Tanzania holds MEST Africa Challenge Country Finals, Announces Winner
Tanzania is known for some of Africa’s most famous parks and natural attractions, including majestic Mount Kilimanjaro. But they also have a strong tech entrepreneurship ecosystem which we got to see a glimpse of this week, in the Tanzania country finals of the MEST Africa Challenge.
Presenting ten finalists from diverse sectors of the tech industry, Tanzania proved to be incredibly competitive and very impressive. Judging the competition this week were:
Emmanuel Senzighe, Sahara Accelerator Lead — Sahara Ventures; Innocent Mallya, General Manager — Seedstars; Lawrence Muthoga, Microsoft — Developer Audience Lead; Ashwin Ravichandran, MD — MEST Africa. They accessed each finalist on a plethora of factors including value proposition, impact, size of the target market, customer identification, revenue model, competitor analysis, growth strategy, traction-to-date and the expertise of the founding team.
Kicking the competition off was Smart Class, an online platform that connects learners to qualified and certified private tutors both online and offline. The idea to create Smart Class was born from the demand of Tanzanian parents who wanted to provide their kids with extra tuition in subjects like math and science.
Smart Class offers a web application with a two-pronged approach to the problem. First, it matches students with qualified teachers based on their pace of learning. Then, it uses bots to help learners prepare for quizzes, homework, and revisions, creating a personalized learning experience for each user. They also ensure a simple registration and booking process to encourage users.
Following their pitch, the judges had four minutes to ask follow-up questions. Their main concern was connectivity issues and access for those without internet at all to which Smart Class reassured the judges that their system allowed students to use the application without internet even though the general internet connectivity in Tanzania is quite good.
The second pitch was presented by Reginald Runyoro, Co-founder, and CEO of Dundiza. Dundiza offers young female entrepreneurs access to financial services.
By debunking the myth of needing to be rich before saving money, which Reginald claims is a common notion among youth, Dundiza is providing financial literacy to women so that they are well prepared, qualified, and able to access financial support from banks. They do this by allowing users to save their business profits and income while generating credit scores from their saving history.
Some of the financial training they provide includes financial management, which encourages savings, how to build financial credit scores, and how to properly and safely invest money.
During the Q&A, Judge Ashwin congratulated the team on their pitch but wanted to know what their transaction volume had been since there is significant financial inclusion in Tanzania. Reginald replied that they are currently partnered with Ecobank which offers their customer additional financial security and has resulted in a good number of entrepreneurs doing transactions with them.
Baraka Jeremiah, Co-founder, and CEO of Kilimo Fresh Foods Africa Limited began his pitch by focusing on their goal; to create a change in the delivery of food from farm to fork. He shared his personal experience as a farmer dealing with issues like loss of produce and poor access to market even when produce was readily available.
In Tanzania, 48% of food produced goes to waste before reaching the market due to lack of modern facilities, poor transportation, and handling, coupled with lack of access to markets.
Kilimo provides digital farming solutions such as online produce distribution platforms and access to refrigerators and cold storage for farm produce. This system allows farmers to earn a higher income from their yield due to the immediate access to buyers who prefer fresh foods and the ability to safely store foods for longer periods.
Narrating a common scenario where house helps in Africa are typically the ones who do laundry in households, the CEO of Smart Wash, Wende Bimbig, made a case for the intense demand for laundry services in Tanzania by users who do not want to have house helps but don’t have the time to do laundry themselves.
Leveraging this need, Smart Wash wants to dominate the laundry industry in Tanzania with its affordable and fast-paced laundry service. By offering different packages, complemented by pickup and delivery options and online payment services, they’ve been able to grow their clientele from individuals and university students to hotels and industries.
Pitching next was Ngwala Inventions, a startup providing digital farm solutions that focuses on giving smallholder farmers access to organic pesticides. Founder and CEO, Edmond Ng’walago mentioned that some of the problems farmers face include the lack of accessibility and affordability of high-quality agriculture input such as pesticides. This contributed to the astonishing fact that smallholder farmers in developing countries cause 60% of the world’s crop losses.
As a solution, Ngwala Inventions has developed a digital farm input supply technology that involves the use of community shared digital tanks connected with prepaid meters to allow smallholder farmers access organic pesticides in their premises even with limited funding.
Farmers have the option to pay for their organic pesticides either through mobile phones or online banking. Once payment is made, a billing code is keyed into a prepaid meter which allows the organic pesticide to flow from the tanks to farmers sprayers. The billing codes and user instruction manuals are available in local languages and English.
Leading the Q&A session, Judge Ashwin asked if they were making money currently or if they are still in the testing stage? Edmond responded that they have been making money since they started in 2018 and currently serve over 50 farmers at each centre.
The focus of Flamingoo Foods is to make food available to every home in Africa at the click of a button. In sharing the genius behind their cutting-edge climate tech, the CFO of Flamingoo foods, Adrian Weisensee, explained how their solution can be used to forecast food deficit or potential surplus to help farmers act proactively. He explained that most of the food wastage and market prices of produce were affected by climate change which made their solution even more relevant to the farming industry in Africa.
Their solution accesses seasonal weather forecasts based on sea surface temperature, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and long-range weather forecasts such as satellite observations of harvest progress.
When asked if Flamingoo Foods was a franchise because a similar company existed in Canada, Adrian answered that they had no affiliations with any company as they are based in Tanzania and work locally with farmers in Tanzania.
The seventh company to pitch in Tanzania was Dinestle. Disnestle is a company determined to shorten the distance between local food merchants and homes via a mobile app and web platform that enables people and merchants to order prepared food or products and have them delivered at their desired location.
In his pitch, Wilson, the Co-founder, described the problem Dinestle is trying to solve, which is lack of access to delivery services by businesses, who are typically unable to afford their own delivery service. He also highlighted the lack of online presence for restaurants and retail stores who doubly suffer from geographical limitations.
When asked about what makes them different from other delivery services during the judges Q&A, Wilson responded that unlike their competitors, Dinestle doesn’t just deliver food to customers but also offers logistical services to a host of other businesses.
A-Trader is a trading platform powered by Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) which allows beginners and expert traders to buy and sell shares and access investment opportunities through an app.
Fadilah Achmedr, the Co-founder and Operations lead, explained that in Tanzania, a lot of people are unable to make wise financial decisions because they lack access to accurate financial information, not to mention the fact that most of them do not even have a bank account.
A-trader is creating a financial solution to empower and build local African communities. They are helping people improve their financial management skills so that they can live a healthier financial life, recover from unexpected emergency expenses, and build long term financial stability.
Their main focus is to simplify the app so that everyone can have access, with the hopes of bridging the financial gap in Africa.
When the judges questioned their regulatory status as a financial institution, Wilson explained that they aren’t necessarily regulated by their government since their partner financial institutions who actually provided the savings and investment opportunities are.
Closing the pitching session was Chap food, a company providing food lovers with a digital platform to access the diverse array of locally made food available within their vicinity. Their pitch was delivered by their CFO, Emmanuel Malle, who mentioned a few of the problems their app seeks to solve; time wasted in trying to find places to eat, food vendors not being able to reach customers, and the high operational cost of running a restaurant.
Chap food provides an application for vendors, restaurants, hotels, grocery shops, and consumers, who can either advertise their foods and commodities or make purchases. They can also monitor and track the delivery of their foods at all times.
After the final wrap up, the judges exited for a private chatroom to deliberate on the winner. This gave the opportunity to the finalists to answer questions from viewers who were very curious about the various businesses presented during the competition.
On the judges’ return, Judge Lawrence was selected to announce the winner, but not after each judge gave their closing remarks on the finalists and their virtual MEST Africa Challenge experience.
Judge Innocent commended the startups for their enthusiasm and wished them the best while Judge Emmanuel advised the participants to be precise and short with their pitches so they can be more easily understood. Judge Ashwin was very impressed with the finalists and glad that most of the startups were focusing on financial inclusion, which he says will go a long way in developing Africa’s financial industry.
With that said, Judge Lawrence announced the winner of the Tanzania country finals is Kilimo Fresh Foods Africa Limited. He mentioned that although they had a close competitor for the crown, they were ultimately selected as the winner because of their unique approach to the problem, their team and their overall pitch.
With gratitude and excitement, Kilimo Fresh Foods Africa Limited thanked the judges for the opportunity. They expressed how grateful they were to be part of the competition and how their hard work in preparing for the pitch had paid off with the win. They showed their determination to up their game in the final stage of the MEST Africa Challenge.
Each year, the MEST Africa Challenge partners various organisations and institutions who share the common goal of strengthening the continent’s startup ecosystem. For the third time in a row, global technology giant, Microsoft, joins the competition as the lead partner, supported by Tanzanian ecosystem partners Sahara Ventures, Seedstars Dar es Salaam, RoboTech and key partners, VC4A, Levers In Heels, 250 Startups, Movemeback, Klab, Afrilabs.
Next week, it’s the turn of Senegal as the country’s budding tech entrepreneurs compete for the grand prize; $50,000 in equity funding and a spot in one of MEST Africa’s incubators.
Find out who wins live: https://bit.ly/3eeJpTq
About the MEST Africa Challenge:
Now in its third year, the MEST Africa Challenge is an Africa-wide tech startup pitch competition offering up to $50,000 in equity investment and a chance to join MEST’s incubator and start-up community to talented entrepreneurs as they build and scale successful businesses that add value to African economies. It has become an establishment in the start-up technology industry, giving an unprecedented global platform to hundreds of local tech entrepreneurs in Africa. This year, the Challenge expanded from five markets to nine, embracing early-stage companies in Ghana, Nigeria, Kenya, South Africa, Côte d’Ivoire, Sénégal, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Tanzania, and providing the opportunity for the Challenge organizers — MEST and lead partner — Microsoft, together with other ecosystem partners the opportunity to support even more startups through funding and resources.