Grant windfall for UKZN students’ COVID-19 home delivery innovation

13 May 2020 | Web Article Number: ME202019052

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Grant windfall for UKZN students’ COVID-19 home delivery innovation

A student team from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) has been selected as one of 14 Enactus teams globally to receive a grant through the Ford Motor Company Fund’s COVID-19 College Challenge for their innovative community projects.

From drug-delivery drones to specialty handwashing stations, student entrepreneurs are putting their COVID-19 fighting ideas into action thanks to grants from the Ford Fund, which has awarded more than $16 000 (R288 000) to Enactus teams for student led projects that will address COVID-19 issues in communities around the world.

Enactus – Ford Fund’s global partner for the Ford College Community Challenge (C3) – engaged student teams from its 37-country global network, inviting them to submit proposals for how they would address a specific COVID-19 related need in their community.

Out of 152 entries, the Enactus team from UKZN was selected as one of the winners for its innovative project, SmartGro, a web-based smart-mobility technology solution that facilitates deliveries of essential goods such as food and medication to households within a 15km radius of the Durban central business district.

Through SmartGro (www.smartgro.co.za), people can submit their list of essential items through the web-based app, which will also integrate WhatsApp and a call function. The SmartGro team then arranges for the goods to be delivered to the client’s doorstep.

SmartGro aims to establish relationships with local supermarkets and pharmacies so that orders can be prepared for a driver to collect, or people are hired to prepare orders in-store. The team is also discussing partnering with local taxicab drivers to handle the deliveries, thus helping them financially too.

The cost to the customer is the purchase price of the goods, a 10-percent service fee and a R100 delivery fee within a 15km radius of the Durban CBD, which can be paid online, or by cash or card on delivery. The SmartGro team of 10 students is responsible for marketing the services, maintaining the web-based app, assisting customers and receiving orders, and liaising with the drivers and stores.

"We are grateful to be recognized and awarded by Ford Fund in this international competition,” says Muhle Ndwalane, executive president of the Enactus UKZN team. “This support will enable us to positively impact many households and drivers who are the beneficiaries of the SmartGro Essentials Enterprise. With the funds we will now focus on scaling the project to other nearby by communities in order to assist more of our people in their time of need."

Mike Schmidt, director of education and global community development, Ford Motor Company Fund, commended the number and quality of entries received. “When this challenge was presented, we were overwhelmed by the number of proposals and creative ideas that were submitted,” he said.

“Even while home and away from their universities due to lockdowns, students across the Enactus network continue to identify problems and find solutions to solve them.”

Enactus teams from nine countries were awarded Ford Fund grants: Brazil, Egypt, Eswatini, Ghana, India, Kenya, South Africa, the United Kingdom and United States. Each displayed an innovative approach to meeting the challenges created by COVID-19.

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