As we settle into the new year, we are reflecting with optimism about the months ahead, preparing to once again tackle the challenges on the way with new solutions. In 2021, several startups rose to the occasion and provided a way through various individual, community and sector challenges health, transport, education among other things. Below are the startups that stood out in 2021, many of which we ought to keep an eye on in 2022.
SafeBoda is a community of entrepreneurs and boda boda drivers that is revolutionizing transportation, payments, and on-demand services in Africa’s cities at a click of a mobile phone button.
Last year, the startup became the first company to benefit from the Africa Investment Fund by Tech Giant Google.
The fund is part of Google’s plans to invest $1 billion over the next five years in “tech-led initiatives”, which includes a $50 million Africa Investment Fund targeted at early- and growth-stage startups on the continent.
This is a worthwhile milestone for SafeBoda as well as Ugandan startups, signaling a continuity to innovation in this new year.
The ride hailing app was also awarded a silver medal at the Digital Impact Awards Africa under the FinTech Innovation Excellence for its offer of business loans in partnership with NUMIDA Tech.
Mobile Scan Solutions Uganda Limited (M-SCAN) is a developer of low-cost mobile ultrasound devices that seek to reduce maternal mortality. They do this through early detection of risk factors and easy accessibility to affordable ultrasound services for use in low and middle-income families.
In 2021, the startup emerged winner of the $30,000 prize under the NINJA COVID-19 Response and Recovery Challenge by the Japan International Corporation Agency (JICA). It was also voted as the Innovation of the year at the e-Government Excellence awards of 2021 in the Innovation and Fintech sector category.
Ecoplastile is a Ugandan-based startup that addresses the challenges of urban waste management, indecent housing, chronic youth unemployment and climate change. Best known for recycling and transforming waste plastics into durable plastic timber and roofing tiles, the startup collected 141 tonnes of plastic from the environment, captured 352.5 kilograms of carbon from the environment and created 108 jobs as of October 2021.
In 2021, they emerged as one of the top three winners of the NINJA CoVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Business Challenge by JICA.
Easy Matatu is an electronic platform that connects commuters to convenient, reliable, safe and clean public transport. With rides scheduled through their application, they make it easy for Ugandans to get to their destination in time, safely and conveniently.
In 2021, Easy Matatu was one of the startups selected by JICA to go through the 3-month NINJA Accelerator program where they would receive proof of concept funding, business support & partnership opportunities. The startup has announced plans to take its services a notch higher using internet connectivity. We also look forward to its pitch to global investors at the NINJA Accelerator Uganda pitch day finals.
AkelloBanker uses data and mobile technology to build capacity of farmers and traders to access products and services including tractor hire, seed, medical servicers among other things.
In 2021, Akello Banker was one of the five startups selected by JICA to go through the 3-month NINJA Accelerator program where they would receive proof of concept funding, business support & partnership opportunities. It will pitch its solution to global investors too as part of the program.
Zofi Cash made its entry on the market in 2021. It is a digital financial platform that advances money to salaried employees, thus enabling them to take care of financial emergencies that can’t wait for payday.
This is an ingenious innovation that is timely, especially under the current economic situation.
KaCyber Security Technologies Limited (also known as “KaCyber”) is an Information and Communications Technology (ICT) company building solutions for the transport and logistics sector. The company eases travel through providing electronic ticketing, mobile communication, mobile payments, and other online services.
In 2021, KaCyber launched a pilot electronic ticketing system to close income leakage and reduce operational costs.
Tubayo is an online travel marketplace that enables travelers to book unique homes and experiences hosted by locals in more than 10 countries in Africa.
Even with the heavy blow taken by the tourism sector during the COVID-19 pandemic, the startup has remained resilient enough to continue operations.
During the award ceremony held by Startup Uganda at the 2021 Kampala Innovation Week, Tubayo was recognized as the startup of the year by Startup Uganda under the Communications and Creative Industry. Prior to that, it emerged the best exhibitor at Uganda 59th Independence Day celebrations held in Nairobi, Kenya.
Chipper Cash is a financial technology company that builds software to enable free and instant Peer-to-peer Cross-border payments in Africa and Europe; as well as solutions for businesses and merchants to process online and in-store payments.
According to Crunch Base, Chipper Cash raised $100m in May 2021 and later $150m in November 2021, all in a Series C funding round. These funds are expected to help the startup increase its African footprint. Valued at over $2 billion now, the startup is recognised as other unicorns such as Flutterwave.
Tugende is a for-profit social enterprise dedicated to helping entrepreneurs in the informal sector increase their economic trajectory using asset finance, technology, and a customer-centric model.
The enterprise began by filling this credit gap for motorcycle and taxis in Uganda, helping these self-employed people own instead of renting their key productive assets in 24 months or less.
In 2021 alone, Tugende was able to raise $3.6m in a Series A funding round late March while their latest funding in December 2021 saw them raise $17m in a debt financing round. According to Tugende, the capital will help meet its continued intense customer demand in 2022 and support further technology driven innovation to serve clients far beyond one asset being financed.
Numida is a fintech that supports semiformal micro and small businesses with digital working capital loans of $100-$5000 disbursed via mobile money. Entrepreneurs can access credit in as little as two hours from the comfort of their business sans the barriers of hefty paperwork, collateral, or lengthy wait times.
In 2021, Numida is one of the startups that raised a remarkable amount of capital amounting to $2.3 million in seed funding. The seed round was led by Pan-African payments company, MFS Africa with participation from DRK Foundation, Equilibria Capital, Segal Family Foundation and other angel investors.
Ensibuuko helps organisations that manage savings and loans to become efficient by automating their operations. For Uganda whose startups struggle to attract investment funding like their counterparts Nigeria and Kenya, Ensibuuko which bagged $1m in Investment funding as well as a grant from the GSMA Innovation Fund. The funding placed the startups among the competitive ones on the continent and we look forward to whether the startup can drive its expansion plans.
UGABUS is Uganda’s largest integrated online bus ticketing portal today. It brings together all bus transport operators across Uganda under a single window, thus facilitating users to plan their bus travel across East Africa. In 2021, the startup was named among Africa’s Top 50 Business Heroes, placing it among the top change makers on the continent. But the biggest achievement arrived towards the end of the year when the startup was acquired by Treepz Global, a leading vehicle hailing app. Besides improving customer experiences, the acquisition will now allow the company to expand its services across the region.
RocketHealth UG provides a suite of telemedicine centered healthcare packages that consist of remote teleconsultations, medicine deliveries, and lab sample pickups from one’s doorstep as well as an appointment-first clinic. The telemedicine service provider offers a centered model with a doctor teleconsultation as the first point of contact helps in patient triage.
In 2021, there was an aggressive growth in e-health services and startups like RocketHealth contributed to the expansion of services online. The startup also won a couple of awards during the Kampala Innovation Week as the Startup of the Year in Health and the year overall, solidifying its position in the tech ecosystem.
Yunga Technologies (U) Limited is a local rescue digital network that connects neighbors to neighbors and neighbors to rapid response units in case of an attack or emergency in the shortest time. In 2021, JICA listed Yunga as one of the top 20 startups from Uganda with great potential.
ClinicPesa is a social enterprise that provides access to healthcare financing through its digital micro-savings platform, where the uninsured low-income earners can save as low as $0.3 cumulatively and receive loan top-ups dedicated for healthcare. It also uses mobile money transaction records of a given user to generate healthcare creditworthiness for the low-income earner since they use mobile money for transactions on daily expenses. In 2021, this startup made it to the list of the top 20 startups from Uganda to look out for, the list was compiled by JICA.
Famunera is a web and mobile agribusiness marketplace that links farmers to agricultural inputs, support service providers and buyers of farm produce in Uganda and around East Africa. The startup has so far registered over 1000 farmers and created over 5000 indirect jobs.
In 2021, Famunera emerged winner of “Leveraging Last-mile Distribution Networks” during the Digital Innovation Challenge that The Innovation Village held in partnership with Startup Uganda and other partners. The startup has potential to impact more farmers given that agriculture remains the economy’s backbone.
From startups that made entry into the market, to those that raised funding, the common expectation remains delivering the value that the market needs as well as growing that impact into new markets. As for The Innovation Village, we will continue to watch the space as we look forward to nurturing entrepreneurship and collaborating with those that are already breaking the glass ceiling with their big ideas.