Uganda’s Startup Ecosystem Overview

In recent years, the CAREC region started to recognize the economic benefits of developing its startup ecosystems. Each member country took measures to improve business creation prospects by offering incentives, hosting accelerator programs and creating tech parks.

Among the eleven member countries, the People’s Republic of China and Pakistan distinguish themselves as front runners when it comes to developing successful startup ecosystems. The achievements of these two countries present themselves as an opportunity for CAREC to share knowledge and best practices and accelerate growth.

Due to the deeply heterogeneous nature of the region, constructing a genuine startup ecosystem portrait of CAREC is a task that will need to be approached from 2 different perspectives.

The first one focuses on outlining the main initiatives for developing startup ecosystems that unite all member countries. These initiatives can mainly be attributed to the Asian Development Bank, CAREC Institute, CAREC Program Strategies and other governmental agencies.

The second approach is to provide an overview of the startup ecosystem scene in each member country, highlighting the tax incentives, funding opportunities and strengths of the ecosystems. A more detailed view on each country will further be provided in our Country Briefs section.

Top Investments & Initiatives in the Startup Ecosystem of the Region

From 2001 until the end of 2020, $40 billion worth of investments have been made in the CAREC region through financing coming from the ADB, development partners or CAREC governments. While these figures do not represent direct investments specifically in the startup ecosystems, they contribute to the overall economic stability and infrastructure development in the region. These, alongside digital literacy, access to talent and accelerators are key elements in later developing solid startups. Stimulating trade and sharing good practices between the member countries is also an objective of CAREC.

Mitigating the Effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic on the Startup Ecosystem

CAREC HACKATHON- The #DigitalCAREC Challenge is a part of a larger project aimed at mitigating the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and boosting the economy through the Startup Ecosystems. The funding of the project (USD 1.0 million) is provided by the ADB and the Republic of Korea e-Asia and Knowledge Partnership Fund. This project will further encourage the integration of digital technology and ICT in member countries.

The CAREC Startup Ecosystem Development Hub is planned to be a virtual platform for creative and innovative proposals in combating the negative impacts of COVID-19.

Creating Tech Parks:

The establishment of tech parks in the CAREC region has had a positive effect in boosting competitiveness of the economy, stimulating the private sector and increasing the number of hi-tech companies. Among the most notable ones is Astana Hub, Azerbaijan Hi-tech Park (HTc), the People’s Republic of China’s Zhongguancun Science Park and the National Information Technology Park in Mongolia.

The creation of these parks attests to CAREC’s determination to simplify bureaucracy, cut down on overregulation and support the startup ecosystems of their region. Many of these tech parks (e.g. the High Tech Park in Kyrgyz Republic) offer special tax breaks or incentives for their residents.

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Main Accelerator Programs, Hubs & Resources:

Startup Central Eurasia: Startup Central Eurasia is an online platform built to ease collaboration between startup ecosystem stakeholders in the region and boost regional growth. The platform is active in Azerbaijan, Georgia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan.

Accelerate Prosperity: This is an initiative of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), providing technical expertise, creative financing solutions and market connections for small and growing businesses. Accelerate Prosperity operates in 3 of the CAREC countries (Pakistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan) investing in programs ranging from commercial services to agriculture, tourism, textiles and ICT.

Central Asian Business Angels: Headquartered in Bishkek, the organization is dedicated to angel investing in the Kyrgyz Republic and its neighbors.

GIZ: GIZ is the German Society for International cooperation, active in 7 of the CAREC member countries operating on a wide range of issues including Environment and Climate, Economic Development and Employment and Social Development. As a part of it’s Economic Development and Employment efforts, GIZ supports initiatives involving startups, innovation and entrepreneurship.

DAI: In Tajikistan and Kyrgyz Republic, DAI runs the Enterprise and Innovation Program (EIP), supporting inclusive and sustainable economic growth in the countries. The main activities are aimed at creating business and innovation centers, strengthening company-investor linkages, provision of market-making activities, and improvement of the business advisory infrastructure.

Startup Grind: This Is the world’s largest independent startup community, uniting 2,000,000 entrepreneurs. Among the CAREC countries, Startup Grind has chapters opened in Azerbaijan, People’s Republic of China, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Pakistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

Main Events:

Startup Ecosystem related events have started to revive in recent years with many countries hosting startup weekends (e.g., Mongolia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan). A special focus has been placed on tech events and the digital development in the region. The main players in organizing events in the CAREC region are Startup Grind and the Founder Institute.

Notable past events include the StartupFest hosted by Azerbaijan in 2019, Startupgrind Europe-Asia Connect held in Georgia and Uzbekistan’s Global Women Startup Weekend.

Main Strengths of the Uganda Startup Ecosystem

    For the last 31 years, Uganda has enjoyed relative political stability that helped them improve human rights, democracy, and economy. As the World Bank highlighted, Uganda’s FDI inflows surpassed its neighbors: Kenya and Rwanda, making it a popular destination for foreign investors.

    In 2018, the “Uganda Entrepreneurial Ecosystem” Initiative took a big step toward improving the startup ecosystem in the country and launched a two-phase initiative to boost entrepreneurship in different regions. The first phase focused on evaluating the operating environment and strategizing to create a better entrepreneurial context. The second phase will be the implementation of the proposed strategy. The initiative’s results would evolve the startup ecosystem by improving survival rates and boosting startup growth.

    In 2020, the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance introduced the “Digital Uganda Vision” to improve countries’ global ICT indices to become an attractive spot for investors and improve interoperability. Additionally, The National ICT Initiatives Support Programme (NIISP) strengthens digital and innovative products in the ecosystem. Therefore, Uganda would be an ideal location to launch your software and innovative products. As the innovative products are highly supported by the government, rising sectors in the region includes Fintech, Software & Data, and FoodTech. Moreover, the start-ups in the country are succesful enough to get an investment from global players like Google and Y-Combinator.

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    Notable Startups

    • Ridelink is a logistics-as-a-service company that provides affordable and sustainable transportation solutions for businesses to expand in new markets.

    • Xeno Investment Management is an investment app helping its users to accomplish their financial goals.

    • MyFy is an e-commerce app which promises its customers to manage their business over the phone without owning a physical location.

    • Numida has a mission to grow African small businesses with its microfinancing services.

    • Safeboda defines itself as Africa’s super app that provides services such as mobility and payments to its customers.

    • ClinicPesa provides you with access to healthcare financing, that is more convenient and affordable than the traditional Insurance, through a digital micro-loans and savings platform.

    Notable Coworking and Accelerators

    • Design Hub Kampala is 2000 square meter warehouse renovated to collaborative work environment for entrepreneurs, freelancers, designers, writers, product developers, marketing minds, tech start-ups, and makers.

    • The Innovation Village provides a co-working space, in addition to its rich programs and events.

    • The Work Studio is a fully-furnished workspace at the capital city Kampala.

    • Hive Collab Accelerator is a hub for young tech entrepreneurs. Digital entrepreneurs can access the internet and a professional environment to develop their ideas.

    • Outbox Hub is an accelerator based in Kampala that offers African entrepreneurs the option to benefit from technology while building high-growth companies. It collaborates with many other institutions to organize innovation challenges.

    • IventureAfrica launches entrepreneurship programs to support entrepreneurs scaling up their ideas using technology and innovation.

    • Curad mainly focuses on agri-businesses and collaborates with Makerere university, NUCAFE, and the NARO coffee research center, encouraging graduates to become entrepreneurs.

    • Makarere Innovation & Incubation Center organizes several programs to incubate technology-enabled ideas from universities and SMEs.

    • Shona has a mission to build “good businesses” in East Africa by guiding businesses in areas such as strategy, revenue optimization, operations, and investment.

    • UNDP Uganda Accelerator Lab addresses the deforestation problem in Uganda via e-commerce to connect informal market vendors online and the empowerment of youth.

    • Google for Startups is a three months long virtual accelerator for startups with high growth potential.

    Notable Organizations

    • Response Innovation Lab supports the growing innovator community of Uganda by providing tools and guidance to actors for developing solutions to humanitarian challenges.

    • The Kampala Angel Investment Network (KAIN) brings innovators, entrepreneurs, and angel investors to achieve the mutual goal of bringing ideas to life.

    • Startup Uganda enables entrepreneurs to reach the knowledge, support programs, mentors, and investors needed to succeed. They are Uganda’s largest startup community with over 30.000 members, 10.000 startups, and has organized over 500 events.

    • Uganda Development Bank aims to accelerate socio-economic development through sustainable financial interventions. Recently, they introduced the Enterprise Development Program to prepare entrepreneurs for financing business activities.

    • StartHub Africa has a base in Uganda that helps entrepreneurs to find suitable partners and connect with a network of investors.

    • Federation of Young Entrepreneurs- Uganda devotes itself to supporting younger generations in the business. They organize an annual youth entrepreneurship forum and support activities like business clinics, peer mentoring, and training.

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