[Interview] Christina Bwana, General Manager, Ubongo, Tanzania
Ubongo is a Pan-African social enterprise that creates localised edutainment to help Africa's 440 million kids learn, and leverage their learning to change their lives.
Headquartered in Tanzania with entities in Africa and America, the iNGO’s vision is to equip Africa's next generation with the educational foundation, critical skills and positive mind-sets to change their own lives and communities for the better.
Over 6.4 million families in Africa learn with the organization’s edu-cartoons and radio programs. Christina Bwana, the Chief Operating Officer and General Manager explains further.
Tell us about your company (inception, services/products, ownership/shareholders, headquarters, etc.)
Ubongo is a Pan-African social enterprise that 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 and massive scale. Through TV and radio, digital and print content, we entertain kids to learn and love learning: building brains, and building change.
Originally founded in 2013 as a for-profit, Ubongo now functions as a non-profit iNGO, with its headquarters in Dar es Salaam Tanzania, with entities in Johannesburg, SA and Texas, USA, as well as on the ground representatives in multiple African countries.
Is the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic AND the work-from-home trend affecting your operations? How so?
Ubongo moved into its working-from-home model back in March 2020, right after the first confirmed COVID case in Tanzania. We are currently in a hybrid model of working from home/working in office but because we have Ubongoers sitting in different African countries, we have mastered the art of remote working. Due to schools closing across Africa, more broadcasters and governments took on our content, allowing us to significantly scale within the last two years.
What is your company’s growth strategy for 2022? (New projects, expansion into new markets, new partnerships? etc)
Adapting our content into 4 new languages (taking our content to 14 languages total), expanding into key demographics (such as Congo), increase our non-broadcast users and last mile reach (with more on the ground partnerships).
What are the long term ambitions you’re aiming for, as an organization? (National? International? If international, what countries and markets?)
Make free, localized edutainment accessible for kids in all countries in Sub-Saharan Africa; Have inclusively reached 60 million kids and help them grow their cognitive, social-emotional and life skills; Have grown an industry-leading Pan-African team and culture, spearheading a movement to create change for kids; Push forward the conversation of education shift across Africa.
Which 3 African countries do you think will perform best in terms of business in 2022? Why do you think so?
Rwanda- they push the envelope and try new things; there are some innovations coming from Rwanda that I don’t see in other African countries yet. Mauritius – their laws and regulations accommodate national and international businesses better than most African countries, as seen by their increasing economic gains. Kenya-has always been the hub of East Africa especially for social impact and iNGOS to have their headquarters.
How will Africa develop as a knowledge economy in 2022 and how can companies contribute?
Africa has some of the most curious and brightest minds to date. As a content company, we are very skilled and innovative in finding new ways to do things with limited resources. Africa’s human resource and skill sets are enormous. Companies (both private, public and social enterprises) need to focus on capacity building, education incentives and accessibility, and policies and regulations that support instead of stifle. These are just some of the critical things we as companies can do in order to facilitate our human resource in Africa to thrive and take us forward as a knowledge economy.