Rwanda based Platform as a Service start-up known for its ‘Smart Business in a Box’ solar-powered kiosks, ARED, has announced that it has set up 10 such kiosks with 10 women micro franchisees; thereby marking its expansion into its first international market – Uganda.
The solar kiosks known as the Shiriki Hubs are run by women and differently abled individuals on a micro-franchisee model. These have been set up in Kampala as well as in the refugee camps of Arua district through which citizens belonging to lower income groups can charge their mobile devices, buy air-time and WiFi connectivity for accessing the internet, make digital payments, besides availing a host of other intranet services offline.
This expansion into Uganda was funded by US-based impact investor Gray Matters Capital under its gender lens sector agnostic portfolio – coLABS in July 2017.
Solar powered ‘Gendered’ Impact
With its funding mandate met after piloting in Uganda for a little more than a year, and achieving impact with 48 kiosks is Rwanda – of which 41 are run by women and 2 by people with disabilities; ARED is now aiming to have 100 micro franchisees serving around 3000 customers a month by 2020 with this market expansion.
The start-up presently provides digital services and meets the connectivity needs of 55,000 customers in Rwanda and Uganda, using its solar-powered kiosks.
Market Entry to Market Penetration
Giving insights into his company’s development strategy for Uganda, Henri Nyakarundi – Founder and CEO, ARED Group said, “We will work with partners whom we call as area developers who will franchise our model in the different areas of Uganda. Our focus is on NGOs and private sector enterprises whom we’d like to be roped in. They will buy the hardware – the kiosk; train micro franchisees and use our licensed software. ARED will, of course, support them along the way.”
Apart from leasing the kiosks via the franchise model, ARED is also planning to partner telecom service providers in Uganda to build distribution channels at the community level.
Setting sights on Western Africa
While the rationale behind entering Uganda was the similarity of culture and proximity to Rwanda, ARED will be embarking on a far more challenging journey next year.
“We will be looking to target countries in Western Africa next year. While the cultural ethos may differ, what remains common pan-Africa is the unreliability of power supply. It is this adversity that we’d like to convert into an opportunity,” said Henri announcing that ARED has begun working on a pilot in Ivory Coast.