Govt moves to lower cost of devices, internet to drive innovation

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Govt moves to lower cost of devices, internet to drive innovation
Youth Startup Academy Uganda graduates

Experts have raised concerns about the high prices of devices and internet, particularly among Uganda's youth.

These concerns were voiced during the 6th SWARM Summit, a premier gathering organized by Hive Colab.

This annual summit brings together visionaries, disruptors, and thought leaders at the forefront of the startup ecosystem.

The gathering also featured a graduation ceremony of third cohort of the Youth Startup Academy Uganda. In this cohort 40 students graduated from different courses.

Held under the theme "The future is now: emerging trends shaping startup ecosystems," the two-day summit marked an immersive exploration of the trends reshaping the entrepreneurial landscape.

Speaking to at the event, Aminah Zawedde, the permanent secretary at the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance, highlighted the financial challenges faced by over 30 million individuals below the age of 35 in accessing these essential resources.

"We are very aware that a significant portion of our population cannot afford the expensive devices and high-cost internet, as over 30 million individuals are below the age of 35," Zawedde stated.

Zawedde pointed out that the average age of Ugandans falls between 15 and 16 years old, noting, "They are not yet 18 years old, they are not employed, and they cannot necessarily afford these necessities."

She noted that in collaboration with agencies such as the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) and the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of ICT has proposed recommendations to reduce taxes on devices.

Zawedde stressed the importance of affordable devices and internet, as high costs hinder innovation.

"We understand that expensive devices and internet will discourage innovators from pursuing as many innovations as possible," Zawedde explained.

Zawedde further revealed that the matter has been brought to the attention of Members of Parliament, expressing hope that the necessary tax reductions will be implemented soon.

The National Coordinator of Youth Startup Academy Uganda,Ritah Ngenzi highlighted the various ways the academy supports startups.

"We provide them with access to necessary equipment for scaling, marketing strategies, regional and local exhibitions, and connections to investors. We also support ongoing policy efforts," said Ngenzi.

Ngenzi emphasized the inclusive nature of the academy's support.

"Formal university studies are not a requirement for eligibility. As long as individuals can read and write, we support entrepreneurs across all sectors."

"We receive numerous applications from agriculture, manufacturing, and tech startups, including FinTech. We are witnessing significant value addition," she added.

She encouraged entrepreneurs to focus on market needs.

"Your primary focus should be designing a product that meets market demands. A startup, by definition, is meant to scale and fulfill market requirements," she advised.

Ngenzi stressed the importance of seeking support and knowledge.

"Plenty of support and information are available nowadays. Private entities offer various support programs. Stay informed and visit the right places," she noted.

Ngenzi urged young entrepreneurs to engage with the thriving ecosystem, stating that there are numerous opportunities available.

Teddy Ruge, co-founder of Hive Colab, emphasised the importance of skill development for young entrepreneurs in fostering job creation and innovation.

"We have the youngest population on the continent. Therefore, it is crucial for organisations like ours to exist and help develop the skills of young, innovative players in the market," he said.

Ruge highlighted the successful acceleration of startups through the program.

However, he pointed out that exposure remains a significant hurdle for many startups, especially those entering the entrepreneurial landscape for the first time.

"The main challenge for some of these startups is gaining exposure," he noted.

Hive Colab addresses these challenges by providing crucial guidance on team building, financial management, investor relations, and ethical conduct.

Ruge stressed the importance of professionalism.

"You must treat your startup and business with utmost seriousness," he said.

Ruge encouraged embracing failure as a stepping stone to success.

"Only through failure can you achieve success," he asserted, emphasizing the iterative nature of entrepreneurship.

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