The appointment was at his office in Makerere University, below the Faculty of Technology just after the Northern gate. Engineer Dr. Kiiza Moses Musaazi welcomed me with an infectious smile and offered me a seat. It was clear that he had been expecting me. He is an Engineer and a senior lecturer in the Department of Electrical Engineering. After the niceties, I immediately got down to querying him on all the innovations that I had come across on his website, Technology for Tomorrow Africa, popularly known as T4T.
Aside from his bubbly character, Moses indeed lives up to the name of technology. His office is filled with and surrounded by his latest inventions from the rain water tanks outside to the water filter within, and even the blocks that make up the building.
Birthing the Idea
The two of us then got down to talking about the major reason why I was visiting him, the MAKApads an acronym for Menstruation, Administration, Knowledge and Affordability.
Dr. Musaazi had been constructing houses for a couple of years when word of his skills reached the Rockefeller Foundation in the US. They contacted him requesting that he builds good pit latrines for a number of schools.
Because it was a success and they loved what they saw, they handed him more work. He was to produce biodegradable sanitary pads, a feat in itself. They were looking for something that could decompose without having to be burnt first.
Moses delivered. He not only found the right experiment but also patented his work. It took him two years to get it done, but his sweat paid off.
Then he hit a wall. Ugandan women would not give them a chance, preferring high-end products like Always Ultra and Stayfree, to the low cost MAKApads. Then United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) contacted him. They had heard of his work and were looking for the a cheaper but safer solution the expensive Always Ultra pads for refugees. Maria Mangeni liked the pads instantly and the rest was history.
Moses pulled out one MAKApad and one Always Ultra, and then waited for my reaction. The MAKApads appear hard and uncomfortable, but that’s because they are stuffed with sisal and paper which act as the absorbent. For non-biodegradable pads, the blue chemical located in the centre reacts with blood and expands in order to absorb more. He also showed me an adhesive strip at the back of the MAKApads that sticks onto the panty line when firmly placed.
“And just one of these can be worn for up to eight hours,” he affirms. I smile at him knowing I have just had a crash course on monthly cycles and chemical absorbents.
Currently there are three production sites, one in Kyaka, one in Kawempe and one in Soroti.
On Passion and Inspiration:
I could not leave without asking him the question; when this all began, his passion to help others.
“Close to three decades ago,” he replied with a wry smile. “It began in 1987 when I had just ventured into producing roofing tiles. I realised that I could use technology to change the lives of others”
“And what of the next big invention?” I prodded.
He smiled back and then answered with an air of mischief, “Something medicinal perhaps.”
“And you won’t tell us what medicine this is?” I try. His hands clasp and he leans back on his swivel chair, obviously enjoying my hungry curiosity.
“No my dear. You’ll just have to wait like everybody else.”