Uganda’s first telecommunications company, MTN Uganda, has announced the launch of a USh1 billion ($270,000) Startup Fund that will be accessed by local technology start-ups in Uganda. The fund is expected to provide a financial boost to startups that participate in the MTN innovation challenge series.
The first of these is the MTN Open API Challenge, which starts on 3rd December, 2018.
The group has also announced plans to grant third-parties access to its Mobile Money Access Programming Interface (API), a computer system that will improve mobile money transactions for millions of people across the country. An Open API platform enables developers and programmers to get free access to MTN’s mobile money proprietary software platform. MTN Mobile Money is the most widely used mobile money platform in Uganda.
Following the announcement, developers can now access it, create products that ease payment options and leverage the 10 million MTN clients registered on Mobile Money.
“This is an exciting development for the Ugandan start-ups ecosystem. Innovators will now be able to develop applications that ease the customer experience in terms of mobile money payments,” said Ms. Elsa Muzzolini, the General Manager, Mobile Financial Services MTN Uganda.
“We do hope that this move will spur innovation in the developer community around the country because this is the first time this is being done here,” she added.
In January 2018, MTN Uganda and regional charity, Consultative Group to Assist the Poor (CGAP) entered a partnership intended to drive customer growth and activity by facilitating a wider range of mobile wallet applications for all customers through open APIs.
According to CGAP, open APIs have the potential to further drive financial inclusion, which is already being accelerated by the usage of mobile money.
“Our expectations are that this decision will enable innovators to monetise their products, ensure that there is fast turnaround of innovations to get to market and improve the value created for innovators and entrepreneurs. Why not a Ugandan Ebay or Amazon in the next few months?” Ms. Muzzolini commented.
“It has been 20 years since we started operating in Uganda and our role in this economy has been evolving. Today, opening the Mobile Money API further emphasizes our ambition of being a digital company. Ugandan developers now have the opportunity to build products that will enhance financial inclusion, improve customer experience when making payments and improve the movement of virtual money,” said Wim Vanhelleputte, the MTN Uganda CEO.
MTN Uganda has noted that there has been a tremendous success in countries like Kenya where some telecom companies have opened up their Mobile Money APIs. MTN Uganda, in partnership with several technology and innovation hubs around the country, is currently facilitating the training of developers on how to use the platform.