Sanga Moses of Eco-fuel Africa, a 2014 GSBI® Accelerator graduate, learned last week that he had beaten out more than 1,800 applicants to win $1 million from Verizon’s Powerful Answers Award.
The Verizon’s Powerful Answers Award is a year-long global challenge to discover and help bring to market technology-based solutions with the potential to change our world. The contest drew 1,870 submissions, with 40 finalists invited to pitch to officials in Palo Alto last year. Last week, Verizon announced four $1 million winners in the categories of education, healthcare, transportation and sustainability — for which Eco-fuel Africa won.
Eco-fuel Africa, based in Kampala, Uganda, teaches farmers to turn agricultural waste like sugar cane stalks or coffee or rice husks into “bio-char” for the production of green charcoal and fertilizer for their land. Eco-fuel Africa distributes the green charcoal through a network of marginalized women, who re-sell them to end users for 30 percent less than traditional charcoal. The process improves the livelihoods of the farmers, women and customers, and also reduces deforestation in Uganda where nearly 75% of forests are already lost.
“Sanga Moses came to GSBI with a heartwarming story of lives being changed,” said his mentor during the 10-month program, Steven White. “His time in the program was spent elaborating the impact with clear metrics, refining the business model, and sharpening his pitch to impact investors. The result is a powerful human story combined with a tightly integrated, sustainable impact and business model.”
“We’re so humbled here and very grateful to Verizon for their support,” said Moses, after learning of his award. He noted with thanks the assistance that the GSBI staff provided during the Accelerator, especially the investor pitch which he used in expanded form for Verizon’s competition.
“Thank you to the GSBI team. I will always be grateful to GSBI for all their support,” he said. “And yes, this will greatly improve our project,” he added.
“GSBI believes innovation and entrepreneurship can provide a path out of poverty. We help social enterprises, like Eco-fuel Africa, scale their ventures to positively impact many more people,” says Pamela Roussos, senior director of the GSBI.
“We were honored to work with Sanga as he strengthened his business model and effectively communicated his plan in a compelling way to impact investors such as Verizon. We will continue to support Sanga as Eco-fuel Africa grows in Uganda and throughout Sub-Saharan Africa” In its announcement, Verizon noted that “Eco-fuel Africa is committed to fueling an environmentally and financially sustainable Africa,”
The company noted that its green charcoal “reduces the rate of deforestation, creates sustainable local jobs, saves money and reduces indoor air pollution.”
“According to Eco-fuel Africa, 2 billion people across the globe depend on dirty and expensive wood-based fuels. As a result, 2 billion tons of biomass are burned each year, leading to unsustainable levels of deforestation and CO2 emissions,” Verizon noted.