Vodacom Tanzania – Connecting with a New Generation

Vodacom Tanzania is not just ensuring the country is connected through its online and mobile infrastructure, they’re also promoting the businesses that will make the most of it.

Vodacom Tanzania, a subsidiary of the largest telecommunications provider on the African continent, has spent the last two decades growing into a position as the telecommunications market leader for the nation. The company offers a range of services that include everything from traditional mobile services and data to enterprise services and cloud computing.

“We’ve evolved over the past 20 years, launching many firsts in the market including 3G in 2009, M-Pesa in 2008, mobile money enabling financial inclusion (65% inclusion Index), M-Pawa further empowering the masses through microfinancing which has disbursed $26 billion since its launch in 2014,” explains Hisham Hendi, Vodacom Tanzania’s Managing Director. “The people and team behind the brand have driven company performance, as well as leadership in Corporate Social Responsibility, with over TZS 17 billion invested in health, education and financial inclusion projects since 2006. Our brand has been consistent over the past 20 years. We provide innovative products and solutions that help improve people’s lives, which adds to our trusted name.”

The latest form these solutions have taken is the “Vodacom Digital Accelerator”, a project borne of the collaboration between Vodacom Tanzania and Smart Lab. The goal of the program is to help early-stage and growth-stage technology startups achieve profitability and become revenue-generating businesses. An annual program, the Vodacom Digital Accelerator will work to identify and support entrepreneurs with startups in the mobile, telecom, fin-tech, media, health, education, and e-commerce sectors.

Giving Startups a Leg-up
Hendi describes Vodacom Tanzania’s and Smart Lab’s partnership as a crucial move towards giving startup businesses opportunities through technological paths, leading to workable business models that, ultimately, will benefit the communities around them

This is especially true for Tanzania’s youth, and Hendi is particularly keen to encourage more youth to take advantage of the program and use innovation as a path to economic empowerment while also solving social developmental issues in their own communities.

“We drive youth empowerment through job creation,” Hendi says. “The unemployment rate in Tanzania sits at 9.7%. As a responsible corporate citizen, we have an obligation to plug into the problem of youth unemployment and this is one way to close the gap. At the same time, innovators create solutions for real-life problems in their communities, getting us closer to our vision to change lives through technology.”

Vodacom Tanzania’s ultimate aim is to take Tanzanians into the digital world by encouraging technology-driven ideas that bring about sustainable change.

“Vodacom always aims to create impactful sustainable change in the society where we operate in line with our strategic business focus and, the Vodacom Accelerator aims to do just that,” he adds. “Digital technology not only changes the way we do business in Africa but also revolutionises the way we perceive and solve issues of development.”

By partnering with Smart Lab, which is well-known as an innovation hub working to disrupt the innovation eco-system with tangible results, Vodacom Tanzania is creating an opportunity for startups and innovators to showcase their products and possibly reap rewards including exclusive partnership deals with Vodacom, mentorship, technical assistance, marketing and exposure to Vodacom and Smart Lab’s large network of partners and finally customers to test and experience their solutions.

Edwin Bruno, the CEO of Smart Codes, the organisation behind Smart Lab, has echoed Hendi’s excitement, saying that, “together with Vodacom we hope to create a brand-building platform for the tech-savvy youth. This program is in line with our corporate strategy to drive messaging around youth support in the digital age and we are grateful for Vodacom Tanzania who saw the need to create the next round of success stories for African entrepreneurs building fast-growing technology companies coming from within the country.”

The scheme could not come at a better time for Tanzania, whose innovation community has recently exploded from just a handful of technology hubs in 2011 to over 45 in 2019. But while innovation has been progressing rapidly among startups, there has been slower involvement from the corporate side of the economy. By partnering with Smart Lab, Vodacom Tanzania is working to bridge that gap.

Vodacom will be investing over $150,000 into the accelerator program for educating and empowering the youth of Tanzania, while also leveraging corporate resources, networks, mentors and partnerships to provide them with support. The lucky participants will get the opportunity to present their progress to a panel of investors and associates after a three month “acceleration period”, and the most successful candidates will then receive further support from Vodacom Tanzania and Smart Lab for another six months.

A Top Employer
However, Vodacom Tanzania isn’t just supporting Tanzanians in setting up their own businesses. Another way to get a successful career in the telecommunications sector in Tanzania is simply to work for Vodacom itself. In fact, Vodacom Tanzania was awarded the title of “Employer of the Year 2019”.

“We achieved it by having the best HR practices!” Hendi says cheerfully. “Our practices have been assessed through an analysis of questions which covered people practices across different HR topics including but not limited to Talent Strategy, Learning & Development, Performance Management and Culture by the Top Employer Institute.”

This was no flash in the pan either. On the very week we talk to Hendi, he has just received the news that Vodacom Tanzania has also been awarded the title of “Employer of the Year 2020”.

“This exciting achievement was officially announced on Thursday 14 November 2019 as a result of global research of the very best employers worldwide, by Top Employers Institute,” Hendi explains. “Selected, certified Top Employers lead the way in outstanding ‘people-first’ HR practices. Our practices have been assessed through an analysis of questions which covered people practices across different HR topics.”

Through supporting their own staff, and helping other Tanzanians to launch their own enterprises, Vodacom is leading the way in the evolution of the fintech sector in Tanzania, one of the fastest-growing sectors on the continent. We can’t wait to see what they do next.

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