With a loan from Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs (OVO), Imani Academy is building new classrooms for 300 students in a slum in the Ugandan capital Kampala. "Without affordable quality education, children remain trapped in poverty," says founder Ivan Agaba.

"We offer affordable quality education in the slums of Kampala", Ivan Agaba summarises the set-up of Imani Academy. "We now operate in two locations. With OVO's money we are going to build six new classrooms at one of these locations, good for 300 extra pupils aged between 4 and 12. This will double the capacity of the school".

According to the inspirer of Imani Academy, the need for affordable education is particularly huge in Uganda. "Most of our parents are at the bottom of the social ladder. They work as a motor taxi driver, construction worker or salesman on the market. Together they earn an average of maybe 100 dollars a month. They can't afford a good private school because they easily ask 125 dollars a month".

The need for quality education might be even bigger, Agaba says. "The public schools in Uganda are a real disaster. The government hasn't built any new ones since the 1990s, while the population has doubled. There are no teachers, or at least no motivated ones, there are no resources, and the classes are overcrowded".

According to Agaba, affordable quality education is the only way forward. "Without it, the children of the slums will never be able to find a good job, because they cannot compete with young people who have had private education. In this way, they remain trapped in poverty".

Cooperation with OVO

"It has been a long process', Agaba laughs at the question of how cooperation with RFOs has gone. In 2019 Imani Academy participated in SusTech4Africa, a selection process for young companies that OVO organises in four countries, including Uganda. Participants who make the selection are intensively supervised by a team of volunteers, usually entrepreneurs with a lot of experience and different expertise. They prepare the projects together with the entrepreneurs so that OVO's investment committee can decide on a possible loan.

Ivan Agaba has successfully completed the entire process. "It has been a very good learning process", he now looks back. "It has made me think about all aspects of my business. That learning process is even more important than the money I get now. I use what I've learned every day when I think about the project or when I talk to other potential donors".

"I was passionate, now I have a business model."

"Before I worked with OVO, I was passionate by the project, but I had no business model, no financial plan and no quantified forecasts. Now I understand the business better. I know how much a child costs on average, how I can reduce those costs, and how many children it takes to break even. With the help of the volunteers of OVO we have also set up processes, so that we are now ready to scale up the project further".

One of OVO’s volunteers, who was there during the Sustech4Africa boostcamp in Kampala will be remembered by Agaba in particular, her name is Bettie Elias. "She has worked very hard with us. It really felt like it was her project too. It is fantastic that people like her have put their time and money into us. As an entrepreneur you face great challenges. Then it gives you so much courage to meet someone who cares about the project just as much and really believes in it".

Not just a school

Olivier Loones is one of the volunteers who supervised the project for OVO. "I was really pleasantly surprised. This is not just a school", he says. "Imani Academy makes sure, for example, that the children get a tablet that they can even take home with them. Ivan Agaba is really someone with a vision. He knows what he is doing.

Loones himself also has learned a lot. "OVO is not just an organisation of volunteers. There really is a cross-fertilization taking place, in which information and knowledge are shared. I see it as a training ground which I pay for with my own services. I have a background as an accountant. So I mainly look at a project from a financial point of view, but I gain new insights by working together with volunteers who look at a project with a different approach. I can recommend it to anyone.

Text: Jasper Vekeman