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Musana Carts - An opportunity for Youth in East Africa to Start a Formal Business

Musana Carts provides entrepreneurs with the opportunity to start their own business affordably with solar powered street vending carts.

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EXPLAIN YOUR IDEA

Kampala is currently home to more than 100,000 street food vendors who work 12+ hour days and go home with less than $5 per day. These vendors work in unsafe and unclean conditions, using polluting stoves and working at night without electricity. Moreover, without a business license, they live in fear of being arrested and having their goods seized. The street vending industry has been a source of stress for Uganda, but we see here an opportunity to create jobs and to promote entrepreneurship. In order to empower street vendors, we've developed the Musana Cart, a solar powered street vending cart. The cart provides the vendors with access to electricity, a clean and safe working unit, and an improved cookstove which saves 3 tons of carbon emissions per year. Additionally, the vendors are provided with a business license which allows them to operate legally, without fear of arrest. The cart also comes with financial literacy, business and WASH training as well as insurance for a period of three years. Since street vendors, especially those starting out, are usually low-income earners, we've allowed the vendors to pay for their cart in daily installments of just $2-$3 over the course of 8 months until they own the cart outright. Using our cart, vendors in our pilot study were able to increase their income by more than 250%. Musana Carts is the first for-profit organization to work alongside enforcement agencies to regulate street vendors in Kampala.

WHO BENEFITS?

We believe that Musana Carts will provide a great start in business for starting entrepreneuers, & a path out of poverty for existing street vendors. We want Musana Carts to be a stepping stone for our vendors, who can go on to start their own businesses after raising the necessary capital through the Musana Cart. We're also launching a Musana Carts turnkey business operation for teams of local university students, who can share the cart's work and profits in order to pay for their school fees.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOU

Musana Carts is a dynamic team of locals and internationals working hand in hand to elevate street vendors in Uganda. We currently have a team of Ugandans, Japanese, American, and French working to make our dream a reality.

WHERE WILL YOUR IDEA BE IMPLEMENTED?

  • Uganda

EXPERIENCE IN IMPLEMENTATION COUNTRY(IES)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

EXPERTISE IN SECTOR

  • I’ve worked in a sector related to my idea for over a year

HOW HAS YOUR IDEA CHANGED BECAUSE OF BENEFICIARY FEEDBACK?

Through feedback from current and potential customers, we have determined that three overwhelming themes emerged of facets of the cart we should change in order to make the cart that our vendors really need. 1. Stove - Stove - In order to be suited to the type of food cooked in the street and to produce food at a fastest rate than households, the stove has to be bigger, (the size of a chapati fried pan) and it has to be in steel instead of clay, to allow the hit to spread homogeneously on the pan and to make the briquettes light faster. 2. Cart Size and Shape - We originally thought that our cart was too large. However when collecting feedback from potential customers, we learned that they would actually like more working and storage space. We were surprised to find that one of our vendors had even brought his own shelves, because our cart wasn't providing everything that he needed. 3. Water & Sanitation - Although our cart is clean, most of the customers buying food from the cart eat it on site. We want to incorporate a hand washing station into the side of the cart.

HOW IS YOUR IDEA UNIQUE?

Most Pay as You Go solar innovations in Africa are currently for home use, and do not provide users with the opportunity to generate a sustainable revenue. We are among the first organizations to use solar as an economic empowerment tool for informal workers in Africa. Our team has a depth of professional experiences in Uganda and other developing countries, which has allowed us to partner with the city of Kampala in order to regulate street vending activity by licensing the food vendors and engaging them with the Musana community. In regard to the development of the new technologies we're working to adopt, we're the first organization to develop a stove exclusively for street vendors, which is meant to meet their need to cook faster and with less smoke.

WHY DO YOU THINK THAT THE PROBLEM YOUR IDEA SOLVES FOR HAS NOT BEEN SOLVED?

We are working to provide legal, safe, and profitable microbusiness opportunities for street vendors in urban areas. We believe this issue has not yet been solved due to the deep partnerships required with local governing authorities, as well as the high level of startup capital required in order to manufacture the carts. Additionally, the development of new cooking technologies is expensive and requires a significant investment into research and development, which may not be available to most organizations.

WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR UNANSWERED QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS IDEA?

While we had the privilege of running a 3 month pilot study in Kampala to establish proof of concept, we haven't collected data on vendors' full repayment period to determine the average repayment time. We're also learning a lot now about the different capabilities of the solar panel to influence the efficiency of the eco-stove on the carts. We're also working to add additional streams of revenue to the carts through the provision of advertising spaces and improved sanitation through handwashing stations. We truly believe that we find more questions every time we move further, which is allowing us to create the best possible product for our customers.

IS THIS IDEA NEW FOR YOU OR YOUR ORGANIZATION?

This idea is consistent with our organization's mission to give informal entrepreneurs across Africa the opportunity to earn more through legitimate channels, which can improve their livelihoods and break the cycle of poverty. However, at this time we are taking our prototyping and improved design to a new level in order to bring the most ergonomic product possible to a larger scale. We've established a proof of concept - now we need to improve our product to be 150% satisfactory for our customers.

WHO WILL IMPLEMENT THIS IDEA?

We have a team of 8 full time and part time staff working to make Musana Carts a reality. We're also in the process of on boarding a team of short term volunteer research and design consultants who will help us improve our cart. We believe that we're strengthened by the feedback and advice we get from our many partnering organizations. We've worked closely with KCCA, Green Bio Energy, MTN, Prime Media, PEDN, Design Without Borders, Platform for Street Vendors, Fenix International, & others.

We currently have a full time staff of five employees with both local and international experience, as well as two full time volunteers. Here's a bit more about our leadership team:

Manon Lavaud - Head of Strategy

Prior to launching Musana Carts, Manon was a strategy analyst specialising in post war and crisis markets. She worked with companies in Africa and Middle East. She also worked for a microfinance NGO in New Delhi, India. She understood there, that the underprivileged have the solution, they just need the resources to leverage them, and this is exactly what she plans to do. Manon holds a Bachelor’s in Management and Finance from HEC Montréal and a Master’s of Social Entrepreneurship at Hult International Business School. 

Nataliey Bitature - Head of Operations

She has previously founded 2 successful service businesses in Kampala, Tateru Properties & Handymen Uganda. Nataliey has extensive field and boardroom experience across East Africa, overseeing Real Estate Management, Telecommunications and Renewable Energy projects. She has an undergraduate dual honours degree in Business Management and Education from Keele University, UK and a Master’s of Social Entrepreneurship at Hult International Business School in San Francisco. 

Keisuke Kubota - Head of Marketing

He has experience working in Tokyo, Japan as a systems engineer for an IT consulting firm and for the world renowned car manufacturer, Honda. Previously he worked as a manager of a study abroad program for Japanese youths, mentoring and guiding groups of students across Europe. He also has experience working as a customer service specialist for Apple Japan. Keisuke is originally from Osaka, Japan and holds and Bachelor’s in Sales and Marketing from Kwansei Gakuin University. He is currently pursuing his Master’s in Social Entrepreneurship from Hult International Business School. 

Musana Team wants to prove and leverage the creativity and the entrepreneurial spirit of the Youth in East Africa, whom with the right tools could empower themselves and shape the future of their city. The streets of the world would not be the same without the street vendors offering us the local delicacy with a human touch. Even though the future will be digital and the next products smart, the best food and human interactions are found in the streets, so let’s benefit age-old businesses with technology to ensure sustainability among local cultures. 

MY ORGANIZATION'S OPERATING BUDGET FOR 2015 WAS:

  • Under $100,000

MY INTENDED BENEFICIARIES ARE:

  • Within 50 km of where our team does most of its work
  • Within 100 km of where our team does most of its work
  • Within 500 km of where our team does most of its work

HOW LONG HAVE YOU AND YOUR COLLEAGUES BEEN WORKING ON THIS PILOT PROJECT TOGETHER?

  • Between 6 months and a year

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