Nicholas Kamansi created an app to find people to do laundry[/caption]
Like much of Africa, Uganda has a vibrant technology and start-up scene. Some of the technology being developed is geared towards e-commerce and creating jobs, but others are using their computer-programming skills to create tools to solve Uganda’s development challenges.It’s a familiar problem for young people around the world – it’s Saturday, you’ve got a hangover, and there’s a big pile of washing waiting to be done for the week ahead. But on a cool Saturday morning in one of the Ugandan capital’s many hilly suburbs, Gloria is unfazed by her pile of dirty clothes. “It’s amazing, even with a hangover, I don’t have to worry about it,” Gloria says, looking over her shoulder to the beckoning comfort of her living room. Outside, single mother Naiga is at work bending over a pile of clothes she’s washing in three big bowls of soapy water. Like many others in Kampala, Naiga hand-washes other people’s laundry to pay her rent and take care of her nine-month-old baby. It’s an old-fashioned job, but Gloria and Naiga have been brought together by cutting-edge technology. Yoza, a locally developed android app, helps users find laundry services. Yoza means “to wash” in Uganda’s major language, Luganda. “Ten years ago, it was rocket science,” says Nicholas Kamanzi, one of Yoza’s co-founders. “But now if someone can just pick up their phone and get these services on demand, that’s a big thing.” Yoza is like Uganda’s version of Uber for dirty laundry – using technology like location detection and social ratings to match service providers with clients. But it takes local knowledge to implement this kind of idea in Uganda. While there are enough middle-class Ugandans in places like Kampala with smartphones who can access the app, few of the laundry women have them. [caption id="attachment_23144" align="alignright" width="292"] The app helps locate people who you can pay to wash your clothes[/caption] So Yoza calls them up on their regular phones to sign them up, and book them for jobs. Naiga is one of nearly 140 women now signed up to do laundry, and Mr Kamanzi says some of them have doubled their income. “The value is very clear” for the laundry women, says Mr Kamanzi. “We’re giving you more clients in your area, so that you can make more money and maybe look after your family and pay school fees.” Yoza is typical of Ugandan start-ups – using innovative means to tackle a local problem, in its early stages, and with a tiny customer base by international standards. But despite this, Mr Kamanzi says Yoza, which launched in August, is commercially viable.