In this pursuit of success, while securing funding remains undeniably significant, the roles of innovation and astutely identifying market demands cannot be understated. This collective effort underscores the urgency of creating more avenues for growth and employment.
Among the examples of such endeavors, Vuba Vuba Ltd, a startup that emerged with a purpose, encapsulates the transformative power of innovative ideas.
The company, operating within the domain of food delivery services via a robust e-commerce platform, has emerged as a disruptor. The fruits of their labor are becoming evident, epitomized by their recent distinction as one of the top 20 finalists in this year’s prestigious Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) competition.
ABH, a cornerstone initiative now in its fifth consecutive year, embodies the promise of surmounting challenges and propelling the continent toward greater heights. This ambitious Prize Competition, championed by the Jack Ma Foundation and Alibaba Philanthropy, resonates as a philanthropic beacon.
It aspires to support and ignite the ambitions of the next generation of African entrepreneurs across a spectrum of industries. The ultimate vision is to cultivate an economy that is both sustainable and inclusive, nurturing the continent’s future.
Rwanda’s unwavering participation in ABH since its inception in 2019 has yielded tangible results. Four Rwandan entrepreneurs have achieved coveted positions among the top 10 winners in the years 2019, 2021, and 2022, respectively.
Cumulatively, Rwanda’s triumphs have translated into a substantial grant amounting to over US$385,000, a testament to the program’s profound impact. This accomplishment serves as an inspiring precedent, illuminating the path for more Rwandan startups, as well as those from other nations, to seize the forthcoming five editions of ABH. The rewards that stem from active participation hold the potential to accelerate the growth trajectory of their enterprises.
The current year witnesses a remarkable surge in submissions to ABH, a testimony to the burgeoning entrepreneurial zeal across Africa. Amidst a staggering pool of 27,267 applications hailing from all 54 African countries, the CEO & Co-Founder of Vuba Vuba Africa Ltd, Albert Munyabugingo, stands tall. Alongside the remaining top 20 entrepreneurs, he has emerged from this competitive crucible. Among these contenders, Rwanda claims representation through a single entrepreneur within the ABH Top 20.
As the journey advances, these 20 visionary entrepreneurs inch closer to the pivotal moment when they will present their exceptional business propositions to global luminaries in Kigali this early September. The pitching session will ascertain the elite top 10, who will collectively share the substantial grant of US$1.5 million.
In an exclusive interview with IGIHE, Munyabugingo elaborated on his brainchild’s nuances, its potential impact on Africa’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, and the expedition that has earned him a spot among the top 20.
1. Could you provide a brief overview of your company’s mission and the innovative solution it offers to the community?
Munyabugingo: Vuba Vuba is an e-commerce mobile app that provides a convenient solution currently for residents in Kigali, Musanze and Rubavu to order meals and daily essentials for delivery to their homes or offices in less than an hour.
2. Poverty reduction through entrepreneurship is a crucial goal, especially in African countries. How does Vuba Vuba Africa Ltd contribute to this goal, and what inspired you to start this venture?
Vuba Vuba contributes to poverty reduction through empowering entrepreneurs at an entry level in Rwanda to scale.
For instance, we work with more than 10 start-ups registered as restaurant businesses in Rwanda with no space for dining. They just cook and deliver through Vuba Vuba.
Since its launch in January 2020, Vuba Vuba has a team of 31 full-time employees, 100 delivery riders, and 50 casual workers.
Together, they have facilitated the delivery of more than 1,000,000 orders, maintaining an impressive daily average of 1,000 deliveries.
I co-founded Vuba Vuba Africa Ltd in January 2020 with my colleague Innocent Kaneza.
We wanted to build a strong local tech solution for e-commerce. The inspiration to start an e-commerce mobile app was to fill in the gap that was left on the market after Jumia exited the Rwandan market in 2019.
We believed we are the best fit for it and to build a strong local tech solution for e-commerce, we decided to retain Jumia’s former employees who had been left jobless. Last week we launched a new version of the app that we are very excited about as it speaks to growth.
3. Vuba Vuba Africa Ltd operates in the agri-food sector. Could you delve into the specific ways your company addresses challenges in delivery services and contributes to national development?
Vuba Vuba collaborates with fresh produce sellers to bridge the gap for clients facing time or distance challenges. Our services enhance access to fresh produce, empowering local businesses to reach a wider customer base. We are also working on connecting farmers with our partner restaurants directly.
4. Innovation plays a pivotal role in today’s business landscape. How do you foster a culture of innovation within your company, and what role has it played in your success?
At Vuba Vuba, we drive growth by incentivizing staff contributions. Our inclusive recruitment seeks innovative minds to tackle challenges head-on, fostering creativity and driving solutions for our business. From Junior positions, we allow sharing of ideas on how to tackle growth challenges.
5. You were recently selected as one of the top 20 entrepreneurs by the Jack Ma Foundation’s Africa’s Business Heroes initiative. Could you share your initial reaction when you found out you were among the top 20 out of over 27,000 applicants from across Africa?
The email came in late at night and it’s the first thing I saw in the morning; you can imagine the smile on my face since then. This is a huge milestone being selected to be supported by one of the world’s greatest pioneers of e-commerce, a sector in which I am.
6. How was the journey of participating in Africa’s Business Heroes?
Africa’s Business Heroes (ABH) is one of the biggest platforms one would love to be part of. To me, it is the first with so many giants in the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Africa and beyond. I have learnt more so far, have connected with great minds and even looking to continue doing so as we want to expand Vuba Vuba to more African countries.
7. The upcoming ABH event in Kigali sounds exciting. Can you please tell us about your expectations for pitching your business idea to global business legends and the potential impact winning the grant could have on Vuba Vuba Africa Ltd?
As we approach the pitching session, we are diligently preparing day and night, with the goal of winning the prize that would fuel our growth strategies. This encompasses broadening the range of products and services we provide, as well as extending our solution to reach a wider audience across the African continent.
8. Rwanda has been consistently successful in the ABH initiative, with several entrepreneurs emerging among top winners. What factors do you think have contributed to Rwanda’s success, and how can other aspiring entrepreneurs learn from this experience?
Rwanda as a country, has created a very promising environment with incentives for innovation and entrepreneurship generally for local and international companies looking at having Rwanda as their first market of operations as well as expansion. Vuba Vuba is a practical example of such companies. I have not had any business outside of Rwanda but from different conversations, Rwanda really works.
9. The entrepreneurial spirit in Africa seems to be growing rapidly. What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs who are looking to make a positive impact through their business ideas, especially considering the current economic challenges?
My advice to upcoming entrepreneurs is quite simple: build an impactful solution, spend time defining your processes, adapt your processes to your market, speak to your users/customers to understand their needs because I believe – as ABH’s theme states it, IT’S AFRICA’S TIME and we will have enough customers for different products if they are well designed for the market. If this works well, I strongly believe investment will follow you.
10. Lastly, for other entrepreneurs who might be considering participating in future editions of Africa’s Business Heroes, what key takeaways or insights would you like to share from your own experience?
My experience with ABH is that the application is long for a very good reason. It gives you time to go back to your business’ basics and understand them even deeper. From any sector you might be operating in, not necessarily tech, this is a very good platform for mentorship, meeting the right investors and connecting with fellow founders.
While applying, be real, do not fake numbers, the ABH application opens every year for another 5 years ahead from now.