Ugandan startup receives $100k Grand Challenges Explorations grant

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Ugandan startup MMINDZS has been awarded a US$100,000 grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to further develop the company’s MYAccounts mobile money enabled accounting system for African small merchants.

The Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) grant programme is in its seventh year of running, asking innovators across the world to come up with “one great idea”, and granting each selected project US$100,000 to “prove” the idea.

This round of programme saw 1,800 applications submitted from 109 countries across the six categories covered.

One category sought to drive the uptake of digital financial services for the poor with new ideas for enabling merchant acceptance of mobile money payments – and it is in this category that Ugandan entrepreneur Francis Otim, chief executive officer (CEO) of MMINDZS was selected to  receive a US$100,000 grant.

Otim is to use the grant to develop the MYAccounts platform, a mobile money enabled accounting system, which enables merchants to seamlessly view, track and account for all their customer and supplier payments made to their mobile phone. MYAccounts then aggregates this database of transactions to produce complete financial and stock records, customer invoices and receipts, printable financial statements and tax returns.

“The accounting solutions on the market today were never built with the African SME in mind, and this is clear from the pricing and the functionality. MYAccounts bridges the price and features gap, thus increasing the likelihood of African SMEs thriving and passing on their business to third and fourth generation owners,” Peter Muzoora, project manager at MMINDZS told Disrupt Africa.

“Also, by formalizing their books of accounts, SMEs are able to access capital from MFIs and banks, unshackling them from predatory lenders,” he said.

Muzoora said the MYAccounts platform was conceived on in response to the high failure rate of small and medium businesses in Uganda.

“We have made it our mission to ensure that the African SME has access to affordable and relevant solutions for their business. We are doing this through MYAccounts, which we built to solve the financial inclusion challenges of mobile money-using African merchants,” he said.

According to Muzoora, African entrepreneurs must focus on creating solutions tailored to local markets and challenges; and by solving the issues faced by local businesses African innovators will contribute to the continent’s businesses becoming globally competitive.

“We are truly honored to have been given this opportunity, because we believe that the only way African SMEs can become competitive in the global community is by using organic solutions tailored to their context,” Muzoora said.

“Since SME survival rate is intricately linked to the broader economy, we believe that by solving for the SME we can combat related problems of unemployment, financial exclusion, and insufficient data sets that hinder visibility of investment opportunities.”

Under the GCE programme, innovators who successfully develop their projects on the back of the first round of funding, can apply for follow-on funding of up to US$1 million.

Calls for applications for GCE grants are put out twice each year.

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Inspired and excited by the African tech entrepreneurial scene, Gabriella spends her time travelling around the continent to report on the most innovative tech startups, the most active investors, and the latest trends emerging in the ecosystem.

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