How Innovation Fund will boost start-ups in Uganda

Tuesday September 13 2016

People using an application to improve the

People using an application to improve the experience of an expectant mother in a rural area. WinSenga is a low-cost, smartphone-based ultrasound alternative that plugs into a mobile phone and is operated using an app. COURTESY PHOTO 

By Stone Atwine

Opportunity is on the rise in Africa. I have been worried that Uganda will be left out, until Mr Frank Tumwebaze was appointed Minister of Information, Communication and Technology (ICT). However much entrepreneurs and innovators try, making real progress without a supportive government is difficult. Governments that take bold action to support innovation will create jobs and change the lives of the population.
Do not get me wrong Mr Tumwebaze and the government of Uganda will not perform miracles overnight but I see a ray of hope.

The new minister called for a forum with ICT innovators. On August 30 and September 1, the President wrote a letter directing for a fund to be created for ICT innovation. If you are not impressed by the $4.5 million (Shs15.3 billion) you will surely be impressed by the turnaround time.
Every country that makes steps in the innovation direction has a champion, and we may just have found ours in Mr Tumwebaze. I remember Dr. Bitange Ndemo when he was the Permanent Secretary at the Information and Communication Ministry in Kenya. He worked together with innovators and entrepreneurs to create the innovation ecosystem you see in Kenya today.
Kenya recently created Enterprise Kenya, a body that will support Kenyan ICT innovations to become big global entities. They also have the Presidential Digital Talent programme aiming at training the youth in ICT.

Rwanda in its quest to become Africa’s ICT hub, has created a $100 million (Shs339 billion) Fund to address funding challenges by Rwandan technology entrepreneurs. The Rwandan government will contribute $30 million (Shs101.7 billion) and they will mobilise the rest from the private sector. This Fund will help Rwanda with competitiveness to become a global player.
For development to take place quickly, we need bold and rapid innovation. This is why the United States of America has led in very many spheres of life. They support innovation and entrepreneurship and they have created such huge ecosystems that employ millions.
An African startup’s biggest problem is access to finance. This Fund should be used to create maximum impact. On top of building innovation hubs in Entebbe and Nakawa as directed by the President, there should be solid financial support to existing technology startups that have already built meaningful platforms and businesses.

Top Ugandan startups
Ensibuuko - A mobile banking innovation that enhances the capacity of SACCOs to serve the un-banked.
Tambula - offers vehicle, fleet, asset and personal tracking.
Safeboda - offers a safer boda boda experience by offering an app that you can use to summon trained drivers to your location.
Clinic Master - an integrated healthcare information management and medical billing software. It automates patients’ transactions in the clinic on a visit basis.
Brainshare - offers an e- learning platform for teachers and students to enhance learning and parents to keep track.
Winsenga - an intuitive smartphone-based solution to monitor pregnancy and labour.

Roundbob - An online travel agency that offers booking, travel saving plans, destination marketing and everything to help you get around the world.
Beyonic - a technology company that aims to eliminate the rampant use of cash in emerging markets by offering a bulk payment solution through mobile money.
Yoza - an app that helps users find laundry services. It connects demand and supply for laundry.
Fundi Bots - they use robotics training in African schools to create and inspire a new generation of problem solvers, innovators and change-makers.

Stone Atwine is a Co-Founder and the CEO of useremit.com, a convenient and secure international money transfer and bill payments platform that helps users save money.

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