Innovation programme turns young Tanzanians into entrepreneurs
A Finnish-backed innovation programme has helped hundreds of Tanzanians to brainstorm new solutions for their country and its development. More than 50 Tanzanians have attended Helsinki’s Slush event over the past three years through the programme, gathering new energy for their businesses.
This autumn marks the end of the first five-year TANZICT programme, which has offered Tanzanians growth tools through new ICT solutions. These have ranged from the state planning level to easing the everyday lives of average citizens.
The programme’s highest-profile achievements have been grants for young talents from an innovation fund for product and service ideas. More than 500 fledgling firms applied for funding, with the 46 best ideas awarded early-stage seed money. Solutions that provide practical help for daily life bring people into development at the individual level.
Young people with ICT know-how are creating Tanzania’s businesses of the future. In 2015, 68 new companies sprang up and 18 new services or products were brought to market through the programme. An educational startup called Ubongo Kids attracted more than five million users.
Inspired by Slush, Tanzanians last spring arranged their own Sahara Sparks event, including more than 100 African startups.
Incubators around the country
Spawning innovations requires the right kind of operational environment and tools. Tanzanian universities, business incubators and hubs have received help in improving their operations and tools to better meet entrepreneurs’ needs.
Hubs and labs have been set up in Dar es Salaam as well as six other places around the country. These technology and entrepreneurship hubs offer learning and working environments for thousands of young people. ICT-related training has been offered through more than 20 organisations.
Cooperation networks have been set up between Finnish and Tanzanian officials, municipalities, firms, civil society groups and universities. The programme has included many visits to Finland. Visitors have been interested in concepts such as Tiimiakatemia, an entrepreneurship teaching model at the JAMK University of Applied Sciences in Jyväskylä. The University of Iringa has set up a training programme based on Tiimiakatemia, the first of its kind in Africa.
Custom programme for women entrepreneurs
A number of training programmes have been tailored to support women entrepreneurs. The main one has been FEMTECH, which trained 10 people to educate others in specific issues related to female entrepreneurship. Taking part in the programme were 50 women entrepreneurs and seven incubator managers. Since the programme ended, the entrepreneurs’ progress has been tracked and they have received help from local coaches.
So far African women have fewer opportunities than men for commercial or management training. Women are less often allowed into corporate networks or given access to the latest ICT solutions. They also often lack self-confidence and risk-management skills.
Support channelled through the programme has created new work opportunities for young women in particular.
At the age of 16, Modesta Joseph developed the Our Cries system to combat sexual harassment. Modesta created a website and SMS system through which young people can report harassment and abuse. Through her innovation, Modesta feels that she is able to help girls and women in her community.
Slush: Giving wings to dreams
Victor Joseph, a 26-year-old graduate of University of Dar es Salaam School of Business and CEO of Tango TV, participated in Slush last year. Tango TV has come up with a digital set-top box that provides access to media content services via regular television sets. The devices are designed in Tanzania and manufactured in China. Victor was surprised by Slush’s massive scale and its smoothly-running arrangements.
"It was an unforgettable experience,” he says. “I gained good contacts, investors and help with marketing. It has already helped us to move forward, and we’re hiring new employees. We’re expanding our operations around East Africa, and then plan to move to the south and west. There’s an enormous buzz around ICT in East Africa. You’ll see, the next global ICT wave will start here,” predicts Joseph.
Finland provided 5.8 million euros in funding for TANZICT in 2011-16. The main partner for the programme is Tanzania’s Ministry of Communication, Science and Technology. Finnish-Tanzanian cooperation in ICT will continue through a new TANZIS programme in 2017-22.