It is no secret that Africa is mobile. Therefore, anything aimed at the masses in this booming continent is likely to take the digital route if it’s to be at all successful.
When starting Kiteka, Hephzi Pemberton and Bethy Isingoma had this in mind. Kiteka is the first all-female, all mobile digital outsourcing network whose main aim is to enable women in Uganda and beyond to access the global digital economy by providing smartphone technology, training, and connections to international businesses in need of intelligent digital outsourcing.
“Research has shown that owning a smartphone increases income for over half of female entrepreneurs in low and middle-income countries. Yet in Sub-Saharan Africa, women are 23% less likely than men to own a mobile phone – and 64% of women don’t own a phone at all. Kiteka is here to address the imbalance”, Hephzi points out.
On that basis, Hephzi and Bethy decided to start Kiteka. Put simply, Kiteka provides smartphones to the ladies with no down payment and interest-free. Then, they’re required to pay a monthly fee until the cost of the phone is covered.
Alongside the loans, the women receive specialized training from the Kiteka team which covers technology as well as general business operations. These training come free of charge as long as one subscribes to the program.
Currently, they have 72 women on board and the number is growing by around 10 women per month. What is interesting is that, according to Hephzi, women who are using these phones are reporting an improvement in their daily sales.
This has been achieved through the constant contact with their clients and being able to offer additional services through the smartphone, such as mobile money. It has also been through the training on how to run their business finances more efficiently.
The challenge, however, is the high prices for internet. This, as expected, further hinders the women’s learning given that some of the training material can only be accessed through Udemy and YouTube.
But, according to Hephzi, they’re looking for a way to get around this by partnering with local hubs that could have stable and cheaper internet to allow the women to visit more often.
Though based in London, Hephzi ensures that everything runs very well through her on-ground partner, Bethy, who is based in Kampala. Asked how they get the women on board, Hephzi said that they employ a couple of strategies.
But some of the most common include going to church networks as well as local markets. Bethy, who is on the ground, goes out and speaks to those that might be interested.
The bigger picture is to create a digital outsourcing network for startups in the UK. Here, according to Hephzi, “some of the women can then start to do work that’s coming from businesses here in the UK that needs outsourcing”.
That’s the business that they’re looking at growing and they think it will help them work with more women. Their current vision is to work with 1000 women in 5 years.
Considering the kind of women Kiteka is bringing on board, one wonders if they shall be able to handle remote and tech work. However, Hephzi believes that with the right training, they should be in a position to do this.
She also adds that “the work will be basic digital tasks. For example, data labeling and data cleaning work from startups that requires several hours of manual processing. It could be as simple as labeling an image with certain items or features, or more complex tasks like listening to different sound files and identifying differences”.
The admission criteria for Kiteka that a woman needs to run her own business for at least a year. They also don’t admit anyone below 18 years. The last qualification is for good written and spoken English in order to be able to work on the digital outsourcing side.