A team of four Ugandan developers has won the Agri-Hack Championship top prize at the ICT4Ag international conference in Rwanda.
With their Ensibuuko agri-solution, Richard Zulu, Gerald Otim, Daniel Opio and Winnie Mbabazi beat competition from fellow East African developers to take the 5,000 euros prize money.
"The Ugandan farmers have won. We share a similar background with them and we know how they struggle to finance their activities," said a joyful Richard Zulu yesterday at Serena Hotel Kigali.
"For us the prize is a bonus after an extensive week of learning and sharing ideas with some of the best developers in the region," Zulu said.
According to Zulu, the Ensibuuko app provides the ultimate solution to smallholder farmers. It comes with rich products which enhance the power of a mobile and web technologies to help small-holder rural farmers in Uganda acquire and pay loans to (non) microfinance institutions easily, quickly and in an accessible way. It uses an automated mobile money and SMS (Short Message Service).
"We are working in 35 districts in Uganda. Most smallholder farmers are unbanked and lack creditworthiness... that is why they need and have embraced this product," noted Gerald Otim, the business development manager.
Agrivas from Ethiopia was voted second and Agrinfo from Tanzania came third winning 4,000 euros and 3,000 euros respectively. A hackathon is an event during which computer programmers collaborate in a short period of time to develop an ICT application or platform addressing a specific challenge.
The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) organized the Agri-hack in close partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (Rwanda), the Ministry of Youth and ICT (Rwanda) and East African ICT hubs and labs.
According to CTA director, Micheal Hailu, the aim of this competition was to showcase the potential of ICT applications in agriculture and to support the development of innovation and entrepreneurship in agriculture, especially by young people.
The challenge started in July this year with national competitions in respective countries. The finals in Rwanda drew over 30 innovators from across Africa. The judgment based on the technology of the application (40%) and the business, relevance and applicability side of the application (60%).
The Hackathon was part of the many activities during this year's conference where over 400 delegates from Africa, Caribbean and Pacific states gathered in Rwanda to share ideas on how ICT can be harmonized with agriculture among smallholder farmers.
Rwanda minister for agriculture, Agnes Kalibata, who presented the prize, noted that this conference was time-well spent and was a sign of growing potential among young Eastern Africans.
"These young people developed an app that looks at potential millionaires at the bottom of the Pyramid. It inspires me as a minister that instead of signing for heavy allowances to visit farmers, I can send a mobile message and they get the right information," she said.
Kalibata promised to put up the $30,000 that Rwanda recently won for their green revolution campaigns for competition among Rwanda youth developers in agricultural solutions.
"I think this can bring value for money," she said.
The Rwanda ICT and youth minister, Philbert Nsengimana, said that this was the beginning of what will become annual ICT conference in Rwanda.
"We want this conference back home next year. If it is not possible, we shall go ahead and organize our own," he said.