Mastercard Foundation nudges Uganda digital innovators towards shared platform services
Six years and fifty thousand clients later, Shafiq Kasujja and Mystica Keith, are seeing the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. The Business Development Manager and his Technical Officer counterpart at MobiPay Agrosys, are onboarding Equity Bank, the first lender to embrace their App, which links small-scale farmers to other players along the agricultural value chain.
Speaking against the backdrop of the Digital Economy Showcase at the Serena International Conference Centre March 1, an exhibition of shared digital platforms under the Digital Economy Program that Innovation Village is implementing in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation, Shafiq said having the lender on board would help the digital innovator have a more compelling value proposition to a market hungry for credit.
“We are already working with big-ticket client such as the International Labour Organisation and the World Bank, which use our platform to deliver messaging against issues such as child labour to farmers.
“We also help link farmers to credible suppliers of inputs, credit and try to support their transition to from cash to cashless transactions,” Shafiq told 256BN.
Despite that, the innovator still finds a lot of questions around money. Without records and mainly depending on group guarantees, many small-scale farmers don’t have an individual profile on which lenders could base to assess their creditworthiness. That is the gulf that MobiPay and other creators under the Innovation Village’s stewardship, are trying to bridge by creating solutions that speak to the needs of the last mile user.
For Mobipay, having Equity Bank on their platform will solve two problems. By facilitating access to cheaper credit MobiPay will become more relevant to its subscribers while spreading Equity Bank’s footprint to farmer groups, will deepen financial inclusion.
“The beauty about MobiPay is that while the farmer will still belong to a group and enjoy the benefits of that affiliation, our App will create an individual profile of him or her and their transaction record within the group. That will give lenders visibility of him or her as an individual, making it easier to respond to his needs faster and with a higher degree of certainty,” explains Mystica.
Charles Oleng Ojok, the Deputy Executive Director at the National Planning Authority, who officiated at the event said, using shared digital platforms “will make it easier for end-users to access products and services, resulting in reduced operational costs, improved sales for entrepreneurs and service providers.”
The shared platforms will make it easier to reach last-mile users in the rural communities – who for long have been digitally excluded, he added.
Through the Digital Economy Program, the Innovation Village and its partner Mastercard Foundation, hope to enhance access to essential services, products, markets, funding, and employment for 3.4 million people living in hard-to-reach areas across Uganda.
Starting with the Agriculture sector in 2022, the program has mapped the needs of 370 Farmer Producer Organizations with a membership of 650,000 farmers, 38pc of them young farmers. This has helped bring understanding of the value chains they play in, the attendant challenges they face, in the process providing a basis on which to support innovators creating market-driven technology-enabled solutions. The findings revealed that most farmer organizations needed more digital tools and skills and faced challenges accessing reliable markets, financial services, and inputs, among others.
Based on these findings, and in concert with partners such as the Uganda National Farmers Federation, the program has designed interventions for the farmers, including training in marketing, financial literacy, business planning, and record keeping. The program will also build the skills of entrepreneurs to design and implement solutions that bring multiple service providers together to offer affordable seamless technology-enabled services to youth, women, smallholder farmers, small business owners, and more.
Through the Program, Innovation Village has also partnered with technology providers such as Hamwe East Africa and Channel Partners like the Association of Microfinance Institutions of Uganda and the Grain Council of Uganda to design and implement these interventions, and to support innovators building and scaling appropriate solutions.
The Digital Economy Program will also leverage Community Pass – a technology platform that connects individuals to a full range of service providers through a unified infrastructure shared across service delivery providers.
Through the program, innovators building solutions with Community Pass access a developer sandbox environment to ease integration and prototyping of solutions, access to Point of Interaction for devices, cards and other equipment to test offline-first solutions, technical support to design and refine solutions, get support developing, refining and implementing product and go to market strategy. The developers also gain access to a network of early adopters, in the process shortening time to market, and a partner network through which to reach more digitally excluded users faster, among others.
Overall, the Digital Economy Program supports those building and scaling technology-enabled solutions in agriculture, education, or in support of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise resilience to do so more efficiently, sustainably and at scale, faster. The program supports solution providers with building, testing and refining high-impact sustainable solutions, finding more efficient and cost-effective ways to serve end users, and taking solutions to market more effectively.
Adrian Bukenya, Country Director, Mastercard Foundation, Uganda, said the digital economy has the potential to provide solutions for increasing the farmers’ access to markets, financial services, inputs, and farming knowledge.
“Although digital entrepreneurs have created several solutions, farmers in rural areas have not accessed them because of poor digital literacy and limited access to the internet and devices. This program is leveraging shared digital platform services to enable entrepreneurs to scale their solutions to farmers that were previously excluded from the digital economy because of lack of connectivity and devices,” he said.
The Digital Economy Program is part of the Mastercard Foundation’s Young Africa Works Strategy, which seeks to enable 4.3 million young people in Uganda to access dignified and fulfilling work by 2030.
Japheth Kawanguzi, Team Lead, Innovation Village, said the Village would work with different partners to broaden and champion the national digital transformation agenda and accelerate the creation of job opportunities for young people.
“Partnerships will be critical if the Program is to meet the diverse needs of communities,” he added.