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NSSF, Mastercard Foundation give Shs4.8billion boost to women led businesses

Acting NSSF MD Ayota

Kampala, Uganda | JULIUS BUSINGE | The National Social Security Fund (NSSF) in partnership with Mastercard Foundation have awarded Shs4.8bn seed funding to 66 women entrepreneurs through their Hi-innovator Women Accelerator program.

A total of 15,000 job opportunities for women and youths countrywide are expected to be created through this intervention, executives said on March 14 in Kampala.

In addition to the seed funding, the entrepreneurs were trained in business management skills through the program’s self-directed online Business Academy, with support from renowned entrepreneurial support organizations countrywide. Specifically, the women entrepreneurs were skilled in financial literacy, compliance, marketing, and bookkeeping among others between November 2022 and January 2023.

The NSSF Hi-Innovator Women Accelerator is a women-only cohort aimed at giving women entrepreneurs across all sectors an even opportunity to improve their business skills and grow their businesses into resilient enterprises that are more competitive and better placed to receive financial services.

It is the third cohort of the NSSF Hi-innovator Programme, an innovation initiative by the NSSF in partnership with Mastercard Foundation. It aims to create an ecosystem where small and growing businesses by Ugandan entrepreneurs can be supported to mature into viable businesses.

Patrick Ayota, the NSSF Acting managing director said, “Whereas 66 businesses have received funding today, I am pleased to note that the program has enabled over 500 women entrepreneurs formalise their businesses, giving them a steppingstone to access funding easily.”

“We believe this will help bridge the funding gap for women-owned enterprises,” he said.

The successful businesses were assessed using a criterion that included the potential for scalability, sustainability, good governance, and impact on the community. A panel of experts ranging from investment experts to renowned manufacturers helped select the winning businesses.

Each of the winning businesses was awarded USD20,000 (approximately shs75m each) and will receive tailored technical support in the next few months.

The majority of the winning entrepreneurs intimated that they would want to use the funding to expand their product base, scale up the reach of their products and obtain quality certification for their products and services.

Adrian Bukenya, the Mastercard Foundation Country Director said, “The businesses selected for funding today affirm our commitment to creating more jobs for women and youth in Uganda. At Mastercard Foundation we believe that supporting businesses to scale will expand employment opportunities and that’s why we partnered with NSSF in this initiative.”

The beneficiary businesses were from the agriculture, energy, health, nutrition, real estate, ICT, fashion, and education sectors.

Richard Zulu, Founding Partner, and Team Lead at Outbox Uganda which is the implementing partner for the Hi-innovator programme, said that the women accelerator has shown that women entrepreneurs are willing to participate in initiatives if they see the impact they will have on their livelihoods.

To date, 220 businesses have received seed funding worth Shs18bn and skilled 12,000 youths of which 30% are female. The programme began in 2021.

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