Apps4Africa 2011 Winner Eric Mutta, founder of Minishop (formerly ‘The Grainy Bunch’), has just closed a $328,000 financing round from Financial Services Deepening Trust [FSDT – http://www.fsdt.or.tz. The deal was part of a competitive SME Finance Innovation Challenge Fund, in which Eric’s company defeated 13 companies to emerge the victor.
The objective of Minishop is improve the way small & medium sized enterprises (SMEs) keep financial records by providing them with an affordable and user-friendly accounting package called Minishop. Better financial records make it easier to apply for loans that can be used to grow the business, increase employment and contribute to government revenues. In Tanzania, of the 130,000 SMEs that should keep electronic financial records, only 900 currently do so (i.e. less than one percent). Eric will use the funds to close this gap, by hiring 7 employees and purchasing 500 laptops to be bundled and sold with Minishop and other supporting systems for mobile payment collection. This ratio is surprisingly consistent throughout most other African countries so there’s a lot of opportunity for Eric’s solution to grow.
“Apps4Africa will forever remain the event that got the ball rolling,” Eric Mutta exclaimed earlier today.
Eric Mutta took home $15,000 in 2012 competition alongside Farmerline, who coincidentally announced funding from IndigoTrust last December.
Loren Treisman is the Executive of Indigo Trust, a grant-making foundation based in London that funds and supports technology-driven projects that bring about social change in Africa. She supports a wide range of programmes that focus mainly on innovation, transparency and citizen empowerment. Her portfolio also includes innovative projects that utilise information technologies to support development outcomes in any sector including the health, education, human rights and agriculture spheres. The Trust also supports technology innovation hubs across the continent.
Only two years ago, when we started funding in the tech for social change space in Africa, it was hard for people to imagine the tremendous potential for this sector to stimulate change on the continent. Mobile phone penetration was growing exponentially and submarine cables on both coasts were beginning to make high speed broadband internet a reality. Still, the power of these technologies to increase transparency, improve governance and impact upon social change across a range of sectors including health, education, agriculture and human rights was yet to be realised.
At Indigo Trust, we believe that the best solutions to Africa’s challenges will be devised by those affected by them. Technology makes this possible. As technology becomes more widely available and people are able to utilise this tool to access, share and create information, citizens are able to stimulate the change they wish to see in their own lives and communities. Young people are often early adapters of new technologies and crucially, they often have the drive and passion it takes to turn a good idea into a viable enterprise or product. Now, the young people of Africa can be the change makers in their societies.
This sector is still in its infancy, but it’s an exciting time to be involved. There’s a tangible energy across Africa. Technology innovation hubs are springing up across the continent-from KINU in Tanzania and Hive Colab in Uganda to Co-creation Hub in Nigeria and Activ Spaces in Cameroon. These hubs are places where techies and social activists can access high speed internet, training and mentorship opportunities. Most importantly they can share, collaborate and innovate.
These hubs are a crucial part of the local technology ecosystem which will stimulate local innovation and entrepreneurship and ensure that world class applications are developed in-country. This will both stimulate Africa’s economic development and ensure that social projects most effectively address the needs of beneficiaries as the teams creating them will have a better understanding of local context and culture.
We’re delighted to be supporting Apps4Africa and thank them for inviting me to sit on the judge panel. Beyond the competition, we recognise that entrepreneurs need support to transform their prototypes into viable products. We’d be keen to support some of the best projects coming out of the competition. We’ve been supporting iCow, last year’s winner of Apps4Africa for almost 2 years and we’re inspired by the team and the product. It’s incredible to see the impact it’s making on the ground, increasing their incomes through higher milk yields and better sale prices for livestock.
The opportunity is here and now. Other funders and investors are interested in this space and support is available to turn your idea into a reality. If you’ve got a great idea for an application which can support young entrepreneurs, why don’t you get involved and be part of the change you wish to see in your community.