The Startups Ecosystem in Uganda is growing- NINJA Open day

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By Brandy Valentine Azeirwe

“It is through demonstrating linkages and access to international markets that we can give our young people hope. Hope that the startups that they have created can grow beyond the local market and sustain their livelihoods.”
Dr. Aminah Zawedde, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of ICT and National Guidance, highlighted as she joined Mr. Fukuhara Ichiro, Senior Representative, Japan International Cooperation Agency [JICA] as the guest of Honor at the ‘NINJA Open Day’ event at Mestil Hotel. The event is aimed at innovators with Start-Up companies to meet with current, potential investors and discuss elements of their work.
Next Innovation with Japan [NINJA] Accelerator Uganda is a program run by the Japan International Cooperation Agency [JICA] in partnership with The Innovation Village, Hive Colab, and Outbox to support Start-Ups at a high growth stage making revenues of over $50,000, looking for investment opportunities and is ready for the next level of the business development.
Dr. Zawedde appreciated the effort that has been taken by the NINJA-JICA Taskforce to organize the NINJA Accelerator Uganda breakfast meet and greet focused on supporting Start-Up linkages between Uganda and foreign investors. “Access to the foreign markets and investors can help our young people of Uganda who are the leaders of today and tomorrow to realize their ideas and businesses,” she said.
The NINJA Program is currently working with five businesses that offer much- needed digital services to socioeconomic growth in Uganda and beyond. The Start-Up Companies include;

  1. Endiro Direct: A business-to-business [B2B] e-commerce channel specializing in high-quality agricultural commodities.
  2. ChapChap- Empowers small and medium scale enterprises [SMSE] to maximize their potential by formalizing their businesses through introducing digital services and products in their trade.
  3. Patasente: SMEs often fail to fulfill orders because they can’t meet payment terms. Patasente is a factoring platform that SMEs use to buy or sell on favorable payment terms.
  4. Easy Matutu: connects commuters to safe, reliable, and clean transportation by building a community of trained and trusted drivers.
  5. Akello Banker: A market leader in agricultural finance and technologies. Analytics-based markets linkage platform that facilitates easy access to bundled agricultural products and services for farmers while providing an option for farmers to pay, share or hire on credit.

“It is great that this is happening at a time the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance is currently spearheading the Digital Transformation Programme under NDP III that seeks to increase ICT penetration, increase government services online, reduce the cost of ICT devices and services and create 500,000 more direct jobs in the sector over five years.” the Permanent Secretary shared during the ‘Meet the Investor’ segment of the event.
“To support this job creation, the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance believes in the potential of young Ugandans to be supported either as individuals or startups to tap into the roughly $5 billion African offshoring market or commonly known as BPO.” – She proceeded.

To start this journey, the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance recently constituted and inaugurated a BPO and Innovation Council whose mandate will involve helping Uganda to identify its value proposition to the global BPO market, prescribe regulatory policies or guidelines while driving the demand creation for the services the young people have to offer through strategic communications.
“I know that the startups are ably represented in that council through Start-Up Uganda.” Dr. Zawedde stated. “I believe that this collaboration with JICA can get us there. The NINJA initiative is just one of those interventions,” she added.
The NINJA Accelerator Uganda Program will provide an opportunity for all startups to be heard while providing opportunities for equitable market access for those involved, most importantly in the BPO market space.
Dr. Zawedde also said, “I hope and believe that this initiative marks the start of a sustained engagement between the Ugandan and Japanese ecosystems. I would like to task the local partner innovation hubs on this initiative to deepen this linkage so that we can ably understand what other opportunities the Japanese market has to offer our young people and their businesses in the BPO space.”

As she concluded, Dr. Zawedde, on behalf of the Government of Uganda, wished all the participants fruitful engagements and looks forward to a continued engagement for years to come.
Oh, and on the way forward, after completion the program, there will be an efficient connection to funding opportunities for Ugandan businesses- Mr. Fukuhara Ichiro, Senior Representative, Japan International Cooperation Agency [JICA].