Your Details

Your job title:

Chief Business Officer

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Your organization name:

Ubongo

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

https://www.ubongo.org

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

When was your organization founded?

July 2013

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

In what city, town, or region are you located?

Johannesburg, South Africa
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

In what city, town, or region is your organization headquartered?

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

In which countries does your organization currently operate?

  • Benin
  • Cameroon
  • Congo, Democratic Republic
  • Gambia, The
  • Ghana
  • Kenya
  • Namibia
  • Nigeria
  • Rwanda
  • Senegal
  • South Africa
  • Sudan
  • Swaziland
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda
  • Zimbabwe
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.
About You

Why are you applying for The Elevate Prize?

From a young age, I had a strong sense of equality and fairness. In fifth grade, my best friend Maria and her twin brother Emily lost their parents to HIV/AIDS. Instead of helping, Maria’s uncle took away their inheritance,  parents’ businesses, and home. Soon, they were left with nothing to live on, no caring guardian, and stopped attending school. So, I told my grandparents, who then mobilized the community to step in and care for the kids.

I decided then and there that I always wanted to fight for kids like Maria. Hence, building Ubongo where we fight against injustices everyday by transforming kids’ education across Africa. The Elevate Prize would enable Ubongo to mobilize global support and help us reach our goal of providing quality education for all African children. We are Africa’s biggest classroom, reaching over 24 million families by providing meaningful learning through accessible technologies. We hope to reach even more underserved kids like Maria and Emily, who possess endless potential but also have almost insurmountable barriers to overcome. I truly believe that if we invest in supporting kids to realize their potential, they will go on to change their lives, their communities, and the world.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Tell us about YOU:

After growing up in a small village in Tanzania, my life changed when I had the opportunity to attend university in the US. While there, I saw the huge gap in quality between education provided in the US and that in Tanzania - and I knew it was an injustice. Determined to ensure my siblings also received quality education, I secured them scholarships and schools in the US. I became fully responsible for five kids while also attending college.

I couldn’t stop there - after university, my goal became more audacious. I wanted all kids in Africa to receive quality education that is fun, engaging, and representative of their lives and experiences. So in 2014, I moved back home to Tanzania to join Ubongo, a Pan-African social enterprise that helps kids learn and love learning through edutainment accessed through TV, radio, and mobile phones, adapted in local languages. Kids improve literacy, numeracy, STEM knowledge, and develop life skills and character strengths like a growth mindset. 

My purpose is to help Africa's next generation realize their potential, over the past 7 years I’ve worked to adapt and expand Ubongo's work across Africa to now reach 24.6 million kids in 20 countries

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Video Introduction

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Pitch your organization.

_lyAVjgqRKp9seGjJLVqMuslCUbn4K8n2citCUIPCFzNsAez5ars2NXZabd_ynHRIsFyIcbSODw7NZknW0ae6-yqh_tKyjCj8iLl48qMvv6tJgdQ_dG_dr7CrnMe5-wrpHy2Vuns

With 2 billion more babies to be born on the continent by 2050, this generation and the next generation of African kids are poised to be the largest population of change-makers with the potential to solve the world’s most pressing challenges, but are at risk of missing the chance because of a lack of relevant and quality learning content. 

We are addressing this issue by creating learning content for and by African kids. Ubongo leverages the power of entertainment, the reach of mass media, and the insights of kid-centered design, to bring effective, localized learning to African families at low cost 

Our shows reach 20 countries in 9 languages through TV, and six countries in four languages through radio. We are the first and ONLY children’s cartoons in African languages. In Tanzania, 3/4 of kids in urban areas and 1/2 of kids in rural areas can name and recognise our characters. And 94% of parents whose kids watch our shows in Northern-Nigeria say our programs ‘very much improved’ their kids’ quality of life. 

Through Afrocentric edutainment, Ubongo will one day empower all African kids with the skills, mindsets, and collective agency to elevate society for the better.

EEE45VK7cSltVozilzPgW9VMpJu2R5XiL2A3R0PA4EpPwoFTW8IZHIVR3QSHTnPEKlBsnXvQShBd_0w6c_GvHVSXpUBq7dijA4dZ9UEL7ewamyZ-difprZPsTfV2Sb6jP07o2ZPG

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Describe what makes your work innovative.

Education systems across Africa are immensely bureaucratic and heavily influenced by foreign policy. As a result, change is slow and incremental and can't keep up with the ever-changing needs of this generation. Consequently, what makes Ubongo unique is that we're bypassing the inertia of the formal education system and going straight to the kids. By leveraging the reach of mass media technologies and effective behavioral-change communication, we take a bottom-up approach to systems change by working to transform the mindsets of a critical mass of youth who will then be empowered to create better societies. 

My life story is evidence of the compounding effects that a meaningful education can have; the learning experiences I had, enabled me to help my siblings, and they have also empowered others. Now imagine if we can in still this mindset in millions of kids across Africa - we will transform the world!

Furthermore, our Ubongo model allows us to rapidly research, develop, and test pedagogy and content and distribute to kids quickly, even during unforeseeable disruptions. This ability was critical at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic, where we became one of the only remote-learning resources for millions of out-of-school kids across Africa.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

How and why is your organization having an impact on humanity?

89EyBiMOP_MgJw2PNIYnRmPsRqWEV3uUN_L24lsSKfR6ISKNj06cr-nj6THsEdu7sAvtqV1jbkD9ypGmnbknIAoSNnOXPmDOOrNAcKTx3w6brGSNqsOcxXkz4se4ofQcbdCUXIBR

By 2030, we plan to have 120 million kids across Africa learning with us, therein improving their cognitive, social-emotional, and life skills. Our goal is to equip a generation of African kids with stronger educational foundations and positive mindsets, so they become agents of change in their communities.

Our model focuses on engaging kids and parents with fun learning in the home and community through:

  • Human-centered design and content co-creation (to ensure that content is relevant)

  • Adaptation of content to numerous African languages

  • Dynamic partnerships with platforms and community-based organizations to reach underserved communities.

  • A creative commons license, meaning our content free and accessible to anyone

We have a reach of 24.6 million households, high receptivity with over 50% of Tanzanian children recognizing Ubongo characters, and peak engagement (high repeat viewing and 43% parents co-viewing with children). 

 Our approach is informed by global evidence on the effectiveness of media and social interventions on improving learning outcomes, well-being, and livelihoods of marginalized communities (Borzekowski et Henry 2010). Moreover, independent studies show the positive impact of our edutainment on learning outcomes, life skills, and mindsets for African kids (Borzekowski et al 2018, Coffey International 2019, Cherewick et al. 2021 pending publication)

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Select the key characteristics of the community your organization is impacting.

  • Women & Girls
  • Children & Adolescents
  • Rural
  • Peri-Urban
  • Urban
  • Poor
  • Low-Income
  • Middle-Income
  • Refugees & Internally Displaced Persons
  • Persons with Disabilities
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Which of the UN Sustainable Development Goals does your organization address?

  • 4. Quality Education
  • 5. Gender Equality
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Which of the following categories best describes your work?

Education

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.
Impact

How many people does your organization directly serve at present? How many do you anticipate serving in one year?

Ubongo edutainment content reaches over 24.6 million families in Africa every month, in 20 countries and 11 languages. By the end of 2021, we expect to reach around 32 million families, with over 1 million kids engaged at last mile in rural and non-electrified areas. In five years, we aim to reach more than 60 million children, with 10 million children engaged at last mile, working together with partners and leveraging existing infrastructure for content distribution, and extended learning offline for deepened engagement. With our strategy to increase inclusivity through co-creation with underserved populations, our edutainment content will not only reach millions of young learners, but also transform their social-emotional, cognitive, and knowledge development.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Describe your impact goals and how you plan to achieve them.

By 2025, Ubongo aims to achieve two, long-term, impact goals by leveraging and growing our partnerships. We will make our localized edutainment accessible for FREE to kids in all countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, and inclusively reach 60 million kids with content that promotes their growth in cognitive, social-emotional and life skills. Below are our company level objectives and key results for 2021. 

1. Be Africa's leading creators of effective and engaging edutainment

1.1 - Achieve an average NPS score over 70 across key markets

1.2 - 1014 minutes of quality content produced in 2021, including a new series

1.3 - Improved cognitive / SEL outcomes measured in 5 key markets

1.4 - Reach 3.5 million aggregate users on non-broadcast products (i.e. digital products)

1.5 - Increase inclusivity through co-creation with underserved groups

2. Scale impact to ALL kids across Africa

2.1 - Reach 32 million kids across Africa through TV and Radio

2.2 - Reach additional 1 million kids who are unreachable via broadcast

2.3 - Broadcast through FTA TV nationwide in 21 countries across Africa

2.4 - Broadcast radio in 14 countries across Africa

2.5 - Reach users with content in 14 languages

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

What barriers currently exist for you to accomplish your goals in the next year and how do you plan to overcome them? How would winning the Elevate Prize help you to overcome these barriers?

The Elevate Prize will enable Ubongo overcome these following challenges:

BREADTH & DEPTH OF LOCALIZATION: With over 1000 different languages in Africa and myriad cultures and contexts, we need to prioritize localization efforts & explore partial adaptation options/ distribution approaches. We need a multicontextual production system enabling us to produce content relevant to kids across Africa at a much faster pace. 

The Elevate Prize of $300,000 would be key in helping us accelerate our efforts towards localization. 

SERVING THE HARDEST TO REACH KIDS: The kids who need our support the most are often also the hardest to reach & serve. In order to reach underserved kids at a fast pace we have to work in collaboration with partners.

The Elevate Prize will bring us the visibility and access to networks of potential partners and supporters we need in order to scale our innovation to ALL kids. 

STRENGTHENING LINKS TO FORMAL EDUCATION: Frequent changes in government regimes, education policy & general bureaucracy have slowed partnerships with formal education. 

The Elevate Prize will further validate our innovation and strengthen credibility with various partners and governments around the world. Our hope is that this prize will open new doors that will amplify our impact.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

How would you leverage the larger platform, audience, and brand recognition as an Elevate Prize winner to further advance your impact?

The two main ways we would leverage the recognition as an Elevate Prize Winner to advance our impact is by building a stronger network and more sustainable funding. We’ve learned that to reach kids in all regions of Africa, we need to form dynamic partnerships. Through the Elevate Prize network, we would leverage the audience, platform and the brand recognition to build additional partnerships that will accelerate our content distribution efforts to kids across Africa.  We would like to connect with various experts in Early Childhood Development, education, research, animation, storytelling and other fields  who may impart us with additional knowledge and skills that can increase the quality of our content and learning. At the end of the day, we need to provide diverse educational content that expands children’s learning and ultimately changes their lives. 

Furthermore, we would use the funding we get from the Elevate Prize to reach more kids at the last mile. Our goal this year is to reach 1 million kids who are non-reachable via broadcast. With the Elevate Prize money we will be able to reach 1,500,000 more kids at the last mile across Africa.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.
Leadership

What is your approach to building a diverse, equitable, and inclusive leadership team?

Ubongo is a women-led organization, and we seek to mainstream gender and inclusion throughout our full strategy, and operations. We strongly believe that having diverse women in leadership (4 out of 5 top company leaders are women of color), developing our stories (all of our writers and ¾ of our researchers are women), and in key roles throughout all levels the organization, is key to ensuring that the work we do is gender equitable and serves to empower women and girl in our organization and our audience.  We are a Pan-African organization with almost all of our employees based in and from Africa, positioning our team perfectly for transforming learning across the continent. 

Ubongo’s values align well with those of MIT Elevate. Ubongo puts the kids we serve first. We listen to kids, and we take their feedback as seriously as that of any expert. Every person on our team embodies these values including: 

  1. Are always learning

  2. Go all in

  3. Fail fast, fail forward

  4. Do more with less

  5. Work together and lend a hand

  6. Deliver quality results

  7. Innovate and simplify

  8. Own it

  9. Speak up and speak out

  10. Have a growth mindset

  11. All are teachers     

  12. More info: https://www.ubongo.org/what-we...

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

How are you and your team well-positioned to address the problem you are solving?

We have a passionate & vibrant team of Ubongoers across Africa, who innovate, grow & lead by our Ubongoers Principles, brought together by the fact that we DO IT FOR THE KIDS! 

Our full production process is done in-house, at our studio in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Our team of talented multi­lingual educationalists, writers, producers, researchers, animators, musicians and sound engineers are full time "Ubongoers" dedicated to our mission. 

Nisha Ligon (Co­Founder & CEO) is a social entrepreneur & techie with a background in media and science, and a passion for education. 

Rajab Semtawa (Co-­Founder & Lead Animator) is Tanzania’s top 2D animator. He has built Ubongo’s in-house animation to be the strongest and most prolific in East Africa. He's designed all of Ubongo’s beloved characters and previously animated content for major companies including Vodacom and Hashi Gas. 

Christina Bwana (General Manager Tanzania) is a Tanzanian­/German producer/director who keeps production flowing like clockwork, ensuring episodes get delivered for broadcast on TV, radio and online every week. She has masters degrees in Visual Communication and Research, and broad production experience.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Describe a past experience that demonstrates your leadership ability.

Being the first born of six children in my family, I have always needed to lead. As I’ve grown throughout my professional life, I have borrowed many lessons from home and applied them to my work. I gained confidence and strength by raising and sponsoring my five siblings to study in the US. While in college, passionate to make a difference at home, I didn’t wait to come back to start solving Africa’s challenges. Friends and I started Smile4Africa, an organization in Zimbabwe supporting children in underserved communities. 

When I returned  home to Tanzania, I challenged myself to help kids in Africa achieve their potential. Through many challenges, I grew our reach from 800,000 to 24.6 million kids by building partnerships with broadcasters across Africa. We have also grown our team from a mere 7 to 50, each with a diverse set of backgrounds and experiences. As a World Economic Forum Global Shaper, I volunteer to coach young people on realizing their aspirations, goals and I give them the tools and guidance on how to get there. I’m also an Acumen Fellow and was named  “Entrepreneur of the Year in Education” by Women In Africa Initiative (WIA)

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Have you been featured in any documentaries, television shows, or live speaking engagements? If so, please share links to any available content.

TedxIlala 2014: What if all kids in Africa could find the fun in learning?

 VIDEO: Innovation and development

 VIDEO: A social enterprise pitch in Vancouver - 2019

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.
Financials & Partnership

If selected as an Elevate Prize winner, how will the funding help you achieve your goals?

While we currently reach over 24.6 million kids, most kids from these families have access to a TV, a mobile phone,  and a small percentage of them have internet access.  There are millions more who we are currently not able to reach because they live in rural areas and lack electricity or access to TV. As expected, the hardest to reach kids are the ones who need our content the most. This year, we plan to increase our efforts to reach 1 million kids through non-broadcast platforms. We are leveraging radio access and partnership networks implementing projects locally in rural communities to bring kids top quality content. The funds from the Elevate Prize will also enable us to surpass this goal of 1 million as we will be able to hire additional in-country distribution coordinators to distribute our content not only in Nigeria and Kenya, but also Malawi and Uganda. But that is not all, we need to create inclusive content that kids with disabilities can also access. The funding will help us increase inclusivity through co-creation with underserved groups. We will work with researchers in Kenya, Malawi, Uganda Nigeria, Tanzania and Ivory Coast to conduct user testing with new content we develop aimed at reaching kids with disabilities.

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

What organizations do you currently partner with, if any? How are you working with them?

Ubongo’s ability to reach millions of kids at low cost and massive scale relies on partnerships with broadcasters, distribution partners and other innovators.

BROADCAST PARTNERS: We currently have contracts with over 56 TV stations and 20 radio stations, in 41 countries and 10 languages, and we are building out a pipeline of additional broadcasters. We do not pay for broadcast airtime, and free-to-air TV and radio stations also do not pay for our content.

RESEARCH PARTNERS: Our research partners include the University of Maryland (UMD) School of Public Health, UC Berkeley Institute for Human Development, and Innovations for Poverty Action (IPA), as evaluation partners. 

TECHNOLOGY PARTNERS: We have a global contract with Viamo to scale IVR content together. We also have MOU’s with Worldreader for eBook distribution, and Curious Learning for app development. We’ve partnered with several solar tech companies such as:  Trend Solar, d.light, Buffalo Grid, and many others. 

FUNDING PARTNERS: Our current grant and co-production partners include: Echidna Foundation, Imaginable Futures (formerly Omidyar Network), Mulago Foundation, Templeton Family Foundation, JBJ Foundation, Noorda Foundation, Scania and Hope and Healing. 

Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

In which of the following areas do you and your organization most need support?

  • Human Capital (e.g. sourcing talent, board development, etc.)
  • Financial (e.g. improving accounting practices, accessing funding)
  • Legal or Regulatory Matters
  • Monitoring & Evaluation (e.g. collecting/using data, measuring impact)
  • Product / Service Distribution (e.g. expanding client base)
Add a comment

Read comments
No comments to show.

Solution Team

  • Ms Doreen Kessy Chief Business Officer, Ubongo
 
    Back
to Top