Netherlands technical support lifts Uganda’s fintech industry
Opportunities are like sunrises, if you wait too long, you miss them. Four years ago, the Dutch government launched the Netherlands Trust Fund IV (NTF IV) project. This project was described as an Export Sector Competitiveness Programme, that was based on the Dutch Centre for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries (CBI) and the Geneva based International Trade Centre (ITC) partnership. Uganda was lucky to be chosen as one of the countries that would benefit and be part of this project.
The Dutch government, through the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the ministry’s affiliate CBI, provided the money while the ITC was in charge of the project implementation within selected countries. Uganda was specifically chosen to assist in the area of IT-enabled services that support export trade.
The project implementers began scouting for organizations within Uganda that could scale up their operations and become competitive enough on a bigger stage. This was when Financial Technology Service Providers Association (FITSPA) got the opportunity and knew it had to act fast.
At the time, financial technology (fintech) was a new venture in the country and many hadn’t fully realized the opportunities within that sector. It was a budding industry that could strengthen linkages with other existing business sectors to simplify and add-value to their operations. Even with it being a virgin sector, NTF-IV agreed to support FITSPA activities and have been doing so for the past four years.
This technical support has helped to unlock both local and international opportunities for the sector. Members have been mentored to upgrade their skills enabling them to attract more investors into Uganda’s growing fintech ecosystem.
Akellobanker is one of the first start-ups to benefit from this project. This digital platform was launched to provide agricultural inputs and services on credit to improve farmers’ productivity.
Jean Onyait, the Chief Executive Officer said, “NFT-IV has helped with building our capacity and a sustainable business. We began with only three members on the team when we joined NTF-IV in 2017, now we have an efficient team comprised of 58 members, operating in three regions.”
“This was only possible because the NTF –IV project consultants provided capacity-building training, business diagnostic checks, enabled business interactions with experts in other countries and connections with investors. The outcome of this support has been evident with the Covid-19 outbreak. We have managed to weather all the shocks that have come and also managed to expand our marketing which increased the uptake of our services by 45%.”
Allan Rwakatungu of Xente, an e-commerce and financial services business said, NTF-IV project enabled them to meet their partners, investors and potential clients in the UK. Due to that, Xente is in a position to grow, not only in Uganda but across Africa.
Together with technical input from ITC, the Dutch donors have been a major reason behind FITSPA’s rapid growth. From its nascent stages in 2017, the association has now established presence in Uganda with a membership of vital enablers. Starting out with just seven founding members, today the association can boast of more than 160 members.
FITSPA is governed by a pool of passionate, skilled, talented, exposed professionals with experience in technology, banking, telecom, legal and investment who make the Board of Directors and oversee the day-to-day activities of the secretariat. It is currently, chaired by Peter Kawumi. Other members include Gerald Begumisa; Eric Kamau; Allan Rwakatungu; Brian Kalule; Josephine Olok; Henry Kevin Wava and Mawanda J. Haruna.
Some of the highlights of the NTF–IV project include; in 2018 the project supported local fintechs to take part in the Nigeria Fintech Festival. As result of this, Uganda was elected to have a seat on the committee set up for Africa Fintech Network and was also selected to host the second Africa Fintech Festival 2019. The success of this festival was due to teamwork and support given by Martin Labbe NTF IV Programme Manager at International Trade Centre and his team of consultants.
In 2019, NTF-IV sponsored fintechs to attend the UK-Uganda Fintech Convention which exposed these fintechs to various British investors and later in 2020; they sponsored the FITSPA Fintech Symposium. During this symposium, different financial services sector stakeholders gathered in Kampala to discuss the implementation of the National Payment Systems Act that was passed on July 29, 2020.
NTF–IV project has tremendously contributed to the development of Uganda’s financial sector and particularly the fintech ecosystem through its team of consultants; Martin Labbe, John Ndabarasa, the Startup Engagement Associate and Richard Okuti, Uganda Project National Coordinator at International Trade Centre and Coordinator for the CBI Parallel Programme.
It’s a continuous journey for Uganda’s fintechs and credit goes to the NTF- IV project for making it possible for the growth of this sector through capacity building, providing exposure and creating learning experiences.
FITSPA took the opportunity that was presented by NTF-IV project and has immensely grown within the sector. This project has lifted the profile of Uganda’s innovation ecosystem, something Uganda is forever grateful for.