One of the most prized assets that the continent of Africa has are its young people but it is also its greatest challenge. This is because young people present an opportunity for the continent given their skills, ideas and energy young people have to accelerate development as well as new forms of governance. The challenge therefore is, how best to make the most of this asset?
One way of making the best of this asset is to ensure that young people in Africa are treated as stakeholders both in the continent’s developmental challenges, its future as well as its fortunes. This could be achieved by for instance giving Africa’s young the tools as well as an enabling environment within which they can play their part as stakeholders in the continent’s development.
Earlier this year, I looked at the issue of availability of jobs for young people in Africa and the contribution African women make to job creation. I learned that whilst some young people are waiting for jobs and asking their respective governments for help, others are determined to seize whatever opportunity that there is and in some cases with amazing outcomes.
I caught up with one such young person in Uganda. His name is Stone Atwine. He is one of those young people that have refused to wait around for his government to make things happen. He has seen a gap in the money transfer market and has set about plugging it.
Here is how we got on…
IH: Where did you grow up?
SA: I grew up in Mbarara, a town in western Uganda
IH: How did your upbringing influence who you are
SA: I looked at my mother as a heroic woman. We never lived with my father and that meant that my mother had to struggle with small businesses to bring me up. I was an only child and all these greatly influenced who I became. I am resilient and I work extremely hard like my mother; I am independent and steadfast when I’ve made a decision. This means that before I make any decisions in business I consider all kinds of outcomes although I do things quite fast.
IH: What is Remit Ug?
SA: Remit is an online international money transfer platform that is extremely convenient and cheaper than the current brick and mortal operators. Remit delivers to mobile money which is widespread in Africa as a payment ecosystem.
IH: Why and how did you get started with Remit Ug?
SA: When I lived in Nairobi in 2011/12, I had serious problems sending money to my grandmother in the village. I would have to get cash, find an agent for one of the money transfer companies and fill in forms to send. Then my grandmother who lives in a remote village would have to get on a bus to reach a town that had money transfer agents.
And she would have to carry back lots of cash on the bus, this was not secure. I knew we could use mobile money for international transfers as it was already widespread. I talked to a friend; TMS Ruge who had diaspora connections and found out that he had also been thinking about the same thing.
In early 2013, I was talking to another friend; Collins Mugume about his startup and he mentioned that he and David Madra had been developing a prototype for money transfer. I immediately called TMS who was also in Kampala at the time and we agreed to work together. By the end of the week, the paperwork was done and the company was born.
IH: Where are you now?
SA: We are at a critical moment where everything must fall in place. We are almost doing an official launch and we have plans to start delivering in other African countries where mobile money has developed.
IH: I gather Remit Ug won this year’s regional Seedstars World ticket. Tell us about that and what it means for Remit ug?
SA: This is a huge opportunity because we are currently fundraising. Seedstars World will put us in front of hundreds of investors and entrepreneurs. The exposure is coming at an opportune time. Today we also received news that we’ve been selected as one of the 10 finalists to participate in ‘Get in The Ring’ – a global startup competition that will give us more exposure. More than 70 African startups from Cape Town to Morocco took part and we are in the group of finalists heading to battle in Kigali in September. So that’s even more good news.
Tweet from Stone on hearing the news that Remit Ug is amongst the finalsits
— Stone Atwine (@StoneAtwine) August 5, 2014
IH: As African diaspora we are concerned about tax on our remittances and we already pay tax on our income. How will Remit Ug address this?
SA: We are trying to make our transfers as affordable as possible. Right now, we are charging 5.4% and the bulk of that is going towards card processing. We will keep talking to our partners to bring this cost down and we will pass on the savings to our customers.
IH: The government on Uganda proposed a tax on remittances and money transfers in 2013 budget. Has this become law? What are your views on this and how will it affect your enterprise.
SA: When budgets are read, the taxes kick off immediately. If they discuss it in parliament and scrap it, then it will be stopped but this isn’t likely. It isn’t good news; the service will be more expensive because the telecommunication companies that run mobile money will pass on the tax.
IH: Where do you see Remit in 5 years
SA: In 5 years, we will be delivering money to more than 35 countries in Africa and South America.
Stone Atwine contact details: UG Cell: +256 772 533 848 | KE Cell: +254 704 595 134| twitter.com/stoneatwine