Uganda Start-Ups Wins Development Prize

Gerald and Peninah in Brussels.

UGANDA’s BarefootLaw, the first online legal service in East Africa, is one of three winners of the €200,000 King Baudouin African Development Prize.
Ghana’s Farmerline and Kenya’s Kytabu were also named winners of the King Baudouin African Development Prize, taking home EUR75,000 (US$84,000) each in prize money and access to a wide network of stakeholders who will support them as they grow.
BarefootLaw team members Gerald Abila and Peninah Igaga were in Brussels last night where they received the prize from King Philippe and Queen Mathilde of Belgium.
The King Baudouin African Development Prize rewards outstanding contributions to development in Africa, initiated and led by Africans. The Prize also seeks to draw public attention to the many inspirational stories, including challenges and successes, emerging from the African continent.
BarefootLaw will get $84,000 (Uganda Sh300million) of the prize.
In a statement before the prize ceremony, BarefootLaw said: “We are overwhelmed with joy to say the least. From the conception of BarefootLaw, we have had one vision; a world in which every individual is cognizant with the law and can use it to protect themselves, their families and communities.”


“Having our efforts recognised in this grand magnitude means a great deal to us because we feel a little closer to achieving what we have set our minds to from the very beginning. In 1994, TASO received the same prize. In 2017, it’s our turn to bring pride to our country.”
The Prize is awarded every other year by the King Baudouin Foundation. Beyond its monetary value of 200.000 euros, it offers its winners unique opportunities to increase their visibility and promote their cause to international audiences.
For the first time, the Prize was awarded to three organisations to recognise the growing number of socially minded tech-entrepreneurs across the continent.
The Prize recognises the stand-out achievement of three young, African tech-entrepreneurs driving social change across the continent. The 2016-17 winners are from diverse fields, law (BarefootLaw), agriculture (Farmerline) and education (Kytabu)
All three organisations share the underlying principle of using simple technology to connect people with essential knowledge. Each tech-platform enables communities to access and share information in fundamental areas: education (Kytabu), legal rights (BarefootLaw) and agriculture (Farmerline).
Uganda’s BarefootLaw provides the public with free legal information and assistance using innovative approaches. They use technology in addition to the traditional methods to offer free legal information and assistance. In serving the public, Barefoot Law has embraced innovative approaches.

Of Uganda’s approximately 2,600 licensed lawyers, the majority are based in Kampala, leaving millions of citizens with hardly any access to legal services. The organization offers free-of-charge services that help those who are in need, especially the most vulnerable, to understand and defend their basic rights.
Kytabu developed an innovative textbook content-leasing app for students. The app makes school-reading accessible to 11 million students in Kenya to break down the high rate of students currently without access to textbooks (1 in 10).
BarefootLaw is the first on-line legal service provider in East Africa. It started in 2012 as the brainchild of Gerald Abila, then a law student who wanted to equip people with knowledge and understanding of the law, so that everyone could have equal and fair access to justice. Having started as a one man show in 2012, BarefootLaw officially registered in March 2013 and today the not-for-profit organisation is run by over 17 young professionals including lawyers and ICT experts who are passionate about the power of legal knowledge and the potential of information technology to transform people’s lives.

By demystifying the law through simple, easily understood language and making information accessible at low costs, BarefootLaw addresses an important development need in Uganda, where citizens can claim their rights and access law and justice.

BarefootLaw delivers legal information, guidance and support on a mass scale via ten platforms. Seven of the platforms are technology driven (SMS, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, Call center, Email, Nodes) and three use traditional methods (partnerships, walk-ins and community engagements, including legal clinics, radio programs and popular theatre). Through a forthcoming Nodes Network, BarefootLaw aims at extending their services to the rural unconnected population.
Each month, BarefootLaw reaches out to around 450,000 persons with legal information. Last year, it attended to approximately 30,000 legal queries.
By Maureen Akello, Kampala with agency report

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