Yimuka interview with Confare IT Network


 IT made in Africa – Now in the #Confare Blog more about the potential of the IT industry in Uganda.

The Confare CIOSUMMITs in Vienna, Zurich and Frankfurt are where the IT elite from the DACH region meet. CIOs and IT managers all have one thing in common: they are desperately looking for professionals and experts to help manage the Digital Transformation.

“It is time to re-evaluate the potential of Africa in the IT outsourcing debate. With Yimuka, the potential can already be realized in Uganda,” says Daniel Walk. Himself employed for years in board and management positions in the industry, Daniel Walk was impressed during a trip to Uganda not only by the poverty in the country, but also by the existing IT know-how and entrepreneurial resourcefulness.

The company acts as an interface between local experts and customers in the DACH region. One thing above all is important to Daniel: putting people and the environment at the center.

You have intensively studied the situation of the people in Uganda. What did you find out in the process?

During our visits to the ghettos, we experienced how massive the need of the people is. There is simply a lack of everything. Nevertheless, I had to admit to myself that I could learn a lot from the friendliness and gratitude as well as from the joy of life and confidence of the people in Uganda.

The average income in Uganda is 1.80 USD per day. Everything depends on money – food, school fees, medical care, but also corruption and crime and yes, in the end, massive destruction of the environment and war. At the latest with the last two points we are also affected in the double sense. We were breathless when we heard that people in the countryside, because of their poverty, sell their children for 5.00 USD per child to city dwellers, who let them live in the smallest of spaces and beg for them.

More than 70 percent of the population cooks with charcoal – even households with electricity because electricity is 4x more expensive than charcoal. The impact on health is comparable to a heavy chain smoker. Every day, 5,000 tons of charcoal are consumed for cooking – that’s about 20,000 trees. Farmers in the north complain of high crop losses as a result of the massive tree clearing, and this in a country that actually has perfect climatic conditions: Temperatures between 20°C and 30°C, nutrient-rich soils, enough rain and at least 2 harvests a year.

Uganda has the second highest birth rate in the world and thus the population is growing very fast. More than half of the population is under the age of majority. Unfortunately, this also leads to the fact that despite great efforts in the field of education, many students do not find an adequate job after graduation, but instead sell bananas on the roadside, for example. Although the economy is growing, it cannot keep up with the pace of population growth. This leads to an oversupply of labor and falling wages.

So what is the situation of the IT industry in Africa and in Uganda in particular?

The IT industry in Africa is growing, but it is very far behind compared to all other continents. Kenya has made the biggest leap forward in the last 10 years. The local market for IT companies in Uganda is very small due to lack of demand. A trader selling his goods to maybe 100 customers in his village needs WhatsApp if at all. The medium- and long-term RoI of many IT projects contrasts with the more short-term-oriented way of life of the people. Agriculture in by far the largest sector of the economy and is dominated by farmers who grow crops for their own use. Many core industries such as mechanical engineering, vehicle manufacturing, energy or chemicals do not exist or exist at a very low level. Capital is expensive and difficult to obtain. The states usually lack the funds to build the basic IT infrastructure.The IT industry in Uganda is still very small. With 10-15 employees, one already belongs to the big ones. In addition, the companies often have a strong network of contractors that they bring in when needed. Despite the small size of the company, however, they have successfully completed a number of complex projects. For example, a team of 5 developers has developed a drone-based analysis system for agriculture that detects plant diseases at an early stage. For this, the drones fly over the fields, take photos and the software compares the images with reference images in the database.In our profiling process, we captured the technical competencies of the IT companies in Uganda. In the areas of programming languages, SW frameworks, databases, and cloud platforms, there is very good knowledge of all the major products. The companies also speak excellent English and are already working for international clients.

What contribution do you want to make with your company?

We want to use all the proven market and business management tools to build a company that puts people at the center. In doing so, we have all three pillars of sustainability in mind: Good for people, good for the environment and economically profitable. At Yimuka, we set a goal of creating 1,000 jobs in Uganda and saving 10,000 trees from being cleared in the first 1,000 days. We define a job as an annual income of $1,000, roughly twice the average income in Uganda. In the local language, Yimuka means “to stand up, to rise”.Our areas of work are exports of products and services to Germany and supporting local startups together with local partners. In both areas we work according to the principle of sustainability. For us, sustainable in the area of startup support means that we do not work with donations, but exclusively with loans. Our loan is a ferry that takes entrepreneurs across a big river. But the ferry has to go back so that the next entrepreneur can cross the river. In fact, she is already waiting. Sustainable in the field of exporting honey, shea butter and IT services means successfully asserting ourselves against competition geared to maximizing profits and offering our customers something of high quality and in demand, so that they are happy to buy again for that reason alone. The fact that our customers are helping people in Uganda in a very direct and significant way is the icing on the cake. And in the end, sustainable also means for us that we can pay a salary to the founders themselves.programming for foreign companies should help the IT sector in Uganda to break through as an important industrial sector. The local market is simply too small for the potential of the industry. The IT companies can hire more employees and thus give the well-trained programmers a perspective. The money they earn for their work goes directly into the local economy and benefits others in the country. International customers can increase the IT industry fivefold in just a few years.
How can IT decision-makers benefit from this?
In one sentence: Quality immediately at an attractive price and the guarantee of doing something good in the process. We have free capacities in the front-end and back-end areas. IT decision makers get external programming capacity from Uganda as a package with project management and contract management from Germany. Full flexibility of outsourcing with managers and caretakers in Germany with 20 years of industry and leadership experience.Unlike larger outsourcing partners, project success is an absolute top priority with us. We Yimuka CEOs are present at every virtual meeting to ensure that all projects are completed successfully and clients are satisfied.Our hourly rate is well below the market average for external programmers. Local contracting in EUR with Yimuka GmbH eliminates labor risks for the customer. Especially for customers who work with Indian IT service providers today, it is interesting that the time difference is only 1-2 hours and that the English in telephone/video conferences is very easy to understand.I can well imagine the joy of IT decision makers in a few years when it becomes clear that they are among the courageous and successful pioneers of establishing Uganda as an IT outsourcing location. If you compare the hourly rate of a programming hour with the daily income of 1.80 USD in Uganda, it becomes very clear how big the positive effect on the people in Uganda is.I almost forgot one advantage: The first 5 companies that contact us will of course receive our honey gift set as a thank you!

What needs to be taken into account to ensure that the projects work out successfully?

Before the project starts, we encourage all our clients to do a skills check of the programmers in Uganda. This takes 1-2 hours per programmer in a video conference and includes project/code reviews and usually life coding. We want to be sure that we have a good skill fit before we start the project. Each client defines skill level differently. In the first months after Yimuka was founded, we had to remind the participants of their participation for almost all video conferences after the start of the conference and often started almost half an hour later. That’s when I sometimes lost the joy of the conversation. Today, an unpunctual start is rather the exception. Completing work packages by the agreed deadline is another area of constant focus for us. Here, a combination of consciously building time reserves into the project plans and very close supervision of the programmers in Uganda by us has proven successful.Not only because of the cultural differences is communication a major lever on the project’s success. Communication must be proactive and clearly understood. When in doubt, we prefer to point out possible risks too early and suggest solutions rather than produce disappointment on delivery.  We are also grateful when our customers come to us directly with questions, concerns and criticism, or even with an uneasy gut feeling. In programming projects, we want to understand not only the requirements for the software, but also why the requirements are made, i.e. the business logic behind them. This takes some time at the beginning, but this understanding helps us to make better decisions when implementing the requirements in detail.

 What is your perspective with your company? What are the next plans?

 In the IT area our next 3 milestones are to employ 20, 50 and 100 programmers full time in IT outsourcing projects. This would double the staffing levels of our IT partner companies in Uganda. Once we achieve that, we will set new goals.

For the expansion of honey export, we plan to offer companies and our honey as a Christmas gift for their employees. We pay our beekeepers in Uganda 70% through Fairtrade, so 2 jars sold is a day’s income. Our goal is to get 100 companies to participate in this Christmas campaign in 2022.

 Currently, we finance all loans for startups in Uganda from our own funds. It is important for us to first gain our own experience in this area. Our perspective is to significantly expand this area by taking loans from third parties. At the moment, we are supporting about 70 entrepreneurs. With further loans from third parties, we see the opportunity to support 1,000 entrepreneurs in Uganda with Yimuka loans.


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