By Paul Ndiho
The success of internet connectivity in Uganda is exciting the nation’s young people to create tech hubs like Outbox – a business incubator focused on providing rising entrepreneurs, students, developers, researchers and organizations the opportunity to build inclusive communities that they can tap into for talent and collaboration.
As of January 2016, the population of Uganda’s population is estimated to be more than 41 million people – According to Uganda’s population and census bureau. Youth unemployment in the country is at all-time high, and the nation has one of the world’s largest percentages of young people under 35, according to the State of Uganda Population report by the United Nations Population Fund.
More than 40,000 young people graduate from Ugandan universities each year, but the Ugandan job market can provide only 8,000 jobs annually. But initiatives like Outbox, a highly creative tech hub for ideas are changing that narrative by challenging young entrepreneurs interested in using technology to think outside the box. Richard Zulu is the lead developer for Outbox.
“Outbox started as a combination of many efforts, and so what we do now is we work with upcoming African entrepreneurs, and give them a work space, get them into shape and we offer them training. We also have partnerships to raise funding for them, and expose them to new markets.”
Outbox launched in 2012, with an ambitious goal of changing Uganda’s entrepreneur community through a program that spans three to six months and so far, Outbox has an outstanding success story.
“The amount of success stories that we’ve had are quite a number. Currently, we are working with up to seven startups that we are supporting in different verticals and then we have up to five more affiliated with us or that are very interested in collaborating within our networks.”
Zulu says helping emerging entrepreneurs is something he does because he believes it will spur development.
“We don’t take equity or anything like that from the companies that are here. We just ask them to subscribe as members to benefit from our services, and so for us currently we run activities that give us the income, but with regards to the startup it’s what we love doing, and that’s our way of giving back to the community.”
Other start-ups taking advantage of the office space include Kola Studios, creators of the popular two-player card game dubbed “Matatu”. The goal of the game is to play all your cards before your opponent. Sharon Rwakatungu explains.
Apps are all the rage for a growing number of mobile devices. And young people are taking advantage of this revolution. Bryan Lamtoo is behind the NTV mobile app called “NTV GO” and explains how the app works. NTV Go enables citizen journalists to engage and contribute breaking news content to the station.
Tech analysts say Uganda’s apps industry has been on a major upswing in the past few years, driven primarily by advances in mobile phone technology. And Ugandan government officials are keen to capitalize on that technology too.