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Opportunities at Uganda Innovation Week

Deals signed, networks made, entrepreneurial knowledge shared

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | From November 22-24, the 4th edition of the annual Uganda Innovations Week (UIW) kicked off in Kampala, organized by Start-up Uganda, with hundreds of participants from the private sector, government, and other fields participating both physically and online.

Held under the theme “Uganda’s Entrepreneurial Ecosystem: Unlocking the Missing Links”, the event explored missing links in the areas of academia and industry, women’s entrepreneurship and funding for startups.

The key messages shared rotated around business ethos of governance, record keeping, tax compliance, innovations, networking and marketing and credit access opportunities and more.

Richard Zulu, the Chairperson for Startup Uganda said, government has encouraged business process outsourcing through the appointment of a BPO Council to formulate the BPO policy critical to supporting innovations for businesses to grow.

He said, private sector growth is only possible when government supports with good policies and supporting the environment.  He said, it is good that this year’s event was held at a time when “our members have demonstrated resilience during the hard economic times characterized by high inflationary pressures, COVID-19 crisis and related global challenges.”

Zulu said, the UIW was a key space to network and share knowledge and experiences on how to overcome the emerging business challenges in a bid to keep enterprises running and creating opportunities. For instance, he said, “solving the unemployment problem is not about our logos, but it is about working together.”

Chris Lukolyo, the digital country lead at a UN agency, UNCDF said, “The innovations week is a place to learn, unlearn, listen, support innovations and support innovations to build meaningful connections and networks.” He advised entrepreneurs to collaborate with key stakeholders to improve their performance and be able to access credit and related support from financial and other formal institutions.

Mathias Katamba, the managing director and chief executive officer at dfcu Bank, who also spoke as the chief guest at the opening of the event said, technology, innovations, partnerships, excellent corporate government are critical for growing startups especially when it comes to accessing capital and other support.

“You must find something that you are solving for; the funding will come,” he said. Katamba said, the recent launch of the government backed satellite and developments in key sectors like manufacturing, education and health, infrastructure and more demonstrate one thing; Uganda can be home for attracting huge foreign direct investments.

On his part, Dennis Aguma, the chairman for Uganda Innovation Week said, avenues that identify challenges that businesses face, and solutions to offer to entrepreneurs is critical for business and economic growth “which is why we have this event annually”.

NSSF, Mastercard Shs7.6bn deal

During the event, the National Social Security Fund in partnership with Mastercard Foundation announced that they had earmarked over Shs7.6bn seed funding to 100 indigenous women-owned businesses under the third cohort of their NSSF Hi-innovator programme, an innovation initiative.

Patrick Ayota, the NSSF deputy managing director said that the funding is aimed at giving women-led enterprises to improve their business skills and grow their businesses whilst readying them for future investor funding.

He said, “We have noticed the low participation of women entrepreneurs’ business initiatives. Whereas Uganda is ranked the second country in the world with the highest number of women business owners (38.4%), according to a 2021 Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs, a 2019 World Bank stated that women-owned microenterprises in Uganda generate 30% lower profits than their male counterparts.”

Ayota said, they would avail Shs75million as seed funding for each women business and “our target is to fund at least 100 businesses this round.”

The NSSF Hi-Innovator Women Accelerator is open to all women entrepreneurs in all economic sectors across the country until the end of January 2023.

Adrian Bukenya, the Mastercard Foundation country director expressed his enthusiasm about the partnership.

“Our vision is to play a catalytic role in supporting partners to spur change built on a shared vision and values, equity, and accountability. Our approach is holistic, emphasizing resilience and coordination among local implementing partners. Therefore, we are excited to be partners with NSSF on the Hi-innovator program.”

He added that through the NSSF Hi-Innovator Women Accelerator, Mastercard Foundation aims to support highly impactful and scalable small and growing businesses to access seed capital and technical support for their businesses.

Participating businesses for this programme must have over 50% female ownership or have at least 70% women in top management, must be legally operational in Uganda for at least two years and, employ at least two full-time staff.

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