The rise of technology associations in Uganda

There’s no doubt Uganda’s technology scene is on an upward trend. Despite little or no government support at both policy and investment level. The upward trend has happened in the last decade. With the first half being the one where the fundamental infrastructures were built.

Notable players in the first half of the decade were innovation hubs and centers. Some of them like Outbox, Hive Colab and Design Hub (formerly The Hub Kampala) have stood the test of time. While others like Mara Launchpad, Grameen Foundation etc, fell off the wagon.

But, in the second half, a new breed of enablers has emerged. Associations. These have started sprouting from everywhere at a spiraling rate.

First was BICU, an association for innovation hubs and centers in Uganda. It launched in 2012 before folding and making a comeback last year.

Although founded in 2013, the ICTAU was largely dormant in its initial years. Until recent years after it took shape.

The Fintech Association of Uganda followed last year. And was pioneered in August last year by Financial Sector Deepening Uganda. To sum up the club, before the end of last year, the Blockchain Association of Uganda was also formed.

Related: Here’s why Ugandan hubs are coming together

Like all associations, these are also being formed to serve as a collective voice. One they can use to lobby, influence as well as achieve other benefits that come with an industry being represented in an organized way.

Richard Zulu, the chairman of BICU - in an interview earlier this year - told me that the main reason the hubs came together was to see that as “players supporting entrepreneurship [they] collectively have a common voice that promotes advocacy and visibility.”

As the innovation sector in Uganda has evolved to become a leading source of hope for youths, many are coming up with ventures leveraging existing technology or the next wave of technologies.

They thus need protection, a voice as well as a favorable environment. These is especially in regards to the government. Given there’s a past history of policies that are not innovation-friendly.

For example, ICTAU, the body that unites the ICT community in Uganda came out to criticize the government's decision to levy 1% on mobile money transactions as well as the UGx. 200 charge to access OTT services.

It is through such associations that many can find the protection, voice as well as lobbying for a favorable environment.

Another example is the Blockchain Association of Uganda. According to Kwame Rugunda, it resulted from blockchain focused companies in Uganda wanting to seek validation from the central government. Yet no one was willing to listen to individuals. Hence the move to package themselves as an association.

All the associations admit individuals, companies, institutions and any other players in the innovation space. Though, they require one to subscribe in order to become a member. Fees aren’t uniform. For example, ICTAU charges UGX. 100,000 for an individual annual membership. While the members of the Fintech Association of Uganda part with around UGx. 3,500,000 per year.

How much these associations have contributed to the innovation space is yet to be quantified.

Though, the Blockchain Association of Uganda was behind the recently concluded Africa Blockchain Conference. This attracted the president of Uganda, other key figures in the Ugandan government and Binance’s Changpeng Zhao.

Also read: Chinese Crypto-billionaire founder of Binance visits Uganda

While the ICTAU has been pivotal in engaging government MDAs especially the Ministry of ICT as well as NITA-Uganda. The Fintech Association, as well as BICU, are taking shape slowly by slowly.

Digest Africa


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