How the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) is helping women entrepreneurs outlast the pandemic

The Covid-19 Business Info Hub spoke with Winnie Lawoko-Olwe, Director of SMEs at the Uganda Investment Authority to learn how the Uganda Investment Authority is helping women entrepreneurs through the pandemic.

Ernest Wasake: Would you kindly introduce yourself and what you do at the Uganda Investment Authority?

 Winnie Lawoko-Olwe:  My name is Winnie Lawoko-Olwe and I am the Director of SMEs at the Uganda Investment Authority.

Ernest Wasake: The COVID-19 Business Info Hub is looking to focus on how women entrepreneurs have been able not only to survive, but to thrive during the pandemic. Tell us about yourself, and your role at Uganda Investment Authority (UIA). How have you been able to survive and thrive during this pandemic?

Winnie Lawoko-Olwe: COVID-19 came as a major surprise to everybody. And because of the nature of the Standard Operating Procedures and the activities around the pandemic, it required fast thinking and fast adaptation. As UIA, we immediately conducted research that where a total of about 385 businesses were interviewed. And of these interviewed, about 30 percent were SMEs, and of those 30 percent, we were able to interview 32 percent specifically women.

We know very well that the SME economy of Uganda is a very much a cash economy. The pandemic affected most women and challenged how they balanced finances for the businesses and finances for their families.

The assessment found that the businesses are distressed and needed additional money. The assessment also found that a intervention was needed to help businesses change their models from the direct channel of selling off the street to the effective use of mobile money, networks to deliver your business, and developing business products to what clients need the most.

Under the Rising Woman campaign, Investment Authority is looking at how we can take the women’s businesses into a next level of digitization in terms of marketing their products, in terms of effectively using mobile payments as opposed to cash payments. And we are running trainings in six areas for the newly developed digitization product for the campaign. We are going to be able to come up with a clear product rollout in terms of digitizing and e-commerce adaptation

Ernest Wasake: How has the Investment Authority supported the SME sector during the pandemic?

Winnie Lawoko-Olwe: In this period of the pandemic, one of the major challenges is that our Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) have limitations on number of people that we can support. During the first part of the pandemic, our programs were supporting about a maximum of 10 people, thereby limiting outreach numbers. Given these limitations, UIA has started delivering capacity building programs that allow a few leaders from women organizations to be taken through the program and to pass on the lessons to other women. The training currently has narrowed down from entrepreneurial development to marketing and access to markets training programs. We are looking at digitization of business processes and we are also looking at using ICTs.

Ernest Wasake: Do you have testimonies of businesses that have thrived during the pandemic and what lessons can be learned from them?

Winnie Lawoko-Olwe: Yes, we have had businesses that have thrived so far.  Businesses that have thrived have been able to place themselves into the e-commerce platform. We have a number of ladies who are doing sanitizers and foodstuffs that are currently registered on the Zimba Mart (an online e-commerce platform created by ZimbaWomen) I must say that Zimba  Women is one of those women-in-tech initiatives that we think will help and support to take women to the next level, because it is owned by women that can easily understand the dynamics of women and the challenges that women are having. The second group that we work closely with is the Business and Professional Women of Kampala branch who actually access the women groups, identified which is the most appropriate time to be able to help them to sell their products online.

Ernest Wasake: What can be done to increase the level of women entrepreneurship in Uganda?

 Winnie Lawoko-Olwe: To increase the participation and the overall input from women entrepreneurs in Uganda means that we need to be able to identify the supporters or service providers in specific areas so that women activities and growth activities are not duplicated. I want to talk about the three key things that women face: The first is access to effective networks that allow them to grow within different areas of growth.  The second is linkage for growth in terms of the value chain. The third is affordable financing that looks at one’s internal competitiveness.

I know that the Stanbic Bank Incubator Platform is doing quite a bit in terms of getting those value chains together. But I think that if I’m a woman entrepreneur sitting in Busia, where do I go to get that information? And that’s where I think the most important opportunity is – to have a national portal, where every woman can access information where she is able to click networks and be able to access networks that she can work with. And last but not least, is the mentorship for growth – that means that we are looking at women who have excelled within those specific areas, to inspire and lead other women.

Also, I think there’s a missing gap, in terms of specific funds for SME women. If you talk today about the Emyooga(poverty eradication program) which is easily accessible, it requires one to be in a group to access the funds and yet, as an SME you’re not going to join a group. As an SME you need to be identified as a specific business that can walk into any place and is assessed based on your internal competitiveness, the ready market that you have for your product and the support systems that you need to be able to effectively utilize them. So I think those are the key things that we as Uganda Investment Authority are strongly pushing to address through interventions.

Ernest Wasake: What advise have you given to a woman entrepreneur on a personal level to help them grow.

Winnie Lawoko-Olwe: OK. On a personal level, I have supported Vantage Communication and Zimba Women. And this is specifically in terms of growing their business and looking at the environment. Both companies have fantastic products and they met the challenges in terms of setting up processes and procedures to manage the internal environment. And the advice here is: you are the entrepreneur, you know the business, you know what you want out of it. But take yourself back and think of growing this business scalability. Can you scale the business to the level you want working as an individual? And if you can, then it’s going to remain a niche product for a few people. And yet the demand for the product is great. The concept that we went through was one, assess your strengths and concentrate on this strength.

Secondly, look at the operatives. If you are taking this unique project out, you have any unique selling proposition. But in order for this proposition to be delivered, what are the steps you need? Do you need a marketing person? Do you need somebody to actually install, you know the uptake? And do you need somebody to do your finances? If you’re able to look at those critical business steps within the business, then it will help you to identify who internally would be the best person to manage it. If you do not have somebody internally, how would you then be able to take that? And that means you are recruiting. Are you able to price the product? Once you price the product, is it right for the market to be able to take it to the market?

I think from this learning perspective, there are two things that entrepreneurs need to know. As an entrepreneur, you do have a drive. You’ve seen the gap. You know that the market needs it. And that’s very important. But in terms of scalability of your product, in terms of taking your business to the market, you then need to look at those critical procedures, internal procedures that will allow you to take the product to the market. And the product will be the same today, tomorrow and the next day. That means there’s a standard of procedure. It’s a unique selling proposition and it’s a unique product that is going out to the market.

Engeri ekitongole ki Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) gye kiyambamu abakyala abasuubuzi okubeerawo mu kiseera kya nnawookeera wa Covid-19.

Omukutu gwa Covid-19 Business Info Hub gwayogerako ne Winnie Lawoko-Olwe ono nga y’akulira amakolero wamu n’eby’obusuubuzi ebitonotono (SMEs) ku Uganda Investment Authority (ekitongole ekivunaanyizibwa ku by’okusiga ensimbi mu ggwanga) nga twagala okumanya engeri ekitongole kino gye kiyambyemu abakyala abasuubuzi okuyita mu nnawookeera.

Ernest Wasake: Tukusaba weeyanjule era otubuulire ne ky’okola ku Uganda Investment Authority

Winnie Lawoko-Olwe:  Nze Winnie Lawoko-Olwe era nga nze nkulira obukolero wamu n’eby’obusuubuzi ebitonotono ku Uganda Investment Authority.

Ernest Wasake: Omukutu gwa Covid-19 Business Info Hub gutunuulidde okussa essira ku ngeri abakyala abasuubuzi gye basobodde si kubeerawo bubeezi wabula n’okuyitimuka mu kiseera kya nnawookeera. Tubuulire ku bikukwatako era ne ky’okola ku Uganda Investment Authority (UIA). Osobodde otya okubeerawo wamu n’okuyitimuka ku kiseera ky’olumbulege?

Winnie Lawoko-Olwe: Covid-19 yajja ng’ekyewuunyisa eri buli muntu. Ate olw’embeera y’amateeka n’ebiragiro ebyassibwawo okugobererwa mu kiseera kino, kyali kyetaagisa okulowooza okw’amangu wamu n’okukyusa enkola embagirawo.  Nga UIA, twatandikirawo okukola okunoonyereza era bizinesi eziwera nga 385 ze zaagezesebwa nga 30% zaali SMEs. Ate ku 30% ezo, 32% zaali za bakyala.

Tukimanyi bulungi nti eby’enfuna bya SME mu Uganda bitambulira nnyo ku nsimbi enkalu. Ekirwadde kyakosa abakyala abasinga era ne bafuna okusoomoozebwa ku ngera gye batemaatemamu ssente ez’okuddukanya emirimu wamu n’ez’okulabirira amaka gaabwe.

Mu kupimaapima, kyazuulibwa nti bizinesi zaali zinyigiriziddwa nnyo era nga zeetaaga okwongerwamu ku ssente. Era kyazuulibwa nti walina okubaawo ekikolebwa okusobozesa bizinesi zino okukyusa enkola zaazo okuva mu kutunda ebintu obutereevu ku nguudo badde mu nkola ey’okuweerezeganya ssente ku ssimu, okuzimba enjegere ezituusa ebintu ku bantu wamu n’okukola ebintu ebyo abaguzi bye basinga okwetaaga.

Mu nkola eya “Rising Woman campaign”, UIA etunuulira engeri gye tuyinza okutwalamu bizinesi z’abakyala ku mutendera oguddako-ogw’okukolera ku mutimbagano nga muno mulimu okunoonya akatale wamu  n’okusasulira ku byuma mu kifo kya ssente enkalu. Kaakano okutendekebwa kugenda mu maaso era nga tusuubira okuvaayo n’enkola entuufu mu mbeera y’okukwasaganyiza emirimu ku mutimbagano.

Ernest Wasake: Investment authority eyambye etya obukolero n’eby’obusuubuzi ebitonotono mu kiseera kya nnawookeera.

Winnie Lawoko-Olwe: Mu kiseera kino ekya nnawookeera, ekimu ku bisoomooza eby’amaanyi bye tulina kwe kuba nti amateeka agassibwawo okugobererwa (SOPs) gassa ekkomo ku muwendo gw’abantu be tusobola okuyamba. Mu kitundu ky’obulwadde ekyasooka, amateeka gaali gatukkiriza okuyamba abantu abatasukka 10 ne kitulemesa okutuuka ku balala. Olw’obukwakkulizo obwo, UIA etandise enkola ey’okutendeka abakulembeze b’ebibiina by’abakyala nga bano bwe baddayo ne basomesa bannaabwe ebyo ebiba bibayigiriziddwa. Okutendekebwa nakwo kukendeezeddwa okuva ku kubayigiriza okutondawo wamu n’okuddukanya emirimu ne kudda ku ngeri y’okunoonyamu obutale. Tutunuulidde engeri y’okuddukanyiza emirimu ku mutimbagano era n’okukozesa ebyuma bi kalimagezi.

Ernest Wasake: Olinawo obujulizi obwa bizinesi eziyitimuse mu kiseera kya nnawookeera era kiki kye tuyinza okuziyigirako?

Winnie Lawoko-Olwe: Bwe kiri, tulinawo zi bizinesi eziyitimuse era ezo zisobodde n’okwegatta ku nkola ey’okuddukanyiza emirimu ku mutimbagano. Tulina abakyala banji abakola eddagala eritta obuwuka (sanitayiza) wamu n’emmere era nga kaakano beeyunga ku mukutu gwa Zimba mart (mukutu oguli ku mutimbagano nga gwatondebwawo ekitongole kya Zimba Women). Ka ngambe nti Zimba Women kye kimu ku bitongole bye tusuubira nti bijja kuyamba nnyo abakyala okubatwala ku mutendera oguddako kubanga  kyatandikibwa bakyala abategeera obulungi embeera  z’omukyala wamu okusoomoozebwa kwonna abakyala kwe basisinkana.

Ekibinja eky’okubiri kye tukola nakyo kiyitibwa “Business and Professional women” ab’ettabi lya Kampala era nga bano batuukirira ebibiina by’abakyala eby’enjawulo n’okubayamba okuzuula ekiseera ekituufu we basobolera okutunda ebyamaguzi byabwe ku mutimbagano.

Ernest Wasake: Kiki ekiyinza okukolebwa okwongera ku muwendo gw’abakyala abenyigira mu by’obusuubuzi mu Uganda?

Winnie Lawoko-Olwe: okusobola okwongera ku muwendo gw’abakyala abenyigira mu by’obusuubuzi mu Uganda, tulina okusooka okuzuula ebintu eby’enjawulo ebisobola okukolebwa tusobole okwewala embeera y’abakyala abanji okwenyigira mu kintu ekimu. Njagala njogere ku bintu ebikulu bisatu abakyala bye batera okusisinkana: Ekisooka, basobola batya okutema empenda ezinaabasobozesa okukula, eky’okubiri okuyiga engeri gye basobola okuteekamu ekitono nga baddukanya emirimu gyabwe, eky’okusatu kwe kufuna okuyambibwakomu by’ensimbi mu ngeri esoboka era etunuulira obusobozi bw’omuntu obw’omunda.

Nkimanyi nti enkola ya Stanbic Bank eya Business Incubator ekoze bulungi mu kukwasaganya ebintu ebyo, naye bwemba omukyala omusuubuzi abeera e Busia, nnaalaga wa okufuna okumanyisibwa okwo? Wano nze nsuubira nti we wali ekinyusi – okufuna omukutu ogugatta eggwanga lyonna, nga buli mukyala wonna waali asobola okufuna okumanyisibwa kwonna kwe yeetaaze ng’anyiga bunyizi peesa n’asobola okuzuula abantu b’ayinza okukolagana nabo. N’ekisembayo be bantu be tulabirako – kino kitegeeza nti tutunuulira abakyala abatuuse ku buwanguzi mu bintu eby’enjawulo ne bafuuka eby’okulabirako wamu n’okukulembera bannaabwe.

Ekirala, ndowooza nti waliwo omuwaatwa mu mbeera y’okuteekawo ssente ez’enjawulo okuyambako abakyala aba SMEs. Bwe twogera ku nkola y’emyooga eriwo ensanji zino(enkola ey’okweggya mu bwavu), kyetaagisa omuntu okweyunga ku kibinja so ng’ate oba tosobola kweyungako nga SME. Nga SME, kyetaagisa n’oba ng’osobola okugenda awantu wonna ne bakupimaapima nga basinziira ku busobozi bwo, akatale k’olina wamu n’engeri gy’ogenda okuyitamu okusobola okubikozesa obulungi. N’olwekyo nze nsuubira nti ebyo bye bintu eby’enkizo ffe nga Uganda Investment Authority bye tusaana okussaako essira tulabe nga tubitereeza.

Ernest Wasake: Ng’omuntu, magezi ki g’oyinza okuwa omukyala okumuyambako okwekulaakulanya?

Winnie Lawoko-Olwe: Ng’omuntu, nnyambyeko Vantage Communication ne Zimba women ku ngeri gye basobola okukulaakulanya buzinesi zaabwe okusinziira ku mbeera. Ebitongole byombi bikola ebintu ebirungi era byasobola okutuukiriza obukwakkulizo obwetaagisa mu kuteekateeka embeera eddukanyizibwamu emirimu. Amagezi wano gali nti; ggwe musuubuzi, bizinesi ogimanyi era omanyi ne ky’ogyetaaga mu.  Ddamu olowooze kungeri gy’oyinza okugaziyaamu bizinesi yo. Osobola okugigaziya okutuuka ku mutendera kw’ogyetaaga ku lulwo? Bw’oba osobola, awo ky’okola kijja kusigala nga kintu kya njawulo ekigulwa abantu abatonotono so ng’ate abakyetaaga bayinza okuba nga banji. Ekikulu kye tutunuulira kiri nti; manya obusobozi bwo we buli era obunywerereko. Eky’okubiri, tunuulira ebikolebwa. Bwoba oleeseyo ekyenjawulo, oyiyiizzayo engeri ey’enjawulo gy’onoyitamu okufuna akatale? Kiki kye weetaaga okukola? Olina kitunzi? Weetaaga omuntu anaakukwasaganyiza eby’enfuna? Bw’oba omaze okwekkaanya emitendera gino emikulu mu bizinesi, awo obeera ojja kusobola okuzuula omuntu omutuufu anaakuyambako mu kugiddukanya. Bwoba tolinaayo muntu yenna ow’omunda, olwo obeera onookikwasaganya otya? Ekyo kitegeeza nti ogenda kuwandiikayo abakozi. Ebintu by’okola osobola okubissaako omuwendo? Bw’oba omaze okubiwa omuwendo, bigwanidde okussibwa ku katale?

Nze ndowooza nti waliwo ebintu bibiri abasuubuzi bye beetaaga okumanya. Ng’omusuubuzi, olina ekigendererwa, olabye omuwaatwa era okimanyi nti akatale keetaavu. Ekyo nno kya mugaso. Naye mu mbeera y’okugaziya ebintu byo, n’okutwala bizinesi yo ku katale weetaaga okwekkaanya emitendera egyo. Olina okulaba nga ky’okola kye kimu leero, enkya n’olunaku olunaddako. Kino kitegeeza nti engeri gy’okolamu ebintu byo eri ku mutindo, kino kikuyambako mu kufuna akatale kubanga ky’otunda kiba kya njawulo.