Why Africa’s technology boom may change our image of justice


Africa has been said to be leapfrogging when it comes to mobile technology. Instead of following the paths that the West took, the continent jumped several steps and now leads the world in certain aspects of mobile technology, such as Kenya’s use of M-Pesa.

The Hague Institute for the Internationalization of Law, together with the World Economic Forum and the Ford Foundation, launched the SME Empowerment Innovation Challenge in mid-2015 in an attempt to support innovations that helped African SMEs address regulatory barriers, corruption and other justice-related barriers.

After all, despite our significant economic progress recently, Africa remains one of the hardest places to do business for SMEs. One need only look at Nairobi, Dar es Salaam and Kampala’s street vendors and kiosks to see much of an impediment our environment can be to our most vulnerable entrepreneurs.

With hundreds of applications submitted and the three finalists already chosen, one thing is evident: technology, especially mobile technology, holds the future to empowering the region’s SMEs. The Challenge’s 3 finalists, who will win at total of 70,000 US Dollars, are all using apps and websites like to reach the masses of mobile-owning African entrepreneurs and offer them legal help, help them track fraud or even make it easier for them to obtain licences.

The innovators, Timothy Mwirabua (shopofficer.co.ke in Kenya), Gerald Abila (mSME Garage from Uganda) and Odunlowa Longe (diylaw.ng of Nigeria), are paving the way for a more conducive business environment throughout the region. In the final leg of the competition, to take place on December 3rd and 4th at the reknowned Peace Palace in the Hague, they will showcase their innovations to a dynamic crowd of investors, NGOs, government representatives, innovators and other, including the former Rwandese Minister of Justice, Tharcisse Karugarama.

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