Damali Ssali is a Ugandan Afro-optimist, an Advisory Board Member of the African Council for Trade, Tourism, and Investment (AfCOTTI), and a member of the Africa List.
Her range of expertise includes financial services, trade policy, entrepreneurship, technology, and innovation.
She is an accountant by training and a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (FCCA), and started off her career in the financial services industry in the City of London, working with one of the largest hedge funds in the world.
Damali later transitioned her career into trade development after obtaining a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA), from the Grenoble Graduate School of Business in France, with a specialisation in Innovation, Technology and Entrepreneurship Management.
She is also an Affiliate of the Institute of Public Private Partnerships.
She relocated back to Uganda in 2013 with dreams of setting up a venture capital fund to support innovative young Ugandans and Africans with seed funding.
Damali established a venture capital fund – DSSL Management – that aims to support innovative Ugandan and African entrepreneurs to scale up their businesses.
Finally, Damali is the brainchild, the host and producer of an online and television show called the Ideation Corner, where she speaks to personalities that have conceptualised, developed, and implemented great ideas, so that they can share their insights with aspiring young innovators.
After twenty-one in-depth episodes, the first season of the Ideation Corner came to an end, with the wrap up broadcasted on 9th December 2020.
This was exactly 4 months and 24 days since the first show was aired on 15th July 2020.
In the season finale, Sandra Kirenga; a creative designer and economist was on set with Damali Ssali; the brainchild, host and producer of the Ideation Corner.
The latter used this unique opportunity to decode the background and thinking behind this fast growing Innovation and Entrepreneurship empowerment platform.
According to Damali Ssali, even though the show started airing in mid-July, it is a concept she had for over a year but was taking her time to roll it out until when her friend, Sandra Kirenga, encouraged her to seize the opportunity and get started.
“I got this thing in my head in 2019. It was in my head for about 12 months until February 2020 when I was at a very good friend of mine’s place and I decided to mention it to her. I told her I was thinking about doing this show and she told me it was a fantastic idea and that I should go for it,” Damali said.
Adding: “That friend of mine is Sandra Kirenga right here. That is why she is able to sit in this chair and ask me all these questions.”
“I was thinking about the Ideation Corner because I am interested in the process. I just like to know how someone thinks of something and that thing transitions from this intangible thought into something tangible. I have always been interested in that entire process.”
Thanks to her inborn interest in entrepreneurship, Damali cut short her high flying accounting career in financial services at a hedge fund in the United Kingdom to upgrade her understanding of the entire ideation and innovation process.
“After practicing as a chartered accountant in the City of London, UK, for twelve years, I decided to take some time out and go do my MBA. I chose the Grenoble Graduate School of Business, specifically because it is one of the most recognised innovation hubs in Europe. There, I specialized in Innovation and Technology Management again because of my inherent interest in this creative process.”
“Also, my interest in this is because I was raised by two entrepreneurs. My father is a chartered quantity surveyor and until his retirement, at 84 years old, he was offering these services to people through the firm, SurveyBros which was located on Kampala Road at one time. My mother was a modern-day gynaecologist and owned a maternity clinic where they delivered babies regularly,” she elaborated.
With all this knowledge, plus encouragement from her friend Sandra Kirenga, Damali launched the Ideation Corner in July 2020.
“I wanted to engage entrepreneurs and I thought that if I created the Ideation Corner, I would have a platform where I would interact with these interesting people who haveconceptualized and done great things. These people would then share insights and inspire someone else to actually get started and do it. That is why I engage with the different people I host. They inspire me and also inspire other people.”
The Ideation Corner Season one aired twenty one consecutive weekly shows, including ten women guests, on Facebook, YouTube and Anchor FM (for podcasts) every Wednesday.
Owing to its consistency, the show has since been picked up by the state TV – Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC), and aired on it starting February 2021.
“When we started, we had no permanent venue so we would tell the guest that we would find them wherever they were. And this went on for 14 episodes. But we have since got a home and can easily host anyone anytime. Our guests are spotted by the team, recommended by friends and others call in and ask to be hosted. I would love to host anyone with something innovative to share regardless of where they are in Uganda.”
TECHNOLOGY HAS SOLUTIONS TO MOST OF OUR PROBLEMS
Asked why the Ideation Corner season one had more than half of its 21 guests coming from the ICT and Financial Technology industries, Damali noted that this was deliberate because she believes that leveraging technology is the thing that we need to catalyse so that we deal with a lot of the problems we are faced with.
“If you look at the mobile money revolution for example, who knew that you can make money out of people who earn UGX 3000 per day? But the mobile money revolution is making money out of these people, the mobile networks are making profits and they are the biggest tax payers in the country,” Damali said.
“This is because they developed an inclusive product that targets everyone. They have brought financial services to the poorest person in Uganda. So I feel like technology is something we need to leverage to solve those problems that touch everyone’s lives,” she added.
Damali said she hash hosted some interesting solutions that are leveraging technology to provide inclusive services in a manner that was not possible before.
“Take for example the Yassako application that is availing credit facilities for poor people to be able to access electricity in times of emergency, or the Afya Pap application that is availing digital health services at one’s fingertips, or the Yo TV application that aims to being local content services to anyone with a digital mobile phone.”
This shows the power of technology and how we should leverage it to solve our everyday problems.
Whereas all the episodes have been remarkable, garnered thousands of views and inspired several people, Damali Ssali noted that her standout interviews were with two guests below 30 years of age, Geofrey Mutabazi, the founder and CEO of ChargeKo and Laura Nakigozi, the Chief Executive Officer of Cloverdale Farm.
“I have hosted fantastic people but the one guy that ticks all the boxes for me is Geofrey Mutabazi. He is young, in his early 20s, and secondly he is interested in technology. He literally went out there and offered a phone charging solution called ChargeKo to people.”
But then, Damali added, he is also looking at electric cars, discussing the infrastructure needed and where Uganda can start from.
“The lady that stood out for me is Laura Nakigozi. Again, she ticks my criteria of being young. She is an economist who studied at Makerere University. After her degree, she went in to poultry farming, setting up Cloverdale Farm. Because agriculture is the backbone of Uganda’s economy, I was pleased to see a young Ugandan actively involved in farming.”
Throughout the episodes, three common attributes were shared by all the guests: the majority are self-taught, consistent and persistent people who believe in small beginnings and never give up on their dreams.
After hosting Africa’s creme de la creme in areas such as Financial Technology, Banking, Public Relations, Agriculture, Health, Innovation and Sports among others in Season One, a lot is expected in Season Two.
According to Damali Ssali, the show is coming back bigger, better and bolder in 2021.