Chosen from over 500 entries, 32 women entrepreneurs and students competed for a chance to pitch at SLUSH, the annual leading startup event in Finland.
There are quite a few complex challenges to Africa’s efforts at sustainable development and solving these issues will take work and a lot of innovative thinking. The Southern Africa Network for Biosciences (NEPAD SANBio) is working to create an ecosystem of stakeholders in the bioscience sector that enables the finding of African solutions to African challenges. For the past years NEPAD SANBio has been supported by BioFISA II, a Finnish-Southern African Partnership Programme to strengthen the network.
As a part of their goal to empower and enable stakeholders in the sector, NEPAD SANBio launched the FemBioBiz Programme in 2017. The programme targets female entrepreneurs in the biotechnology, health, and nutrition sector and works with in-country partner networks to provide them with training in leadership and entrepreneurship skills. Furthermore, FemBioBiz provides the participants with international exposure, including a trip to SLUSH Finland, one of the biggest start-up competitions in Europe. In the two years it has been running, FemBioBiz has trained over 250 women from ten countries.
Season 2 of FemBioBiz took place in 2018, and over 500 women entrepreneurs and students applied with SANBio partnering with organisations in eight countries (Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe). In Phase 1, 150 women went through training, and the 90 best participants went through to Phase 2 and attended two bootcamps. After another round of pitching, the four best entries from each country were chosen for the final round.
Päivi Lehtonen, Counsellor/Head of Development Cooperation at the Embassy of Finland in South Africa, and Mmapitso Mokotedi, Deputy Director at the Department of Science and Technology, South Africa.
The finals took place at the South Africa Innovation Summit in Cape Town on 12 and 13 September, and featured 32 pitches in the biotechnology and health, cosmetics, agroprocessing, and agricultural technology sectors. Four entrepreneurs and two students were chosen as winners and will take part in SLUSH Finland.
The entrepreneur category winners were:
Muzalema Mwanza from Zambia. Her business, the Safe Motherhood Alliance, provides affordable sterilized baby delivery kits to expectant mothers in Zambia. Each kit contains essential supplies a woman requires at childbirth to ensure she has a safe and hygienic delivery.
Bonolo Monthe from Botswana with Maungo Craft, an enterprise specializing in making low- to no-sugar gourmet craft jams and marmalades from indigenous fruits.
Jennifer Mayer from Zimbabwe. Hutano Foods, her company, makes delicious, high-quality, and easy-to-enjoy snacks and porridges made from local Zimbabwean ingredients: millet, sorghum, nyimo bean, marula, mongongo nuts, baobab fruit, etc. They source from small-scale farmers and wild harvesters, thus increasing the value of these crops and encouraging their cultivation.
Maureen Vere from Zimbabwe. Her company, Verager (Pty) Ltd, focuses on food processing and value addition of legumes (cowpeas, butter beans, and sugar beans), as well as other wild and natural foods. Their main product is the Nutri Pea Sausage, which is made from indigenous, nutrient-dense cowpeas and is a tasty vegetarian replacement for meat sausages.
One of the student winners, Nomahlubi Alicia Nazo.
The student category winners were:
Nomahlubi Alicia Nazo, representing the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Her company, Foi Science (Pty) Ltd, converts fish scale waste into a biopolymer film impregnated with essential oils and vitamins, which is used to heal wounds, prevent infections, and help with pain relief. Foi Science also converts agricultural waste into activated carbon for use in a variety of other products.
Godfridah C Masaiti, representing the University of Zambia School of Medicine and Soar Free Pharmaceuticals. She is conceptualizing a transdermal patch that delivers antiretroviral drugs to patients, allowing for drug concentrations to be maintained at an effective level during the therapeutic window for prolonged periods. This simplified medication regimen would improve patient compliance, diminish side effects, and reduce inter- and intra-patient variability.
For more information about FemBioBiz and the NEPAD SANBio programme, visit the project page.