Kenyan startup Chura wins Ericsson Innovation Awards for network-leaping app

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Kenyan startup Chura, which allows mobile subscribers to leap from one network to another through the transfer of airtime between SIMs, has been named winner of the Ericsson Innovation Awards for Sub-Saharan Africa, taking home US$10,000 in prize money.

Many mobile subscribers in Kenya opt to have more than one SIM card due to the different benefits offered by different operators. Chura allows such subscribers to leap from one network to another, through the transfer of airtime between SIMs and the purchase of one network’s airtime using the mobile money service of another.

The startup’s “Airtime for Cash” service allows the conversion of airtime into mobile money credit, while its bulk airtime service allows the sending of airtime to many phone numbers across different networks.

Chura was named the overall winner of the Ericsson Innovation Awards at a ceremony in Cape Town, South Africa last week, beating off competition from runners-up Guavay, an undergraduate team from Tanzania, and third-placed P.O.I Information Technology Services, a small enterprise from Ethiopia.

“Team Chura’s app brings a number of services that address regional challenges, including speed, reliability and coverage. The app shows a strong business potential and creatively addressing the theme “Future of City Life”,” the jury said.

“In an environment where most people have SIM cards registered to more than one network, this solution creates an ease for managing and optimising airtime. We congratulate Team Chura for emerging winners of this competition and wish them the best in their endeavours,” said Tumi Chamayou, vice president and head of strategy, marketing and communications of Ericsson Sub-Saharan Africa.

Teams that entered the competition were asked to develop ideas that use ICT to improve the quality of urban life, with each entrant required to come up with an innovative idea, a business plan and a description of why it should be chosen as winner.

The global competition is still ongoing, with registration ending on November 30. The competition is open to all current students in teams of two to four people. At the close of registration, 10 semi-finalists will be announced on December 18.

These teams will then work with Ericsson experts to develop a minimum viable product (MVP) and business plan for their idea, after which four teams will be chosen by the jury to participate in the EIA 2016 grand final in in Stockholm, Sweden.

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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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