The event commenced with individual prayers, respecting the diverse audience’s backgrounds. With a sense of anticipation and excitement, the hosts Mr Alimamy, graciously welcomed an esteemed lineup of attendees to the event. Among the honoured guests were the Ministers, Deputy Ministers, who represented the government’s engagement, and the European Union Ambassador to Sierra Leone, symbolising international collaboration. Notably, recognition was extended to the dedicated partners, particularly Innovation SL, who played a pivotal role in making the event a reality. The gathering also included the esteemed panel of judges, the innovative pitchers showcasing their groundbreaking ideas, the Orange Director, and members of the Orange mobile company staff.
Setting the stage for a dynamic competition, the hosts announced the much-anticipated prizes for the winners. Emphasising the event’s commitment to acknowledging and encouraging excellence, it was revealed that this year’s Orange Social Venture Prize national competition winner for the Grand Prize would be honoured with a substantial NLe 100,000 award. Reflecting the event’s dedication to fostering gender equality and empowering women, the announcement continued with the declaration that the women’s category (Tech Queen) winner would proudly receive a noteworthy NLe 50,000 prize. This announcement not only heightened the stakes but also underscored the event’s broader mission of recognizing and celebrating innovation, entrepreneurship, and inclusivity.
REMARKS AND MESSAGES:
Mr Kamal Omar Sheriff Abass, the Head of Public Relations and Corporate Social Responsibility, inaugurated the event. In his address, he welcomed dignitaries and the audience, emphasising Orange’s commitment to technology-driven projects, startups, and gender equality. He highlighted Orange’s role as a platform for Sierra Leonean startups and its dedication to empowering young female entrepreneurs. The address concluded with a glimpse of previous OSVP winners through a testimonial clip, inspiring the audience with the event’s impact on innovation and entrepreneurship. Mr Abass’ speech set the stage for an event focused on innovation, inclusivity, and the transformative power of technology.
Mr Francis Stevens-George, CEO/MD of Innovation SL, provided a comprehensive overview of the Orange Social Venture Prize (OSVP) journey. He highlighted how OSVP, which began as a startup venture in 2018, has grown exponentially and found a firm footing in the product market. As the reigning champion, he emphasised the firsthand understanding of the exhilaration that comes with victory. Mr Stevens-George proudly announced Sierra Leone’s remarkable achievement in 2022, securing the esteemed entrepreneur prize and gaining global recognition. He advocated for a shift in focus from monetary rewards to the broader perspective of nurturing business growth. This pivot has led Orange Telecommunications Company to take on the role of vigilant observers, actively monitoring and supporting the progress of winners. Expressing deep gratitude, Mr Stevens-George commended the relentless efforts of the entire Innovation team, with special recognition for Madam Hassanatu Jalloh. Her unwavering dedication in preparing pitchers, even working through the entirety of a week including Saturday, was noted. The CEO/MD also acknowledged Innovation SL’s pivotal role in cultivating a fertile ground for startups and novel projects to flourish. With optimism resonating, the MD voiced his conviction that Sierra Leone is poised for another triumphant victory, echoing his anticipation of claiming the grand prize once again. His words encapsulated not only the growth of OSVP but also the spirit of innovation, dedication, and the promising future that lies ahead for entrepreneurs in Sierra Leone.
Sekou Amadou Bah, CEO of Orange Sierra Leone, highlighted Orange’s instrumental role in fostering young entrepreneurs across Africa, with a distinct focus on Sierra Leone. The company’s commitment aimed at establishing a robust platform for emerging businesses, offering crucial elements such as funding and mentorship. A pivotal milestone was reached in February 2019 with the inauguration of the Orange Digital Centre in Sierra Leone, reflecting their dedication to democratizing digital access. Notably, this centre provided young women with the invaluable opportunity to access education and resources in the digital realm. Over the span of a year, an impressive 1600 individuals were trained, and it was revealed that more than half of them were women. Even more remarkable, 58% of these trained individuals successfully secured employment. Orange’s unwavering support for women’s empowerment was further manifested in the creation of the Women’s Centre in partnership with Nicom in 2021. This initiative aimed at empowering women with fundamental skills in commerce, digital technology, and financial management. Mr. Bah proudly noted that over 126 women have already graduated from this program. Mr. Bah also celebrated the accomplishments of previous years, highlighting the triumph of Osman as the 2022 national contest winner out of 17 countries. Additionally, Joseph Koroma’s groundbreaking achievement as the OSVP international grand prize winner for Sierra Leone underscored the nation’s potential on a global stage. Reaffirming their commitment, Mr. Bah reiterated Orange’s pledge to provide young individuals with ample opportunities to embrace the digital landscape. This stance encapsulates their dedication to nurturing innovation, entrepreneurship, and technological literacy among the youth, ultimately driving progress and transformation
Dr. Haja Ramatulai Wurry, the Minister of Technical and Higher Institutions, provided a comprehensive perspective on the Orange Social Venture Prize (OSVP) initiative. She highlighted its purpose to recognize and reward technological projects creating positive impacts in education, health, agriculture, e-commerce, and inclusively for individuals with disabilities, aligning with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Dr. Wurry emphasised the potential of e-learning to empower learners of all ages and the transformative role of technology in healthcare, agriculture, and entrepreneurship. She stressed the empowerment of women as a common thread across various developmental pillars, framing OSVP as a catalyst for gender equality and broader societal progress.
OSVP PITCHING COMPETITION
After Dr. Haja Ramatulai Wurie’s statement, the pitch session commenced immediately, with participants reminded of the pitch rules: each pitcher had five minutes to present their innovative project, followed by a two-minute window for addressing potential questions or contributions from the judges. The pitch session featured a diverse group of 8 entrepreneurs, each showcasing their innovative projects. Among them, the top 5 grand finalists of OSVP 2023 were contending for a significant prize of NLE 100,000, while the top 3 tech queen finalists were competing for a substantial sum of NLE 50,000.
The top 5 grand finalists presented their visionary ideas. Sia Chakanda pitched the KeneCare Virtual Hospital concept, Isha Abdulai introduced Crescent Salone, Andrew Dosumu showcased the innovative liquid air box, Mariama Mbayoh shared the Kam Rent Ya initiative, and James Samba unveiled the Electric Quadricycle proposal.
In the tech queen category, the top 3 finalists presented their groundbreaking ideas. IyeMary Brimah Sallu pitched Pin-up Healthcare, Hawanatu Sesay highlighted the IOT plant monitoring device, and Jenneh Bockarie Barnett introduced Sierrasister.
A distinguished panel of judges presided over the event, bringing diverse expertise to the evaluation process. This panel included Alfred Akibo-Betts, CEO of Betts Firm; Dr. Kadijatu G.A Kamara, Hon. Deputy Minister of Tourism and Cultural Affairs; Madam Estelle Van Eeckhout, Brussels Airlines General Manager; Mr. Edward Sesay, Orange Director of Wholesales and Roaming; and Madam Angella Leigh, a Software Engineer & Business Support Expert. Their collective insights ensured a comprehensive and well-informed assessment of the entrepreneurial ventures presented during the pitch session.
The First pitcher for the OSVP 2023 night was Sia Chakanda who serves as the executive director of the IMO Tech Solutions LTD. Her innovative project involves a tele-app platform designed to provide specialised medical care accessible to all Sierra Leoneans. Using secured video conferencing, patients can receive personalised medical attention, treatment plans, and digital prescriptions. Additionally, the platform offers secure storage for medical reports that can be exclusively shared with patients. One judge praised Sia for her idea, noting that it aligns with the event’s goal of providing convenient access to doctors for Sierra Leoneans. Another judge highlighted the potential of IMO Tech Solutions to benefit people in remote areas with digital medical care once the initiative is adopted by its intended audience. A female judge inquired about Sia’s backup plan if she didn’t win the competition. Sia shared her second plan, stating that she and her team would continue working on the project regardless of the competition outcome.
The second presenter, Andrew Dosumu, captivated the audience with his innovative idea called the “Liquid Airbox.” This groundbreaking technology aims to combat the rising issue of air pollution and its detrimental effects on the environment and human health. Andrew’s inspiration stems from the alarming increase in air pollution within the country. He highlighted the alarming statistic provided by the World Health Organization (WHO): 9 out of 10 people worldwide are exposed to polluted air. Shockingly, this dire situation contributes to 7 million deaths globally, surpassing even the combined fatalities caused by HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis. Andrew’s solution, the “Liquid Airbox”, endeavors to tackle this crisis by significantly reducing CO2 emissions and improving air quality. Through his pitch, Andrew underscored the urgent need for innovative solutions to address air pollution and its severe impact on public health and the environment. His project serves as a beacon of hope in the fight against this pressing global challenge. On completion of his pitch, one of the judges noted that the liquid air box is an invention that would mitigate the excess of carbon dioxide emission. However, he noted that some people prefer planting trees to investing in the liquid air box.
Isha Abdulai, the third participant among the top 5 grand finalists, introduced her project called “Crescent Salone.” What drove Isha to launch “Crescent Salone” was her personal experience as a sickle-cell warrior. This prompted her to establish a community-driven initiative that focuses on educating individuals with sickle cell disease. “Crescent Salone’s” mission is multifaceted. It aims to educate sickle cell warriors about effective pain and crisis management strategies, offers practical tips for living with the condition, and extends care packages to both sickle cell warriors and marginalized children. Isha shed light on the alarming prevalence of sickle cell anaemia in Sierra Leone. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), when the prevalence of this condition reaches 40% or higher, it is categorized as a severe public health issue. Sierra Leone falls within this category, highlighting the urgent need to address the challenges posed by sickle cell anaemia. Through “Crescent Salone”, Isha is working to make a positive impact on the lives of sickle cell warriors and marginalised children in Sierra Leone, raising awareness, and providing essential support for those affected by this condition.
One of the judges expressed appreciation for Isha’s concept, which focuses on educating individuals with sickle cell disease. The judge further emphasized the value of considering the establishment of a diagnosis centre to cater to a wider population. Another judge raised a question about the geographical scope of the initiative, asking if it was confined to Freetown. Isha responded by sharing her team’s ambition to expand the initiative’s reach beyond Freetown, indicating a desire to impact a broader region.
Mariama Mbayoh, the fourth finalist among the top grand finalists, addressed the considerable housing challenges faced by Sierra Leoneans, particularly in finding suitable homes in Freetown. She introduced her innovative project “Kam Rent Ya” as a solution to empower housing solutions in Sierra Leone and initiate much-needed change for individuals and families struggling to secure housing. Recognizing the pressing issue of housing scarcity, high costs, and unreliable information by the agents, Mariama launched “Kam Rent Ya” to leverage technology and entrepreneurship in streamlining the housing search process. The platform serves as a bridge between potential renters and reliable housing options by collecting comprehensive data on available properties and their surroundings. One of the core features of “Kam Rent Ya” is its advanced location scouting and data collection methods, allowing personalized housing options for each user.
Moreover, Mariama emphasised that “Kam Rent Ya” facilitates transparent communication between house owners and renters, enabling effective negotiations and fostering informed decisions. The project is poised to empower individuals by offering them the tools to make well-informed choices in locating their ideal homes. Through innovative technology and an entrepreneurial approach, “Kam Rent Ya” strives to alleviate the challenges associated with housing in Sierra Leone and provide a meaningful solution for both renters and property owners.
The Fifth and final pitcher of the top 5 Grand Prize finalists happen to be the winner of the 5th edition of the OSVP competition in Sierra Leone with a sum of NLE 100,000, James Samba, the co-founder and CEO of Sierra Electric. “Sierra Electric” is his project idea to tackle the high rate of people in Sierra Leone losing their lives because of the pollution caused by the cars they drive. He mentioned that the problem does not only end there, it is also interesting to do that to every petrol or diesel vehicle. According to James, they are contributing towards the worsening climate affecting our environment by causing more people to suffer from illnesses such as cancer and other respiratory diseases and this also affects the country’s economy. But he said the most exciting part is that they have a solution introducing BYKA. BYKA is a 100% electric quadricycle that does not rely on fossil fuel, and it does not use either petrol or diesel for its operation.
BYKA innovation is very safe for parents who can not afford a vehicle to take their child to school because of all its conventional features of safety. In a situation where there is no light, it ought to believe that the vehicle can power itself so that it can compete with others in the future.
In the “Tech Queen” category, the top 3 finalists began with IyeMary Brimah-Sallu, the founder of the “Pin-Up Healthcare Mobile Application.” IyeMary introduced an innovative concept that aims to connect patients with professional doctors or specialised consultants, ensuring they receive the appropriate care. She highlighted a concerning statistic: out of every 10 hospitals, around 600 patients struggle to identify the right specialised doctors for their specific illnesses.
To address this challenge, “Pin-Up Healthcare Mobile Application” is designed to provide a comprehensive list of specialised doctors who can offer accurate diagnoses for specific diseases. This effort is supported by the Sierra Leone Medical and Dental Association (SLEMDA). Beyond being a mobile application, the project extends its reach to patients without smartphones, offering local short texting and requesting codes as well as a toll-free call system. This multi-faceted approach ensures that individuals of varying technological capabilities can access and benefit from the medical care service.
IyeMary Brimah-Sallu’s “Pin-Up Healthcare Mobile Application” showcases her commitment to bridging the gap between patients and specialised medical expertise, ultimately improving healthcare accessibility and quality for the people of Sierra Leone.
The judges recommended the pitcher for taking such an initiative to build an app and linking patients to specialized doctors. However, she was advised that there should be proper care regarding the profit margin as it should be realistic because there is no company in the world that can make 99% of the profit in such a short time.
Jenneh Bockarie-Bernett, the second pitcher among the top 3 finalists in the “Tech Queen” category, introduced her project named “Sierra Sisters.” Her innovative concept centres around creating opportunities for single mothers, especially teenage mothers, and widows, through an online platform. “Sierra Sisters” is an organisation that leverages an online application to generate employment for unemployed women who possess domestic skills but lack corporate expertise. The project aims to empower these women by offering well-structured services and providing a platform for them to enhance their skills in a professional manner. Notably, the organisation ensures that the terms and conditions are well-defined, offering legal protection to the women against any form of mistreatment from clients.
Jenneh’s initiative not only provides a means of income for marginalised women but also fosters skill development and empowerment. The platform allows clients to evaluate women’s performance and offer recommendations, thus promoting transparency and accountability. “Sierra Sisters” aligns with the broader objectives of the OSVP competition, showcasing the potential of technology to address societal challenges and create meaningful opportunities for underrepresented groups.
After her pitch, one of the judges advised that it would be nice for her to pay NASSIT and the PAYE for these women to help secure their future and that of their children when they might have retired. She was also encouraged to collaborate with BIKA.