KAMPALA —Startup Uganda, an association of innovation and entrepreneurship support organizations, in partnership with UN Capital Development Fund-UNCDF Uganda have shortlisted nine teams to pitch for support to take their latest innovations to market.
Last year, Startup Uganda launched its first Digital Innovation Challenge in August 2020. The association was looking for the latest in innovation in particular sectors to solve specific issues close to the hearts of the challenge’s anchor partners.
The call was open for four weeks and saw around 150 startups apply. Startup Uganda team reduced the number to 10 startups under each challenge track, that then qualified for the bootcamp stage.
Working with United Social Ventures, Makerere Innovation and Incubation Center, Starthub Africa and Iventure Africa, (all Startup Uganda members) the teams underwent a virtual three day bootcamp,of which on the final day of they pitched to panels consisting of UNCDF members and the respective anchor partners.
The issues under the challenge included Financial Health for MSMEs with Financial Sector Deepening Uganda (FSDU) as an anchor partner,Leveraging Last Mile Distribution Networks with Mobipay & Ensibuuko as anchor partners and Digital Literacy with Danish Refugee Council as an anchor partner.
“This process led to a shortlist of 3 teams under each track: Kanzu Code, Pata Sente and Chap Chap under Financial Health for MSMEs. Agricycle, Famunera and Cabral Tech under Leveraging Last Mile Distribution Networks. Digital Woman, ZOORA and Backspace Ivy under Digital Literacy,” Startup Uganda management reveals.
“These nine teams are in the final stages of their incubation acceleration programs with The Innovation Village, Makerere Innovation and Incubation Centre and Response Innovation Lab respectively. They will be pitching for a chance to move on to the piloting stage to take place over a period of 6 months, guided by the same organisations, alongside Startup Uganda,” the association adds.
Startup Uganda further notes that all the anchor partners under the challenge were selected because of the relevance of the issues they were trying to solve, especially in today’s global pandemic climate.
“The nine teams currently on board all show great promise and will be able to contribute to the challenge solutions in many ways. Startup Uganda is looking forward to supporting some of these solutions through the piloting phase and finally launching them onto the market.”
For FSDU, the issue of financial health for MSMEs arose with the economic effects of COVID-19 which exposed the financial fragility of individuals and businesses. Low income individuals that did not have excess liquidity were the worst hit. FSDU’s analysis of the finscope data set revealed that at least 23% of the population that depend on daily trade and business activity will be severely impacted. FSDUs aim with the challenge was to improve the medium to long term financial health of micro and small business in Uganda.
The anchor partners under Leveraging Last Mile Distribution, Mobipay and Ensibuuko have under their belt, a last mile distribution network of over 500 Digital Community Entrepreneurs (DCEs) in Northern Uganda and West Nile. The network is currently distributing products like solar, airtime, mobile money and more to rural communities and is seen as a distribution asset that can be leveraged by various innovators to avail digital and non-digital products and services to last mile customers and vice-versa. Their participation in the challenge was in order to add more viable product and service offerings to this last mile network.
The Danish Refugee Council, anchor partner under Digital Literacy, was looking for solutions to fast track large scale community based training on digital literacy. There has been an increase in the use of cash-based transfers to support refugees and their host communities rather than in-kind aid. These transfers now also include mobile money. In an effort to ensure that these communities can manage their finances and be able to adequately use these transfer services, the challenge around low digital literacy levels needs to be addressed.
The successful startups will be announced on 21 May, 2021.