MamaBird, a technology startup in Malawi, is using drones to deliver medical and baby supplies by drones in the southern Afrikan country. Recently, during April 2018, the startup also announced that it will teach women in Malawi how to use the drones for medical and baby supplies.
The startup was founded by Thomas Lauzon and Eugene Maseya, who recently participated in Vodafone's F-LANE programme, a technology incubator which aims to solve social problems with a focus on women.
Thomas Lauzon and Eugene Maseya, Co-Founders of Malawi's MamaBird.
"It all started with us meeting a few years back and interestingly, I met Eugene online actually. There was a call for a project from UNICEF. They were trying to transport blood samples by drones. I was really interested and created a questionnaire asking „Hey, who wants to help me? I’d like to send in a proposal for this project.“ and sent this questionnaire out to the world. Eugene replied. That’s how we met and we’ve been working on drone applications together since then. In 2016, UNICEF announced that they were opening a drone testing corridor in Malawi, which is Eugene’s home country. We started thinking about what we could do with this drone corridor and we had a very practical apporach: We thought in Malawi there are a lot of children – maybe we could do something around children and drones and create an application. We did not have a proper idea yet. However, at the same time, Eugene told me there’s a lot of problems with malnutrition and giving birth out in remote areas of the country. We felt this was a problem nobody was really thinking about and we realized, there’s a lot of women who could benefit from drone technology. And they’re not being addressed," said Lauzon when explaining how they came about the idea for MamaBird.
Starting MamaBird was also to address the problem that in Malawi's rural areas where public transport is scarce and doctors far away, getting medical supplies can mean walking long distances. This is one of the big problems in Malawi they try to solve for with MamaBird, as Maseya explains.
"Because the problem of how to reach certain areas in Malawi is a big one and they feel like if a solution is innovative and cutting edge and solving a problem like that, they’d be willing to test it. We really appreciate that there are organisations that are open minded to new approaches to solve old problems. This is an amazing opportunity for new innovations from small companies like us," said Maseya.
In 2017, Malawi's government entered into a partnership with United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in developing the world's first dedicated humanitarian air corridor for drones. MamaBird is one of the many projects taking advantage of this corridor which, apart from drone transport, will also be used for imagery (generating and analyzing aerial images for development and during humanitarian crises, including for situation monitoring in floods and earthquakes) and connectivity (exploring the possibility for drones to extend Wi-Fi or cell phone signals across difficult terrain, particularly in emergency settings).