KAMPALA — Uganda has a huge but largely underdeveloped fashion industry.
According to a November 2020 article by The East African newspaper, “Uganda’s fashion industry is characterized by struggling ventures, semi-professional small-scale production, and lack of infrastructure, institutions and government support.”
Even so, while thousands of Ugandans continue to find their space in fashion and arts, a few others are coming up with solutions that transform the entire industry for the better.
Among such people is Stephen Mutungi, the CEO of 2ambale; a digital marketplace for fashion stores. He sat down with the HiPipo 40 Days 40 FinTechs team and laid bare his 2ambale vision.
QN: What is 2ambale and what do you do?
ANS: 2ambale is an online marketplace for fashion stores. We leverage technologies like machine learning to help small businesses easily pay for efficient advertising on the world’s leading digital platforms like Google, Meta, and Twitter using mobile money.
QN: What is the motivation behind 2ambale? What market challenges do you address?
ANS: 90 percent of businesses in Uganda are small businesses and 33 percent of these are in trade and commerce with physical locations relying on physically visiting customers. To survive, businesses need to pay heavy rent fees for prime locations. This coupled with other rising costs has greatly raised the cost of doing business and seen many small businesses close shop earlier than their first birthdays.
In an effort to reverse this, 2ambale leverages technology to help small businesses dealing in fashion, textile, and art products, to easily pay for efficient marketing online to customers beyond their physical location.
This way, businesses don’t have to compete for prime locations with high costs of doing business but can instead set up anywhere, list their products online, and yet sell to a bigger market.
QN: For the time you have been in business, what do your numbers look like?
ANS: We have enabled businesses to generate over 18,000 business transactions from more than 11,000 buyers. These numbers are very encouraging and we are optimistic about the future.
QN: What is the state of Uganda’s E-commerce Industry?
ANS: E-commerce is a new but one of the fastest growing technology industries in Uganda. The main challenges for this industry are around absence of infrastructure mainly robust and trusted digital payment solutions and logistics services tailored to the industry.
QN: In your opinion, how does the 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative support the industry?
ANS: Platforms like 40 Days 40 FinTechs create publicity and grow people’s confidence in different financial technologies while pushing and advocating for best practices among the players. This results into the growth of a more disciplined and healthy industry. As 2ambale, we are excited to be part of this season.
About 40 Days 40 FinTechs!
2ambale is participant number 35 in the 2022 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative. The #40Days40FinTechs platform is run under HiPipo’s Include Everyone program that also encompasses other initiatives such as FinTech Landscape Exhibition, Women in FinTech Hackathon, Summit & Incubator and the Digital and Financial Inclusion Summit and Digital Impact Awards Africa.
It offers participants useful tools and an introduction to the industry’s emerging technologies, such as Mojaloop Open Source Software, and guidance from Level One Project foundational material. The skills gained from this initiative cover Level One Project Principles, Instant and Inclusive Payment Systems (IIPS), Inclusive Finance and FinTech in general.
According to Innocent Kawooya, the HiPipo CEO, though in its infant stage, 2ambale is a great idea, targeting a popular niche.
“Thousands of Youth and Women are involved in fashion and art. However, many of them are yet to integrate technology into their trade. A platform like 2ambale is one way of aiding the digitization of such businesses,” Kawooya said.
He further noted that despite the rapid adoption of digital financial services, an average of 40 percent of Africa’s adult population remains financially excluded and something must be done.
“Financial exclusion continues due to the lack of interoperable, open-loop, cost-effective, real-time, and secure retail payments systems/switches to digitally connect large numbers of low-income users onto formal financial rails. The 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative is accelerating discussions on building industry-led Instant and Inclusive Payment System (IIPS) across the East African region and continent.”