On 26 Feb 2019, I received the email any innovator would hope to receive. I had been nominated as a finalist for the World Health Organisation Africa Innovation Challenge.

It turned out the selection hadn’t been an easy process. Only 30 innovators had been chosen from over 2400 brilliant applicants. I soon learnt that the team in charge of the program was a very small one. The hard work they put forth in just 2 months is simply applaudable. And for me, it was really an honour to represent Zimbabwe at that prestigious forum.

The program, itself, was really fantastic. From the charming Cape Verdean landscape to the fun pre-session activities, this event had everything it takes to make a memorable experience.

One of the pre-session activities involved touring Cape Verde health facilities. I was really impressed with the telemedicine project and more importantly for me, their sexual and reproductive health programs.

The exhibition floor was packed with neat and compact booths for the TOP 30 innovators and some for the various initiatives that the World Health Organisation is running. There were tables set up in every corner with unlimited drinks and snacks. The Cape Verdean

President opened the forum by taking a tour of the exhibition floor and we got a chance to showcase our innovations to him, after which he allowed us to take selfies with him and other government officials. It immediately set the tone for what this conference would be like; high-profile, but energetic and exciting.

Many of the booths throughout the conference were aimed to showcase and support local Africa innovations, which I loved. We face unique problems in Africa, and these require local solutions- a principle which we have incorporated in my organisation: We believe technology that is not built around people’s behaviour and preferences is not sustainable.

I was showcasing Afrimom, a social enterprise promoting women and maternal health in Zimbabwe. With support from POTRAZ/ Ministry of ICT innovation drive we have set out to help reduce the number of unsafe abortions(>70 000 per year), maternal mortality(614 deaths per 100K)births), using a virtual women clinic as well as a physical women clinic and several social media platforms to provide maternal, sexual and reproductive health services in a youth and women friendly way. Our Services, all backed by a mobile application include education, connecting women to local obstetricians, and maternity clinics.

I learnt a lot of valuable information from innovators tackling similar challenges and from industry leaders. Giving special thanks to Andrew Nerlinger who strengthened my resolve to keep Afrimom as a for-profit organisation, citing the need for sustainable solutions. By the end of the second day , I had made good contacts of potential investors and key individuals interested with maternal and reproductive health. Above all, networking with fellow innovators gave depth to the whole event.

Overall, I had a wonderful and productive experience . Much thanks to the Cape Verdean government, to Dr Moeti and her team, and to Entepriseroom for putting together a great event.


 Shonaquip Social Enterprise


  Shona McDonald