East Africa has a huge informal private sector that drives most of its economic and social development. However, this is staggered by an outdated, complex and corrupt legal and political framework. Uganda is the most entrepreneurial country in the world, and its micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME’s) collectively constitute about 90% of private sector production and employ over 2.5 million people. But most small businesses struggle to survive beyond their first years.
Many East African entrepreneurs and business(wo)men are operating in the informal sector, which makes them vulnerable to corruption. The existing justice sector and legal framework does not provide support for these micro businesses, in fact, it is so complex and corrupt that it discourages their development. Up-to-date information about changing laws and tax regulations are complex and inaccessible to most business owners, while a monopoly of lawyers provide unaffordable and unreliable legal services.
As part of HiiL’s impact measurement activities, we closely follow some of the beneficiaries of our programmes and innovations. Their stories reveal more than numbers can: they show the real struggles and opportunities that come with improving access to justice. One of the great things about working at HiiL is that I can hear these stories first hand, feel inspired by the next generation of justice leaders, and be excited by what innovation can achieve in the legal space. My personal interest in documentary making drove me to follow two of our innovations in action, and make a film that could help our partners, clients, innovators and friends to see what we really mean by driving justice innovation.
This short film follows two entrepreneurs who are applying new technologies to support informal businesses in East Africa. Timothy is a Ugandan lawyer reaching out to micro business owners in Kampala outskirts via WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter through the mSMEGarage. David is a Kenyan IT researcher rolling out Sauti: an SMS platform for women traders on the Kenya-Uganda border. These, and many other young innovators in the legal space are leveraging on East Africa’s fast paced environment to empower fellow business owners and fulfill the justice needs of SMEs. Will the future look brighter if emerging economies, like Uganda, were to benefit from this new generation of visionary tech-driven justice leaders?