It’s not every day you have the opportunity to change the world. The Hult Prize Foundation is a start-up accelerator for budding young social entrepreneurs from the world’s universities. Students compete in regional competitions to attend the Hult Accelerator and Global Finals. This year, a team of young women from the University of Ghana won the Dubai regional competition for their start-up, Anchor. The 2016 competition focuses on finding solutions for “Crowded Urban Slums”– a challenge selected by former US President Bill Clinton. Ayiba spoke to team member Louisa Ofosuah about the story behind Anchor and the road to the Hult Prize Global Finals.
How did you first hear about the Hult Prize at the University of Ghana?
The first time I heard about it was in 2014 when I came back to see a handbill deposited at my doorstep in my hostel. I picked it up, read it, and straight away went online to read about it the more. I got interested and I quickly formed a team to contest in that same year.
What’s the idea behind Anchor?
With our toilet facilities provision, we are reducing people’s expenditure on healthcare on diarrheal issues, so they get to save money. Secondly, the enterprise provides employment opportunities to the people. Thirdly, our final products tackle food security, climate change, and environmental issues. Our solution addresses the major challenges faced in the crowded urban spaces, i.e. healthcare, food, sanitation, and unemployment.
How did you come up with the concept?
After we visited and interviewed the urban slum dwellers. We are earnestly waiting for the accelerator program and we hope to be groomed and coached by our mentors during that period to help shape our idea for the better. We are also hoping to meet and network with the other teams and the whole Hult Prize team.
This year’s challenge is “Crowded Urban Spaces.” What are some of the urban issues Ghana is confronting now?
Ghana, among other countries, is facing crowded urban spaces. People living in the urban slums make less than $1 a day and they are challenged with poor access to education, healthcare, food, and water. People migrate from the rural areas to the urban areas thinking life will be better but often times they are disappointed. They are the most vulnerable in the society. In our quest to solve the challenge, we interacted with the urban slum dwellers and identified that sanitation and health were among the leading challenges, so our solution is to provide them with toilet facilities to help reduce open defecation and health issues. We will then process the human excreta into biogas, organic fertilizer, and fuel briquettes.
Why are you attracted to social enterprise?
I personally believe in touching lives and putting smiles on the faces of people. We are determined to impact the vulnerable in society. I believe it’s not going to be easy but we are going to collaborate with existing channels and organisations and together we will make it happen.
What do you think of Ghana’s entrepreneurial climate?
Ghana is fast growing when it comes to the entrepreneurship. Gradually the youth are being encouraged to start their own businesses and I believe it’s going to affect the nation positively in some years to come.
What tools or resources do you think would help further spur the growth of social enterprise among young Ghanaians?
First of all, young entrepreneurs need to be believed in! We shouldn’t despise young brilliant entrepreneurial ideas.
Secondly, funding opportunities can be provided to make young Ghanaians’ business ideas a reality.
Thirdly, there should be a mentorship platform where people can gain coaching and expert advice to make their enterprises better.
Lastly, networking opportunities should be provided to young entrepreneurs to interact with existing and successfully established business to help boost their confidence.
What did you learn from the Dubai regionals?
The Dubai regionals taught us how to firmly defend an idea to make it convincing and acceptable to the judges.
We are looking forward to an exciting and life changing experience in the global finals and above all, we are looking forward to bring the $1M as start-up capital for our disruptive idea.