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Uganda's youth combat waste and malaria

September 22, 2020

From tackling malaria to building houses out of plastic bricks, Uganda's young social entrepreneurs are fighting the major problems facing their country. But the coronavirus pandemic is threatening their work.

A man wearing a facemask as he looks at a wall of plastic bottles
Image: DW/J. Mugambwa

Realizing visions - a talent campus in Uganda

Uganda is a country facing multiple problems. It's got one of the highest incidences of malaria in Africa, a major urban waste problem and one of the highest youth unemployment rates in Sub-Saharan Africa.

But the East African state is also full of potential. It's got one of the youngest populations in the world and many young social entrepreneurs who want to address the problems in their home country. For instance, Joan Nalubega invented a soap that repels malaria-spreading mosquitoes, while Johnmary Kavuma builds homes using bricks made from plastic bottles.

Both Nalubega and Kavuma are in their 20s and received training from the Social Innovation Academy (SINA). Based out of the city of Mpigi, just 30 kilometers (19 miles) south of Uganda's capital, Kampala, SINA is financed through donations and was founded by German social entrepreneur Etienne Salborn.

Salborn met Kavuma and Nalubega 15 years ago when volunteering in an orphanage. He wanted to find a way to support them and other talented young Ugandans so they might have better job prospects. SINA has also seen some success in two of the country's huge refugee camps.

But COVID-19 has changed everything and is setting back the work of Salborn, Kavuma, Nalubega and others like them.

A film by Julius Mugambwa and Wolf Gebhardt