More than 100 IT companies are benefiting from a new project aimed at strengthening 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.

 The NTF IV project was officially launched in Kampala by the Executive Director of the International Trade Centre (ITC) Arancha González together with the Minister of Trade Amelia Kyambadde. The NTF IV programme is targeting Ugandan MSMEs active in Enterprise Software; Mobile Applications, and IT Enabled Services (ITES).

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.

 Speaking at the launch of the project at the Africana Hotel in Kampala, Ms. Gonzalez said the project will 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”, explained Gonzalez.

She added that the project is 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.

Gonzalez noted the substantial unrealized potential for Ugandan tech companies to benefit from engagement in the domestic, regional and global saying lack of a local venture capital industry prevents young entrepreneurs and start-ups from accessing seed and growth funding. She added that even the established companies with an export track record are not able to scale up due to their limited size and resources. In response, ITC will actively be working to connect the participating companies with potential investors and partners abroad.

Minister Kyambadde said Uganda 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”, said Kyambadde.

 Kyambadde added that her ministry in collaboration with other stakeholders including the Ministry of ICT, NITA-U, Uganda Export Promotion Board and others will 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, set up national and regional ICT hubs, supporting 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 says 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 says they have supported these companies 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”, explained Okuti.

NTF IV project offers 18 of the supported IT and ITES exporters access to advanced advisory services and business-to-business (B2B) opportunities abroad.

 “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”, said Okuti.

 All gold companies will receive training in May – applying CBI’s tested methodology – to create export marketing plans (EMPs) detailing their strategy to export to Europe or regionally.

 The project will also place a significant focus on gender and actively promote the participation of Ugandan women in tech – especially in leadership positions. During NTF IV pre-launch activities, women-led companies and start-ups have been trained on pitching to investors and two companies have been selected to take part in the She Trades Global event set for June in Liverpool, United Kingdom.

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 Uganda Export Promotion Board Uganda Warehouse Receipt System Authority Management Training and Advisory Centre Uganda National Bureau of Standards Uganda Industrial Research Institute