Healthcare plan puts UCT students in line for Hult Prize



Bongani Siamtinta, Bachelor of Business Science student. (Image: Bongani Siamtinta)

• Bongani Siamtinta
Bachelor of Business Science student
University of Cape Town
+27(0)83 505 7236

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A team of six University of Cape Town (UCT) students has submitted a project for the Hult Prize, which this year has issued a challenge to address global healthcare.

The students – Hlaka Mamabolo, Noah de Villiers, Chiedza Museredza, Barnabas Sungayi, Patrice Madurai and Bongani Siamtinta – propose that a better record-keeping system is a key aspect in providing better healthcare. Their idea has got them as far as the regional finals, and the team will be competing in London on March 7 and 8.

They built their idea out of an observation by the World Health Organization (WHO). In its South Africa Country Co-operation Strategy 2008 – 2013, the WHO points out: “The health profile suggests that in South Africa, health policy and systems strengthening, maternal, child and adolescent health, HIV and Aids, tuberculosis, malaria, and road traffic accidents require priority attention.”

Social entrepreneurship

The Hult Prize invites the world’s brightest college and university students to help solve the world’s most pressing issues through social entrepreneurship. It is the world’s largest student competition, with teams competing in six cities: Boston, San Francisco, London, Dubai, Shanghai and Sao Paulo. The regional winners enter an incubator programme, where they receive mentorship and strategic planning advice. During this time, they create prototypes and set up to launch their business. The overall winner receives $1-million seed capital towards their business.

Siamtinta, who is in his fourth year of a Bachelor of Business Science degree in quantitative management, explains the thinking behind the team’s proposal: “We live in an age where keeping health records for patients is no longer done via the file system. Now we have the ability to use cloud storage and this ensures that health records are kept safe and can easily be accessed.”

Their proposal focuses on how healthcare record-keeping has become more sophisticated.

“Cloud-based record-keeping is better because it allows health care providers to have patient history on the go. It’s easier to share information on a global scale, and with the network of health care workers all working together with this information they can easily come up with an ideal treatment plan for patients. This idea is based on the old adage that ‘two heads are better than one’ and given the technology available, solutions are supposed to be more effective and efficient,” says Siamtinta.

“If cloud-based storage became a standard for securing patient history, this would make it imperative for local municipalities to include in their budgets expenditure to invest in technology so that primary healthcare providers can do their job effectively. This is why we also need to raise awareness about the problem of healthcare provision, to make public servants aware that they have to serve all the needs of their constituents. In so doing, every key partner involved in improving the health care provision to informal settlements is an active citizen and making their communities and ultimately their country better.”

Specific details of their idea are being kept confidential until the competition winner is announced. It rests on the students believing that with a medical history, better treatment can be administered. The team also believes that social entrepreneurship can change the world, as “enterprise signals the imperative to drive social change”. They count social entrepreneur Daphne Nederhorst, the founder of Sawa World, as an inspiring figure in the field. Sawa World works with local communities to decide on the best entrepreneurial solutions to their problems.

Young leaders with a global impact

Mamabolo, who is in his second year of a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering, talks about being selected to compete in the Hult Prize regional finals. “This platform allows us to solve problems faced in our rural setting in South Africa and globally. We are excited and well-prepared to compete with our friends from prestigious universities globally to solve social issues surrounding healthcare.

“I think that this competition shows the world that as students we are not only concerned about getting a degree and leaving to big companies. We are an example of young leaders who are dedicated to having a global impact,” he adds.

His colleague, De Villiers, is completing his Bachelor of Business Science degree in economics and law. “Being regional finalists in the Hult Prize 2014 has provided us with a unique opportunity to be involved in addressing one of the most complex challenges hindering growth and development in Africa,” he says. “Our team’s idea is unique in its own right, providing a comprehensive incentive to sufferers with an NCD [non-communicable disease] to get treated and be healthier.”

The team is excited about competing with international students. Museredza, a final year Bachelor of Law student, says: “I’m ecstatic and also a little anxious. It’s exciting to be chosen; however, we’ve only made it if we actually go to London. I’m hoping society at large chips in to help us fly the African flag high.”

Madurai is in his third year of a Bachelor of Commerce degree in management studies, while Sungayi is in his third year of a Bachelor of Commerce degree in financial accounting.

The students need at least R66 150 to fund their trip to compete in London. They are sourcing sponsors and private donations. In keeping with the competition’s entrepreneurial bent, regional finalists are expected to raise their own funds to compete in the regional rounds.

The Hult Prize

An initiative of Ahmed Ashkar, who is the chief executive, the Hult Prize was set up in 2009 by Swedish-born billionaire entrepreneur Bertil Hult, who also founded the world’s largest private education provider, EF Education First. In an interview with Fox News, Ashkar said: “As a business student, I thought that if my peers around the world could also understand what it meant to do good, do well, help the poor make money, that we could essentially turn this problem on its head and tip the market.”

The Hult Prize was a response to the global financial crisis that started at the end of 2007, which raised concerns about ethical businesses practices. It encourages business students to propose ethical ideas to tackle social problems such as poverty and energy provision. It supports social entrepreneurship, an ethos that encourages entrepreneurs to consider the social benefits of their business ventures.

Working with former US president Bill Clinton and his Clinton Global Initiative, each year the Hult Prize sets a challenge for students to address. Established in 2005, the Clinton Global Initiative, an initiative of the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, “convenes global leaders to create and implement innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges”.

Previous challenges include tackling education provision, housing and energy, and providing clean water for people in need. This year’s challenge is “to build sustainable and scalable social enterprises to address non-communicable disease in urban slums”. The competition estimates that about 250 million people live without adequate healthcare in urban slums.

Clinton has lauded the competition, saying: “The Hult Prize is a wonderful example of the creative co-operation needed to build a world with shared opportunity, shared responsibility, and shared prosperity, and each year I look forward to seeing the many outstanding ideas the competition produces.”

The Hult family provides the annual $1-million in seed capital awarded to the winner.

Sponsors who want to help the UCT team get to London can contact Siamtinta on, or call him on +27 (0)83 505 7236.