• Wednesday, July 17, 2024
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BusinessDay

Ford Foundation redeems $100,000 pledge to 3 start-ups in Aba

Ford Foundation

Ford Foundation, a US-based international development organisation, has redeemed the $100,00) prize money for the maiden edition of the Made-in-Aba Hackathon Challenge.

The Aba Hackathon Challenge, an Information technology (IT) and idea development-based competition, was organised by TBWA Concept, a public relations outfit and sponsored by the Ford Foundation, in continuation of the ‘Proudly Made-in Aba campaign’, geared towards promoting goods made in Aba.

Aba Hackathon is also aimed at pushing young minds to hack and pitch ideas that can solve real problems.

Footwear Academy, a footwear training firm, won the challenge with a solution to upgrade the skills of Aba shoemakers to enable them to improve the quality of their products, using modern equipment and technology.

Bentley Chukwuemeka, co-founder, Footwear Academy, stated that their plan is to introduce Aba shoemakers to modern technology to enable them speed up production as well as reduce apprentice period from five years to six months.

For their effort, which was considered to be the best by panel of judges, made up of seasoned entrepreneurs and professionals, Footwear Academy won a sum of $50,000.

Clintonel Technology came 2nd and won a cash prize of $30,000 with a solution to digitalise and automate the metal fabrication process in Aba, through Computer Aided Design (CAD) and Computer Aided Manufacturing (CAM).

The technology, according to Tochukwu Chukwueke, co-founder, Clintonel Technology, would help shoe manufacturers and metal fabricators in Aba to reduce production cost, increase speed, multiply volumes, while improving finishing to generate more revenue.

The 3rd prize went to Ogwugo Technologies, an online marketing platform designed to handle trade activities between buyers and sellers in broad categories. They undertake delivery of foods, gas, clothes retailing and shoes, among others.

Chima Abafor, co-founder, Ogwogo.com, explained that the firm is offering a dynamic platform built from scratch to adapt to modern e-commerce technology, as well as e-commerce problems.

The Three-day event was organised to enable young minds to hack and pitch ideas that can solve real problems faced daily by entrepreneurs in Aba, the commercial hub of Abia State.

Daniel Chinagozi, founder/chief operating officer, Innovation Growth Hub (ighub), told BusinessDay, that the three firms have made a lot of progress since the programme, noting that Footware Academy team has completed a footware production training in Italy, where some staff went to enhance their skills.

He said that Clintonel has received modern machines to boost its operations, while Ogwugo.com has opened three new hubs.

“They’ve got the last tranche of their funding. Footware Academy got $50,000, Clintonel Technology got $30,000, while Ogwugo got $20,000. They have all received their funding as of today,” he said.

Paul Nwulu, programme manager, West African office of Ford Foundation, explained that the Hackathon Challenge was organised to find ways of using technology and innovative ideas to help influence the lives of shoemakers, fabricators and garment makers in Aba.

He explained that they received 400 entries, out of which 10 best ideas were selected for the final, from which the judges further picked the best three as winners.

Nwulu, a professor, stated that the Ford Foundation was committed to supporting the ideas to bring them to life.

In his words, “So for the best idea, we are going to invest up to $50,000 to bring it to reality. For the second best idea, we are going to invest up to $30,000, while the 3rd best idea will get a support of $20,000.”

“So we have invested $100,000 to make sure that the ideas selected today will come to reality.

“The people that have the ideas own the ideas. The Ford Foundation is not seeking ownership of their ideas. It is for the originators to keep their ideas. Whatever commercial setting it becomes, it is yours to keep.”

Kelechi Nwosu, managing director, TBWA Concepts, revealed that the ‘Proudly Made in Aba Campaign’ has increased patronage to Aba artisans.

According to him, “We have heard host of people viewing the campaign from all over the world, but very importantly, we have feedback from the finished leather and garment clusters that they’ve heard increased patronage.

“For us we think that ‘Proudly Made in Aba’ has been off to a good start, but it needs to still travel. It needs a longer term plan for us to get there and that is why this Hackathon Challenge is extremely important, like we say, “Ideas meet with business”.

 

GODFREY OFURUM