A Ugandan State Alumni team has been announced by the US government among the 50 teams that will receive US$25, 000 – about UGX 62 million for coming up with one of the most innovative entrepreneurship and business training projects out of the 685 proposals submitted from around the world.
The winning project targeting grassroot women and youth in the districts of Gulu, Kibuku, Isingiro and Hoima was titled “BUILDING THE ENTREPRENEURIAL CAPACITY OF GRASSROOTS WOMEN AND YOUTH” and it was championed by Dr. Jessica Kaahwa, a senior lecturer at Makerere University Department of Mass Communication and Drama.
On 27 Feb this year, the US State Alumni announced the launch of the second annual Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund - AEIF during which US$1,000,000 was offered to help teams of U.S. alumni around the world tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues. This year, the award for each winning team is $25,000.
A total of 685 alumni teams from around the world, including about 5 from Uganda submitted proposals to compete for the funding.
During the selection process, 154 teams made it to the final category from which the winning 50 were selected.
African teams won 10 of the 50 slots with Uganda being the only country from the Great Lakes Region that had a winning project. The other winning teams from Africa came from Cameroon, Ghana, Nigeria, Benin, Ethiopia, Madagascar Namibia and Senegal.
Ghana had two winning teams in the competition that saw Africa submit proposals under two themes; Entrepreneurship and Business Training and Women and Youth in the Democratic Process
While announcing the winners yesterday 12 June, the State Alumni Team at the US State Department stated:
“We have selected 50 winning teams. Selection of the 50 teams to receive funding from 685 submissions and 154 finalists was based on a review of the proposals from specialists, feedback from U.S. Missions, voting from State Alumni members, and a final evaluation by a U.S. Department of State review panel”.
According to the State Alumni team in Washington, DC, a wide range of factors was considered, including: the feasibility of the project within the time frame specified, appropriate budget items, and how well a project met the proposed theme.
“We were very impressed by the enthusiasm and thoughtfulness of all the projects submitted. We regret that we were not able to fund all the good ideas proposed and we deeply appreciate the time, energy and dedication given to each of your projects” read a rather consoling statement from the State Alumni.
On receiving the news, Dr. Kaahwa who took part in the Fulbright Junior Staff Development Program - Aug 1997 - May 2001 and the Ugandan winning team leader reacted with excitement, but this did not distract her from making a very strong statement highlighting the linkage between the success of the project and sustainable democracy.
“I am happy that the project proposed by Uganda-US Exchange Alumni Association: Building the Entrepreneurial Capacity of Grassroots Women and Youth has been selected as one of the winning projects. This is gives the Alumni an opportunity to contribute to the development of sustainable democracy in Uganda. There is no better way of nurturing democracy than to empower one with Practical skills to improve their station in life; in this way you are building a strong foundation of democracy” she said.
The AIEF challenge which was launched in February 2011, offers the more than one million alumni of United States government-funded exchange programs the opportunity to partner with other alumni and U.S. Embassies on innovative projects. Topics include global issues of democracy and human rights, economic opportunity, women’s empowerment, environmental protection, food security, global health, and outreach to underserved communities.
In 2011, a total of 38 teams from 32 countries won the cash award. With this year’s winners going up to 50, it does not only indicate the availability of more funds for the initiative. It probably shows that the State Department is impressed by the performance of the projects.
The next announcement is expected next year and the competition could be stiffer as the initiative gains momentum.