Four years ago, the Dutch government launched the Netherlands Trust Fund IV (NTF IV) project in Uganda to empower fintechs, generate new technologies and teach them business basics.
However, last month, the project that was implemented in partnership with the Dutch Centre for the Promotion of Imports from Developing Countries (CBI) and the Geneva based International Trade Centre (ITC) came to an end, with learners completing the trainings with impressive results.
“The project enabled us to meet business partners, investors and potential clients in the United Kingdom,” said Allan Rwakatungu, from Xente, an e-commerce and financial services company. “Now, Xente is in a position to grow not only in Uganda but across Africa.”
Jean Onyait, the chief executive officer at Akellobanker, a digital platform company that provides agricultural inputs and services on credit to improve farmers’ productivity said: “NFT-IV has helped with building our capacity and a sustainable business.”
“We began with only three members on the team when we joined NTF-IV in 2017, now we have an efficient team comprised of 58 members, operating in three regions.”
Onyait said, this was only possible because the NTF–IV project consultants provided capacity-building training, business diagnostic checks, enabled business interactions with experts in other countries and connections with investors.
He says the outcome of the support has been so evident during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We have managed to weather all the shocks that have come and also managed to expand our marketing which increased the uptake of our services by 45%,” he said.
Technology experts that The Independent spoke to hailed the initiative saying it could help boost local entrepreneurship, create more jobs and reduce the trade deficits between the two countries.
Latest data from the United Nations COMTRADE database on international trade indicates that Uganda exports to Netherlands was US$78.12million during 2020, while imports totaled to US$200.48 million.
At the start of this project, financial technology (fintech) was having challenges and many companies had not fully realized the vast possibilities in the offing.
The recently unveiled Financial Technology Service Providers Association (FITSPA), too, benefited from this project and is expected to pass on the skills and experiences acquired to other fintechs going forward.
This technical support has helped to unlock both local and international opportunities for the association (FITSPA) and members have been mentored to upgrade their skills, enabled to attract more investors into Uganda’s growing fintech ecosystem. It has grown its membership from seven to now 160.
FITSPA is governed by a pool of passionate, skilled, talented, exposed professionals with experience in technology, banking, telecom, legal and investment who make the Board of Directors and oversee the day-to-day activities of the secretariat.
Other success stories
Some of the major highlights of the NTF–IV project include; support for local fintechs to take part in the Nigeria Fintech Festival during 2018.
As a result, Uganda was elected to have a seat on the committee set up for Africa Fintech Network and was also selected to host the second Africa Fintech Festival in 2019.
The success of this festival was due to teamwork and support given by Martin Labbe NTF IV Programme Manager at International Trade Centre and his team of consultants.
In 2019, NTF-IV sponsored fintechs to attend the UK-Uganda Fintech Convention which exposed these fintechs to various British investors and later in 2020; they sponsored the FITSPA Fintech Symposium.
During this symposium, different financial services sector stakeholders gathered in Kampala to discuss the implementation of the National Payment Systems Act that was passed on July 29, 2020.
The NTF–IV project has also contributed greatly to the development of Uganda’s financial sector and particularly the fintech ecosystem through its team of consultants.
“This is a continuous journey for Uganda’s thriving fintechs and credit must go to NTF-IV for making it possible for this sustained growth through capacity building while also providing exposure and creating numerous learning experiences,” said Zianah Muddu, the project general secretary/engagement partner.
According to government data, Uganda has over 150 fintech companies serving different sectors, but also at different levels in the economy.
The e-Conomy Africa 2020 report—a unique collaboration between Google and the International Finance Corporation (IFC), shows that over the past decade, fintechs have become a significant driving force in the African internet economy, growing in Africa, in part, to serve the population that is currently unbanked and financially excluded.