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UN General Assembly President visits Mak Innovations Hub
Makerere University was yet again privileged to host the 78th UN General Assembly President H.E. Dennis Francis, who visited the newly equipped Innovation Pod/Hub to see the ideas that students have turned into innovative products.
H.E. Dennis Francis, on January 20, 2024, challenged innovators to convert their brilliant ideas into meaningful assets, emphasizing that this is what intellectual property is about. “It is about creating value where there was none,” H.E. Dennis said.
Intellectual property, he said, can be traditional knowledge passed on from one generation to another as well as traditional herbs. “Africans are by nature imaginative and creative, so I have no doubt that this center will contribute to not just innovation but to the development of Uganda, Africa, and the global south,” he said.
The Makerere University Innovations Hub, which was recently established with funding from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is set to start driving the commercialization of innovations and enterprises resulting from the research undertaken by scholars and students at Makerere University.
The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, welcomed his H.E. Dennis Francis to Makerere University and expressed optimism that the innovation pod would transform innovators within and outside the university. Prof. Nawangwe welcomed the general public to use the facility, citing the first diesel engine made in Uganda by artisans in Entebbe. He said the artisans worked with the staff of Makerere University on the project.
While welcoming the UN General Assembly President, the UNDP Country Representative, Elsie Attafuah, shared with him some of the developments UNDP has been engaged in, such as the ICT hub in Nakawa, Uganda’s digital transformation road map, as well as other regional initiatives. She hoped the Innovation Pod would facilitate the creation of thousands of startup companies, create jobs and business value, and ensure Africa is more competitive.
The Makerere University Innovations Pod is one of 13 pods created and supported by UNDP across the African Continent, under what the organization calls the “Tibukutu Initiative.”
Commissioned on January 9, 2024, the research facility is expected to drive technological advancements in the country. The Innovation Hub aims to provide a collaborative space for entrepreneurs and researchers to develop groundbreaking solutions. The hub will offer state-of-the-art facilities and resources to support the growth of startups and facilitate knowledge sharing. It will also foster networking opportunities and mentorship programs to help entrepreneurs navigate the challenges of starting and scaling their businesses. By providing access to cutting-edge technology and expertise, the Innovation Hub will empower entrepreneurs and researchers to push the boundaries of innovation in the country. Additionally, the hub will serve as a catalyst for job creation and economic growth by attracting investors and fostering collaboration between startups and established businesses.
Makerere Innovations Hub celebrates Persons living with Disabilities
Makerere University Innovations Hub has commemorated the international day for persons living with disabilities by celebrating these young innovators.
The celebrations were held at Makerere University in the Yusuf Lule Teaching Facility-Auditorium on December 01.
The persons living with disabilities showcased different skills in shoe making, soap making, bracelets making, weaving among others, parading their items they make to earn a living.
Makerere University Innovations Hub started up a project last year dubbed, “Innovativeness of Young Persons with Disabilities in Uganda” to support them in discovering their skills and help them to start a journey to economic empowerment. The programme is sponsored by the Royal Academy of Engineering, a UK based agency.
Dr Cathy Mbidde, the Principal Investigator (PI) of this programme, said she conceived the idea in December 2022 from a class assignment that she gave to students to go into the community and identify problems.
“I wanted them to go and find problems in the community to start a business. So they identified a few problems but one of the groups of students had a disabled person and she was struggling as they were arguing how to develop the product. That is how I realized that I can do something to impact people with disabilities,” she said
Dr Mbidde said she took a step to initiate a programme that can keep these persons busy and at the same time start up some businesses convenient for them to do.
“In December last year, there was a call from the Royal Academy of Engineering providing grants and I wrote and won the Frontiers Champions grant of around Shs42 million to organize an event,” she said.
She says one of the objectives of this programme was to identify persons living with disabilities who are innovative.
“How are they able to maneuver and start an enterprise or do some kind of business in an innovative way. I also wanted to look for stakeholders who can support them to execute their innovativeness,” she said.
The PI wanted to get for them a platform where they can come together and share experiences.
During the initial stages of the programme, Dr Mbidde went out to the field and made research about persons living with disabilities. She identified a few things that they needed including decent housing after noting that some of them were living in houses which could not accommodate them.
She also found out that these people lacked school fees to take their children to school and something needed to be done to see a way to bail them out of this situation.
“They had the skills but did not have the resources, we therefore came up and picked 15 persons during our pilot study of one year,” she said.
Dr Mbidde partners with different agencies and organizations to pave a way of helping skilled persons living with disabilities.
Ms Penninah Nakandi, one of the persons living with disabilities who doubles as the Executive Director of Persons with disabilities in Business Uganda (PIB-UG) said she empowers youth and mothers of children living with disabilities through an economic skilling programme.
“We believed that after dropping papers of applications seeking for jobs and people at times don’t even respond to us, we decided to startup that initiative and we have moved a long way because we have a total of 55 members,” she said adding that PIB-UG offers mentorship and empowers people to work as a team.
Mr Gerald Sunday, the Centenary Bank branch manager at Makerere said they have special packages for PWDs who are doing private businesses, small scale cottage businesses like those doing tailoring, liquid soap making, shoe making among others.
“We invite them to come for startup capital. We have youth negotiable loans at 16 percent per annum right from shs50,000 up to shs5 million as long as they qualify and are in the age bracket of the youth,” he said.
Mr Edwin Leroy, the Operations manager at Isitoshe Tours and Travel company, which mostly deals with people living disabilities in touring services said most of these people have been left behind but they have now embarked on helping them to engage in different job opportunities.
“We want to take the initiative to be part of this programme to see that the persons living with disabilities can exercise their skills and at the end of the day, they can improve their well-being,” he said.
He added: “We want to help them to engage in different activities that can generate income for them and equally participate and compete with all other people that do not have disabilities.”
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