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Uganda Innovates

How Ensibuuko is building ICT-Mobile solutions for the underserved rural Poor

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Almost four years ago when youth unemployment was at its peak and everyone was clamoring for a steady job, Gerald Otim decided to walk into the world of self employment. Having had a humble beginning, he was no stranger to starting small and therefore he ventured into the building a solution that would improve financial service delivery in rural communities.

In 2014, Gerald A Fin-Tech Entrepreneur and a graduate of Development Economics at Makerere University Co-Founded Ensibuuko, a Ugandan ICT startup that is modernizing the way financial cooperatives (popularly known as SACCOS – Savings and Credit Cooperatives) manage data and deliver financial services.

“We are providing modern electronic banking infrastructure to financial services entities unique to the developing world. Our main service is a cloud-based banking software platform for microfinances and SACCOS. The platform automates business processes, customer and transactional dataand provides standard accounting and reporting functionality for Ensibuuko’s customers.” Gerald explains.

Ensibuuko’s software is a cloud-based MOBIS Micro-Finance Software first designed at the Kampala based ICT hub, Outbox and is creating a solution that allows for web services even in rural areas with poor telecom infrastructure thereby contributing significantly to the efforts for financial inclusion in Uganda and across Africa.

The Start Up’s software is also integrated to the mobile phone network allowing users to access their account via mobile phone — they can check the balance, make deposits and withdraw. This improves access and quality of service delivery.

“Our solution is integrated with Mobile Money thus people in hard-to-reach places can be part of the easy access of the service. We are now using partnerships with mobile Network Operators to deliver a dedicated internet bundle that enables institutions access the solution on cloud even on weak networks for just 30,000 shillings a month ($8).” Gerald notes.

The platform therefore exists to equalize financial services in Uganda as is the case in many other African countries where banks are urban based. People in rural communities will be served mainly by a cooperative institution.

According to Ensibuuko, there are major issues in the financial services sector in the developing world: Banks are concentrated in major towns, Services are expensive and loans have interest rates of not less than 24%. It is part of the general problem of poor and expensive financial services infrastructure in all of the developing world. Instead of working with banks, most people will prefer a non-bank financial institution mostly in the nature of a Cooperative financial institution such as a Savings and Credit Cooperative (SACCOS) or Credit Union.

“These institutions usually have no access to modern infrastructure and they rely a lot on human resources for their operations as they continue rudimentary means to manage financial information and make decisions.” Gerald notes.

To date, Ensibuuko’s business volume is 151 SACCOS reached in 2 years. Of these, 14 are newly signed, 35 are active on the Mobis platform and 102 are on their current pipeline in Uganda. There are over 14 other institutions in 3 other African markets that are currently in business with Ensibuuko through its recently established  franchises in Zambia and Tanzania. Ensibuuko has raised 1 Million USD in funding (500,000 of which came through a recent Equity investment deal) and maybe the first ever ICT startup with Ugandan only founders to raise this much funding within its first two years of existence.

Inefficiency, human error, fraudulent tendencies have become typical of these institutions and is undermining their role in delivering financial services to the under-served. In Uganda there are over 6000 registered SACCOS serving 18 million people. It is estimated that there are over 300,000 of such institutions in Africa. By using technology to strengthen financial institutions, Ensibuuko has the potential to significantly disrupt the rural financial services sector not just in Uganda but across Africa.

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Uganda Innovates

Makerere University Students Build Computer from Scratch

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BY MARVIN MUTYABA & ISAIAH NGABIRANO

Computers today have become part of our lives that basically most of the things we need are in these machines. With so many benefits like quick information and communication, entertainment, entrepreneurship, activism and so much more, the computer use has become an extension of the human fabric.

The growing movement of digital migration in the world has opened a worldwidedemandfor innovation and inventionwhich has given rise to the exceptional programmers and inventors who have created appliances and tools that have revolutionized the way we do everything. This picture features Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Nikola Tesla among other inventors.

In Uganda, a group of youths have added their names to this list by building an organic computer, using their knowledge from school and exposure to computers.

The group is spear headed by Ivan Karugaba Junior, a student of mechanical engineering at Makerere University who gained inspiration to develop a computer through personal experiences

One evening at campus my computer was stolen and this got me asking myself why couldn’t I develop my own computer since that’s what we learn in class,” he narrates “Developing the first prototype of the computer was not an easy one and it involved a lot of research and commitment from the team. There were so many lows but we worked as a team and persisted until we came up with a functioning computer, it was a huge achievement to us.

The mother board of the microfuse computer

Having done his internship in Shenzhen,the high-tech hub of China, Ivan gained a lot of experience in developing computers and established some connections as well. This has helped in steering the development of their computer.

When he returned from the one month internship, Ivan decided to start acompany with some colleagues from school, Ochieng Elvis a computer engineer, Etwalu Emmanuel a mechanical engineer, AineamaniTwesigye a software engineer and Nyakoojo Oscar an industrial artist which they called Microfuse, after their computer.

Microfuse is a multipurpose device that can function as a computer at the same time as a media box with the capability to use a low power consumption of a rate of 5w connected to any display, projector, monitor or TV and a computing functionality as Microsoft office. It can also turn any TV into a smart TV, enable access to online connection, live TV and radio channels. All these marvelous features are to come at a simple price of UGX 350,000 (USD 96) with all the necessary accessories attached.

Microfuse basically means joining small parts together to come up with one strong and reliable equipment.” He says. “Microfuse’s aim is to make affordable computers to the normal Ugandan. I believe that every Ugandan deserves to own a computer. It’s absurd to find that someone studies computer in their A-level and the only time they get to use a computer is when they are doing their final papers which is not pleasing and this is majorly because the current devices are expensive and most Ugandans live below the poverty line you cannot expect them to afford these devices.

Ivan however states that the microfuse will be ready for distribution after the team embarks on batch production, which they haven’t been able to do due to the lack of funding and support for their project. He however,believes that the funding will eventually come in the near future since people have started appreciating their motive and the products they intend to produce through the numerous exhibitions that they have participated in.

Ivan (left) at one of the exhibitions

The team has also started a training program to help young Ugandans who are ready to learn and attain some skills in mechanical and computer engineering.In this way, the group is able to transfer knowledge to these youths which they can use in their innovations.

The microfuse team on one of the trainings

Microfuse is located in Wandegeya, Maricha Centrum Building, Ground Floor, office number A3. Tel: +256772292171Email: microfuseug@gmail.comWebsite: www.microfusetechug.com

 

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Profiles

How This Group of Young Men is Creating Employment Through Art and Craft

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BY MARVIN MUTYABA

A group of 6 youths in Makindye has embarked on a life changing journey, turning their passions and skills into a profitable business.

After attending a crafts exhibition at the National Theatre in 2015, these friends were inspired by the attractive crafts on display to start their own workshop making and selling crafts.

“We talked to Mr. Muwembo, the craftsman who was showcasing his work. He offered to give us training as we worked for him. His workshop was in Kanyanya so we used to come from Makindye every day to Kanyanya. It took us over a year to master how wood craft is done,” said Mark.

While at this apprenticeship, these young men started making their own pieces which they sold, using the profit to purchase their own equipment.

“We had a strategy. Every month we had to buy equipment. After a year, we had developed skills and were able to start our own workshop,” said Malakai, one of the proprietors of the workshop. “To start any business, it needs commitment, passion, and ready to take risks, consistency and involvement.”

In 2016, these committed youth started their workshop on a small piece of land given to them by Malakai’s father at Lukuli, Nanganda.

“After two months, KCCA came and demolished our workshop saying that they wanted only built up structures on the main road. Even all our equipment and materials were taken. We went back to zero and all our savings had been used to buy these things,” narrates Mark. “We visited KCCA offices several times trying to see if we could recover the materials. We had lost wood, vanish, paints and tools like small axes, carving tools, pry bars, clamps, hammers and marking tools. We never got any back so we gave up on them”

As a result, their work was put on a standstill for some time. This was a very big set back to their dream of building a very big craft shop. Their next challenge was getting another location.

“Towards the end of 2016, KCCA advertised a funding opportunity for the youths who had business ideas and also those that had running businesses. We wrote a proposal but this took a while and we never not get any feedback.”

Desperate for capital to start over, they sought loans from their parents to no luck. Only Abdul’s parents supported them with a small loan that wasn’t sufficient to cover the cost of materials and new equipment.

“During that time, there was a road construction project. we asked for jobs and worked there for 6 months. We saved all our money and rented a small piece of land where we put up a workshop. This time it was not on the main road.  We started working again and lucky enough, we had market from our time at Muwembo”s workshop,” narrates Mark.

Malakai working on one of the pieces in the workshop

Due to their hard work, these six young men have managed to create jobs and employ more eleven young people who distribute and take on other tasks like filing, shaping, chiseling, painting among others. The group is constructing a workshop and a showroom on the main road in Lukuli. By next year, they believe, the workshop will be done.

“Basing on the current situation in the country, we are able to earn a living and also employ other people,” says Abdul.

When asked about their goals, this inseparable team wants to have at least 100 employees by the end of next year and also start exporting their craft. They encourage their fellow Ugandans to follow their passion and find a way of earning from it.

*This is a guest post by MARVIN MUTYABA, a student at Makerere University Business School, currently pursuing a Business Administration in his second year. He is passionate about entrepreneurship, skills development and fitness. 

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Profiles

Turning Rubbish into Money In The Fight Against Unemployment

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BY: MARVIN MUTYABA

Meet Calvin Matovu, a twenty-five-year old graduate from Makerere University who recycles wastes and rubbish into charcoal.

After attaining a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental science in 2013, Calvin searched for a job in vain. His life started becoming difficult as he had no source of income and he found it senseless to finish university and sit at idly at home.

In the struggle to fight unemployment, Calvin harnessed the idea of collecting wastes and rubbish from the community with his friends, to make some money.

“I asked myself, all this waste we collect and KCCA burns, can’t we reproduce a product out of it?’ Basing on my knowledge from campus, I came up with the idea of recycling wastes into charcoal.” Says Calvin at his factory in Erisa zone, Kyebando.

He set his plan in motion by gathering jobless youths in his community to create employment for themselves. Calvin and his team of seven started reusing wastes, especially organic wastes from agricultural products for example peelings from matooke. These are mixed with ash, clay, carbon and water to make a final product.

“At first we did not have market because people were already using charcoal from firewood with no clue about charcoal from wastes.” He says.

The idea of reusing garbage to make charcoal seems so unrealistic until he breaks down the process through which waste can be made useful and environment friendly.

“The raw materials include banana peelings, paper, clay, cow dung, cassava flour basing on your income level for example one can use clay or cow dung or cassava flour. The machines used are: a charring drum, crushing machine and a stick briquette machine. Peelings are collected and dried then sorted and grinded. Then they are burnt and put into the charring drum. The binder, which can be either  cassava porridge, clay or cow dung is added to the wastes mix and the mixture is then poured into the briquette machine. the last step is to dry the briquettes to produce charcoal. This is done in the drying rack.”

Calvin’s workmate sieving the raw material in the workshop

Calvin and his team have faced a number of challenges but this has not stopped them from going further.

“In the beginning, we used our hands to mould the charcoal which was very tiresome and it left our hands spoilt with dead skin in the palms. Our quality also wasn’t that good. The market too was very low but we never gave up.”

“Use what surrounds you” is a common saying that we often do not give attention too, but instead, we keep asking our leaders for help yet what’s surrounds us can be very useful in our daily life.

Basic principles of Physics state that “Effort + Load  = Work done.” Calvin’s hard work and desire to see his brilliant idea boom led him to overcome all the challenges that he and his team met. After months of several dynamics, critics and mental exhaustion, the season ended and he harvested fruits from his tree. Schools and some small companies started making orders for his charcoal. He has since received support from KCCA in form of a a manual machine that ended the hands era.

The briquettes are laid out to dry in the drying rack

Calvin Matovu now he employs twenty young people from his own community in Kyebando. The charcoal briquettes they manufacture cost UGX 1500 and last for over seven hours, which minimizes the daily costs also reducing demand for firewood.

“Anyone can do this anywhere at any time.” He says in conclusion. “Every person should base on talent at least 50% of their daily economic activities.”

The finished products. Briquettes ready to be sold.

This is a guest post by MARVIN MUTYABA, a student at Makerere University Business School, currently pursuing a Business Administration in his second year. He is passionate about entrepreneurship, skills development and fitness. 

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