Two Ugandans and one South African of Ugandan origin have been named by Forbes magazine among Africa’s top 30 young tech entrepreneurs.
The entrepreneurs’ involvement in innovative businesses that shape their societies informed their inclusion on the exclusive list.
In 2015, according to a report by Approved Index, Uganda was named the world’s most entrepreneurial country with an entrepreneurship rate of 28 per cent.
Uganda has almost doubled the entrepreneurship rate of Thailand, which comes second with 16 per cent.
Kevin Lubega, 28
From as far back as his early teenage years, Lubega used every opportunity he had to work with and learn from his father.
He was inspired to solve Africa’s problems through technology. To-date, he has founded five companies in diverse industries, including e-commerce, real estate, financial services and oil and gas.
“Through these ventures, my goal has been to provide sustainable and lasting solutions to Uganda’s and Africa’s unique challenges,” he is quoted as saying.
Incorporated in 2012, EzeeMoney is a fintech firm offering electronic money services to clients, with or without a mobile phone or formal bank accounts, wishing to receive or make multiple payments. It also enables payment of bills, make collections, point-of-sale money transfers and other e-money services to banks, non-bank corporations, government and NGOs.
EzeeMoney operates in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, directly employing 80 people and indirectly about 8,000.
Natalie Bitature, 28
Co-Founder: Musana Carts
Bitature was raised by entrepreneurs. She grew up running around building sites, cleaning shop floors and counting stock in the evenings. When she was on track to study investment banking, she volunteered at a school in rural Ibanda and realised there was another need for business.
She co-founded Musana Carts. These are solar-powered street vending carts designed for micro-entrepreneurs in Uganda.
They are modular, made for the customisation of business features including fridges, sockets and mobile money terminals. Musana Carts equips its vendors with finance and business training and offers opportunities for those trapped in the informal sector.
Bitature was named a World Economic Forum Top Woman Innovator in 2016 and was invited to present at the World Bank headquarters in Washington DC for the Spring Meetings 2017.
She also previously founded two service businesses in Kampala: Tateru Properties and Handymen Uganda.
“I believe because of the family I come from, I’ve had the unique opportunity to be exposed to people and institutions that can help my causes. When I was preparing to pitch Musana Carts to President [Bill] Clinton and a panel of esteemed judges in New York, I got to pitch to the prime minister of Uganda…,” she says.
Melvyn Lubega, 28
Necessity kick-started Lubega’s entrepreneurial journey. He started his first business when he was a scholarship student in high school.
“The main school tuck shop was closed in the evenings and over the weekend; so, I saw the opportunity to run a tuck shop out of the boarding house. Luckily my need for money was met and surpassed by my boarding mates’ desire for food and drinks, making the business a success,” he says.
He went to the University of Oxford where he studied for a master’s in educational learning and technology. Here, he met one of his co-founders, Andrew Barnes.
“Andrew had already been building websites for a number of years and he had actually built a web design business. He had been in the learning space as well, which is how we ended up in the same programme at Oxford,” says Lubega.
Together, they founded GO1, a training solution that develops training content which is accessed through an easy-to-use online platform. Today, the company is recognised as a world leader in employee compliance, professional development and on-boarding training.
It is backed by investment from Y Combinator, the University of Oxford and other leading venture capitalists.
The company employs over 157 people, was listed in the global Disrupt100 as one of the most disruptive companies in the world and was listed in the Deloitte Technology Fast 500, based on percentage fiscal year revenue growth over three years.