ARED, the Rwanda based Platform as a Service startup known for its ‘Smart Business in a Box’ solar powered kiosks, has launched in Uganda with funding from US-based impact investor Gray Matters Capital.
The firm has set up 10 kiosks with 10 women micro franchisees. The solar kiosks known as the Shiriki Hubs are run by women and differently abled individuals on a micro-franchisee model.
According to Henri Nyakarundi – Founder and CEO, ARED Group, “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 Kampala, the firm has also launched in 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. 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.
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.
Commenting on ARED’s success, Jennifer Soltis, Portfolio Manager – coLABS, Gray Matters Capital said, “ARED has revolutionized the way digital services and connectivity is being distributed in low income areas, and we are happy to have played our part in its success so far. Henri’s entrepreneurial zeal coupled with passion for social impact by empowering women and the differently abled through a profitable micro-franchise model that pays a commission for every service sold is remarkable.”
ARED will be looking to target countries in Western Africa next year.