At the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020, Denis Orech and two friends from Lira University decided to devise means of delivering goods and services to people in Lira town who were trapped in their homes due to a national lockdown.
The three, using their knowledge in information technology, started an e-commerce platform called Yammie shoppers where people would go and order home supplies and pay upon delivery.
“Lira being a remote district in Northern Uganda, the business did not pick on. One of the reasons for this failure was that we did not have enough capital. People would make orders but we never had resources to buy and transport the goods to their destinations using our motorcycle,” he says.
However, it is from this bottleneck that Orech originated a new business idea that is now becoming a household name in Lira town.
Orech says that whenever they were short of money to make deliveries, they would approach an old lady in the area who would lend them some money and they pay later.
“I realized that this lady was extending loans to even Boda Boda riders. I said I can do this as well. So, one of my partners happened to be running a fuel station in Amolatar district; we sat down and I shared the idea. We came up with a model and launched MedMoo in January 2022 with me as its CEO,” he says.
MedMoo is a Luo word that loosely translates into refueling in English or ‘Yongeramu amafuta’ in Luganda. Under this model, they onboard riders who are then given daily fuel loans which they are expected to repay within 24 hours, with a 10 percent interest.
“We approach them at their stage and explain what we do. We ask those interested to register. We get their names, number plates, phone numbers and NIN numbers,” Orech says.
The riders are given specific forms to fill out at their stage location and the stage chairman or treasurer co-signs as their guarantor.
Upon registration, a Boda Boda rider can go to any of the MedMoo partner fuel stations and get fuel on credit ranging from UGX 5,000 to UGX 20,000.
“We have an employee at all these stations who hands out fuel vouchers to these riders. The employee first confirms their registration status and credit status before issuing a voucher,” he explains, noting that payments can be made in cash or using mobile money.
In six months, MedMoo has onboarded over 878 riders and given out fuel worth UGX 77m.
“At the beginning of the year, we were giving out fuel loans of about 700,000 per day but as fuel has become more expensive, trips have reduced, our numbers have dropped to as low as 300,000 per day,” he says.
Meanwhile, Orech says one of the biggest challenges faced by startups in northern Uganda is capital. He explains that while many young people have brilliant ideas, they are affected by limited capital and low levels of uptake of technology.
“It takes a lot of time for people to adapt to new things. There is a mindset problem, especially for homegrown initiatives. People expect everything to have a stamp of approval from Kampala,” says.
40 Days 40 FinTechs.
He, however, applauds the 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative that has reached out to even upcountry FinTechs and given them both national and international mileage.
“We really need a very active tech space; I am meaning incubators, in northern Uganda. We need a hub in Northern Uganda. The skill is there. The people are there. We need exposure and funding. It is very encouraging for the 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative to come to us and give us a chance to tell our story,” he says.
Now in its third edition, the HiPipo #40Days40FinTechs has quickly grown into one of the world’s premier showcase events for the innovations that are enabling ever more people to join the digital economy space. This is done in collaboration with partners such as Level One Project, Mojaloop, ModusBox, and Crosslake Technologies, with support from the Gates Foundation.
MedMoo are the 37th participants in this year’s edition that has been extended to cover physical destinations in East African nations of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, and Rwanda.
According to the HiPipo CEO, Innocent Kawooya, Medmoo is an encouraging start-up with a solution that targets a huge yet niche audience.
“Boda Boda riders are part and parcel of our economy. They always struggle with getting fuel, more so in the morning. A solution like Medmoo helps them start their work days well without worrying about fuel. We have challenged the Medmoo team to scale their product and make it, paperless, cash-lite, and eventually cashless. HiPipo is ready to move with Medmoo on this journey”
Run under HiPipo’s Include Everyone program, the 40 Days 40 FinTechs initiative offers participants useful tools and an introduction to the industry’s emerging technologies, such as Mojaloop Open Source Software, and guidance from Level One Project foundational material. The skills gained from this initiative cover Level One Project Principles, Instant and Inclusive Payment Systems (IIPS), Inclusive Finance and FinTech in general.