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Universitas 21 Names UMD’s Roots Africa as Winner in RISE Showcase

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Roots Africa

Universitas 21 (U21) today announced UMD’s Roots Africa as a winner for “Most Innovative” in the international network’s first RISE Showcase and Awards.

RISE (Real Impact on Society & Environment) is a showcase of student achievement in sustainability and social innovation, based on challenges outlined in the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Students from sixteen U21 universities competed in the RISE Showcase, with prizes awarded to projects demonstrating the most impact, innovation and potential.

Each winning team will receive a bespoke package of international exposure and access to a global network of experts, with a minimum value of $2,000 per team. Each of U21’s member universities was invited to submit one project, led by a team of students or recent graduates. Each team then submitted a pitch video to a panel of social entrepreneurship and innovation expert judges, who selected the final winners. Roots Africa, led by recent UMD graduates Cedric Nwafor and Mandela Jones, tied with McMaster University’s Guided Hands as winners in the innovation category as one of four winners out of 16 projects submitted. All of the video pitches are viewable here.

“Thank you so much for this incredible recognition for ROOTS Africa,” said Nwafor. “Over the next year, we will be expanding to other academic institutions in Africa and the U.S.”

“I was impressed with the quality and creativity in the submissions,” said Mac Montana, financial analyst for the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, RISE judge and winner of U21’s PwC 2018-2019 Innovation Challenge. “Watching these pitch videos is enough to cement anyone's faith in the future of humanity!”

“This first group of U21 RISE projects are truly inspiring and demonstrate both the ingenuity and the depth of concern that students in U21 universities have in making the world a better place,” said Professor Bairbre Redmond, Provost of U21 and RISE judge. “My congratulations to all who took part and we look forward to supporting them to reach their goals.”

Roots Africa connects students and academic institutions in the United States with farming communities in Uganda and Liberia, sharing technology and expertise to empower the next generation of agricultural innovators. Through both virtual and in-country efforts, Roots Africa also gives U.S. students unique opportunities to understand different regional contexts and make global contributions. The team has trained over 400 farmers and 200 students in Africa to increase capacity and quality, creating lasting growth and change. Roots Africa strives to contribute to UN Sustainable Development Goal 1 (No Poverty), Goal 2 (Zero Hunger), and Goal 9 (Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure).

UMD is one of 27 members of the U21 network, which brings together research-intensive universities from six continents to exchange knowledge and perspectives. To select the UMD representative for RISE, the Do Good Institute and the Office of International Affairs hosted a campus-wide contest last fall.


University of Maryland's submission to U21 RISE Showcase 2019.

Roots Africa connects students and academic institutions in Maryland with farming communities in Liberia and Uganda, to create young changemakers who can implement agricultural change and innovation. The team is looking for partnerships with other organisations who can assist on their journey.

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Kaitlin Ahmad
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