UNDP’s timbuktoo initiative and Uganda’s Makerere University champion the exploration and nurturing of creativity for good

January 31, 2024

UNDP, government and university leaders launch the Makerere University Innovation Pod (UniPod). From left to right: University Council Chairperson Mrs. Lorna Magara, UNDP Resident Representative Ms. Elsie Attafuah, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director, Regional Bureau for Africa Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa, Hon. Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation Monica Musenero

Kampala, Uganda – The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) launched the Makerere University Innovation Pod (UniPod), which will create a space for young people to leverage their creativity for good. The Makerere Unipod is part of the 13 UniPods to be established across the continent under UNDP’s timbuktoo initiative, a new development model that aims to transform Africa’s public universities into centres of innovation. The newly established Makerere UniPod provides a unique opportunity for the exploration of development solutions that are contextualised and responsive to development challenges facing communities in Uganda and Africa at large. The initiative is designed to tap into the innovative and entrepreneurial spirit of young people to promote impact-driven entrepreneurship, foster innovation, and influence business solutions to address youth unemployment on the continent. The 200 capacity UniPod is open to all Makerere University students as well as members of the public on request.

The launch was presided by Hon. Monica Musenero, Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation; Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director, Regional Bureau for Africa; Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe, Makerere University Vice Chancellor; Ms. Elsie Attafuah, Resident Representative UNDP Uganda, and University Council Chairperson Mrs Lorna Magara.

“I can promise as Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation that we are ready to produce results that all our partners have longed for. We are ready to move, and I cannot thank the UNDP enough for giving us this vision. Science, technology and innovation are miracle tools that can convert the ideas of citizens and turn them into development solutions.” noted Hon. Monica Musenero, Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation.

Promoted by the UNDP, the timbuktoo initiative is positioned to be the largest financing facility that aims to address critical gaps by working with African governments, investors, the private sector, and universities to support the African startup ecosystem. timbuktoo’s ambition for Africa is to mobilise and invest US$ 1 billion of catalytic and commercial capital to transform 100 million livelihoods and create 10 million new jobs over the next 10 years.

“Innovation is a core part of the ecosystem of industrialization. Today, we gather to launch a space for young people to create the future and solutions that will transform Uganda, Africa and the world. This is a vote of confidence – for Africa’s youth, and I have the firm conviction that Uganda is one of those beacons where the ideas that will transform our world will be birthed.” said Ms. Ahunna Eziakonwa, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director, Regional Bureau for Africa

Through timbuktoo, the Makerere UniPod will provide young innovators with a Maker’s Space, Design Space and Collaboration Space to create a multidisciplinary approach to innovation, as well as a Technology Transfer Office to facilitate the transition of research and prototypes to market and allow for enterprises to be built from these innovations. Established strategically within Makerere University, the UniPod will seamlessly link with research and knowledge already in place at the institution through its faculty of technical experts.

“What UNDP has planted here is going to grow around the country and go even beyond. I know UNDP is establishing these UniPods across the continent and I trust that universities will take advantage of this great investment.” emphasised Prof. Baranabas Nawangwe, Makerere University Vice Chancellor

What makes timbuktoo unique is its design, which blends commercial and catalytic capital to de-risk private investment, with a pan-African approach to supporting startups, while also focusing on the whole ecosystem, engaging and deepening the linkages between government policy, universities, corporates, development partners, catalytic partners, and commercial investors. 

The 13 UniPods will be established within public universities of Benin, Guinea, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Togo, Uganda, Zambia, and Liberia. Each UniPod will be linked to hubs established in Accra, Cairo, Cape Town, Casablanca, Dakar, Kigali, Lagos and Nairobi, serving as the critical intervention nodes within the Timbuktoo innovation ecosystem. Each hub will be sector-specific and engage with startups across Africa rather than only those based in the host country.


For more information:
Ashley Prigent, UNDP Uganda, ashley.prigent@undp.org