Uganda tech entrepreneurs turn problems into solutions

Entrepreneurs David Opio and David Matsiko, looking out across the wealth of Uganda’s fresh produce and abundant sunshine, have used their tech savvy to turn their country’s natural re-sources into successful businesses that benefit the private sector and families across Uganda.

For Matsiko, founder and CEO of Bringo Fresh, what started out in 2017 as an effort to end food waste, has grown into a full blown four-day-a-week food delivery service. Boxes of fresh fruit, vegetables, milk, butter, fish and meat, now arrive at customers’ doorsteps across Uganda’s ma-jor cities.

When Covid-19 hit the country, demand went up. Families wanted fresh produce delivered to their homes. Matsiko realized that through digital ordering and payments, he could effectively connect local produce to customers. “Entrepreneurship is a new way of thinking in Africa, a new way of looking at things,” he explained. Having attended a number of trainings and business model work-shops, he knew he could make the leap.

He now has clients as far as China, the United States and Germany using his website-based ser-vice to have food delivered to their families in Uganda.

Expanding into franchises, new markets

Matsiko currently has a database of 40,000 farmers in Uganda, and is working regularly with 150 of them, 70 of whom are organic farmers. Looking to the future, he sees new opportunities, such as building on his B2C success to create a B2B business model.

“We are developing a franchise model, as we see a number of companies laying off staff. This is a game changer for those passionate about food to invest in delivery services in their specific are-as,” he said.

Investors are not far behind. Boosted by a recent article prepared under the Netherlands Trust Fund IV (NTF IV) Uganda project, Bringo Fresh is currently in negotiations with a Dubai-based Investor to export to the UAE as well as expand the franchise model to Kenya.

Matsiko is also working to develop an app that would offer a safer and more reliable cash-free option for Uganda’s small-scale market stall vendors, the majority of whom are women.

While Matsiko is focused on Uganda’s land, David Opio, CEO and co-founder of GnuGrid Africa, has been looking to the skies. With its round-the-year sunshine and weak electricity delivery (there are more than 30 million people, roughly 80% of the population living off the grid), Uganda is perfect for individual solar energy usage.

Creating solutions

Even though the solar industry is booming, it had been plagued with a number of problems. Often, after-sales service has been poor; accounting and accountability spotty; tampering became ram-pant; and many customers defaulted.

Opio, who has a background in financial technology, grew up in a village that had no access to electricity. “My motivation was to give the people in my own community access to clean energy,” he said.

In 2019, Opio and his business partner James Dailey, launched gnuGrid and built a system called Solar Sentra, using AI technology to streamline and automate the highly fragmented solar industry by collecting data on power usage for solar companies.

“What we have done is offer a next generation pay-as-you-go system that takes care of the solar companies’ day-to-day operational needs, including accounting and payment. We also incorpo-rate an IoT device into the system that can remotely monitor and diagnose the performance of the systems. This enables cost-effective distribution of clean energy to the “last mile” communities, those villages who are off the grid.” Opio explained.

His first step was to sell almost 5,000 small solar kits to his own village, from 2009-2019. “It was a celebration for me,” he said.


“Energy is the enabler,” Opio said, “For me, clean energy is a basic need. Without it, there are so many challenges. With it, it is empowering.”

Opio’s company now works with 20 solar companies in Uganda, and there are more than 100 in the pipeline. GnuGrid has also signed a contract with the South African telecom company MTN to expand his business model to Liberia.

Most recently GnuGrid secured a partnership with a global, off-grid energy developer and tech-nology integrator, whom Opio met at the Africa Tech Summit in Kigali, Rwanda, thanks to a spon-sorship funded by NTF IV. The company has provided a Letter of Intent to purchase 500 units of smart solar battery systems every quarter at a total investment of $3 million over 5 years.

“In Africa we are blessed with problems, because wherever there is a problem, there is a solution — and that is an opportunity,” Opio said.

The Netherlands Trust Fund (NTF) IV is based on a partnership between the International Trade Centre and the Dutch Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries, and funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Original Source : ITC News