On 28 July at the Four Seasons Hotel in Johannesburg, South Africa, the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards announced the selection of the 2015 finalists for Sub-Saharan Africa. This year’s Finalists distinguished themselves by the impact they are making in bringing people together; developing a more connected science; redesigning our food supply; and creating from natural resources. The three finalists for Sub-Saharan Africa are Chinwe Ohajuruka, the founder of Comprehensive Design Services, Nigeria; Suzana Moreira, the founder of moWoza, Mozambique; and Thato Kgatlhanye, the founder of Rethaka, the creator of Repurpose Schoolbags.
Created in 2006 by Cartier and the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society, in partnership with INSEAD Business School and McKinsey & Company, the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards is an annual international business plan competition for women entrepreneurs. Every year, six Laureates receive US$20,000, coaching support for a full year, access to international networks and media visibility, as well as an exclusive trophy designed by Cartier. This year’s Sub-Saharan Africa event was hosted by the inspirational Achenyo Idachaba, the founder of the innovative and high impact eco-enterprise, Mitimeth, who shared her experiences of winning the award in 2014 and the impact it has had on her business and profile since.
The Sub-Saharan Finalists of the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards join 17 others selected from over 1700 applications from more than 100 countries. They are now being coached by professionals from Cartier, INSEAD and McKinsey & Company to prepare for the second round of the competition in October. The Laureates will be announced at the Awards Ceremony on October 15, 2015, at the Annual Global Meeting of the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society, in Deauville, France.
Chinwe Ohajuruka is a real inspiration in the field of green building solutions in Africa. She engineers and builds affordable green houses that are both energy and resource-efficient. Her 3 degreesin architecture and 3 accreditations in green building, led to the creation of Comprehensive Design Services, a company that provides comprehensive solutions to complex problems. Back in 2011, she took leave from her job in the USA to voluntarily assist with the establishment of the Green Council in 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. With a growing population of around 175 million inhabitants, Nigeria faces a massive housing, energy and water crisis. Most of the population lives in poor conditions and does not have access to electricity or sanitation. There is a housing deficit of 17 million units and only 40% of the population has access to power. Houses usually lack basic equipment such as toilets or running water. Chinwe’s company, Comprehensive Design Services, aims to find sustainable solutions to this problem by creating affordable, green housing in the country. Her house designs are solar powered, self cooling, and source water right from beneath the feet of the house occupants. Not only that, she produces designs that people can take and build themselves because 96% of the houses built in Nigeria are self built. Find out more about the incredible work of Chinwe Ohajuruka and her company, Comprehensive Design Services, by visiting the website - www.cdshousing.com
Thato Kgatlhanye is a young South African entrepreneur with a very bright future, and the inspiration behind a company producing innovative and eco-school bags from recycled plastic shopping bags. She launched her company when she was just 18. As she was about to start her undergraduate degree, she 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. These solar powered schoolbags charge up during the day and transform into a light at night. Disadvantaged children encounter barriers to learn due to a lack of basic school supplies such as schoolbags. Numerous children in South Africa walk to school for sometimes more than 30 minutes carrying their books. School children leave home early in the morning and walk on roads that are not designed for pedestrian usage – a journey which can often prove risky. Road safety has become a significant issue in the country as children are exposed to the danger of being hit by cars due to limited visibility. 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. To create this product, Thato has set up a sustainable manufacturing process. Each schoolbag is made of 20 plastic shopping bags that are up-cycled into a textile. All offcuts are used to design a signature pattern on the bags. The company is looking to produce 10,000 bags by the end of 2015 with a current staff of 15, but hopes to at least grow to 20 by the end of the year. To find out more about Rethaka, visit the website www.repurposeschoolbags.com
Suzana Moreira is the founder of moWoza in Maputo in Mozambique, a company providing informal cross-border traders in Southern Africa with a mobile information service on pricing and access to goods. Originally from South Africa, Suzana Moreira moved to Mozambique 3 years ago to launch a mobile commerce platform, moWoza. MoWoza is the contraction of the word “mobile” and the Zulu word “woza”, meaning “to come” or “to run”. Suzana explains: “The service is about running for our customers”. In addition to its four employees, the company works with delivery men and women operating 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. Many of these ladies manage to spend one or two weekends only with their families because they are always on the road. The moWoza mobile commerce platform offers access to products without having to travel. Store owners 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. Right now, moWoza has between 500 and 800 customers. The majority are supporting around 10 family members so the company is looking at 5,000 to 8,000 people who are benefiting from its service. To find out more about moWoza, visit its website www.mowoza.com