Solar irrigation in Sudan wins Refugees Forward incubator startup prize

Group photo of Refugees Forward's final pitch event
Group photo of Refugees Forward's final pitch eventPhoto: Refugees Forward

On Wednesday 13 refugee entrepreneurs that completed Refugees Forward's incubator program pitched the plans for their startups in Amsterdam. Entrepreneur Mohammed won both first prize and the public vote with his plan to implement solar irrigation systems in his home country Sudan. Mohammed walks away with one thousand euros to invest in his business and one year of free corporate support, the startup incubator said in a press release.

The final pitches at the Start-Up Village in Amsterdam was attended by around 200 people. The 13 entrepreneurs pitched their startups to some 200 people, including investors, potential customers, Refugees Forward's partners, and a panel of expert judges. 

By implementing solar irrigation systems in Sudan, Mohammed has two goals for his business - helping solve the hunger problems in his country with better irrigation, and helping the people of Sudan become independent of fossil fuels by showing them how to use the sun as a power source for their irrigation systems. He won both the first prize of 1 thousand euros, and the public vote prize of one year of free consulting with one of Refugee Forward's partners. "I am so thankful for everyone here, for believing in me and helping my cause", he said. 

Communications executive Veronique Swinkels, one of the jury members, said she was impressed by Mohammed's convincing pitch. She "saw a genuine motivation to solve Sudan's hunger issue, but with a smart solution, where you educate people, and not just give them a product."

Second prize went to Blaise with his business plan to refurbish second-hand phones from the Netherlands and bring them to the Democratic Republic of Congo. "We liked that you are going to help your country develop by providing consumer electronics, but you do this by also solving the issue of e-waste in the Netherlands, as we wouldn't buy these refurbished products", jury member and serial entrepreneur Mireile Reunding said. Blaise will invest the 750 euro prize money into marketing to attract more customers.

The jury, which consisted of Reunding, Swinkels and Erik Boer, director of the Amsterdam Center for Entrepreneurship, said that the two winners were chosen because of the positive impact their enterprises can contribute. They also called "the bridge they make between the Netherlands and their home country" very inspiring. 

According to Refugees Forward, all 13 its entrepreneurs "smashed it, delivered a highly professional pitch, all with their own flair". "Even though this marks an end to the Amsterdam Spring Program 2019, we do not see this as an end to the progress of the entrepreneurs, instead we will continue to support them wherever we can", the organization said.