Written By: Bruce Tushabe
As we prepare to launch our latest tech Start-up series, (yes that’s a spoiler), we shall give you a glimpse into Uganda’s information and technology sector that is shaping up to become a major driver of development. As unemployment rates skyrocket and infrastructures struggle, burgeoning technology communities across the Kampala are forging unprecedented paths to solve economic and social ills.
No matter what you call them – tech hubs, innovation hubs, and business incubators– technology centers are connecting young entrepreneurs, programmers, designers, and investors. Few concepts in Africa drive more excitement, collaboration, and promise than the tech hub.
With the support of these hubs, Uganda is seeing a rapid rise in the number of mobile phone apps built by local designers – and an increasing number of high profile companies are turning to local developers and companies for their IT solutions. To put it more aptly, a tech revolution is taking root in the nation, and at the center of it are tech Hubs budding up around the city of Kampala.
As these spaces become the nerve centers for the tech community, they also become critical international touch-points for those seeking to engage in technology and business in Africa. They are the new points of exchange for long-term expatriates and short-term visitors looking to identify trends, find local talent, and catch the African wave of innovation.
And now Techjaja brings you the leading innovation hotspots leading the fuel the tech revolution in Kampala.
Mara Launch pad
Mara LaunchPad, operating under the social business Mara Foundation, is one of Kampala’s premiere business incubators. Along with other tech-oriented spaces like Hive Colab and the Outbox Hub, Mara offers office space, mentorship and even venture capital to new start-ups in Uganda. Many of these businesses often focus on new technologies.
Mara Launchpad’s mission is to create an open-ended model which allows for incubation, investment, capacity building and scale. Thus, Mara’s entrepreneurs get access to a place to work together as well as access to early stage seed funding and later stage venture capital.
It is conveniently located directly across the street from Makerere University which makes it prime real-estate for student entrepreneurs who need a quiet, professional space to work along or in teams. The space is called the ‘Launchpad’ because of the perfect storm of resources available to participants seeking to ‘launch’ their projects or businesses in a friendly environment.
Uganda’s first tech hub boasts a reliable Internet connection, back-up electricity, and a conference space for one-on-one meetings. A community-owned co-working space based in Kampala, Hive Colab provides hands-on assistance to young technology entrepreneurs.
It is an Open, collaborative, community owned work environment for young tech entrepreneurs to focus on projects, access the internet, hold events and generally collaborate. It has been pivot in the establishment of a vibrant tech community in Kampala and still hosts a number of major tech conferences in the city.
Hive colab was founded by Appfrica , a firm founded in 2008 in Kampala, Uganda which helps the world’s leading multinational organizations and technology firms enter African markets. Appfrica offers creative program design, market research and technical solutions, in addition to offering regional talent and support in over 16 Sub-Saharan African countries.
Outbox is a technology incubation, collaboration space and innovation hub that supports techies and further support for people to turn their tech ideas that utilize mobile and web into sustainable businesses. Outbox’s mission is to create awesome products and businesses on the mobile and web that create value, relevance and are sustainable.
The objective of the incubation is to support young entrepreneurs to turn their ideas into products and services while creating start-ups that are financially viable and free standing.
The incubation hub hopes to work together with developers and entrepreneurs to develop their ideas into products/services and launch them into market. It is one of leading go to incubation centers in Kampala.
The Hub Kampala, Kamwokya
Founded by JantienZuurbier, a Dutch national, @The Hub Kampala, has been in operation since the beginning of this year. It prides itself as a collaboration space for creative, like-minded enterprising people. It offers daily, weekly and monthly work and meeting space for freelancers, independent consultants, entrepreneurs, designers, artists, journalists. Its one of the newest entrants into the Hub business host a wide range of activities, from art sessions, poetry evenings to coding sessions. It offers wi-fi, calm environment among many other facilities for the techies.
Makerere University Software Incubation Lab at COCIS
This was established in December 2008, Its one of the largest computing and ICT training, information science, research and consultancy colleges in Africa. The center has been instrumental in training most Uganda’s leading software developers currently working in a wide range of companies.
The center provides an opportunity to young graduates (software engineers) to give birth to their dream software projects and nurture them carefully so that they can ably employ themselves. The center has more than 100 computers fully connected with the internet for the students. The graduates are allowed to use the facility for one year and in special cases can be allowed more time but not exceeding two years in total.
The project aims at equipping fresh graduates from the university with the necessary hands on experience required to excel in the software industry.
Students are arranged in groups and assigned mentors who work with them on stipulated project in conjunction with Industrial partners. In the process, the students learn and the industrial partners get working solutions that can be deployed.
Venture labs East Africa
Venture Labs East Africa launched their Kampala space in Bugolobi in 2014. It is a new platform for innovative high-growth ventures and brings together a global network of interpreters, technology partners and investors to accelerate and reduce all risks involved in launching transformative new ventures. They aim to build a collaborative platform for innovating, designing and launching lie changing new technology-enabled business ventures in frontier markets. With an initial idea of targeting start-ups.
These are some among the many tech communities budding around Kampala city. These hubs portray a very different Africa to the one often seen in the media and attract creative, young tech graduates who come in search of opportunity. In most cities, these spaces offer students, programmers, developers, entrepreneurs, creative, investors and techies a place to work, network and create for the first time.