Two African women entrepreneurs win Start-ups for SDGs contest

November was a month in which entrepreneurship was celebrated around the world. The main event of the month was the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW), a worldwide campaign promoting entrepreneurship and its positive impact on economies around the world, in over 160 countries. This year, as part of the GEW campaign, YBI has partnered with UNCTADWIPOPolitecnico di Milano and Impact Hub Geneva and organised a week of entrepreneurship related events for 10 young entrepreneurs selected to participate from across the world.

The highlight of the week was a pitching competition titled “Startups for SDGs” which took place on the 14th of November 2017, at Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. The innovation brought by the competition was the focus on the impact that the businesses are having on the Sustainable Development Goals. The jury looked at how they are contributing to achieving at least one of the goals, ranging from improvements to health or education, eradication of poverty, protecting the environment or bringing equality for people and communities.

The competition brought into spotlight 10 businesses that are already having a great impact on the SDGs. Out of the 10, two entrepreneurs were selected to receive further support for their business – Jennifer Shigoli from Tanzania, founder of Elea Reusable Sanitary Pads, received USD 15,000 equity capital and Filipa Carreira, with her business Wamina, was awarded a grant of USD 5,000. The prizes came from One Creation, a Geneva-based cooperative firm focusing on impact investment. Jennifer attended Empretec, UNCTAD’s entrepreneurship training programme and launched Elea Pads aiming to provide young girls with affordable, environmentally friendly and locally produced sanitary pads. Her business is producing and selling reusable pads. Filipa’s business is working to tackle the same problem in Mozambique. To start Wamina, Filipa received support from Ideialab, YBI member in Mozambique. Filipa’s business is teaching girls and woman how to manage their menstrual hygiene and providing affordable menstrual hygiene products. She is also one of the two winners of YBI’s Young Entrepreneur Awards 2017 competition.


While the two women entrepreneurs will now have the chance to use the prize to further expand their business in their countries and region, the experience of the week in Geneva has been greatly beneficial for all 10 entrepreneurs, who meet and connected with likeminded people, sector practitioners and impact investors. The group of entrepreneurs continues to collaborate after the event and there is good reason to believe their interactions are proving fruitful for their businesses development. The 10 entrepreneurs who participated in the Startups for SDGs event are:

  • Aurélia Bernard, one of the founders of Epi’Coop, a Geneva cooperative selling local products that provides employment for migrants to Switzerland
  • Christian Toe, project promoter for the Laafi Bag, a solar-powered thermo-regulated backpack designed to safely carry medicines and vaccines to remote locations in Burkina Faso
  • Emily Chin, co-founder of 1b Global, a Singapore-based renewable energy utility provider offering underserved communities in Asia pay-as-you-go services
  • Filipa Carreira, founder of Wamina, a girl empowerment brand that promotes education and self-confidence among girls by providing them with fact-based information about sexual and reproductive health as well as reusable pads
  • Guillermo Jarrin, founder of TippyTea Blends, a fair-trade company working with indigenous women in Ecuador and using locally grown organic herbs and fruits to produce specialist loose-leaf tea blends
  • Jennifer Shigoli, founder of Elea Reusable Sanitary Pads, made in Tanzania from biodegradable cotton as an affordable alternative sanitary care product
  • Monique Ntumngia, founder and CEO of Monafrik Energy, which trains girls in rural Cameroon how to generate renewable energy from sun and waste
  • Noma Ngubane, founder of Nomashi Solutions, which provides affordable breast and cancer screening services in South Africa thanks to its mobile X-ray and mammogram trucks
  • Sadashiv Mhaskale, founder of Disha Sunlight, a company that provides solar energy solutions, such as solar LED street lights, for tribal areas and remote villages in India
  • Umberto Manazza, one of the founders of pioNIRS, an Italian-based portable medical devices start-up specializing in non-invasive brain oxygenation procedures to prevent death and disabilities in premature babies

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