Mozambique Techpreneurs Work To Build A Startup Culture

By 04/03/2015HUB

By Paul Adepoju AFKI Original

Little is known about the startup community and ecosystem in Mozambique although developers and tech entrepreneurs such as Erick Kande, CEO and co-Founder of Escola Online, are developing solutions for specific challenges in various sectors.

According to Kande, things are changing for better in Mozambique’s startup community and flourishing startup ecosystems in Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya  should watch out. Other countries such as Rwanda, Ghana, Tanzania and Egypt are also getting popular.

“Three years ago when I began the study for Escola Online School, I had many difficulties but now the doors are opening because schools, government and others are beginning to understand the importance of information and communication technology to solve some of the problems that sectors like education and agriculture are facing,” Kande told AFKInsider.

Despite the developments and achievements so far recorded in the sector, the innovation space is still largely unstructured according to Sara Fakir, Executive Director of IdeiaLab which is an entrepreneurship lab based in Mozambique.

“There is lack of support and incentives for innovation. Surprisingly we have a bunch of innovative policies and institutions but in fact they are not producing their expected effects,” Fakir told AFKInsider.

Alfredo Cuanda, Chief Executive Officer of IDEÁRIO Hub, a Mozambique-based innovation platform, shares this opinion and said issues raised by Fakir were as a result of the relatively young age of the startup ecosystem in Mozambique.

“Startups here in the real sense of the common definition are just two years old give or take. Yes we are so green but that is really good because we have resources from all over the world at our fingertip. But the main problem is the mindset. Our education system is focused on producing workers and academics. At this stage, we need entrepreneurs to build startups,” Cuanda told AFKInsider.

Most of what happened in the sector in recent times was achieved through hackathons, other events, lectures, workshops and meetups.

“At this point we have to work and build skills to deliver results (from the developers side), work to showcase the potential of startups to local investors and later on it will be more on how to collaborate to build a better, inclusive and open ecosystem where any idea can strive,” Cuanda said.

“We will have our first venture capital organization for startups this year.”

Participation of females

Fakir decried the very low participation of females in the tech startup community in Mozambique.

“The level of participation of women is still very low,” she said, adding that the country needed specific programs targeted at female participants.

“Just for you to have an idea, on the business idea competition we run, only 25 percent of participants were women. ideialab is also running a femtech programin Mozambique addressed specifically to women,” Fakir said.

This development, she said, is not restricted to the tech community in Mozambique alone; she said the situation is the same in other sectors.

Cuanda told AFKInsider he believed the situation could improve when a level-playing field is created for everyone in the sector.

“It’s more about leveling the playing field, and working closer with them [women] to build a community where they strive with same opportunities,” he said.

“Increasing the participation of women in tech and app development with workshops, lectures and community support will take a center stage this year in our program. The most important thing is to solve the challenges and we see a gender opportunity in that strategy.”

Roles of the state and corporates

Cuanda said although while the country’s new government is eager to support innovation in every space, the government can help to provide and promote efficiency in public services in addition to improving the quality of life of the population.

“The challenge is to be one step ahead and to come up with startups that provide solutions to do so. They can start with the creation of innovation parks, new data centers, grant funding and announcing more open support to startup initiatives,” he said, adding that Mozambique’s Tech sector also need new legislation for growth.

Cuanda believes that corporate organizations in Mozambique are not innovating as rapid as expected and this slow pace has created lots of opportunities for startups in several areas.

“The banking sector is starting to search for startups and ideas to innovate in the sector and this has become a trend here. On the other hand, same banks are still making it very difficult for startups to access credit.”

He said the current crops of startups in the country are developing solutions to facilitate and/or aid ecommerce and social services.

Things are generally expected to improve for startups in Mozambique from this year and beyond according to Cuanda, who believes the stakeholders have done a great job in raising the level of awareness and securing partnerships.

“For years to come, we want to become a beacon of youth innovation in Africa and we are working hard to get there,” he said.

Comparing the level of the ecosystem in Mozambique with those of Nigeria and South Africa, Cuanda believes it is not yet late and Mozambique would soon be able to compete on the continental level.