Startup firms tipped on sustainability

Wednesday October 05 2016
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Mr Ivan Mworozi, the chief technical officer of AKIBA, an e-savings platform, celebrates after the company won the Seedstars World competition in Kampala last week. PHOTO BY RACHEL MABALA

Kampala. Experts in the ICT (Information Communication Technology) industry have appealed to startups to create sustainable businesses instead of relying on grants and donor funds.
Although there is potential for social impact among Uganda’s innovations, the local start-up scene struggles to remain sustainable.

“A lot of Ugandan startups are companies that run on free money, but we are looking for people who can sustain themselves and keep attracting that funding,” Mr James Makumbi, the chairman of ICT Association of Uganda, said during the Seedstars World competition for business startups in Kampala last week.

Mr Makumbi also said innovators need to think beyond their ideas and businesses to provide solutions that are not only relevant to local problems, but also solutions that work within Uganda’s current technological infrastructure.

During the competition, Akiba, an E-savings platform that aims to transform finance by making it collective, granting tools for practical and transparent management of finances, won 10 business startups to represent Uganda at the global competition in Switzerland next year.

Commenting on the night’s winner, Mr Wayne Cook, one of the judges, and Stanbic Bank’s head of business banking, lauded Akiba’s chief technical officer, Mr Ivan Mworozi, for solving a financial inclusion problem that many people struggle with.

“Even as a bank, we grapple with touching the grassroots. What he has been able to pitch is a way to bring those people into a socially relevant financial inclusion model which can provide a way for true organic growth of the country,” he said.

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On whether there is potential for improvement among innovations, Mr Cook said as long as there is more access to capital, startups would succeed.
Speaking in an interview, Mr Mworozi cited the necessity for more competitions to expose innovators to international investors and mentors.

“Iron sharpens iron, so to be better than what you are, you have to be exposed to what is better than you. I love Uganda and the startup space, but for a startup that is looking to scale up, there is nothing better to expose you to a level that you need to be exposed to,” he said.

Mr Mworozi also said the technology ecosystem in Uganda is suffering but could do better if government nurtures native talent by mandating government organisations to use local innovations.

“When a Ugandan ministry uses a foreign company to do IT work when there is thousands of unemployed developers here, they are robbing us. We need that experience not even the money,” he said.

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