Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | A year since the commencement of the Presidential Initiative on Wealth Creation dubbed Emyooga, the initiative has so far disbursed Shs 200 billion to SACCOs for online disbursement to the parish-based group.
However, many would be beneficiaries say they have not yet received the money, with some doubting that they ever will.
The Uganda Microfinance Support Centre (MSC) which is managing the funds says they have been overwhelmed by the numbers requesting for the money, yet the funds are limited. According to the centre, Emyooga was launched by President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni in August 2019 as part of government’s strategies to transform 68% of Ugandan homesteads from subsistence to market-oriented production.
Accordingly, 18 enterprise categories were identified as having not adequately benefited from the previous wealth creation initiatives, including journalists, Boda Bodas, Women Entrepreneurs, Carpenters, Salon Operators, Taxi Operators. Restaurant Owners and Welders. Others are Market Vendors, Youth Leaders, Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), Produce Dealers, Mechanics, Tailors, Performing Artists, Army Veterans and Fishermen.
The distribution channel involves the MSC depositing the respective funds onto the bank accounts of the beneficiary SACCO, which then passes it onto the parish-based associations that form a particular SACCO. Each SACCO gets Shs 30 million which is managed as a revolving fund, at what the MSC calls affordable interest rates.
MSC Deputy Executive Director, Petronilla Helen Masika says that by the end of April, more than 2,000 associations had got money from their SACCOs. She says the Centre has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with each of the participating commercial banks, committing to keep interest rates low, while also requiring no initial deposit amounts when the SACCOs are opening the bank accounts.
Many groups from different parts of the country have complained that they were registered and applied for the funds as long as six months ago, but have never received the money. Others claim that they got the money on their SACCO bank accounts by failed to withdraw it for use.
The Centre says there was a challenge of a time-lag between the time the money is released to the time the it may be accessible from the bank accounts, because of administrative challenged between the centre and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives.
The SACCOs had to get a certificate from the Ministry before being able to access their accounts for the money, and the certificates were taking too long, leaving the beneficiaries frustrated.
The outgoing State Minister for Cooperatives, Frederick Ngobi Gume admits this, but adds that the ministry was overwhelmed by the numbers, before deciding to hire interns to do the work.
Gume says it would have been easier for the Emyooga SACCOs to first get a certificate before taking their application to the MSC for the funds, so that the ministry first makes a due diligence of the SACCO before clearing it for the funds.
Officials at the Centre expect that some people could have relaxed picking the money after being frustrated for long, while others could still be convinced that they cannot access the banks accounts, even when the issue was resolved.
James Muhwezi, the Partnerships and Resource Mobilisation Manager, says that they have encountered many challenges including negativity by politicians who discourage people from the fund. While some people genuinely thought that they money was a political gift for voting, some people intentionally misled Ugandans that it was free money, and according the Muhwezi, this slowed down implementation of the initiative.
On whether they feel that there is cause for celebrating a year of Emyooga, the Executive Director, John Peter Mujuni says under the circumstances, they have performed well, with limited funds available.
They hope the government will release even bigger amounts for the next financial year to deal with the high demand.
He cites the mindset change which has seen the people save close to Shs 10 billion under the initiative, among other achievements.
At first they ask for opening of main Sacco office at the district level, what so ever they ask we comply but we see it not coming