDA). Beyond being a mobile application, the project extends its reach to patients without smartphones, offering local short texting and requesting codes as well as a toll-free call system. This multi-faceted approach ensures that individuals of varying technological capabilities can access and benefit from the medical care service.

IyeMary Brimah-Sallu’s “Pin-Up Healthcare Mobile Application” showcases her commitment to bridging the gap between patients and specialised medical expertise, ultimately improving healthcare accessibility and quality for the people of Sierra Leone.

The judges recommended the pitcher for taking such an initiative to build an app and linking patients to specialized doctors. However, she was  advised that there should be proper care  regarding the profit margin as it should be realistic because there is no company in the world that can make 99% of the profit in such a short time.

 

Jenneh Bockarie-Bernett, the second pitcher among the top 3 finalists in the “Tech Queen” category, introduced her project named “Sierra Sisters.” Her innovative concept centres around creating opportunities for single mothers, especially teenage mothers, and widows, through an online platform. “Sierra Sisters” is an organisation that leverages an online application to generate employment for unemployed women who possess domestic skills but lack corporate expertise. The project aims to empower these women by offering well-structured services and providing a platform for them to enhance their skills in a professional manner. Notably, the organisation ensures that the terms and conditions are well-defined, offering legal protection to the women against any form of mistreatment from clients.

Jenneh’s initiative not only provides a means of income for marginalised women but also fosters skill development and empowerment. The platform allows clients to evaluate women’s performance and offer recommendations, thus promoting transparency and accountability. “Sierra Sisters” aligns with the broader objectives of the OSVP competition, showcasing the potential of technology to address societal challenges and create meaningful opportunities for underrepresented groups.

After her pitch, one of the judges advised that it would be nice for her to pay NASSIT and the PAYE for these women to help secure their future and that of their children when they might have retired. She was also encouraged to collaborate with BIKA.

 

Ms. Hawanatu Sesay, the third pitcher and co-founder of the Wi-AgricTech business, emerged as the Tech Queen Winner of the NLE 50,000 prize in the 5th edition of the OSVP competition in Sierra Leone. She addressed the prevailing gender disparity in the technology sector, where males tend to dominate, and her project serves as a bridge to empower more women in the tech world. Hawanatu’s project centres on Wi-AgricTech, a venture dedicated to designing Green and Smart farming technologies to enhance and elevate the quality of food production nationwide. She emphasised the significance of agricultural technologies in boosting crop yields and quality. The project aims to train over 500 farmers by 2025, focusing on cultivating vegetables that amount to produce 1 ton annually.

A pivotal aspect of Hawanatu’s initiative is the implementation of the Internet of Things (IoT) Smart Plant Monitoring device. This device employs cloud-based technology accessible via a smartphone. It is capable of detecting crucial parameters such as soil fertility, plant growth, and moisture levels. Remarkably, the device can autonomously make decisions on watering, light exposure, and nutrient levels, thereby ensuring optimal plant care.

The technology’s robust security measures, efficiency, and reliability contribute to its success in improving agricultural practices. Hawanatu’s Wi-AgricTech business aligns with the overarching mission of the OSVP competition, showcasing the potential of innovative solutions to address real-world challenges and create positive change.

At the end of her pitch, the judges commended the idea of smart agriculture as very timely as the government of Sierra Leone is committed to using technology to boost the production of agriculture. Another Judge encouraged her to do more and work on her conceived idea as she has won herself half of the money as a boost to implementing her project.  

OSVP IMPACT AND SIGNIFICANCE

       The event emphasised gender equality by promoting women’s participation in technology and entrepreneurship.

       Innovations presented aligned with SDGs, highlighting the potential of technology in education, healthcare, agriculture, and economic empowerment.

       Collaboration between the government, industry experts, and entrepreneurs was facilitated, fostering networking and potential partnerships.

CONCLUSION

In conclusion, the Orange Social Venture Prize (OSVP) 2023 in Sierra Leone stands as a testament to the power of innovation, entrepreneurship, and collaboration in driving positive change within Sierra Leone. With a strong emphasis on social innovation, technology-driven solutions, and gender equality, the event brought together a diverse array of entrepreneurs, experts, and dignitaries. In a broader context, the Orange Social Venture Prize Sierra Leone 2023 event underscored the potential of technology to drive social and economic progress. It exemplified how innovative solutions can tackle complex challenges, improve quality of life, and contribute to sustainable development. The event’s focus on inclusivity and gender equality further emphasised the importance of leveraging technology for social impact and empowerment. Ultimately, the OSVP 2023 event in Sierra Leone showcased the transformative journey of entrepreneurship, innovation, and collaboration. It provided a platform for visionary minds to present their solutions, celebrate their contributions, and inspire a brighter future for the country through technology-driven initiatives. The event encapsulated the spirit of progress and transformation, reflecting the potential of technology to drive positive change in Sierra Leone and beyond.

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Crazy/Wicked Idea

The much-anticipated Pitch Night with the theme "Crazy/Wicked Ideas" was held at Limkokwing University on 26/07/23. The event commenced with a warm welcome speech delivered by our esteemed MD/CEO, Mr Francis Stevens George, who set the stage for an exciting evening of innovation and creativity.

Following the welcome speech, Ms Lamarahna Bah, one of our Communications Leads, who also was the host for the night, introduced the panel of distinguished judges who would evaluate the pitches. The judges included Ms Haja Isatu Bah the CEO of Uman4Uman, Madam Naasu Fofanah CEO of Susu Consultancy, Mr Mohamed Barrie CEO of Fashion One and Mr Joannes Hotagua CEO of Authentic African, each bringing a wealth of expertise and experience to the table.

The highlight of the evening was the captivating pitches delivered by four exceptional individuals, each showcasing their unique and ambitious ideas. The pitchers were given their designated time of five minutes each to present their concepts, which ranged from groundbreaking technological innovations to revolutionary social initiatives. The audience was captivated by the passion and enthusiasm displayed by the pitchers throughout their presentations.

The first pitcher Gifty Renner from “Not Just An Art”, whose vision is to awaken the young generation to a new perspective of ideas and values to secure the future and the next generation's future through Art. Thereby solving problems surrounding Climate change, Education, Emotional expression and health, Cultural preservation and identity and also boosting Gender empowerment. Following her pitch, the judges were provided with an opportunity to offer feedback and ask potential questions. Ms Haja Isatu Bah expressed her perspective on Gifty's business, perceiving it primarily as a waste management initiative rather than an art preservation endeavour due to the predominant use of waste materials. Additionally, Ms Bah highlighted that the business covers a wide range of sustainable goals, suggesting that Gifty should concentrate on the one that resonates with her the most.

The second pitcher, Samuel Koroma, has the vision to be the leading provider of electric cars that are stylish, efficient and environmentally friendly. The problems they aim to combat are Climate Change and Air Pollution, through Manufacturing Electric Cars and making them accessible for an affordable cost.

The penultimate pitcher Victor Ikoh from ‘The Company’ intends to solve Environmental pollution caused by waste cooking oil. Through the Conversion of waste cooking oil to soaps and Detergents. Following the session, the judges provided Victor with some valuable advice. They recommended that he establish partnerships once he has registered his business. Additionally, they advised him to conduct product testing on the soap to identify any potential side effects. Moreover, they suggested that Victor strive to reduce the utilization of waste materials by 70% by exploring options for outsourcing customized oils to be used as raw materials in his production process.

Oswald Dundas, the ultimate pitcher, aspires to transform waste recycling and tackle community issues. He has a vision of converting trash into valuable resources, fostering a cleaner environment, and simultaneously generating employment opportunities. Additionally, he has made a remarkable breakthrough in renewable energy, which he affectionately calls "Crazy." This innovation aims to supply clean and affordable electricity to communities, thereby reducing their carbon footprints. By addressing the challenges of limited access to reliable and affordable electricity and improving waste recycling, Oswald Dundas introduces the Water Light Technology V1 Battery and Water Light Technology V2 Battery. which work by ionizing an electrolyte made up of saltwater. This transforms the magnesium on the inside into electrical energy. Oswald was advised by the judges to firstly launch and register his business, having patent rights because the idea of water being used to produce light is unique. Let it be visible and affordable nationally and regionally.

After each pitch, the judges provided valuable feedback, offering constructive criticism and commendations. Their insightful comments not only motivated the pitchers but also provided guidance for further development and refinement of their ideas. The interactive feedback sessions fostered an environment of growth and learning as the judges showed interest in collaborating with some of the pitchers after the event.

Adding an extra layer of knowledge and inspiration, the guest speaker, Dr Ye Tao, the CEO/founder of MEER Foundation, delivered a thought-provoking presentation on the reduction of heat. His expertise and insights shed light on the importance of sustainable practices and offered valuable strategies for combating climate change.

As the evening progressed, the judges deliberated and made the difficult decision of selecting the two winners who would advance to the finals in September. These two outstanding pitches demonstrated exceptional potential and innovation. The winners, Mr. Victor Ikoh and Mr. Oswald Dundas of Dundas Tech Company will have the opportunity to compete for a seed capital of $5000 to further develop their ideas.

The Crazy/Wicked Ideas Pitch Night was an exhilarating event that showcased the power of imagination and innovation. The pitches, the invaluable feedback from the judges, and the enlightening guest speaker presentation all contributed to an evening that inspired and motivated all attendees. We eagerly anticipate the upcoming finals in September, where these two finalists will have the chance to join other pitchers to compete and turn their dreams into reality.

Innovation SL remains committed to nurturing creativity and supporting entrepreneurial endeavours, and we look forward to hosting more exciting events in the future.

Reported by Francess Beresford-Renner,

Comms Lead,

Innovation SL.

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Fempreneur Pitch Night

 In a bid to select participants, Innovation SL posted a  CALL for applicants for the Freetown Pitch Night-fempreneur edition; with a star prize of $5,000, seven women were selected for the competition. Two-week prepping sessions were held in order to prepare them. During this time, they were given instructions on how they should showcase their ideas, to aid them with their pitch deck.

On the 26th of  April, 2023 the Freetown Pitch Night was held at the Limkokwing University, Hill Station, Freetown with the theme “FEMPRENEUR” (a platform where female entrepreneurs are given the opportunity to pitch their ideas and access seed funding). The event was hosted by  Ms. Margret Cassel and Ms.Francess Beresford- Renner. 

A keynote address was given by the company’s CEO/MD Mr. Francis Stevens-George who created a sense of purpose; in his speech, he stated the reason why Innovation SL partnered with Mercury International. Relatively, “for entrepreneurs to work we need a pipeline of ideas. To have new ideas to work we should have INVESTORS.” He further added that entrepreneurship has been the bedrock of development in Sierra Leone, for an entrepreneur to work there should be an ecosystem, for an ecosystem to work there should be a pipeline where new ideas as well as older ones strived. He emphasized that for both old and new ideas to strive there is a need for Investors, for that reason, there was a sense to appreciate Mr Martin  Michael, the MD of Mercury International, for deciding to collaborate with the Freetown pitch night by providing seed capital, especially for female entrepreneurs. Statistically, Sierra Leone has an estimate of 1.5 million women in the micro or small business sector and this sector accounts for 90% of the country’s economy. However these women have been struggling over the years to up-scale their businesses  because they lack funds and this is exactly why the fempreneur edition of Freetown Pitch night is a stitch in time.

Mr. Martin Michael explained that, since 2007 Mercury International has been involved in a wide variety of corporate social responsibilities by awarding scholarships to approximately 2000 students, providing abroad treatment for people with severe ailments and having built two schools.

Conversely, they were never introduced to such a platform wherein they could have the opportunity to aid entrepreneurs, which is why they had decided to partner with Innovation SL through the Freetown Pitch Night to provide a seed capital of $25,000 in total for five sessions of FPN and two out of the five sessions would be exclusively for female entrepreneurs. This is so because female entrepreneurs face the most challenges in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. The emerging winner would help to alleviate poverty by creating job opportunities and payment of tax as that is what they are looking forward to. He left the stage thanking Mr. Stevens-George for the shared platform.

One of the hosts Ms. Francess Beresford-Renner ushered the panel of judges to introduce themselves and they were predominantly women, namely: Fatmata Sesay, John Wearing, Tafadzwa Chiganga, Waheed Awonuga and Mavis Madaure.

The pitch proper started immediately after the judges had introduced themselves and pitchers were reminded of the pitch’s rules which include the utilization of five minutes for presentation and two minutes for questions and answers, all summing up to seven minutes per pitcher.

The first pitcher for the night, Panashe Chikhata from Recycle2Skill, is a young hardworking and innovative female entrepreneur who has strong culinary and computer skills. She has been working with a team of four members; 3 female and 1 male that has the Practera programme, a programme that has been working with Seed Stars (an incubation company) in Switzerland. As a young female entrepreneur, she has a vision of empowering unskilled youths by providing them with skills at the cost of plastic waste. The business would have a positive impact: socially, economically and environmentally. This will help curb the problem of waste management and mitigate the issue of climate change.

The second pitcher Emily Kumba Fanday from ‘The Community’ has a peer-to-peer lending platform that has been allowing individuals or institutions to lend directly to borrowers in both formal and informal businesses. The community project was launched in 2022 having a population of 70 people; 30 female and 40 men. It has been seen as a viable market that provides loan services among institutions, businesses and individuals who are interested. Due to the huge market size, they have decided to have a low operation cost, minimal regulation, big data and technologies to streamline models. This is because they wanted to disrupt the system of how loans are given. To ensure the lender’s trust, the Community has a license of operations from the Bank of Sierra Leone which makes it reliable and secure. They had a business treat and control unit structure that would help lenders have better ROI.

The third pitcher was Mariama Bah from Rise Radio 96.3 FM who started by asserting that Climate change has been a global phenomenon caused by human activities primarily due to the burning of fossil fuels like coal, oil and gas. Burning fossil fuel generates greenhouse gas emissions that act like a blanket wrapped around the earth, trapping the sun’s heat and raising the temperature. Looking at the topography of Sierra Leone, there is a dire need to discuss the

causes, impacts and solutions of climate change. Due to the lack of awareness (no specified programme on climate change by radio station) there was a sense of massive deforestation in both rural and urban areas causing flooding and soil erosion nationwide. This has impeded the production of agricultural goods.  Rise radio has a dedicated 4 hours radio program that would be providing radio content and radio drama that would be deemed fit for climate change discourse.

The fourth pitcher was Lydia Bernard-Jones from ‘The Bridge’ who has proved to be a link between young Sierra Leoneans and the opportunities to get resources in order to maximize their potential.  There are many students in Sierra Leone who lacked the opportunities of having scholarships and they needed someone to cross the bridge, by creating a platform for scholarship opportunities ranging from secondary school to university and sharing links with peers and mentors in their field internationally. The bridge would provide prestigious and productive young people equipped with experience to be competitive in their careers. This would build a strong cohort of youths that would be equipped with the skills.

 The fifth pitcher Nippy Bah is the leader of ‘Mamie Coker. Mamie Coker’ has a project that ensures young people employment in Sierra Leone. It’s a team made up of 5 members; 3 females and 2 males experienced in code and web development. The project stemmed from the fact that a girl was in desperation to secure a job. Relatively, a platform called Mamie-Coker was created to connect clients with skilled and reliable workers. From the research that was conducted, approximately 100 people were asked about their pressing needs and what they were willing to pay for. 70% said they are willing to pay for skilled workers.  Such could be applicable by creating profiles for both businesses and prospective workers, connecting clients to workers or hiring workers on behalf of the client and monitoring until the job is done and encouraging feedback from both workers and clients. Using technological tools, it would improve access to service in various skilled service fields and also promote digital literacy in an efficient manner.

Fatmata Kargbo, the penultimate pitcher from Tamara Millennium company, expressed that their business vision is to empower underprivileged women by providing them with essential training to help them sustainably earn their daily income. She explained that their financial struggles are often caused by the lack of seed capital and knowledge on how to utilize it.

Therefore, there was a need to create Agro-forestry cooperation for these women to get training on crop practice which would increase production. They would be providing basic business management skills as well as bookkeeping while making sure that they would be weeding the seed bed and proper farm check-ups. Participatory field research was conducted; the research informed that, if they had been working with them it would have been better.

Ms Hawanatu Sesay, the final pitcher, co-founder of the Wi-AgricTech business which focused on designing Green and Smart farming technologies to improve and increase the quality of food products nationwide. In Sierra Leone, the males have outshone females when it comes to technology which is why she served as a bridge to connect more females in the tech world. That is why she focused on farming technologies to increase the production of crops. With these technologies, they would train over 500 farmers by 2025 for the cultivation of vegetables worth 1 ton annually. The io T plant monitoring device through a cloud-based technology via phone could detect soil fertility, plant growth and moisture level of the plant, it could take an automatic decision on behalf of an individual regarding water, light penetration and nutrient level. The technology has been highly secure, efficient and reliable.

Madam Isatu Harrison the CEO/founder of creative hub Africa and Izelia Fashion who was the guest speaker for the night, started her speech by explaining that she obviously did not wake up one day and got to where she is currently as she had to go through some rough patch and challenging times. Cleaning was her first business; she started with a mop and a bucket where she employed 10 people and had some others as part-timers. The cleaning business was successful as she had a Ghanaian woman who worked so hard to own part of the company. She later sold the business and pursued a hairdressing venture which she fancied; ended up selling the cleaning business and failed in the hairdressing saloon. She relentlessly moved over to being a seamstress as all she had left was a singer machine and some Ankara pieces, being a business person who has always had a knack for fashion she then ventured into the fashion industry with just a sewing machine and eventually developed the brand called Izelia, which is well known today for its signature gara tye fashion prints all over the entrepreneurial ecosystem. She finally encouraged young female entrepreneurs to use what they have until they can get what they need.

At the final phase of the event, the judges have presented gifts of appreciation on behalf of Innovation SL before declaring the winner. Certificates were presented to all the pitchers

respectively, starting from the rear. The judges unanimously declared “the Community ” led by Emily Kumba Fanday as the winner of the 2023 Freetown Pitch Night, fempreneur edition. The MD of mercury international, Mr. Martin Michaels presented the cheque of $500 as seed capital to the winner and the event was concluded with an atmosphere of excitement and high anticipation for the next edition of the Freetown Pitch Night slated for the 13th of  May 2023.    

 REPORTED BY- George Garber

EDITED BY- Francess Beresford-Renner

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