Demo Day 2023: The future of justice innovation is here

HiiL’s Justice Accelerator announces winners of the 2023 Innovating Justice Award

Each year, HiiL welcomes selected startups to join its annual Justice Accelerator programme. This year, the programme culminated in the Demo Day on 15 February 2023. The event under the theme “investing in a new vision of justice startups”, emphasised data-driven solutions, technology and social entrepreneurship, all in service of closing the justice gap. 

Twelve startups took part, representing seven countries: Tunisia, Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda, and Lebanon. They pitched their game-changing justice solutions to a panel of judges in a bid to win the top three prizes of €5,000, €10,000 and €20,000. The judges included Jackie Nagtegaal, CEO of LAW FOR ALL, Duncan Onyango, Executive Chairman of KIFFWA, and Joseph Naayem, Partner at Contrast Capital. 

The 2023 top prize went to Mama Fua App, which vets and trains domestic workers and connects them to clients. In Kenya, women domestic workers are vulnerable to  poor employment conditions and different forms of (sexual) exploitation and abuse by their employers. 

To address these issues, Mama Fua App conducts a background check on domestic workers, and verifies their identity, age and criminal record. Lack of verification leads to various issues, such as hiring underage workers and an increased risk of petty theft or violence. Besides providing technical training, Mama Fua App trains women on their rights when it comes to decent working conditions and gender-based violence. When an issue arises, women get a wide range of support from legal to psychological. 

“Any domestic worker, such as a cleaning lady, outside the Mama Fua App structure is a possible victim of sexual assault, unjust pay and minimal access to jobs,” said Stephine Ngutah, CEO of the Mama Fua App. “Domestic work is the largest employment industry of African women in Kenya. That’s why Mama Fua seeks to professionalise the work through education and training. To date, 4,000 women in Nairobi and Eldoret have already benefited from Mama Fua, earning between 10 and 20 dollars a day […] this is the reason why Mama Fua perfectly mends the justice gap, creating mutually beneficial outcomes for both employers and workers.”

According to the latest survey on the number of domestic workers in Kenya from the International Labour Organisation in 2011, there are 2 million domestic workers in the country. Mama Fua App has so far served over 3 thousand of them. This is against the backdrop of employment justice being amongst one of the top 3 most serious justice problems in Kenya (HiiL Justice and Satisfaction Survey, 2017).

Second and third place went to Willminds, founded by Pascale Dahrouj and E-Arbitrator, founded by Angelo Kweli. Based in Lebanon, Willminds provides alternative dispute resolution methods as a way to settle disputes without the need to proceed to litigation. According to the HiiL Justice and Satisfaction Survey in 2017, 68% of people in Lebanon experience justice problems, whereas only 40% partially or completely resolve them. Alternative dispute resolutions are a relatively new method to resolve justice issues in Lebanon. E-Arbitrator, from Rwanda, is a digital platform that helps SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) resolve disputes through a qualified arbitrator. In this way, the cases are resolved faster and at a lower cost. E-Arbitrator largely focuses on cross-border traders in the East African Community (EAC). According to the 2020 EAC Trade and Investment Report, the value of cross border trade in EAC is estimated at 6 Billion USD and growing. Willminds and E-Arbitrator were awarded €10,000 and €5,000, respectively.

In addition to the three winners above, the other nine startups from this year’s accelerator programme included: 

  • Legal Point Services (Kenya): A virtual workspace for legal services where individuals or businesses get access to verified lawyers.
  • Sidebrief (Nigeria): A digital platform that provides a wide range of legal and regulatory services to startups and SMEs from registration to compliance in multiple 
  • XanaHealth (Rwanda): An online portal working with health facilities to digitise patient records, invoices and insurance claims in order to detect and prevent insurance fraud.
  • Nyumbani Online (Kenya): An online platform that digitises rent payments and prevents disputes between tenants and property owners by eliminating payment fraud and unjustifiable rent increments.
  • Silqu (Kenya): An online platform that allows property owners/managers and tenants to track all related transactions with transparency and ease.
  • Crediometer (Nigeria): It’s a digital tool that provides safe, secure and transparent transactions to micro SMEs, also including the unbanked
  • Atarapay (Nigeria): Using its escrow function, it verifies transactions between sellers and buyers and protects against fraud.
  • ElBaladiya (Tunisia): With its online platform, it connects people to their municipalities to access their services.
  • Idaraty (Tunisia): Through its digital platform, it helps public institutions optimise their internal processes in providing information, administrative procedures and more. 

Demo Day 2023 was live-streamed for the third consecutive year, where hundreds tuned in from around the world to watch the pitches of each startup. “Beyond the pitches, HiiL Justice Accelerator’s Demo Day is a knowledge-sharing event where entrepreneurs from across the globe can gain insights, make connections, and learn about the trends reshaping the justice sector,” said Iran Huffels, the Accelerator’s Programme Manager. 

You can watch and re-watch the full event recording on our YouTube channel:

HiiL’s Justice Accelerator

Scaling Gamechangers is one of the core components of people-centred justice, a systemic and integrated programming approach to increasing access to justice. HiiL’s Justice Accelerator programme is key to achieving this outcome. It is the only startup accelerator programme dedicated to scaling innovative startup ideas in the justice sector. 

“To close the justice gap, we need to seek out-of-the-box solutions that address people’s problems in the fastest, most affordable and easiest way,” said Iran Huffels, Programme Manager of HiiL’s Justice Accelerator. “And although justice practitioners around the world are working to address this gap, an innovative, financially sustainable and scalable business model is also essential to successfully transforming how justice gets delivered. The point is to help people move forward with their daily lives.” 

To that end, HiiL’s Justice Accelerator programme identifies entrepreneurs working to transform the justice sector. Of the dozens of innovations around the world, a hand-picked group each year meets our rigorous criteria to participate in our flagship accelerator programme. 

Looking to 2023 and beyond

With Demo Day marking the end of the 2022 cycle, the call for applications for the 2023 accelerator programme is now open. Until March 31, 2023, HiiL’s Justice Accelerator will accept applications from the next generation of justice innovators who come up with innovative, financially sustainable and scalable solutions that help people prevent or resolve their most pressing needs. 

Once selected, the startups will go through a 5-month long programme, which includes workshops, coaching and mentorship. There will be plenty of opportunities to make connections with other founders and stakeholders throughout the programme. The programme will culminate in the next Demo Day in February 2024. We look forward to seeing you then!

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