Disruptive Innovations Daring to Revolutionize Justice Delivery in East Africa in 2021!
There are at least 5.1 billion people or two-thirds of the world’s population who lack meaningful access to justice according to the 2019 Justice For All Report by the Task Force on Justice. This is an appalling statistic when we realize that a good majority of people globally are unable to resolve their justice problems due to a lack of access to justice. The report further points out that about 1.5 billion people cannot resolve their justice problems because they are either victims of unreported crime or they have an administrative justice problem they cannot solve such as the denial of a public service. East Africa is not an exemption to the access to justice gap. While we cannot currently apportion the contribution of East to Africa to the global statistics of people lacking access to justice, it is apparent that access to justice is still elusive in the region. In Kenya for instance, by 2017 between 17.2 and 17.9 million Kenyans had experienced a legal problem in the previous 4 years and 25% of those who encountered problems did not bother to seek any information to resolve their problem while 31% believed nothing could be done to resolve their problem according to the Justice Needs and Satisfaction Survey done in Kenya in 2017. Can anything be done to bridge this access to justice gap and help more people resolve their justice problems? How much worse has the access to justice situation become with the emergence of COVID 19 pandemic that met an unprepared formal justice institution leading to scale down of operations or closing of some branches entirely?
Notwithstanding the above horrifying data, it is not all dull and gloomy as HiiL believes there is a way to solve the access to justice problem. Justice innovation is the cure that HiiL Innovation Hub East Africa prescribes to bridge the access to justice gap in East Africa and is confident it will go a long way in helping at least 50 million East Africans resolve their most pressing justice problems. In a bid to achieve this mission in East Africa, HiiL has devoted itself to finding, funding and scaling the most promising justice entrepreneurs in the region that are delivering people-centered and user-friendly justice. HiiL devised a unique programme called the HiiL Justice Accelerator that is designed to identify the most promising and scalable justice innovations globally including East Africa and support them through seed grant funding, technical and business training and providing access to its global network of mentors and partners. The HiiL Justice Accelerator programme is an annual programme that supports justice innovations by running a call for entrepreneurs with scalable innovations that are solving justice problems to compete in the annual Innovating Justice Challenge where the best innovations are selected to join the Accelerator and receive 10,000 Euros seed grant funding. Over 110 startups have been supported globally through the HiiL Justice Accelerator since its inception in 2011 and East Africa has had more than 30 startups selected to join the Accelerator.
In 2021, the call for justice startups in East Africa to participate in the annual Innovating Justice Challenge by HiiL saw more than 33 justice entrepreneurs apply to have their startup join the HiiL Justice Accelerator. The promising justice innovators went through a rigorous and competitive selection process where only 11 startups were shortlisted for interviews as many fell through the filtering stages to leave only 5 startups standing at the regional final stage. The 5 startup finalists were Vindex Systems Ltd –a startup solving crime by using motorcycle tracking devices, Mobineo- a digital land management system improving land surveying and transfer processes, We Are More- a legal aid startup providing end to end affordable legal assistance, KYR Africa- a digital legal aid startup offering affordable legal aid and Upesy- a startup offering reliable and affordable emergency response services on a mobile application. Consequently, the 5 successful startup finalists were taken through an intense and engaging Justice Innovation Bootcamp training for one week (5 days) to build their business skills and prepare them for the regional final pitching event where a decision would be made on which startups would be selected to join the Justice Accelerator Programme. On the first day of the Bootcamp, the justice innovators learned about the Golden Circle and how to start with WHY when developing their vision. They also learned about the key ingredients that make up a justice startup. On the second day, they understood how to use data and evidence to drive their business decisions and finally how to collect data and speak to their target customers during the customer discovery session. Finally, the innovators refined and rehearsed their pitches throughout the week culminating in the Innovating Justice Kick-off event where they were to pitch their solutions to an attentive audience from across East Africa and the world.
On the 14th of July 2021, HiiL Innovation Hub East Africa held the 2021 East Africa Innovating Justice Kick-off event which was both vibrant and enchanting. The Kick-off event is an annual regional pitch event that seeks to showcase the justice innovators who have been shortlisted for the Innovating Justice Challenge in East Africa. This year’s Kick-off event was held virtually and was just as exciting as the previous ones held physically as it featured phenomenal pitches from the amazing shortlisted justice Innovators from East Africa who are resolving the most pressing justice needs in 2021. The startups that pitched during the event were Vindex Systems Ltd, Mobineo, We Are More, KYR Africa and Upesy. Additionally, the event was graced by a rich panel of experts drawn from impact investment, entrepreneur support ecosystem and taxation i.e Samira Saidi from Fount.eu, Esther Mwikali from ASSEK and Rodgers Kidiya from Tax Justice Network Africa respectively, who discussed the theme of Creating an Enabling Environment for Justice Innovation to Thrive which was very insightful and enlightening.
To catch up on what you missed on the Regional Kick-off Pitch Event, click here
The promise of revolutionized justice delivery in 2021 was made more alive by Vindex Systems that is solving motorcycle crime justice problems, Mobineo that is solving land administration and land fraud justice problems, We Are More that is closing the gap of access to reliable legal information and legal services online, KYR that is further closing the access to justice gap by making it easy to access legal services and information online and Upesy that is solving crime by providing a quick and easy to use emergency response app to report crime incidences and get emergency help hence making our society a safer place. 4 startup finalists ie. Know Your Rights Africa (KYR), Upesy, We Are More and Vindex Systems managed to join the HiiL Justice Accelerator programme and we hope they will be able to catalyze their growth and impact through the business support, training, seed funding, as well as the global networks opened to them.
There is still room for more innovations to transform how we access justice services in East Africa and we look forward to seeing more transformative justice innovations joining the HiiL Justice Accelerator and ultimately resolving justice problems for 50 million East Africans.
Article by Morgan Gikonyo.