‘It felt like we had won a million dollars. We used the money to set up a small network of female vendors who distribute cooking stoves. We have since supplied 36,200 of them, for the benefit of 180,000 people.’Charlot Magayi, founder of Mukuru Clean Cook Stoves (left photo). The enterprise received a startup grant from D-Prize.
‘Often the solution is right there, but it doesn’t materialise or it comes too late to the place where people need it most,’ says Nicholas Fusso. He is the CEO of D-Prize, the organisation that sets up distribution companies in the developing world in order to deliver proven successful and cost-effective poverty interventions to remote areas. ‘Our method involves two steps. First, we identify opportunities. In other words, we look for, say, market-ready medicines that for one reason or another, are not reaching some regions. Then, we select teams who, with a start-up capital of between ten and twenty thousand euros, establish a business to close that distribution gap.’
‘Step two in particular is both complicated and uncertain,’ says Fusso. ‘How do we find the best local entrepreneurs?’ Twice a year, D-Prize launches a competition through its global network, allowing potential entrepreneurs to sign up. In 2020, there were no less than three thousand. ‘Only one percent make it to the next round, so the selection process is very rigorous. That is not without reason, given that we are looking for a unique team, a kind of new One Acre Fund [an NGO with a very successful concept, ed.].’ From the thirty or so teams that make it through to the final selection, in the end about 10 to 15 percent are successful. Which means they manage to reach more than 100,000 people in five years with a specific intervention.’
In the East African countries where Dioraphte is active, D-Prize provided start-up capital for a dozen new businesses in 2020. The fact that only one of them will survive, according to statistics, is not at all a disappointment to Fusso. Ugandan healthcare start-up Koi-Koi, which operates in the Moroto district, stands a good chance of success. ‘Many women die of postpartum haemorrhage, a complication of childbirth, even though a very effective preventive medicine has been around for decades: Misoprostol. And it only costs three dollars. Koi-Koi not only ensures the distribution of the medicine to remote areas, but also trains five thousand traditional midwives in its use.’