Four African projects improving lives can build on success with support from Expo 2020 Dubai

Four African initiatives empowering women and smallholder farmers are to receive grants from global social impact programme Expo Live, run by organisers of the next World Expo, Expo 2020 Dubai. Innovators from Ghana, Kenya, South Africa and Tanzania are among 26 projects from 22 countries selected in the third cycle of Expo Live’s flagship Innovation Impact Grant Programme, following a rigorous evaluation process that included live presentations in Dubai.

It will be recalled that two Nigerians were among the 16 earlier innovators granted $100,000 each by Expo Dubai 2020 live to participate in the 2020 event. Expo Dubai 2020. The grant of $100,000 each is to aid the innovators to expand their project and impact the lives of rural dwellers. The two Nigerian innovators are Dr. Emmanuel Owobu co-founder of OMOMI and Misan Rewane, CEO of WAVE

According to the organisers the competition was particularly strong in this cycle, with more than 1,200 applications from 114 countries. Expo Live supports projects whose creative solutions to pressing challenges improve people’s lives or preserve the planet – or both. These innovators will join an existing community of Expo Live Global Innovators, bringing the total to 70 grantees from 42 countries. Among the new Global Innovators is a Ghanaian woman who is empowering other women by teaching them how to grow a local wild grain called fonio on abandoned lands.

Through her social enterprise Unique Quality Products, Salma Abdulai engages disenfranchised women to farm abandoned land, helping them to provide for their families and gain financial independence. Abdulai told Expo Live judges a heart-warming story of one of her women farmers: “While I was in hospital pregnant, a woman who had just given birth was next to me crying all day. She’d just found out that her husband had run away because he couldn’t pay the USD 2.5 a day to cover medical expenses.

“We offered her a job at the fonio farm and now she has been making a stable income for four years and has been able to send her children to school – all by herself.” To help such projects reach their full potential, Expo Live provides each successful initiative with a grant of up to USD 100,000, made available as they meet ongoing conditions. Projects are also supported with business guidance and promotion, and may have the chance to showcase their work to many millions of visitors at Expo 2020 Dubai. The Expo Live grant will help Abdulai purchase land from the community and prevent the women from being evicted once fonio cultivation makes the land arable enough to grow other profitable crops.

The Global Innovators operate in an array of fields, including healthcare, education, renewable energy, fintech, waste management and water management. South African start-up Mobbisurance aims to provide more affordable crop insurance for uninsured farmers by using satellite imagery and weather data instead of humans to validate claims. More than 90 per cent of smallholder farmers in South Africa do not carry adequate crop insurance because of prohibitive costs, leaving them badly exposed to risks of natural disaster.

Kudzai Kutukwa, CEO at Mobbisurance, said: “Through the Expo Live grant we intend to expand the pilot of 763 farmers to at least 5,000 farmers in South Africa, and to expand into neighbouring countries.  In Tanzania, the Institute for Orkonerei Pastoralists Advancement is helping Maasai women gain financial independence by commercialising their only asset, according to tradition – milk from cattle. Since 2007, the Institute has set up dairy plants that buy the women’s milk and use it to create dairy products sold around Tanzania. More than 3,000 women sell up to 8,000 litres of milk to the plant every day.

Martin Kariongi Ole Sanago, Director at Institute for Orkonerei Pastoralists Advancement, said: “I wanted to make a real difference and create a tool for empowerment that would bring Maasai women out of the  cycle of poverty and shift the balance of power in their favour.”

The Expo Live grant will enable the project to reach more women and expand distribution. Kenya’s Selina Wamucii is tackling supply chain inefficiencies in Africa that are preventing some 60 per cent of smallholders’ produce from reaching the market. Through its mobile platform, Selina Wamucii allows buyers and exporters to source fresh produce directly from more than 3,000 smallholder farmers – without internet access.

John Oroko, Co-founder of Selina Wamucii, said: “Some of our mango farmers have increased their incomes by 60 per cent – from USD 100 to USD 160 – allowing them to pay for medical bills and their children’s school fees.”

In addition to recruiting 2,000 farmers, Selina Wamucii will use the Expo Live grant to acquire organic certifications to open up new markets and achieve even better prices for farmers.

Yousuf Caires, Vice President – Expo Live at Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “These innovators clearly demonstrate the creative and entrepreneurial potential of Africa. As the first World Expo to take place in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, Expo 2020 Dubai is excited to support them and help amplify their impact.”

“Expo Live is based on a firm belief that innovation can come from anywhere to everyone. This is a major component of our redefinition of what a World Expo can and should do: tap into its convening power well before the event to enable problem-solvers around the globe to promote innovation and build partnerships that leave a lasting legacy not only in the UAE and the region but across the world.” Expo 2020 Dubai will take place from 20 October, 2020 to 10 April, 2021. It will be a festival of human ingenuity that gives a glimpse into the future, guided by its three pillars: Opportunity, Mobility and Sustainability. 

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