Tanzania’s Ubongo wins innovation prize for child programming

Friday November 26 2021

Doreen Kessy, Chief Business Officer of Ubongo receiving the Next Billion Edtech Prize trophy from Jay Varkey at GESF 2019 in Dubai. FILE PHOTO | NMG


Tanzanian-based nonprofit social enterprise Ubongo has won the 2021 Rotman Innovation of the Year Award for its education and entertainment broadcast programming targeting children in Africa.

The award comes with a cash prize of 10,000 Canadian dollars (US$7,876). 

Presented annually by a Canadian nonprofit organisation, Grand Challenges, it honours innovations that have accomplished the greatest sustainable increase in lives saved and lives improved in the past year.

Ubongo shone at the competition on account of its transformative innovation that has created a multiplatform learning system and using broadcast technology, reaches a wide range of children across sub-Saharan Africa.

Dubbed ‘Akili and Me’, the programming is the first in Africa to integrate resource caregivers and has so far been translated into nine languages.

Through the support of Grand Challenges initiated in 2018, the programme has been watched by over 1.3 million children from across various countries including Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Nigeria and Ghana.


The multimedia platform is easily accessible through television, radio and mobile gadgets.

A study conducted in the run-up to the competition showed that a 30-minute-a-day exposure to the Akili and Me programme for a month led to significant improvement of child scores in counting (24 percent), English skills (12.5 percent), number recognition (11.7 percent), shape knowledge (9.7 percent) and drawing skills (8.2 percent).

Ubongo co-founder and chief executive Nisha Ligon pledged to use the prize money to boost the adaptation of her firm’s content to more languages and contexts.

“We are so honoured to receive this award. GCC’s support over the past three years has enabled us to expand our reach into many new markets and languages to reach millions of more kids. They have challenged us to think critically and strategically about our growth and have been essential in enabling Ubongo’s success,” said Ligon.

The project aims to positively impact the development, learning and life trajectory of over 100 million children in Africa by 2030.