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Ugandans And Diaspora: Driving The FinTech Agenda

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Image: theinsider.ug

If Ugandan Fintech was at a dating event, it’d would be the person at the bar that nobody had asked to dance yet. For too long left in the shade of (rather annoyingly) big cousin Kenya and (even more annoyingly) medium cousins Tanzania and Rwanda – things are suddenly starting to look more rosier for the Ugandan fintech scene.

Uganda has been the forgotten sibling of the East African region

Like all developing economies, country GDP trends can only tell part of the story – but benchmarking against similar nations with global data is always useful.

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The economy is growing impressively as the chart (% GDP growth trend) shows. GDP Annual Growth Rate in Uganda averaged around 5.6% percent from 2009 until 2018; much of the recent growth coming from services and finance rather than commodities. This suggests a movement in the right direction.

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However on the flip side, regional comparisons of the Ugandan economy suggest that more could be done to raise the standards of the economy and reduce inequalities. No proud Ugandan will be happy to see that on an East African basis, the relative performance has been behind its cousins. (Source: IMF)

Fintech can help raise Ugandan economic performance

There’s a growing recognition within the region’s emerging fintech scene that it can drive economic growth and widen financial inclusion for all sections of society.

Within sub-Saharan Africa, East Africa continues to lead in terms of adoption and usage rates (of mobile financial services). Whereas overall financial depth remains below other regions, Fintech is emerging as an engine of growth and technological enabler that fosters financial inclusion and economic development. IMF African Dept, Report on Fintech in Sub-Saharan Africa 2019

Thanks to the advance of mobile money, tens of millions of unbanked have become accustomed to using technology to manage their finances. This has been transformational within the region, and across the continent. This wide acceptance of using technology can now be harnessed to widen financial access further.

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As has been identified by the IMF, the low level of financial infrastructure generates demand for payment services, with a relatively large level of access to mobile devices. Fintech can change the financial industry in sub-Saharan Africa by increasing competition and efficiency – not least for SME’s and rural communities who lack the credit and means to make transactions.

Enter FITSPA – seeking to drive the fintech agenda in Uganda

FITSPA (Financial Technology Service Providers’ Association) was formed in Uganda to support and strengthen the fintech ecosystem; driving innovation and investment to the country. The organisation is independent, non-profit, and represents Uganda’s local fintech community and global partners.

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Fintech is driving most of the business sectors in Uganda making them more convenient, accessible, affordable and provides accountability at every stage. Our members create, develop and support solutions that solve the day today challenges of Uganda’s business environment using Technology. Our members are able to serve the unbanked using different channels to financially include everyone and achieve one of the 17 UN Sustainable Development goals that will help alleviate poverty in our economy.

Zianah N. Muddu, Engagement Partner FITSPA & General Secretary Africa FinTech Network

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2019 sets to be a busy year with Ugandan fintech under the spotlight thanks to the African Fintech Festival being held in Kampala in November.

Supported by the Africa Fintech Network, it offers a chance for public and private institutions to mingle with entrepreneurs – Uganda front and centre of the agenda. As Zianah adds;

Hosting the Africa Fintech Festival will be a game changer for Uganda. So often we’ve looked across the region to larger markets for ideas and inspiration. For Ugandan entrepreneurs, this is an opportunity to show thought leadership and ideas that will shape fintech across the continent.

Held under the theme “Building Africa’s Digital Economy with Fintech”, up to 500 delegates from Africa and around the world will converge to consider deliberate and meaningful steps that must be taken to ensure Fintech delivers its promise to open up the financial society. More on the agenda will be published in this Ugandan series of fintech articles.

Ugandan diaspora – this time coming home with $’s to invest

It is estimated that more than 1.5 million Ugandans live in the diaspora and international remittances have been measured at around 5% of total GDP; clearly, they play a significant role in the economy. Remittances by the diaspora used to be focused on consumption and not investment, but that is changing with the rise of middle class Ugandans in the UK, Europe and America. In the UK, there are more than 100 thousand Ugandans, many of whom are now successful entrepreneurs. This diaspora is looking for investment opportunities and fintech offers a new high growth sector.

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British Ugandans are an established economic block with significant funds to invest in the home country – but they expect real economic return. They take an interest in Uganda based on their heart, but invest based on their head. The fundamentals of fintech growth inevitably leads to interest in investing. At this year’s UK-Uganda Conventionthey’ll be seeking these opportunities.

Willy Mutenza Chairman, Uganda Convention-UK

This year’s UK-Uganda Convention is being held for the 9th year running and for the first time will feature fintech as a major focus area. Having created a partnership with FITSPA, the event will have a dedicated agenda to Ugandan fintech; featuring scale-up companies from Uganda and local insight from FITSPA. The event is supported by WorldRemit, one of Uganda’s remittance partners, who will also present their view on growth via partnerships in the country.

 

Author 

Martin Best is the Managing Director of the agency Full Reach.

Logistics

Digitalization in logistics – A user’s experience

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Geraldine Mamburu, Founder & MD PDQ Logistics (Source: Geraldine Mamburu)

In some cultures, children are sometimes named after events that would have taken place close to or during their birth.  Jokes around naming children Quarantine Buthelezi, Social-distance Moyo, or Pandemic Ndlovu, were circulating in 2020 and made for a good laugh, however, one couple in India took this a little too seriously and named their twin boy and girl, Corona and Covid.

Looking back, I do not recall ever coming across a proposal to name children after any of the variations around the word digital, after all, every second Point of View that was being released was around digitalization and digital transformation. It got me thinking, and realised that a lot of these terminologies are thrown about in the corporate space, but what does this actually mean to the end-user? How does the user interact, make use of, and appreciate digitalization?

Being in the logistics space has found me interacting with a lot more digital platforms over and above e-commerce, social media, and the all-so-dreaded-virtual-meeting platforms. My favourite most convenient app (which is currently the best thing ever since sliced bread in my books) has got to be Truck Fuel Net (TFN). TFN offers a cloud-based, real-time software management solution that helps me manage all my on-road refuelling and driver spend needs. Given that the bulk of operational costs in road freight is fuel, one must have their finger on the pulse and be on the constant lookout for the best price, over and above monitoring driver efficiency. The TFN Management system helps me decide, where, when, and how much the driver can refuel.

Sidebar – I’ve been driving a Ford Kuga 1.6 AWD for a few years (NB: No fire starter jokes allowed) and for such a small engine, that car can chow fuel – I’m talking 11 – 12km/100! I never used to fill up because it was painful watching all that money go down the drain. When I filled up the truck for the first-time round, let’s just say I needed to sit down because I felt a little dizzy.

Every day, we transport goods worth millions of Rands. It goes without saying that the safety and security of the driver, the goods we carry, as well as the trucks themselves, is of paramount importance. TFN’s solutions enable us to run a cashless operation. In the road freight sector, cargo, equipment, and increasingly drivers, are all targets for criminals and if we can take one incentive out of the equation, the better off we are.

Whilst on cashless operations, I would like to give SANRAL a standing ovation. Now, now, before your eyes roll all the way to the back of your head, let me just say that we might have qualms as “Gautengers” about how they went about the e-toll saga, but their app is such a lifesaver! With an e-tag fitted on the vehicle, I can manage my account quickly and securely. The app works in real-time, allowing me to be kept informed of my spend on vehicles. And lo and behold when I do forget to top up (because …you know …admin), I immediately get a notification the moment my funds are depleted, allowing me to top up immediately whilst the truck is still on route, contributing to a seamless operation. Well done SANRAL. Sometimes the government does get it right …sometimes.

The South African logistics sector contributes about 12% towards the GDP, according to Stellenbosch University and the World Bank. Of that percentage, approximately ¾ is attributed to road freight alone. With such modestly generous figures, it’s encouraging to see various organisations come up with digitally inspired solutions to cater to this industry.

This brings me to my most used platforms, Car Track and Tracker. I can only assume that before the advancement in technology, one must have had to have a great deal of faith, composure, and trust. Not to say that we no longer require these skills, but the ability to log onto these apps and be able to get real-time updates on the exact location of a customer’s goods in transit certainly prevents a blood vessel or two from popping (in the event that you cannot reach the driver.) As for Google Maps, it goes without saying, that this is the backbone of my interaction with these tracking platforms.

There are a bunch of other digital platforms such as Linebooker that I am still to explore as the business continues to grow. However, it’s been interesting to know that before we start thinking self-driven trucks (think of that one scene from Terminator, were the machine is operating the truck…but I digress) and other seemingly complex technological advancements aimed at this industry, there are still digital channels that make the day to day operations in logistics that much easier.

What other digital platforms are you using or have you heard off that have made a world of a difference in the logistics space?

Article by: Geraldine Mamburu, Founder & MD PDQ Logistics

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Three African-American Female Engineers Who Changed Our World

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Image source: Pexels

The fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) produce innovation that drives us forward as a species. Despite the fact that women and people of color have often been at the forefront of new discoveries, their representation within the STEM fields is historically low.

As culture progresses in understanding toward the value of a diverse workforce, those seeking out the future leaders of STEM are reaching out to underrepresented populations – specifically, women and people of color. One such outreach is ‘Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day’, a global campaign established by the National Society of Professional Engineers.

The event, which takes place this February 25, is run by teachers, volunteers, and STEM professionals, and includes engaging engineering-based learning activities that encourage young women to develop problem solving skills and indulge their interest in science and engineering.

The road to their future success was paved by the intrepid women who came before them, including these three remarkable African-American female engineers:

  • Kimberly Bryant: Seeking to create an inclusive technology learning space for young women of color, Ms. Bryant created the not-for-profit coding camp Black Girls Code. As of late 2019, the organization has 15 chapters, and Ms. Bryant has been recognized as a White House Champion of Change for Tech Inclusion as well as one of 2013’s 25 Most Influential African Americans in Technology.
  • Dr. Patricia Bath: An early pioneer of laser surgery for cataract treatment, Dr. Bath was the first female member of the Jules Stein Eye Institute, the first female African-American surgeon at UCLA Medical Center, and the first female leader of a postgraduate ophthalmology training program.
  • Alice Parker: A housewife from New Jersey, Mrs. Parker developed and filed a patent for a gas-powered central heating system inspired by cold coastal winters. Her filing came before both the Women’s Liberation Movement and the Civil Rights Movement, a remarkable achievement for an African-American woman during her time.

More stories of African-American female engineers and  female leadership in engineering can be seen here:

To discover more about Introduce a Girl to Engineering Day, visit NSPE online.

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Press Release

North Ladder Secures $5 Million Series A Financing Round To Accelerate Global Expansion

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North Ladder Team (Source: Siddharth Sudhakar)

North Ladder (previously called BuyBack Bazaar), a UAE based secured trading platform for pre-owned luxury assets and electronics, today announced a $5 million Series A funding round led by regional venture capital firm BECO Capital. The new investment will help the company scale up its technology platform, enhance customer experience and pursue further geographic expansion.

The homegrown start-up also revealed that it will begin operating under the new brand name North Ladder effective immediately, representing the company’s strategy of charting new markets and supporting individuals across the globe in their endeavour to elevate their financial situation. The disruptive and innovative technology platform is the first of its kind, providing access to verified buyers of second-hand goods and instant cash. North Ladder currently enables users to sell electronics such as phones, laptops, tablets, and smart watches, as well as luxury assets including watches and cars, with a unique option of buying it back within a few months.

The Series A financing builds on an exceptional year for North Ladder which saw rapid growth of its clients, network of buyers and corporate partnerships. To date, the platform has witnessed over 15,000 transactions in the UAE, with over 85 different nationalities served while earning an impressive 4.9/5 customer satisfaction rating. In 2021, the start-up is looking to establish its presence in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United States, with a focus on scaling the platform significantly in the next 18 to 24 months.

“North Ladder has demonstrated tremendous success with its unique model of helping customers access immediate funds against their assets. The provision of a seamless and trusted digital platform for the sale of pre-owned goods has immense socially transformative potential at a global scale. We are excited about partnering with them to take their services to the next level,” said Dany Farha, CEO & Managing Partner, BECO Capital.

The company recently appointed Sandeep Shetty, former Managing Director of the core ride hailing business at Careem, as Cofounder and Chief Executive Officer of North Ladder. Prior to Careem he also led the digital transformation program at Emirates NBD and has held leadership positions at McKinsey & Company and GE Capital across India, the United States and the Middle East. Sandeep joins the leadership team of co-founders Pishu Ganglani and Ricky Husaini who together bring years of prior global start-up, financial services, technology and operations experience.

“Our exciting partnership with the region’s leading investor BECO Capital gives us the opportunity to scale operations in the UAE and expand to other strategic markets, with the mission of meaningfully impacting people across all strata of society,” said Sandeep Shetty of North Ladder. “Our global auction brings professional buyers from around the world to compete and provide local customers with the best prices and no hidden surprises.”

Since its launch in 2018, North Ladder has been recognized as one of the “Top 5 innovative start-ups in the MENA region” by PayPal backed accelerator, Village Capital and awarded as an Innovator by Entrepreneur Middle East.

 

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