UT alums receive grant for entrepreneurship in sub-Saharan communities

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Photo Credit: Danielle Henderson | Daily Texan Staff

Three UT alumnae were part of the group awarded a $400,000 grant last Thursday for their work developing businesses in sub-Saharan African communities. 

The UT alumnae from the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders were among the 1% of applicants to receive this grant, said Glenn Robinson, interim director for global programs and innovation at Texas Global, via email.

“The investments are designed to allow the entrepreneurs to create jobs, train other youth, impact their communities, and create or expand markets by providing required goods and services,” Robinson said. 

The grant was awarded to 42 young entrepreneurs, including UT alumnae Bonolo Monthe, Ogechukwu Uzoegbo and Rita Anyango, by the Citi Foundation, United States African Development Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Robinson said the fellows received guidance on global competition, entrepreneurship and sustainability from their adviser John Doggett, McCombs School of Business senior lecturer and international alumni liaison, and from a grant writing workshop.

“This grant is an indispensable green light towards the growth of our innovation,” said Uzoegbo in an email. “We are at an early stage, and we are operating manually from the start to the finished product. Receiving this grant just propelled us towards that direction.”

Uzoegbo said her work focused on transforming plastic waste into spectacle frames and using innovative recycling and internet technology to increase access to eye care services. 

“The knowledge and ideas I gained during the field trips and my interaction with other Mandela Washington Fellows at the institute also contributed immensely (to my work),” Uzoegbo said.

Anyango said her work centered on developing Uganda’s first 3D children’s animation series “Mukago” to increase diversity in animation.

“With over 65% of Uganda’s population below the age of 30, I strongly believe that this demography, especially the young women, can be leveraged in the creative industries to meet the growing demand for quality digital content,” Anyango said in an email. “Eighty-five percent of our animation team is below the age of 35, and 50% of these are female, which is a phenomenal achievement in the animation industry anywhere in the world.”

Monthe said she worked on making jam and marmalade using the indigenous foods and orphan crops of Botswana. She said receiving this award will help scale the business and grow the company.

“Our aim is to change the relationship to our indigenous foods and further develop the value chain in order to create a new Climate Economy,” Monthe said in an email. “This allows for the creation of jobs, diversification of the economy and growth of other businesses surrounding the indigenous foods sector.”

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative that empowers young people through networking, academic coursework and leadership training, according to their website. The Mandela Washington fellows were given the opportunity to apply for this grant,

“The investments are designed to allow the entrepreneurs to create jobs, train other youth, impact their communities, and create or expand markets by providing required goods and services,” Robinson said. “The fellows, who are between the ages of 25 and 35, have established records of accomplishment in promoting innovation and positive impact in their organizations, institutions, communities, and countries.”