17 July 2018

Tanzania: Dar Students Solving Problems Through ICT-Based Solution

There has been a great demand of ICT-based solutions to problems in the society and companies have continued to import solutions. However, many students are doing their best to come up with great solutions with the dream of employing themselves since they understand that there are few opportunities for employment in the job market.

As a result, there have been a number of initiatives to empower youth innovations and one of those students who has benefited from such initiatives is Alex Chambika, a fourth year student from University of Dar es Salaam who is currently pursuing a degree in Telecommunication Engineering .

Alex is one among thousands of students who has been natured under the University of Dar es Salaam ICT Incubator (UDICTI), where students with business ideas are groomed as they turn their ideas into startups and are accommodated until they are able to stand on their own.

Understanding the financial needs and challenges when it comes to saving especially for low income earners, Alex decided to come up with a project called Mobile Kibubu, a system which uses USSD, an application available in smart phones to help people reach their goals

Explaining more about his project, he says he understands that a lot of people have their goals in life but to ensure that they meet their goals, they need money and getting quick money to achieve these goals cannot be easily achieved. "For instance someone might want to buy a plot which costs three million, but raising that money on the spot can be a challenge. You might have an option of getting a bank loan but then there are many requirements that have to be first met before you qualify for a bank loan. If you don't have such requirements you miss out on the loan," he says. "Statistics show that 46 per cent of Tanzanians are financially excluded meaning they cannot enjoy the services offered by majority of bank s and that's the provenance of my idea," he reveals. He further adds that banks have created services which are banks-centered, I thought why not come up with a system that will allow a person to be able to slowly save his or her own money so as to meet their future goals.

"There are people who might say that they do that at home but are these piggy banks (vibubu) safe? The answer is no, because you might have a target of saving Sh1million and it unfortunately gets stolen on or you might lose your money in a fire accident. This becomes a loss not only to you but also to the nation because the money which was supposed to be in circulation, you have it at home," he explains.

Kibubu

This is where the mobile Kibubu comes in. It acts as a mobile money fixed account and according to Alex, this app can be accessed by anyone with a smartphone or any other type of phone through download. "Customers register by filling in their information and then start using the app. One can be able to have different accounts and do different configurations however they want," he says.

He further informs that one might have different goals, say, a student has a dream of buying a plot after he or she completes college, that means they can create a one or two-year goal of planning to buy a plot. Or for example they have a plan of buy a computer; they can set plans to save for six months to achieve that goal. The system therefore gives you the flexibility that you wouldn't be able to get anywhere else.

"The system also gives you another value and that is internet of service, this means when one has their goal in life then they decide to share that goal with us, we look for ways on how to help you reach your goals by linking you with people who offer the services that you are saving to acquire in a certain period of time," he notes.

He further states, "We have started small, aiming at helping small and medium income earners, that's why the minimal amount one can save is shilling 500 in their mobile kibubu. We are still looking for partners who can help to push our projects forward," he says.

Because he's still a student, having funds to support his project has become a challenge. "Unfortunately we own these brilliant ideas to ourselves and the more we delay to put them into action, other people will come and take credit for the ideas and the value we had of coming up with ideas will be used elsewhere, leaving us with fewer opportunities for employment for those who will wish to employ themselves," he says.

Explaining how unique his project is compared to others, Alex says as an ICT person he took time to dig deep, especially on the business field to see the business model of other systems which exist and try to identify their weaknesses and come up with a better app which will cover those weak points.

He says in the end his dream is to see low and medium income earners included in the financial system. "From street food vendors to the corporate class, we want everyone to be able to raise capital. The system will also help students, stay at home mothers, civil servants, bodaboda riders to meet their financial goals," says Alex. Mariam Khamis, 25, a self-employed graduate, says she has tried to use mobile Kibubu and she foresees a positive outcome. "It's user-friendly and once I learned about it, I didn't hesitate to start using it because I realised it will help me savesome cash to boost my business. I am happy to see that students come up with such innovative ideas to solve challenges facing our community and I believe that I will benefit a lot from it," she happily explains.

Another success story

Another success story of youth who have embraced the opportunities in the world of ICT involves five classmates named Stebbins Tugara, Alex Athanas, Innocent Charles, Denis Frimos and Vitus Ng'homi, together the group came up with the idea of starting an ICT firm after their university education.

When they joined the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) in 2009, each one of them took a different course but since they had a vision of starting their own company, they actively kept their dream alive by engaging in various money making projects.

Soon after graduating from the university in 2012, the young enterpreneurs started to work on their idea, including offering ICT services, hosting people's website, emails and other online platforms. A year later the five young men managed to have their firm titled ictpack registered. However, according to Vitus Ng'homi, it was not easy for them especially when it came to finding clients.

"There was an issue of acceptance from people that we approach to use our services. Doing business in an ICT industry which was highly dominated by Indians for instance, was a challenge for us and so we had to focus on individual clients. But since we were determined to do this we kept working hard and as time went by we kept receiving both medium and large-scale clients from government and private institutions," he explains.

Ng'homi says students can achieve a lot through the knowledge they receive in the incubators as long as they don't give up on their dreams once they face challenges. "One thing they need to understand is that becoming self-employed is not a hobby but rather it is something that needs to go hand in and with the available opportunities in the areas of their interest especially while they are still in college or universities," he says.

The young entrepreneurs have also made a Practical Training Management System (PTMS) which is at the UDSM Information and Computer Technology Incubator, the system helps final year students search for organisations that would take them in as interns for practical training.

Christine Mwase, a coach at the University of Dar es Salaam ICT incubator says the incubators such as the one at the University of Dar es Salaam help graduates and act as part of their training to conduct project using the knowledge they got from class to be able to come up with solutions based projects facing their communities.

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