This year’s fellows which include founders of homegrown, high-impact ventures in underserved markets in Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda have been awarded US$20,000 grant and support tailored to address their specific needs.
“We are excited to work with a vibrant cohort of East African entrepreneurs whose expertise is grounded in their lived reality,” says Jona Repishti, who manages the fellowship. “Working with local founders has certain advantages — they reflect the demographics of the markets they serve; their lived experience helps them identify unique, scalable, market-based solutions overlooked by outsiders. What’s more, they are more likely to commit for the long haul, developing local talent and infrastructure along the way.”
During the year-long program, the D-Lab Scale-Ups Fellows work to retire risk and position their ventures for investment, partnership, and growth. Each social entrepreneur receives a $20,000 grant, tailored mentoring, skills building workshops, and networking opportunities.
“As individuals and as a cohort, these fellows have great change potential for their regional ecosystems,” Repishti notes. “And by bringing them into D-Lab and the broader MIT community, we hope to advance not only their ventures, but also the D-Lab and MIT approach to social entrepreneurship.”
Launched in 2012, the D-Lab Scale-Ups fellowship has supported 39 fellows working on four continents in sectors including agriculture, energy, water, health care, housing, mobility, recycling, education, and personal finance. At the close of last year’s cycle, Scale-Ups fellows had raised $11.1 million in funding, generated $10.2 million in revenue, created over 700 direct and 6,700 indirect full-time equivalent jobs, and reached 1.5 million people living in low-income settings with their product and service offerings.
Here are the six D-Lab Scale-Ups Fellows who were awarded earlier in April 2019:
Winnie Gitau (Kenya)
Winnie Gitau is the founder of Kwangu Kwako, which provides safer, healthier, and more secure housing alternatives to the traditional informal settlement structures in Kenya. To do this, they use reinforced pre-cast concrete panels made by local artisans within the community. The outcome is a safer, simpler and more cost-effective alternative to the existing Mabati structures, which are temporary homes built from corrugated iron sheets and bush poles.
Dysmus Kisilu (Kenya)
Dysmus Kisilu, the winner of a 2018 Gates Foundation Goalkeeper Award, is the founder of Solar Freeze, a Kenya-based enterprise that has pioneered mobile cold storage units powered by renewable energy to help rural smallholder farmers reduce postharvest loss. In many developing countries, postharvest losses are as high as 80% and the cold‐storage chain is virtually non‐existent due to high equipment costs and spotty electricity. Solar Freeze has provided solar-powered irrigation kits and cold storage devices to more than 3,000 farmers.
Peter Mumo Nyamai (Kenya)
Peter Mumo Nyamai is the founder of Expressions Global Group, a social venture which supplies innovative, durable, and environment-friendly rainwater harvesting products to improve irrigation and boost productivity among rural smallholder farmers in Kenya. In addition to its product line, Expressions Global links farmers to the affordable credit and ready markets for fresh produce.
Christian Mwilage (Tanzania)
Christian Mwijage is the founder of EcoAct Tanzania, a for‐profit social enterprise that has developed a chemical-free and energy-conserving technology which transforms post-consumer waste plastics into durable plastic timbers for use in construction. EcoAct plastic timber is an affordable alternative to traditional timber, reduces the need for building material manufactured from wood, and helps to preserve forests and mitigate climate change.
Prince Prosper Tillya (Tanzania)
Prince Prosper Tyllya is the founder and managing director of FixChap, a digital platform in Tanzania through which clients can book repair requests and get connected instantly to verified local handymen, sourced from vocational training institutions. FixChap benefits clients such as homeowners and businesses by providing reliable and competent services while providing a stable income to the handymen.
Chrispinus Onyancha (Uganda)
Chrispinus Onyancha, is the CEO of ClinicPesa, a platform established to provide access to health care financing to individuals in East Africa to offset medical bills and buy medications at any clinicPesa-registered clinic, hospital, or pharmacy.
Image Credits: MIT D-Lab