· 4 weeks ago

MTN Uganda announces $250k startup fund, Open Mobile Money API

Wim Vanhelleputte CEO MTN Uganda speaking at the launch that took place at The Innovation Village in Ntinda. Photo: MTN Uganda

Wim Vanhelleputte CEO MTN Uganda speaking at the launch that took place at The Innovation Village in Ntinda. Photo: MTN Uganda

Last night, at an event that took place at The Innovation Village, MTN Uganda announced that developers can now access the API. The company is the first telecom company in Uganda – and MTN Group – to do that.

The service will be of utmost use to those who are looking to integrate mobile money for different purposes. That includes payments, remittances or enable mobile Money payments off an E-commerce site.

Services created using the open API can be accessed via Web, App, and USSD channels.

“Our expectations are that this decision will enable innovators to monetise their products, ensure that there is fast turnaround of innovations to get to market and improve the value created for innovators and entrepreneurs, why not a Ugandan Ebay or Amazon in the next few months” Elsa Muzzolini, the General Manager, Mobile Financial Services MTN Uganda.

According to the company, the open APIs “are open to both local and international innovators to use”. As long as they comply with the terms and conditions of using the API”.

This takes away the lengthy process where developers had to submit paperwork. Instead, developers can now test their product using an online sandbox.

Currently, the time it takes is unclear because the service is still under the development and testing phase. But, once done, integration to go live via the Open API will take approximately 10 days. This is quite shorter as opposed to over 3-4 months it used to take.

There has been a tremendous success in countries like Kenya where telecoms opened up their APIs. MTN Uganda hopes to achieve the same.

In partnership with several hubs in Uganda, the company will facilitate the training of developers on how to use the platform. Elsa, says that the target number of developers is 100.

Beyond Uganda, the company is also looking to extend the open API initiative to other markets. “In the future, we intend to extend the scope of the Open API to other MTN operations,” wrote MTN.

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At the same event, MTN also announced the launch of a UGx. 1 billion (approx. US $250,000) Startup Fund to support local technology start-ups in Uganda.

Before, MTN organized Innovation Awards and app challenges. Yet, none of the two took place this year. The company is perhaps moving away from the above with the introduction of the Startup Fund.

The fund will allow them the flexibility to get equity in startups as well as support them at the same time.

MTN noted that it will “provide a financial boost to startups that take part in the MTN innovation challenge series”. The first of these is the MTN Open API Challenge which starts on December 3, 2018.

To end the launch, the MTN Uganda CEO unveiled a UGx. 310 million (approx. US $85,000) offering to The Innovation Village. It covers high-speed internet connectivity courtesy of the MTN Foundation.

“The package includes free internet connectivity for use by young developers and innovators as part of its youth empowerment drive,” MTN Uganda wrote.

But, exactly a year ago, The Innovation Village entered into a partnership with Liquid Telecom. It also involved access to their internet connectivity. Therefore, it is still yet to be understood whether they will be ending that particular arrangement.

Worth noting also is that this won’t be the first partnership between the two. Earlier this year, the MTN Foundation and the tech hub launched tukole.ug – a marketplace for skilled labor.

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