Discovering the heart of our initiatives in East Africa

By Alka Chaudhary

Manager, Finance & Operations at Madiro

June 4, 2024

Uganda: Witnessing impact on the ground

My recent trip to East Africa in May offered an insightful look into the work of our investees, Signalytic and Healthy Entrepreneurs, in Uganda. This was my first time traveling to Africa, making the experience even more special. Having worked with our investees virtually for two years, it was incredibly meaningful to see their work in person and gain a deeper understanding of the context in which they operate. The genuine warmth and hospitality of the Ugandan people enriched this experience, making it even more unforgettable. Additionally, spending time in person with our team, whom we usually collaborate with remotely, was a valuable opportunity.

During our time in Uganda, we went on two field visits starting with Signalytic. We were taken to Masaka District a few hours outside of Kampala where we visited two remote health centers. Each of them was equipped with Signalytic’s box, solar panel and antenna which digitizes the facility and its inventory management process. This increases efficiency, reduces errors and decreases the likelihood of stock-outs, ultimately improving health outcomes. It was interesting to see first-hand just how remote these facilities were – a testament to Signalytic’s reach and potential to digitize the most remote areas!

The following day, we were taken to Mpigi with Healthy Entrepreneurs to attend a cluster meeting with two dozen Community Health Entrepreneurs (CHE). We learned more about their day-to-day working within their communities, their challenges, and their customers’ feedback. One of Healthy Entrepreneurs’ most successful CHEs, Mrs. Margaret, shared some of her insights and tips with the group. We were lucky enough to be invited to her home where she showed us some of her best selling products – fortified porridge for <5 children, soap and paracetamol – and proudly told us more about how she diversifies her income streams between community health work and farming among others. We gained valuable insights into the lives of CHEs like Ms. Margaret, as well as the impact that Healthy Entrepreneur’s work has in communities they are reaching.

Launching Madiro in Rwanda

After our short but packed visit to Uganda, we made our way to Kigali to officially launch our team’s presence in East Africa. We worked from Norrsken House where Sharon, our Fund Manager and most recent Madiro hire, is based. It is one of Africa’s biggest hub for entrepreneurship and you can feel it in the air when you walk through the huge co-working space!

While in Kigali, we hosted a business breakfast with attendees from the Ministry of Health, the private sector, development partners and funding organizations. We also visited the Rwanda Genocide Memorial, a powerful reminder of the country’s resilience.

Finally, our team spent the afternoon near Muhanga at Zipline’s facility, which showcased an innovative solution for healthcare logistics. Zipline’s fleet of drone sends medicines and blood supplies to health facilities throughout the country in a matter of minutes. We were impressed by the team’s efficiency from the warehouse to the drone operations and the flight control room. We spent some time watching the drones launch (via catapult!) and land back in “the nest” before getting prepped for their next delivery.

Working with Ubuntu Village of Life Clinic (UVL) in Burundi

My journey concluded in Mugamba commune, Bururi, Burundi, where I spent a week with a couple of team members collaborating with UVL on finance management. This hands-on support highlighted the unique challenges local organizations face and strengthened our commitment to aiding their efforts. I was amazed at how, despite limited resources and stimulation, the UVL staff—who grew up in Bururi—give their best with incredible patience and expertise in their roles. The tough daily life in the mountains didn’t stop everyone from smiling and being warm and welcoming. The landscape in Bururi was breathtaking, with beautiful rolling hills and lush tree plantations that added to the area's charm. During my time there, I worked with Gael, UVL’s bookkeeper to digitize their books. The dedication of UVL staff to their community’s well-being was truly inspiring.

Ubuntu team members and Isabella in Ubuntu's food security field

Reflecting on the Journey

This trip was a profound immersion into Madiro’s impactful work being done in East Africa. The experiences in Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi have deepened my understanding and reinforced my belief in the power of grassroots initiatives, innovation and entrepreneurship. Returning to Toronto, I am filled with a renewed sense of purpose and commitment to supporting these transformative efforts.

East Africa’s resilience and potential are remarkable, and I am grateful for the opportunity to witness and contribute to this important work. The warm and welcoming nature of the people I met made this journey truly unforgettable.

About the author

By Alka Chaudhary

Manager, Finance & Operations at Madiro

Alka Chaudhary is a bookkeeping professional with 8 years of progressive work experience across multiple geographies. Prior to her current role she has worked as an accountant handling accounts payable systems & processes for different clients at Infosys Technologies working with internal and external stakeholders. She is a multitasker and is always keen to learn new things. She holds an MBA degree in HR & Marketing and a bachelor’s degree in commerce.

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