Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Former Agriculture Minister Dr Victoria Ssekitoleko has called for a development arm in key government agencies responsible for skilling SMEs.
Speaking during a post-budget e-conference held on Tuesday, Ssekitoleko said Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB), Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) and Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) are a reason why a lot of entrepreneurs have opted to stay informal even as all advocacy is now geared about business going formal.
She notes that at just a point of registration, business owners are asked to provide a load of documentations which are a turn off for many who are often uneducated. Among others to register a business according to guidelines by URSB, one will need to have a Memorandum and Articles of Association where they will often need to hire a lawyer to take them through the process.
Ssekitoleko who is currently the chairperson of the governing board at Uganda Agribusiness Alliance says that when a business battles through this, they face fresh problems with UNBS policing and shutting them down shortly after they start production without any assessment or taking them through proper processes.
She added that when they get to URA, their challenges usually arise from when they opt to import machinery or packaging materials to add value on especially agriculture produce.
“UNBS had this development arm but we don’t know what happened. They suddenly started acting like police. Uganda doesn’t produce packaging materials but when you go to URA to inquire before importation about how much tax you will be charged, all they tell you is it depends. The taxes range between 20 to 60 percent,” she said as a result many importers have decided to abandon their packaging materials.
Currently, all agriculture machinery is taxed except for milk processing machines which Ssekitoleko says is unfair for starters who would under ideal circumstances be exempted for some two years.
But Finance Minister Matia Kasaija said the registration of business has now been made easy that the whole process actually takes just a day saying that those that find challenges should be raising their concerns for likely reforms.
Ssekitoleko says that registering a business in a day is practically impossible unless the government changes the approach by putting in place forms and checks at URSB which can be quickly filled in without having to go through the current bureaucracies.
Commenting on the same, Kenneth Mugambe, the Director Budget at the Ministry of Finance said this financial year, they are deliberating moving to support the entire agriculture value chain allocating funds into agriculture microfinance that SMEs can access, including informal businesses in rural areas.
He added that they are focusing on the whole agriculture value chain from production to manufacturing.
But, Ssekitoleko says giving farmers money or seeds as has been will not help if they are not equipped with skills and acquainting them with what the government wants in supporting the value chain.