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MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY Legatum Center for Development & Entrepreneurship


The Legatum Center supports entrepreneurs all around the world through the fellowship, seed grant, Zambezi Prize and Open Mic programs.

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The Okoa Project

2017 - 2017
United States of America

By Emily Young and Sade Nabahe

Upon arrival back into Mbeya, Tanzania, we began the process of planning out and implementing our market research plan – to understand the community context for our Okoa Ambulance on a deeper level. After running the questions by our translator and The Olive Branch director, Deborah McCracken, we headed out to some of the  villages far from the Mbeya city center. We ran through user interviews, community leader discussions, and demonstrations of the ambulance in seven separate villages. Over the course of these conversations, we experienced the struggle and suffering that these people experience on a daily basis. Women giving birth while walking alone to the hospital that is hours away on foot, villagers spending years of savings on a motorcycle ride for treatment of feverish sickness, and hospital resources being incredibly limited due to lack of supplies at the closest health centers. After telling these stories, the communities would talk to us about the ambulance and what it could change for their lives, as well as making design suggestions for the ideal final product. 

After hearing these stories and suggestions, we set out to make the design changes that had been recommended to us, as well as increasing the robustness to withstand the elements year round. The changes we set to make were:

1. Lengthening the attachment design for better turning capabilities;

2. Covering the ambulance entirely to eliminate dust and increase patient privacy; and,

3. Eventually making design changes necessary to get government approval to be legal to drive on the dirt roads.

We are currently working on these changes now and hope to get as many as possible completed while we are in country. Before we leave we are going to go back into the villages to collect more stories to document the lives of these community members further. We want to be able to tell their story and make the biggest impact possible while finishing the design of the ambulance.