Ms Evangelista Chekera presenting her pitch in Harare

Female tech entrepreneurs and scientists essential for economic development

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Women’s under-representation in formal entrepreneurial activities has great consequences for Africa’s overall development. The dearth of female scientists and techies has left major untapped potential issues for national economies and future employability. Without access, understanding and participation, women are at greater risk of being left behind as agents of change and leaders in a rapidly changing global society. FemBioBiz is addressing these issues with a program designed to support, connect and inspire women entrepreneurs. The organisation called for application for entrepreneurial students and female businesses owners who have come up with brilliant innovations.

Since 2015, as part of the Youth and Gender Mainstreaming activities, NEPAD SANBio with support from the Finnish-Southern Africa Partnership Programme to Strengthen NEPAD/SANBio (BioFISA) Phase II initiated the FemBioBiz programme to support women entrepreneurs in biosciences.

This third season of FemBioBiz is implemented in collaboration with Hivos, an international NGO that has been working on gender inclusion and entrepreneurship support for over 50 years (including setting up over 100+ co-working spaces, supporting CSOs, implementing micro-finance and SME finance since the 1980s.

The National Biotechnology Authority (NBA) is coordinating the program in Zimbabwe. The NBA is a strategic arm of the Government of Zimbabwe established through the National Biotechnology Authority Act [Chap. 14.31] of 2006.

“NBA’s mandate is to regulate and support biotechnology research, development and commercialization. To achieve this mandate, the NBA has the following departments: Research and Development (R&D); Regulatory Affairs; Business Enterprise Development; and Public Relations. The Business Enterprise Development department focuses on commercialisation of internally developed or adopted biotechnologies as well as collaborating with entrepreneurs in translating research results into products and services. The FemBioBiz programme falls under this arm of the organisation. Regulatory Affairs department regulates biotechnology research and products of biotechnology in Zimbabwe through port inspections, facility registrations and laboratory testing. The Public Relations department educates the public about biotechnology in the country,” said Dr. Deckster Tonny Savadye, the Acting Chief Executive Officer and Registrar of the National Biotechnology Authority of Zimbabwe.

Fifteen females are battling out in the competition and most of them have brilliant ideas. Spiked Online Media caught up with owners of four of the successful pitches who shared interesting innovations.

Nakai botanicals is an infant and brilliant idea of Jessica Dzvore with the help of another student whose goal is to produce alternative topical herbal ointments which yields the same pain easing results to synthetics and steroids with less or no side effects. The topical ointment soothes and eases joint, muscle and back pains.

“Our focus is mainly on product development using researched indigenous plant species in line with the needs of the potential clients. These products have market potential with the elderly and the general public as it can be used as a first aid kit in case of for example sprains. Nakai botanicals is still in the process of being registered as a company,” Ms Dzvore said.

Ms Ashley Sengamai has come up with Nutri-grain Multigrain Flakes. Nutrigrain aims to provide individuals and the whole family with all the whole grain goodness encompassed with a lot of delicious, wholesome and satisfying flakes with a natural honey sweetness. The crunchy flakes are produced from a fine blend of whole grain cereals wheat, rapoko, orange maize, bulrush millet and sorghum. This results in a naturally nutritious breakfast cereal for a healthy lifestyle providing a vast source of nutrients ranging from fibre, proteins, low glycaemic carbohydrate, Iron, Zinc, Folic acid, magnesium, copper, calcium, phosphorous, and potassium. It is also high in vitamin A, B, and D.

Tracy Mapfumo founded in October 2018, Eny’s Treats, that sets itself to provide gluten and nut free healthy snacks to the upmarket urban health-conscious consumers including those with allergies. The snacks which we manufacture are made from edible seeds and they include seed bars, balls as well as seed butter. The enterprise is home based and we reach out to consumers through food fairs, social media and other outlets such as upmarket healthy shops. As the enterprise is currently small in nature, it only has a simple organisational structure where the founder/managing director makes the decisions in addition to monitoring the business activities.

Ms Evangelista Chekera is the founder of Passion Poultry, a start-up that focuses on designing, manufacturing and distributing poultry brooding and slaughtering devices. To date she owns Intellectual Property for the chick brooder ring and the poultry slaughtering cone through African Regional Intellectual Property (ARIPO). Through her innovations she has managed to win local and continental awards. In September 2019 she will be representing Africa at the Royal Academy of Engineering Global Grand Challenges in London. This young lady was also selected to be a 2019-2020 Thought for Food (TFF) Ambassador for South and Central Africa.

The FemBioBiz program is Southern Africa’s biggest women’s economic empowerment program focusing on viable business ideas and gender inclusion in the agri-food, health and nutrition sector. It promotes a paradigm shift through supporting the overall business support ecosystem in Southern Africa, providing training of trainers support and bringing in experts and financiers. The program is co- designed and implemented through a network of in-country partners, empowered and supported by the FemBioBiz program. These country coordinators drive the program nationally, while tailoring to the needs within the country and providing local insights, linkages and expertise to the program.

Key components of the program include the development of peer-to-peer networks, awareness creation, business and life skills training, access to market and information, online/ offline support and mentorship and financial investments (including the aligned Hivos Impact Investments Food & Lifestyle Fund). Additional national, regional and international ‘network and pitching’ events provide platforms to showcase businesses as well as active match-making with investors and financial institutions (these events include the African Innovation Summit, Disrupt!-events and Slush Startup in Finland).

Rogue and Associates (a creative marketing agency in Harare) will give a free hour of consultation to the winner as well as a free presentation design for their pitch on the main stage.

“We as an agency work with entrepreneurs all theme to help them better communicate their dreams to their customers. Helping the future of female entrepreneurs is right in line with our story as the owner/founder of Rogue (Ms Fungai Zvirawa) is a female entrepreneur herself,” said Kudakwashe Mangwengwende, the Rogue and Associates Digital Marketing Manager.

 

 




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