Yesterday’s Pitch Night to hear sustainable commercial solutions to Sierra Leone’s single-use plastic problem, held at the EU Delegation at Leicester Peak, highlighted the potential of the private sector in Sierra Leone to be solutions providers instead of problem causers.The event, which was a collaboration between the EU and Innovation SL, was organised within the framework of EU Climate Diplomacy Week and EU Green Week on the theme of nature and biodiversity. It followed a clean-up of Lumley Beach, on Saturday 10th October, which was organised by the EU and was a stark reminder of the extent of Sierra Leone’s plastic problem.
In his introduction Tom Vens, EU Ambassador, said: “From what we saw on the beach during Saturday’s clean-up, it is clear that the biggest problem is plastic. It requires all of us to think creatively about solutions and alternatives. That is why we are here tonight.
”The importance of identifying locally-led solutions was echoed by Francis Stevens-George, CEO of Innovation SL, who added:
“Freetown Pitch Night focuses on the circular economy, which is based on eliminating the use of finite resources and the production of waste. For this to become a reality in Sierra Leone, we need to encourage entrepreneurs to come up with solutions to our existing waste problem.”
According to the rules of pitch night, each of the three entrepreneurs had a slim five minutes to pitch their ideas. With a trip abroad, sponsored by Brussels Airlines and the EU, to allow the winning pitcher to develop their business ideas, the stakes were considerable.
The panel of business, diplomatic and public sector leaders included – EU Ambassador, Tom Vens; Irish Ambassador, Lesley Ni Bhriain; Dep German Ambassador – Patrick Dzierzon; MD of Brussels airlines, Estelle Van Eeckhout and PJ Mandewa-Cole, DSTI.
The winning pitch came from John Sawo Koroma, who has an established small business making cotton bags, rucksacks and handbags out of Africana fabric, and wanted to extend his production of reusable cotton shopping bags to replace single-use plastic bags.Despite the competitive nature of the competition, the judges emphasised that collaboration in identifying and implementing solutions, across the private sector, was essential for change to be impactful and sustainable.
Tom Vens said: “The problem of plastic waste in Sierra Leone is still small enough to be tackled, particularly if we think creatively about partnerships with the private sector. They are part of the problem, but they can also be part of the solution, as we saw here this evening.”
By Memuna Forna- Insight Magazine.
There can’t be anyone who has not experienced Sierra Leone’s problem with plastic waste. Abandoned plastic bags, water sachets and bottles litter the streets. They clog gutters and drainage channels, increasing the risk of flooding in our already flood-prone country. They wash up onto the beach, deter tourists, poison our fishing stocks and threaten the environment.
Our plastic waste problem disproportionately affects the health and livelihoods of poorer and more vulnerable communities. It devastates agriculture, fishing and tourism, and according to a recent report dumped and burned rubbish, especially plastic waste, is responsible for the death of one person every 30 seconds in developing countries.
We are not alone. This is a continent-wide problem, and has prompted 34 countries to introduce either total or partial bans on single-use plastic, making Africa world-leaders in the fight against plastic.
Many would argue that the urgency of the situation in Sierra Leone, demands a similarly urgent response, particularly because we lack functioning large-scale collection and recycling infrastructure. However, the reality is that single use plastic in Sierra Leone plays a significant role in the daily lives of much of the country’s population and without alternatives in place, a plastic ban could create other problems.
Some of the considerations that could derail Sierra Leone’s attempts to reduce plastic use, include the importance of packaged sachet water as a source of drinking water, particularly in urban areas, or communities without access to clean water; the use of plastic bags as ‘flying toilets’ to dispose of human waste, in the many communities without proper sanitation facilities; the use of plastic bags to distribute and store food; and the fact we have a domestic plastic packaging industry.
But these considerations are not insurmountable, and the European Union in Sierra Leone is collaborating with Innovation SL on a special Freetown Pitch Night (14th October – 5-7pm) to hear three entrepreneurs pitch commercially viable and sustainable solutions to single use plastic in Sierra Leone, which will take us several steps closer to becoming a plastic-free society.
The event is organised within the framework of EU Climate Diplomacy Week and EU Green Week on the theme of nature and biodiversity.
Our three entrepreneurs will be pitching to a panel of judges made up of Tom Vens – the EU Ambassador, Lesley Ní Bhriain – the Irish Ambassador, Mr Patrick Dzierzon – the Deputy German Ambassador, Estelle Van Eeckhout – the MD of Brussels Airlines in Sierra Leone and PJ Mandewa-Cole from the Department of Science, Technology and Innovation.
Freetown Pitch Night – the entrepreneurs and innovators pitching event, which gives budding entrepreneurs the chance to pitch their ideas, solicit feedback, advice and potential partnerships has become the go-to platform for business innovation in Sierra Leone. Francis Stevens, CEO of Innovation SL and the organiser of Freetown Pitch Night says:
“An ecosystem that provides a platform for new and innovative ideas to be discovered and for an ecosystem enabler such as the EU to be part of this discovery process is the essence of Freetown Pitch Night.”
The winning business idea will be helped to develop their idea, with a trip abroad, sponsored by the EU and Brussels Airlines.
Initiatives being pitched include:
Seaweed based bottles, water sachets and bottle caps: Alhassan Sesay, founder of the Sierra Leone School Green Club (SLSGC), an environmental and agricultural organisation proposes replacing water sachets, bottles and plastic containers using a product made from seaweed, which will in turn make use of Sierra Leone’s annual seaweed invasion into a benefit.
Eco-friendly grocery bags, food packaging, cups, bottles, dishes: Kisimi Kayleemasa Kamara, founder of eWoman Sierra Leone, is a Software Engineer who is replacing single use plastic bags, bottles and packaging with raffia grocery bags, banana leaves food wrappers/dishes, bamboo cups/bottles and coconut shell cups/dishes.
Replacing single-use plastic bags: John Sawo-Koroma, founder of CraftyBee Fashion World produces a range of affordable fabric bags including a 100% cotton fabric shopping bag, which is durable, reusable and biodegradable and intended as a replacement to plastic bags.
Watch Freetown Pitch Night – Replacement of Single Plastic Use on the 14th October (5-7pm) via Facebook Live @EUinSierraLeone or @FreetownPitchNight.
By Memuna Forna- Insight Magazine.
Innovation SL- Freetown Pitch Night, for the second year organized the Orange Social Venture Prize Sierra Leone.
What is the OSVP?
The Orange Social Venture Prize in Africa and Middle-East aims at promoting Social Innovation for development, thanks to information and communication technologies. Having become a benchmark contest, the Orange Social Venture Prize in Africa and the Middle East (POESAM) rewards the best technological projects with a positive impact in Africa and the Middle East. The competition is organised in two stages: first a national competition in 17 countries; then an international jury chooses the Grand Prix winners.
OSVP Sierra Leone
OSVP Sierra Leone is part of Orange’s Innovation Strategy and its Corporate Social Responsibility Policy, organised in partnership with Innovation SL- Freetown Pitch Night. The competition is open to both Males and Females, aged 21 years and above, whose business ideas or businesses have existed for less than three years, and propose technological solutions with a positive impact in essential fields such as education, healthcare, agriculture, mobile payment or sustainable development, to improve the living conditions of women (women’s independence, creating or maintaining jobs, data collection on gender, digital inclusion and financial inclusion, etc.). This year’s competition is the OSVP 2nd edition held in Sierra Leone, since 2019.
The Freetown Pitch Night is the most successful gathering of entrepreneurs, a crucial and perhaps the most significant part of the Networking assets of the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Sierra Leone. The Freetown Pitch Night provides budding entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone the opportunity to pitch their ideas or post revenue business. At Pitch Night entrepreneurs provide a holistic view of their business to a vibrant Sierra Leonean entrepreneur community, allowing them to market their business, and solicit feedback, advice and potential partnerships.
Freetown Pitch Night is run by Innovation SL, an Entrepreneurship Support Organisation (ESO) and an Innovation & Technology Management company that engages in the following;
Developing digital and technology solutions; contributing to a digital infrastructure to enable the development and growth of digital entrepreneurs.
Own Co working space, Incubator and Accelerator (Innovations Axis)
Freetown Pitch Night – a monthly pitch event;
Implementation partners for Global Entrepreneurship Network – GEN Sierra Leone. Running several programs- Start Up Huddle, Global Entrepreneurship Week, Future Agro Challenge, Creative Business Cup, Entrepreneurship World Cup
A service provider focusing on technology transfer; business development services; enhancing the role of Innovation in the public sector; and entrepreneurship development through donor funding.
Providing contextual intelligence and insight to SMEs/others in Sierra Leone to enable innovation and growth.
dialoguing and engaging for and on entrepreneurship development with interested stakeholders including government (national and local), development partners and academia.
OSVP Event Details
The 2nd Edition of the OSVP competition was held live on Sierra Leone Broadcasting corporation (SLBC) National TV, and streamed live on Freetown’s PitchNight facebook page, on the 25th September, 2020.
Prior to final selection for national pitchers, application screening, assessments and evaluation by different judges was done and five(5) startups were selected. Another assessment by different judges led to the selection of the top three finalists who pitched at the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Corporation( SLBC) National TV.
The top five startups for this years competition;
Mark Aiah Fomba
Digital Money Transfer using Automatic Telling Machine-ATM- Local ATM
This machine is a Digital electronic based payment system that allows people to carry out their simple banking operations or transaction in an easy, safe and secure manner, and without a bank account. You simply receive a pin code that enables you to cash out your money with a minimum charge rate.
Isatu Mozetta Kabbia
Ebocare is a natural homemade body wash that cleanses and replenishes all skin types.
KepifriSoap/DetergentManufacturing Enterprise is a Soap processing and manufacturing company.
Stem garage is a proposed flagship of projects 1835 which hopes to help young people access coding and other fourth industrial revolution skill sets in Bo city.
Salone Agric Markit
Tech builder is an information technology company that is focusing on building an online agricultural platform that gives accessibility to both farmers and buyers to inter-connect worldwide as well as locally.
OSVP 2020, National competition Judges
He is the Curator of TED Global in Africa, Co-Founder of the TED Fellows program and Maker Faire Africa, and author of the publicly acclaimed blogs, Timbuktu Chronicles (entrepreneurship, science, and technology in Africa) and Africa Unchained (governance, policy, education, and institutional development in Africa). Okafor recently co-founded KICHIN, a West African food & beverage accelerator aimed at rapidly scaling existing food entrepreneurs with high-growth potential (KICHIN is currently seeking additional investors and partners–message him if you’re interested in talking).
He is a contributing author to the book, Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century (Abrams Books, 2006) and has been featured in numerous interviews, articles and blogs on science & innovation, including the NPR TED Radio Hour (Africa: The Next Chapter, 2012) and most recently in MIT’s Journal of Design & Science (Issue 4: Decentralizing Biotech, October 2018).
Okafor serves on the board of the Gearbox International Foundation and was previously a board member for Samasource. He is a former advisor to the X-Prize Foundation and Students for the Advancement of Global Entrepreneurship (SAGE) and was also a Global Poptech Fellow.
Okafor is an entrepreneur and venture strategist. He has advised governments and world leaders on innovation & entrepreneurship systems and policy for Africa, including President Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) in 2014 and the U.S. State Department at the White House Maker Faire in 2014, he spoke in the Roosevelt Room to top U.S. officials on the global impact of Africa’s Maker Movement. He has been a speaker, panelist and judge at numerous innovation events around the world, including New Museum’s IDEA City, Maker Faire Mexico City & TEDxEuston, on topics ranging from biosciences to emergent systems to the future of decentralized manufacturing.
Edleen B. Elba
Edleen B. Elba, is a Chartered Global Management Accountant and HR Practitioner with two decades of work experience within various industries across the public and private sectors. She is the Founder and Managing Director of JobSearch. She is also an IFC/LPI trained Trainer and Co-Founder of Institute of Human Resources Sierra Leone.
Memuna Janneh is a BI & Business Systems expert and Sociopreneur, with a client footprint in over a dozen countries in Europe, USA, Middle East and Africa.
Memuna is owner/director of Sierra Leone’s premier catering and dining company, Cassava & Co and its affiliate charity LunchBoxGift (LBG).
With a strong focus on nutrition, childhood literacy and primary school education, LBG serves thousands of free school meals each year, boosting attendance and providing nutrition & sustenance to underprivileged children in Sierra Leone.
It also operates mobile library services and education radio clubs in rural communities. LBG receives no donor support for its primary activities and takes great pride in the fact that it is almost exclusively funded by the operations of Cassava & Co.
This autonomous social enterprise model enables LBG to provide responsive, flexible, purpose-built, needs-driven solutions to its beneficiaries.
Abu Kamara has over 19 years of entrepreneurship experience.
He is the Co-Founder & President of Grovara, the 1st B2B Global Marketplace for Wellness Brands. Grovara is transforming the way retailers discover brands, gain insights and make purchases for their stores.
Grovara marketplace connects retailers with hundreds natural and organic brands, from product discovery, order processing, to payments and fulfilment, all in a single marketplace
Abu Kamara is Passionate about entrepreneurship as the key driver in development across Africa
He plans to launch an Africa Focused Venture Fund that will be HQ in Sierra Leone, to invest in startups across the continent
Alimatou Mbaye is the Marketing and Communication Director at Orange Sierra leone
She came to Sierra Leone in August 2019 after a long experience on telecommunication, specially on team coaching and project delivery on time and quality.
Her reality and dream is to accompany the new generation to achieve their projects with appropriate tools of monitoring.
OSVP 2020 WINNER
Bayoh Turay who pitched on an online agricultural platform called salone agric markit, that gives access to both farmers and buyers to interconnect emerged the winner of the OSVP 2020 competition .
Bayoh Turay was awarded a Fly box plus Monthly subscription over a period of 1 year (fair usage policy applies), a Certificate of participation, and a Cash Prize of SLL 20millions.
The 1st runner up, Isata Jalloh pitched on a project that helps young people access coding and other fourth industrial revolution skill sets in Bo city. She was awarded a Fly box plus Monthly subscription over a period of 1 year (fair usage policy applies), a Certificate of participation, and a Cash Prize of SLL 10millions.
The 2nd runner up Mark Aiah Fomba pitched on a digital electronic based payment system that allows people to carry out simple banking transactions without a bank account. He was awarded a Fly box plus Monthly subscription over a period of 1 year (fair usage policy applies), a Certificate of participation and Cash Prize of SLL 5millions.
The fourth and Fifth finalists were given a Wifi plus Monthly subscription over a period of 1 year (fair usage policy applies) and Certificate of participation for each.CategoriesCompetition, Ecosystem, OSVP
The European Union Delegation to Sierra Leone and Freetown Pitch Night is organizing a Pitch Event to mark EU Delegation to Sierra Leone Climate Diplomacy Week 2020. The theme is Replacement of Single Plastic Use. The winner stands a chance to win a foreign travel sponsored by the EU and Brussels Airlines for the purpose of improving their idea. During Climate Diplomacy Weeks, EU Delegations and embassies of several EU Member States around the world hold various events to foster dialogue and cooperation on climate change, showcase success stories and inspire further action.
The event will take place on October 14th 2020, from 5pm-7pm. It will be streamed live via the facebook page of Freetown Pitch Night.