On November 16th 2017, Grace Nakibaala, CEO EpiTent Limited was privileged to attend the USAID learning conference at Radisson Hotel, Freetown, Sierra Leone.  This one day learning event brought together countrywide mission staff, implementing partners, high level representatives from the government of Sierra Leone and from the U.S. Embassy, media, private sector, Ebola survivors, and beneficiaries to share research and results from the Ebola response efforts. In attendance were about 100 people.

Part of the event was a small market place that was a 30mins event with a handful of the USAID fighting Ebola Grand Challenge innovators (5) and a few other stakeholders in building back a better Sierra Leone. The USAID fighting Ebola Grand Challenge innovators were; Next Generation Tent by Makerere University, Asafer and faster Doffing PPE by John Hopkins and Jhpiego, Powdered Bleach Additive by Columbia University Kinnoc Inc, mHero by Intrahealth international, DripAssist by Shiftlabs. The market place took place from 12:30pm to 1:00pm and it was opened by the event’s guest of honor.  Avery Waite took the event’s guest of honor and media around the market place. She introduced all the innovators after which we all had 1 min to talk about the products we were representing. It was a one-minute elevator pitch yet communicative enough.

Following the guest of honor, participants of the conference came around during lunch break to also understand what the innovations in the marketplace where about. ‘The tent is that cool… We need that tent. So where are your offices? Why aren’t you yet established here in Sierra Leone…? We are having displaced people due to the floods. USAID is helping them so why didn’t USAID bring you to provide the EpiTent for the housing instead of the tents being used now…?’ Those were some of the common questions I got from the crowd, noted Grace Nakibaala.

The conference focused mainly on Emergency Food Security Programs that are restoring households purchasing power, promoting market recovery and stimulating trade and food.

EpiTent had a stall that included 3 A1 post cards with information of who EpiTent is and its origin, the product value proposition, where we are now and what we are looking out for (call for sells and partnerships). We also had a video describing the problem statement, our solution and how it works. It also included testimonies from the users in Adjumani district. ‘I also carried the 3D model for visibility of the tent make up bringing it to life’, said Nakibaala.

Participants then split into parallel sessions which included food security, health, women and children among others that I participated.  The discussion was focusing on Sierra Leone’s plan to handle another Ebola outbreak in case of its re-emergence.

Grace was also chanced to interact with other USAID fighting Ebola Grand Challenge innovators including; Beth from shiftlabs, Kevin from Kinnos, Emily from intrahealth and Nancy from jhpiego. They shared about the position of their products and how to go to market.

It was an honor for EpiTent to be part of this one-day learning conference by USAID, we hope to further leverage from the engagements during this conference added Nakibaala.

By Grace Nakibaala

CEO InnovAsepsis Ltd a company whose flagship product is PedalTap innovation