On Tuesday, 9th May 2023, AfriconEU and Outbox held a Policy Roundtable in Uganda to indulge policymakers, local Digital Innovation Hubs, startups, and other policy experts to get their inputs and provide evidence-based Policy recommendations to be included in the Blueprint for trans-continental collaborations.
This AfriConEU policy roundtable conversation happens at a time when Uganda is equally developing its Startup Act through Startup Uganda.
The Ugandan startup ecosystem seeks to ensure better market access for its entrepreneurs; however, this has been hindered by barriers to cross-border e-commerce for the longest time. Creating an environment where digital networks and services can will involve improving infrastructure and attending to key concerns like cybersecurity, data protection/e-privacy, and the fairness and transparency of online platforms.
The question that plagues most African DIHs is, “now that we have discovered the growth potential of the Digital Economy, how can we maximize it for our ecosystems?” –
While these policy roundtables have been happening in Ghana, Nigeria, Uganda, and soon in Tanzania, our theme focused on “Towards a common digital market and a connected startup ecosystem”. With this theme, we wanted to engage all stakeholders on what the lifeblood of the local and international ecosystems would be.
The Roundtable started with Cynthia Kyofuna, who set the pace for the day by ensuring everyone in the room was aligned on the purpose of this roundtable meeting. This covered expectations, division of participants into groups that had a member from the different ecosystem enablers.
Perez Masinde, the Programme Manager at Outbox, then shared an in-depth analysis of the State of Play report findings. This report examined the digital ecosystems in four African countries, namely Ghana, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda, to identify the challenges and opportunities for strengthening digital innovation in these countries. In light of the ongoing COVID–19 pandemic, it sought to understand its impacts on African digital economies. It also addresses the challenges and needs of African DIHs and provides recommendations for their capacity building. And lastly, it identifies the challenges and opportunities for transcontinental partnerships between African and European digital
The report has been written as part of the activities to establish AfriConEU – The first trans-continental networking academy for African and European Digital Innovation Hubs (DIHs). The AfriConEU project aims to strengthen Digital Innovation Hubs in Africa by boosting their capacity to foster innovation and growth and empower women and youth through the digital economy.
Additionally, it seeks to facilitate the collaboration between EU and African DIHs to strengthen a common EU – Africa innovation and Startup ecosystem.
Richard Zulu, the Chairperson of Startup Uganda, an umbrella association of all startups in Uganda, and Head of Innovation at the BPO and Innovation Council, then gave an overview of the enabling policies in Uganda. He highlighted that the BPO Policy of Uganda has been put in place to protect youths seeking short- and long-term work contracts and employers looking for short-term contract employees. He also highlighted that Startup Uganda is currently developing a policy paper that will be presented before the Parliamentary Committee of Uganda.
This Policy will enable to harness the potential of Uganda’s digital economy through co-created regulations, as well as provide for the creation and development of an enabling environment for technology-enabled startups in Uganda and to position Ugandan startup ecosystem as Africa’s leading digital technology center.
The participants then got into groups color-coded as Team Green, Team Orange and Team Pink.
These are the Policy Recommendations that were suggested:
- The Digital Innovation Hubs, even though play a great role in ensuring the growth of the most important part of the ecosystem- entrepreneurs – they often feel left out in adjudicating Policy and its impacts on the entrepreneurs they contribute. They, therefore, recommended several knowledge-sharing sessions where they will be able to give the actual happenings within the ecosystem from their perspective.
- Regulators like the Uganda Revenue Authority that is charged with the national tax mandate, expounded that in order to remove any limiting factors concerning access to international markets, they have set up one-stop centers for entrepreneurs to be able to access all information regarding.
- The Ugandan startup ecosystem requires a united front if it hopes to get into transcontinental relationships. The first step is a common regulation policy for startups in Uganda. This Policy will ensure that investment trickles into the country and into the region. Lessons can be taken from the Nigerian and the Tanzanian ecosystems.
- Innovation is being stifled when certain sectors are seen as unattractive and therefore don’t receive financing. While FinTech and AgriTech are greatly funded, sectors like EduTech, which contributed greatly during the COVID-19 Lockdown still falls way below in investment. Academia experts that attended the sessions, therefore, recommended that we develop a value system based on the impact technologies per sector have on local and international representation and output.
At the end of the Ugandan Policy Roundtable, the different stakeholders appreciated the importance and resilience of Africa’s DIHs, especially because the continent is opening up to innovation and transcontinental networks that will create immense benefits for both regions.
The startups in the room equally registered that Uganda and Africa at large are characterized by a youthful population who are daily challenging what innovation looks like and contributing to technological advancements.
The teams were represented by Kenneth Twesige: The Startup Uganda Policy sub-committee lead, Allan Kakeeto, URA Tax Compliance Expert, and Cynthia Esther Atuhaire: Programmes Coordinator, MkaziPreneur.