Ubongo, a Tanzania-based nonprofit social enterprise and Africa’s leading producer of kids’ edutainment, is this year’s winner of the prestigious Rotman Innovation of the Year Award, worth $10,000 Canadian dollars (approximately 19 million Tanzanian shillings)
Ubongo’s flagship Akili and Me programming is currently translated in nine languages. Since receiving Grand Challenges Canada support in 2018, more than 1.37 million children (pre-primary and primary school) across Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria, Uganda and Ghana have benefitted from watching Akili and Me.
The multimedia platform—the first in Africa to integrate resource caregivers and other stakeholders—is easily accessible through television, radio and mobile phones.
According to a study, exposure to Ubongo’s Akili and Me program for 30 minutes per day for a month led to significantly improved child development scores, compared to those in the control group, including counting (24%); English skills (12.5%); number recognition (11.7%); shape knowledge (9.7%); and drawing skills (8.2%).
The project aims to positively impact the development, learning and life trajectory of over 100 million kids in Africa by 2030.
Ubongo was recognized for its transformative innovation of offering evidence-based programming that improves developmental outcomes for children, while using broadcast technology to reach a wide breadth of children across Sub-Saharan Africa.
The accolade is presented annually by Grand Challenges Canada, a Canadian not-for-profit organization that invests in local innovations that address critical global health, humanitarian and Indigenous community challenges in Canada and low-resource countries.
The Rotman Innovation of the Year Award was created in honour of the late Joseph Rotman, Founding Chair of Grand Challenges Canada, and his family, in recognition of their unfailing support for global health innovation. The Award honours innovation that has had the largest sustainable increase in lives saved or lives improved over the past year.
Ubongo Co-Founder and Chief Executive Nisha Ligon, who leads a strong, women-led team, thanked the Rotman family and Grand Challenges Canada for the honour, adding that the prize money will help with their goal of adapting content to more languages and contexts; the organization is determined to broadcast programming across Africa.
“We are so honoured to receive this award. GCC’s support over the past three years has enabled us to expand our reach into many new markets and languages to reach millions of more kids. They have challenged us to think critically and strategically about our growth and have been essential in enabling Ubongo’s success.”