After a rigorous selection process that involved MBA volunteers at INSEAD Business School in Singapore and Fontainebleau, with a distinguished international jury, the top three projects from each region have been announced in the 2015 edition of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards. This year, the award organizers had received more than 1,700 applications from 103
After a rigorous selection process that involved MBA volunteers at INSEAD Business School in Singapore and Fontainebleau, with a distinguished international jury, the top three projects from each region have been announced in the 2015 edition of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards. This year, the award organizers had received more than 1,700 applications from 103 countries.
This development marks the end of the first round of the annual competition. The top three projects were drawn from six regions – Latin America, North America, Europe, Sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East & North Africa, and Asia-Pacific – on the basis of their short business plans to compete in the final round. The finalists will be coached by business experts, after which they will submit detailed business plans and projects before the Jury in France. they will also attend the Annual Global Meeting of the Women’s Forum. After all presentations, one Laureate for each of the six regions is selected and receives a unique and comprehensive support package: $ 20, 000 of funding, one year of coaching, networking opportunities and media exposure.
Making Africa proud at the prestigious awards are our top three finalists: Chinwe Ohajuruka, CEO of Comprehensive Design Services (CDS) in Nigeria; Suzana Moreira, Founder of MoWoza in Mozambique; and Thato Kgatlhanye & Rea Ngwane of Rethaka Trading in South Africa.
Chinwe Ohajuruka, CEO Comprehensive Designs Services (Nigeria)
52-year-old Chinwe is a Nigerian resident in the United States. She has 3 degrees in architecture and 3 accreditations in green building. Her outfit, Comprehensive Design Services is a company that provides “comprehensive solutions to complex problems”.
In 2011, Chinwe took a leave of absence from her job in the United States to voluntarily assist with the establishment of the Green Council of Nigeria. This position required significant research on social, environmental and financial aspects of the Nigerian economy. It was then that she became aware of the housing deficit in the country as well as the extent of the power, water and sanitation crisis. “The opportunity came when the African Diaspora Marketplace organised a business plan competition for the African diaspora in the United States to come back to their home countries and do impactful developments. When I saw the competition, the idea crystallised into affordable housing – affordable green housing in Nigeria.”
Comprehensive Design Services designs, engineers and constructs affordable and sustainable housing. In 2012, three buildings containing passive house prototypes were implemented in Port Harcourt. The houses are solar powered, self cooling and “source water from right beneath the feet of the occupants”. “These prototypes are attractive modular housing that are rescaleable, replicable and affordable. Our houses are small but mighty”, says Chinwe. Moreover, prototypes were built 2 feet above the ground level to prevent them from flooding. Comprehensive Design Services not only builds houses but also allows customers to buy plans. “We actually produce designs that people can take and build themselves because 96% of the houses that are built in Nigeria are self-built.”
Suzana Moreira, Founder of MoWoza (Mozambique)
In 2012, Suzana Moreira left South Africa for Mozambique to launch a mobile commerce platform that she called MoWoza. MoWoza, a contraction of the word “mobile” and the Zulu word “woza”, meaning “to run”, is pretty much about running errands. In addition to its four employees, the company works with delivery men and women on a commission basis.
Retailers in rural or semi-urban communities in Mozambique usually travel to South Africa to replenish their stock – this requires carrying large amounts of cash. The vast majority of informal cross-border traders are women who leave their families to make this long and risky journey. MoWoza offers access to products without having to travel. Storeowners order the inventory they need by simply sending an SMS. Suzana and her team then source the goods and deliver them directly to the shops. In the future, moWoza intends to expand its focus to include financial services with the aim of improving access to credit for its customers.
“We have spoken to ladies who, in 18 years, only managed to spend one or two weekends with their families because they were always on the road”, says Suzana. “Right now, we have between 500 to 800 customers. The majority is supporting around 10 family members so we are looking at 5.000 to 8.000 people who are benefiting from our service.”
Thato Kgatlhanye & Rea Ngwane of Rethaka Trading (South Africa)
Rea Ngwane and Thato Kgatlhanye launched their company when they were both 18. As the pair was about to start their undergraduate degrees, they came up with an idea to help underprivileged pupils who face challenges with their education. Rethaka – literally meaning “we are fellows” – encourages children to attend school and learn effectively.
The duo have created the Repurpose Schoolbag, a practical and sustainable solution to a major problem for many kids living in rural and non-electrified parts of South Africa. While going to and from school every day, the children have to trek long distances along busy and dangerous roads. Couple this with the challenge of how to complete their homework and study after sunset with no power supply, and the value of a solar backpack is apparent.
Rethaka has developed a way of providing a solution to increase children’s safety and help them do better in school. The company manufactures repurposed schoolbags fitted with retro-reflective material to increase visibility. These solar-powered bags are also constructed to continue working after dark. “Each bag is fitted with a solar panel that charges as the child is walking to school. When they get back home, they can use it as a light to study”, says Thato. “We are offering dignity, safety and access to light.”