Tanzania to Transform Its Digital Economy: ITC Mapping Highlights Opportunities for Growth
Technology in Tanzania today is revolutionizing the economy and creating a host of job opportunities for the nation’s youth. Mobile money and internet-based transactions, for example, have changed the financial sector, empowered women and small retailers and transformed the education system.
The next step, says Promise Mwakale, Partnership Lead at the Tanzania Commission for Science and Technology (COSTECH), is to introduce policies that will boost the ability of tech entrepreneurs to attract investment and encourage “innovation sandboxes”: digital environments that enable stakeholders to build innovative concepts and solution.
“We hope this will happen by next year,” said Ms. Mwakale. “We already have a hubs-of-hubs programme, as well as university hubs and some hubs forming joint programmes. A government policy on start-ups would set standards and regulations aimed at granting tax breaks and the ability to unlock financial gates.”
Recent mapping of Tanzania’s tech ecosystem led by International Trade Centre’s #FastTrackTech project identified how tech hubs, startups and other stakeholders also can better collaborate for growth in order to compete effectively and attract investment.
Working Together For Success
“The report, which focused its research on 24 tech hubs, shows there is a huge opportunity here for institutions to connect more with each other,” said ITC programme officer Nuria Rull Bes, who led the mapping exercise together with Costech.
The mapping report provided a baseline for discussion at a meeting that took place on 27 June in Dar es Salaam and gathered development organizations, government and private sector leaders, innovation hubs, start-up associations and entrepreneurs. The discussion focused on how best to support Tanzania’s evolving tech sector, key priorities, and how to build up the hubs’ capacity.
“It gave me a better idea of the current standing of Tanzania’s Tech Ecosystem,” said Francis Omorojie, co-founder of Ennovate Hub and a #FastTrackTech partner. “We have been working in silos, competing for similar funding streams, and implementing programmes with few or no partnerships within the ecosystem, creating a situation of competition rather than collaboration,” he noted.
“Now I have a road map for how to better structure my programmes and understand what kinds of partners I need to build more effective partnerships to unlock potential investment,” Omorojie said. “Donors also need to start encouraging joint hub programmes,” he added.
An integrated and complementary tech ecosystem with a dynamic tech developer community is one most likely to thrive. Rull Bes emphasized the need to support the Tanzanian Hubs Network to push the entire ecosystem forward.
“Hubs have a crucial role as bridging institutions between entrepreneurs and the private sector, and between Tanzania’s startups and large corporations. The key is for hub managers to identify their unique value proposition and build sustainable business models around that. It is a long-term systemic change,” said Rull Bes.
She also highlighted the need to support entrepreneurs with investment readiness, business management skills, HR and financial management during their growth stage.
For Mwakale of COSTECH, the most important result of the mapping was to provide validation for the start-up policy, encourage science, technology, engineering, and math, as well as a more mature innovation ecosystem.
“It showed the magnitude of this as a means of unlocking investment potential for startups and investors,” she said.
Entrepreneurs are looking forward to the government taking steps to unlock the sector. “Tanzania is a huge untapped opportunity in terms of investment and developing scale-able startups — just give us the space to create and test proof of concepts then go to market,” said Omorojie.
Financed by Canada, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands Trust Fund IV, the #FastTrackTech project is committed to supporting digital entrepreneurs who aspire to international growth in Benin, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Mali, Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia.