Kenyan, Ugandan, Nigerian startups reach final of $70k SME challenge


Startups from Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria have made it to the final of the SME Empowerment Innovation Challenge East and West Africa, inch closer to the prize of US$70,000 seed funding.

Disrupt Africa reported in June on the launch of the SME Empowerment Innovation Challenge by advisory and research institute HiiL, the Ford Foundation and the World Economic Forum (WEF) to empower SMEs in East and West Africa. Seven semi-finalists were selected last month.

After a pitching event in Lagos during the Innovating Justice Boostcamp, Kenya’s ShopOfficer, Uganda’s mSME Garage and Nigeria’s DIYlaw were named as finalists. The three startups will now head to the Innovating Justice Forum in The Hague, Netherlands on December 3-4 to compete for seed investment of US$70,000, acceleration support and access to funding, networks and expert advice.

Wilfried de Wever, the head of HiiL’s Innovating Justice Accelerator, emphasised the need to have more technology innovations applied across various sectors to ease the setting up and running of businesses, especially for SMEs.

“What we have seen today is a combination of determination to bring change and promote transparency in running businesses; I am confident that these technology products will enable the business environment to be a free and just space for the economic empowerment of the continent,” he said.

Dr Sam Muller, chief executive officer (CEO) of HiiL, said the group of finalists was amazing in many ways, especially because they are at the forefront of a new justice innovation movement.

“They are a new creed: justice entrepreneurs. The group will grow and in that way we’ll make justice systems more fit for purpose, putting users and the problems they face – like SMEs – at the heart,” Muller said.


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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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