U.S. Embassy Pretoria Congratulates GIST Startup Bootcamp Winners

Media Advisory
Embassy of the United States of America
Monday, April 18, 2016
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE | For more information: USEmbassySAPress@state.gov

U.S. Embassy Pretoria congratulates the winners of the 2016 GIST Startup Bootcamp’s business pitch competition, Christian Mwijage and Elineca Ndowo and their social enterprise EcoAct Tanzania.  The U.S. Department of State-funded science and technology bootcamp took place from April 12-15 in Johannesburg in partnership with Venturewell and The Innovation Hub.  The bootcamp provided 75 young innovators from across Africa with skills and mentoring,  including training from international experts on how to improve business pitches and conduct research on potential markets and customer needs.

EcoAct won $2000 in seed money to invest in their products.  EcoAct uses recycled plastic waste to manufacture plastic lumber, in place of normal wooden lumber.  Team member Christian Mwijage said, “We have received invaluable training here.  I have learned to be more expressive, how to market myself, and I am going back to Tanzania with the skills to be more competitive in looking for funds to expand my operations.”  Second place award winners of $1000 in seed funding, Pad Heaven from Kenya, manufacture low cost sanitary pads from banana and bamboo stems.  Pauline Muthoni, from Pad Heaven said, “I also realized the value of not just selling the product, but the backstory as well.  I am giving [women and girls from disadvantaged backgrounds] dignity.  I’m giving them something better, and at a cheaper rate.”

Ten teams participated in Demo Day on April 15, where they pitched their products in front of a panel of expert judges.  Following the business pitches, George Mulamula, CEO of a Tanzanian startup incubator, and U.S. Ambassador to South Africa, Patrick Gaspard, addressed the participants.   Ambassador Gaspard said, “I know with resources and network of GIST, you will do things that will blow us away!  Every person is a winner as long as you stand up and face boldly the opportunities.  Opportunity often comes dressed in overalls and it looks like hard work.  You’re going to do that hard work.”

Global Innovation through Science and Technology (GIST) is one of the Department of State’s worldwide efforts to encourage innovation, entrepreneurship, and drive economic growth.  GIST also re-emphasizes President Obama’s goals that entrepreneurs build markets, create jobs and have the freedom to pursue their dreams.