Trade Minister Amelia Kyambadde

A new project worth about Shs6.3 billion (US$1.7 million) is expected to strengthen the competitiveness of micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in Uganda’s information technology (IT) and IT-enabled services (ITES) sectors.

The Netherlands Trust Fund IV (NTF IV) project seeks to address wider challenges facing Uganda’s nascent tech industry, including scaling up its competitiveness, initiators say.

The NTF IV project was recently launched in Kampala by the Executive Director of the International Trade Centre (ITC) Arancha González together with the Minister of Trade Amelia Kyambadde.

Speaking at the launch of the project at the Africana Hotel in Kampala, Gonzalez said the project would strengthen the competiveness of Uganda’s technology sector in the domestic, regional and global market.

“Competitiveness is not an option. It is a necessity if countries are to seize the opportunities presented by trade and new technologies. With the NTF IV project we will open up a new chapter in ITC’s support to the development of exports of “Made in Uganda” IT and IT-enabled services,” said Gonzalez.

She said that the project was designed to scale up companies, provide more end-to-end solutions, engage more start-ups, and ultimately be one of the key drivers of the development of Uganda’s IT sector.

The official said Ugandan tech companies would benefit from engagement in the domestic, regional and global platform, saying that lack of a local venture capital prevents young entrepreneurs and start-ups from accessing seed and growth funding. She said ITC would actively be working to connect the participating companies with potential investors and partners abroad.

Minister Kyambadde said Uganda had attained substantive milestones in NTF III regarding the development of the IT&IT Enabled Services Export Plan, 2015-2020, re-skilling IT firms and increasing industry representation of women in the IT sector.

“The SME companies that participated in the NTF III and those that have expressed interest in Phase IV are highly commended. We also acknowledge the critical role of the Association bodies of ICTAU and ATIS in organizing your members to benefit from this programme,”the minister Kyambadde said.

She said her ministry would aded that her ministry in collaboration with other stakeholders such as the Ministry of ICT, NITA-U, Uganda Export Promotion Board and others would ensure sustainability of the NTF IV beyond its closure.

She reiterated government’s commitment to establish a robust dedicated regulatory and institutional mechanism for IT & ITES, increase internet connectivity and set up national and regional ICT hubs.

She said government would support attachments of Ugandans to world class BPO firms, create meaningful platforms for the Private sector with buyers from key markets, Data protection, and regulating the pricing of telecommunication services.

The Minister urged all IT players to work in consortiums to achieve greater milestones in the business environment and the foreign markets.

The NTF IV National Project Coordinator Richard Okuti said implementation of the project started in November 2017 and so far 110 companies are benefiting, of which 48 are SMEs and 62 are start ups.

He said companies were being supported in capacity building especially business skills development and execution of business plans, marketing, book keeping and other related training.

“We seek and link these companies to potential investors and buyers, and also link them to potential financial support in addition to facilitating their participation in exhibitions and other market platforms outside Uganda Okuti said.

“Two IT companies traveled to Barcelona in February to find partners and clients at the Mobile World Congress 2018, for instance. Three others, led by representatives from the ICT Association of Uganda (ICTAU) and the Alliance for Trade in Information-Technology and Services (ATIS), will take part in Transform Africa in Kigali on 7 May”, he said.

The project will also place a significant focus on gender and actively promote the participation of Ugandan women in tech – especially in leadership positions.

The project is a continuation of a long-running partnership between the Dutch Centre for the Promotion of Imports from developing countries (CBI) and ITC.

The project will run until June 2021 and will be working at different levels of engagement with more than 100 MSMEs in Uganda, of which more than half comprise start-up companies.