Turtle Pitch Night

Theme: Climate Change Adaptation Technologies-08.02.2023

The Turtle team is made up of Geraldine Dohogne and Estelle van Eeckhout, two female friends who have been close for 34 years and chose to go on an adventure that will influence and improve lives, particularly in Sierra Leone’s business ecosystem. 

In order to spread awareness and generate money for their endeavor, the turtle team participated in the BUDAPEST-BAMAKO rally 2022, the final big adventure in the world. The two buddies chose the moniker “TURTLE” for their team mostly in honor of the turtles in Sierra Leone and the turtles’ overall propensity for “slow but sure” racing. Every two years, people from all around the world can participate in the Budapest-Bamako rally and raise money for whatever they might wish to engage in.

The Budapest-Bamako Rally is an automobile event that spans eight (8) nations. The 2022 edition of the rally began in Labe, Guinea, and concluded with a welcome ceremony at Gigibonta Lumley in Freetown, Sierra Leone, on November 8, 2022. The Budapest-Bamako Rally provides all of its participants with a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment in addition to being a means of raising money. The turtle team traveled with such fortitude and concentration. Due to their punctuality, versatility, and liberality, the turtle squad went, saw, conquered, and won the hero of the bush honors after spending 11 nights camping and sleeping in tents around the eight countries in Africa. They decided it would be appropriate to help the entrepreneurial ecosystem by providing money for incubating and assisting budding entrepreneurs through innovation SL.

Following the selection process, Innovation SL posted a CALL for applicants to apply for this unique pitch night and began preparing. The preparation sessions lasted for two weeks, during which time the chosen pitchers received instruction on how to present their ideas as well as aid with the right organization of their pitch decks. 

On February 8, 2023, the Turtle Team pitch night was held after several days of planning and preparation.

The pitch night, which had the theme “CLIMATE CHANGE ADAPTATION TECHNOLOGIES(CCAT),” was held at the Toma restaurant and was hosted by madam Emily Bah. The event began with an introduction and welcome speech from the company’s CEO/MD Mr. Francis Stevens George, who noted that while there are many successful entrepreneurs in the nation, the narratives have changed due to the influx of young people, primarily recent graduates, into the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Many of these young people view entrepreneurship as fulfilling because it allows them to be content with what they are doing and be creative while doing it. He then quickly clarified that the turtles are aware of this, but more importantly, they are also aware that there are other ecosystem actors who offer support and training to these aspiring business owners in order to shape the ecosystem and bring it to its full potential. For this reason, the team used sponsorship funds to support these entrepreneurs through Innovation SL.

He also explained to everyone in attendance that the pitch night was originally intended only for women, but due to the dearth of female participants, the team and the organization were forced to open the opportunity to both men and women. As a result, we have pitchers from both genders. Following that, Mr. Francis Stevens George called for Miss. Estelle Van Eeckhout, a member of the turtle team, gave a speech about the significance of the evening.

Miss Estelle explained to everyone in attendance that she and her teammate Geraldine came from entrepreneurial families and have always been interested in supporting young female entrepreneurs because they are the ones most impacted by global climate change. She continued by saying that being able to support these entrepreneurs at this time has been a dream come true and is incredibly satisfying.

Ms. Estelle then handed us off to her teammate and friend Miss Geraldine Dohogne, who was joining us virtually because she couldn’t make it to the event. She and her teammate, Ms. Estelle, had so much faith in Innovation SL that they begged the company to be their service provider. They believe that the company is a driving force of the entrepreneurial ecosystem. As an entrepreneur herself, Miss Dohonge expressed her enthusiasm and satisfaction at finding funding and supporting young businesspeople. She stayed with us practically for the remainder of the evening, thanking everyone for coming and wishing us all a nice evening.

The host, madam Emily Bah, then presented the judges, who are as follows: Her Excellency The Ambassador of Ireland to Sierra Leone, Claire Buckley, Estelle Van Eeckhout, Geraldine Dohogne Turtle teammate and entrepreneur, Natalia Abboud, CEO of the transnational DSTV Sierra Leone and Capital radio, and Madam Haja Mariama Myers, a business consultant, and entrepreneur.

The first speaker for the evening was Margret sia Gbamanja from the Salone Association of Innovation and Management, a company that offers auto mini-irrigation systems for small-scale farmers looking to provide an alternative watering system for farm-growing crops. The host went directly to the main event for the day, the pitch proper, by reminding the pitchers that they are only given five minutes to make their ideas known. The main issue they noticed was how climate change has affected everyone, including Sierra Leone, and as a result, farmers have resorted to just farming during the rainy season, contributing to a food deficit in the nation. Additionally, they try to find a solution for the manual effort that goes into watering crops because most farmers complain of pain, particularly waist problems, while they are conducting surveys. They also understand the difficulties that local farmers have using auto-smart irrigation because the majority of them are not lettered; as a result, their products are easy to use and reasonably priced for everyone.

She added that they are nearly finished with their prototype and are working on it right now. When she was through, she made sure to mention that the product’s secret is that it is superior to its rivals in that it is effective, straightforward, affordable, and supports local farmers.

The first of the two questions Margret received from the judges came from Miss Estelle, who inquired about the source of the water they planned to use for the irrigation system. Margret responded by stating that most farms are located close to wells, so that is where they intended to get their water.

The next query came from Miss Natalia, who was worried about the price of their kit because it wasn’t mentioned during the presentation. Margaret responded that she couldn’t give a specific figure because they were still in the planning stages and couldn’t ascertain the price at this time. As she left the pitch stage, the judges praised her for her poise and presentation abilities.

Every two minutes a child dies from malaria, yet mankind has joined together to find a solution, said Stephan Courtney Peterson, according to Mariama Saccoh, the second pitcher from the Global Malaria App. As a medical student, she always finds it upsetting when people wait in line for a malaria test at a hospital and are not attended to in a timely manner. With this background in mind, she and her team decided to create an application that would allow people all over the world to take a malaria test and receive their results in a flash.

The malaria app will be created for owners of Android and iOS smartphones with sensors because that’s how the app can scan and detect their blood cells in order for the findings to be shown. The app also aims to reduce the number of deaths caused by malaria since prompt diagnosis and treatment can avoid fatalities and because it links patients with healthcare providers and pharmacies.

Given that all malaria test kits are made of plastic, the invention also helps to prevent plastic pollution. Mariama explained that they will be employing an optical biochemical parameter sensor, which is dependable and capable of detecting the presence of plasmodium in cells, in response to the judges’ question on how the application can be trusted.

​​Mr. Tommy Sowa, the third pitcher, is the CEO and co-founder of Zest MK Investment, which focuses on creating an e-commerce application that would facilitate the delivery of medications to patients who have access to the application. Additionally, they offer medical care as well as a venue for pharmacists to market their goods and offer services to these patients.

Since they plan to use a few motorbikes to reach hundreds of people, they hope that by leveraging this E-commerce platform, both the death rate and ozone layer pollution will be reduced. The covid pandemic, Mr. Tommy Sowa further explained to the audience, was the inspiration for this idea. He discovered that many people died from a lack of prompt medical attention, but with e-commerce, no one will even need to risk traveling long distances with a sick person because all the facilities will be there to meet them in time at their doorsteps.

This will promote pharmacies around the neighborhood and give young people jobs. After that, the judges questioned Mr. Tommy Sowa about the anticipated payment plan for clients who would use their services. Mr. Sowa said that they would be going digital and using a local mobile money app.

The fourth pitcher, Christiana Lebbie, whose business idea is briquette coal, recalled a time when her mother had to make soup for her sick grandfather. However, because she was using charcoal, the process took three hours and was both time-consuming and unhealthy. This served as her inspiration to create briquette coal from farm waste.

As opposed to charcoal and firewood, briquette coal burns for a very long period before burning out, making cooking easier, simpler, and more inexpensive. Cooking with briquette coal is healthful since it doesn’t emit smoke, protecting women’s lungs, eyes, and other organs from sickness. The briquette coal also contributes significantly to climate change adaptation because, unlike other cooking techniques, it doesn’t release gasses into the atmosphere and also includes free fire starters. In order to reach as many clients as possible who will be able to use the briquette coal and live a better and healthier life, the briquette coal will target neighborhood merchants who offer “kol pot.” Since briquette coal can be produced without using trees, it will also encourage reforestation. 

Although the judges said they were in love with her idea, they also suggested that she go back to the drawing board and reduce the cost of her product by working with and partnering with other companies in the same field.

Fatmata Conteh from Sierra Plastbricks, whose company focuses on reducing plastic pollution and flood damage, was the fifth pitcher. Since 15000 people die yearly from flooding, most of whom live in slum areas, Sierra plastbricks produces plastic bricks that may be used as retaining walls and flood fences to help secure water-prone areas. This is done in an effort to lessen the impact of floods.

The Sierra Plastic Bricks also observed that during rainy seasons, the city becomes clogged and polluted with plastics and rubber; as a result, they are recycling these materials into bricks in order to protect the ozone layer. Additionally, in order to fully mitigate flooding, the Sierra Plasti Bricks also come with a sensor that will be installed in the flood walls which will indicate when the floodwaters are rising to fully get the job done.

She said that the secret to their success is that, unlike their rivals, their flood walls have sensors that can detect floods. The judges questioned how the sensor will be developed since they were worried about its development. The team informed the judges that they will unquestionably be the ones to construct the sensors but also acknowledged that they are still in the perfect stage and are trying to select which type of sensor they will use. They provided information on the many types of sensors. The judges then recommended the team conduct a thorough investigation into their concept because it has numerous technological and intellectual ramifications.

The problem they saw was how different dumpsites are polluting the surroundings as most of these dump sites burn down the waste transported to their sites. They also noticed that this waste can be raw materials for people who are in the circular industry, so they decided to find a solution. The sixth pitcher was Mr. Fallah Mackay Lengor, who represented the Action for Safer environment non-government organization (Clean city waste).

Sorting waste and distributing it to various recycling businesses would assist them to obtain the raw materials they need to make additional products for the country’s consumption. Additionally, this will lessen the environmental damage that burning waste has on the environment. Since there are no official organizations dedicated to the said enterprise, their best option is to supply refuge, sort waste, and distribute waste to their required recycling companies.

According to the OCHA 2015b report, 80% of Sierra Leone’s waste can be recycled, therefore with their notion of sorting and distributing waste, Sierra Leone can make the most of every waste rather than allowing waste to create flooding and other problems. Their plan will work by collecting rubbish from dumps, classifying it into distinct categories including plastic, metal, and coconut shells, among others, and then selling it to recycling businesses for a small price.

They will keep a cost-effective supply chain. Because they will sort before distribution, recycling companies can acquire the exact amount of material they require without having to go through any additional sorting procedures. After his presentation, the judges questioned the team about how they intended to maintain their waste management strategy so that they could not be easily imitated by upcoming rivals. In other words, the judges were trying to find out what might prevent other businesses from doing what the team was planning to do.

Mr. Fallah responded that they are not afraid of competition because it will motivate them to work harder and that they do not believe that they will be matched by rivals in the future because they were the first to start a waste sorting and distribution business, giving them an advantage over rivals in the future because they will become more inventive over time.

Hawah Siaffa-Siakka from Climate action for women and youth development was the penultimate pitcher. She made the decision to pursue green farming practices after watching her father lose a lot of money in agriculture because he lacked the necessary knowledge. She conducted a survey after that and discovered that most farmers lack training, particularly in the application of fertilizers, which prevents them from producing many crops. By using open data kits (ODK) to send information on the ground and data back and forth, such as weather patterns, fertilizer use, climate adaption, and general farming information, her approach is to provide smart knowledge in agriculture. Ms. Hawah provided the essential information to the interviewer after being questioned about her customer base and the channels she utilizes to inform her go-to-market about her designs to the judges.

The final hurler of the evening According to Christiana Martha Lappia of Chris and Co Tech Ltd, the main issue they saw was the high rate of CO2 emission in the atmosphere, which is mostly brought on by industry manufacturing plants and leads to ill health and water contamination as well as global warming. Their approach is to provide a catalytic converter that transforms smoke from chimneys into steam or water vaporizer, which helps to prevent global warming. Their device adds value by converting waste carbon monoxide into steam and absorbing it, which helps to mitigate global warming and protects workers from respiratory illnesses.

Miss Christian went on to say that their plan will create a safe working environment, make a significant contribution to environmental protection, and promote high standards of health. 

Miss Christian responded that she and her team would first obtain Clarence from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and partner with factories and other companies that would be using their products in response to the judges’ initial question about how she and her team intended to acquire customers since their market target was large factories and construction companies.

The event continued with a Q&A session that was expertly moderated by the host after the judges had dismissed the audience for making their final choice. The audience had the chance to interrogate the pitchers during this session about their companies and their goods. The fact that the pitchers had the chance to pitch their products to the audience and explain their presentations made this session extremely interactive.

The top five pitchers who were able to persuade the judges of the significance and influence of their products were announced after a brief break by the judges. The winners were Christiana Lebbie, Fatmata.F. Conteh, Mr. Tommy Sowa, Fallah Mackay Lengor, and Christiana Martha Lappia, in that order. 

In recognition of their dedication and support, the judges received presents in addition to diplomas for the winners. 

The CEO/MD Mr. Francis George Williams gave a very brief closing courtesy to everyone in attendance, especially the judges and Turtle Team, to express his gratitude for helping the event to be a huge success because it was held in a welcoming and educational environment.


Reported by: Francess Beresford Renner

 Edited by: Lamarana Bah 


Written by Memuna Forna- Insight.

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.