Africa's Free Trade

Africa’s Free Trade Area Opportunities and Benefits for SME Business Growth

The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) was launched on 1 January 2021, opening a new common market for the SME sector.  The market aims to contribute towards the expansion of intra-African trade by lowering barriers to trade and the movement of people and capital across the continent. AfCFTA will promote sustainable and inclusive development, gender equality, structural transformation, and improved food security for the member countries. Its ambitions are key building blocks of the African Union’s goal to create an African Economic Community.  According to the World Bank, trade under AfCFTA is estimated to impact 1.3 billion people across Africa with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of $3.4 trillion and thus a potential of lifting 30 million Africans out of extreme poverty.

The African SME sector and business community is a key beneficiary of this new common market in regard to the trade of goods and services as well as competition policy protocols (WEF, 2021). SMEs in trade, processing and manufacturing will now have access to cheaper raw materials and intermediate inputs plus an expanded market base. This will be realized through the gradual phasing out of 90% of tariffs on the exchange of goods between African countries and elimination of non-tariff barriers like excessively lengthy customs procedures, licensing requirements, and costly sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures (ITC, 2018). The construction, tourism, energy, health, and social services sectors will enjoy benefits of the wider labour market, easy movement of persons across the countries and the fair pricing from a conducive and competitive business environment for both existing players and new entrants. The operationalization framework of AfCFTA also has put in place trade instruments that will enable the private sector access development and blended financing to leverage investments through the Pan-African Payments and Settlement System (PAPSS)with support from the African Export and Import Bank (AFREXIMBANK). SMEs will also have access to reliable market and trade information through the online systems such as the Monitoring, Reporting and Elimination of Non-Tariff Barriers (www.tradebarriers.africa) and the African Trade Observatory (https://ato.africa).

In each country, the Government Ministry of Trade is the lead implementer of the AfCFTA agreement and it ensures that policies, interstate infrastructure and connectivity all harness the trade activities.  The AfCFTA is not only a major opportunity but also a gate way for SMEs growth and development because once finalized it will become one of the world’s largest trade areas.  Individual SMEs and SME umbrella organizations need to take full advantage of the benefits from this common market by engaging the Ministry of Trade to get awareness of the issues at hand, voice their concerns, and understand the active role they have to play. The success and realization of these efforts by the different players will ultimately reduce the cost of doing business for SMEs.

More information about AfCFTA can be found here


Inovation Challenge

Take on the P.E.A.R.L. Innovation Challenge Call, invites proposals for funding

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in partnership with the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities (MTWA) and Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) is inviting proposals for the “Take on the P.E.A.R.L” Innovation Challenge Call. The call targets businesses and organizations with innovative ideas to promote Uganda as a preferred destination for sustainable and inclusive tourism.  Proposed ideas must show a clear, inclusive, and financially viable business model as well as outline potential operational challenges faced and how suggested solutions will positively impact low-income people and local communities.  The call aims to support piloting and/or scaling of inclusive business solutions as a mechanism to recover from the impact of Covid-19 through targeted funding and/or technical assistance. Winning proposed ideas will be awarded up to US$ 40,000 in cash and/or in-kind support (goods and services).

 

About the Innovation Challenge Call

 

Uganda is endowed with abundant natural resources, a rich cultural and historical heritage which are the base for its tourism industry. However the wide range of strict “lockdown” measures to control the spread of Covid-19 resulted in significant interferences to tourism activities and United Nations in Uganda estimates that the sector is projected to lose US$5 billion in revenue over the next 5-year period (2020-2025).  Therefore, in order to address some of the crisis effects, UNDP launched the Take on the P.E.A.R.L Innovation Challenge Call.  P.E.A.R.L refers to Private-Sector Lead; Effective and Feasible solution; Additionality (from a development/donor perspective); Addressing COVID Recovery and Resilience; to Improve Livelihoods.

 

Who can apply?

 

  • Applications should be from a private sector firm or a not-for-profit social enterprise with a financially sustainable business model.
  • Applicants must be operating an inclusive business in the tourism value chain that benefits a significant number of low-income people.
  • Applicants must be able to match the prize award as part of its proposed budget (in cash or in-kind).

 

How to apply

 

  • The application documents can be obtained here.
  • Applicants must submit a completed proposal and related documents for funding to;  kampala@undp.org
  • UNDP will receive, evaluate and award successful applicants on a rolling basis until the deadline of the call.

Application deadline:  Friday 26 February 2021, 14:00 hours.

For additional information on this Call, please visit:

https://procurement-notices.undp.org/view_notice.cfm?notice_id=72757


Uganda Development Bank Call for Applications: Production, Import Replacement and Export Promotion

As part of the government’s stimulus package to support recovery from the impacts of Covid-19, Uganda Development Bank Limited (UDB) received funding to support increase in production of essential goods and services for import replacement and export promotion. The fund beneficiaries are small, medium, and large enterprises in the sectors of Agriculture, Agro-processing and Manufacturing/Industry that produce for local, regional, and international markets.

UDB is the country’s national Development Finance Institution (DFI) with a mandate to accelerate socio-economic development in Uganda through sustainable financial interventions. The bank supports projects within the private sector that demonstrate potential to deliver high socio-economic value in terms of job creation, improved production output, tax contribution, and foreign exchange generation, among other outcomes.

The support for successful applicants will be in form of financial and non-financial interventions as provided through UDB’s various products listed below:

Financial Interventions

  • Term Loans
  • Asset Finance
  • Farmer Group Lending
  • Private Equity Investment
  • Working Capital and Trade Finance

Non-financial Interventions

  • Project Preparation
  • Business Advisory Services

 

What are the terms of Term Loans available through the opportunity?

  • Up to a period of 15 years.
  • Up to three (3) years of grace period.
  • Interest shall not exceed 12% for borrowing in UGX.
  • The minimum lending amount shall be UGX 100 million. The maximum amount shall be in line with the bank’s allowable limit.

Who can apply?

 

  • The enterprise should be registered in Uganda and owned by Ugandans with exception of projects of very strategic nature in terms of impact development.
  • The enterprise can be a start-up or an existing business seeking to expand.
  • The enterprise applicant must demonstrate feasibility and viability of the business.
  • Owners’ equity contribution must be between 10% and 60% depending on the project’s specifics and associated risks.
  • Applicants must be able to secure the loan using any form of acceptable collateral by the bank.

 

How to Apply

 

  • The application form can be accessed, completed and submitted online at https://forms.gle/Yxveuf1pHayG9EiW6
  • Hard copy forms can be accessed and submitted at UDB Head office at Rwenzori Tower or at a Post Bank Branch near you.
  • Applications should be submitted together with all the required documents to support the evaluation process.

The applications received will be assessed and there after submitted to the relevant management and board committees for a final decision. After the assessment, the applicants will be informed of the outcome.

The loan process takes an average of 45 days from application to the first disbursement; however, the process may be longer or shorter depending on the nature and complexity of the project.

 

Note: This is an ongoing call with no specific deadline, and eligible businesses are encouraged to apply.

 

For more information, please visit the UDB website: www.udbl.co.ug or email: clientrelations@udbl.co.ug or call +256 414 355 509.


Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Frontier Challenge

Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Frontier Challenge Seeks Applicants

Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Frontier Challenge

 

About the challenge

Tommy Hilfiger’s mission is to create fashion that wastes nothing and welcomes all. The company believes in creating impact through different consumer groups, making products more accessible, and improving lives along the value chain. To fulfill this commitment, The Global Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Frontier Challenge was launched to support entrepreneurial start-up and scale-up stage businesses that are developing solutions with a positive social impact on the fashion value chain.

The purpose of the challenge is to provide finance and knowledge to entrepreneurs who positively contribute towards change in their communities’ development.  The 2021 challenge, the third thus far, aims to amplify and support black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) entrepreneurs to grow their business ideas and foster a more inclusive future of fashion.

The winners of the challenge will receive:

  • Up to €200,000 in funding
  • A chance at an additional €15,000 prize for winning the “Audience Favorite Vote”
  • Year-long mentorship with Tommy Hilfiger’s internal experts globally
  • Access to Tommy Hilfiger’s network brand association

Who can apply?

This fashion challenge is an opportunity for entrepreneurial start-up and scale-up stage businesses, defined as follows:

  • Startup: A business is in the early stages, yet to reach product-market fit, experimenting with customer segmentation and has made some revenue.
  • Scale-up: A business has a validated product with product-market fit, clear and sustainable unit economics is in growth and has made revenue for at least a year.

Selection process

Applicants will be required to submit proposals that focus on building an inclusive fashion value-chain. A three day boot camp will screen the proposals for the six finalists who will then develop their proposals with support from Tommy Hilfiger and external subject-matter experts. Finalists will then pitch their developed proposals before a prestigious jury panel and associate audience at the Global Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Frontier Challenge final event in early 2022 and winners awarded.

How to apply

To take part in the Tommy Hilfiger Fashion Frontier Challenge 2021, please apply here.

Deadline

The application process closes on Monday, March 8, 2021 23:59 CET.

For more information:

Send an email to challenge@tommy.com or visit our website.


2021 Entrepreneurship Programme

THE TONY ELUMELU FOUNDATION ENTREPRENUERSHIP PROGRAMME SEEKS APPLICANTS FOR 2021 PROGRAMME

2021 Entrepreneurship Programme

THE TONY ELUMELU FOUNDATION ENTREPRENUERSHIP PROGRAMME SEEKS APPLICANTS FOR 2021 PROGRAMME

The Tony Elumelu Foundation (TEF), which focuses on empowering African entrepreneurs by unlocking their potential to contribute to long-term economic transformation, is launching its 2021 Entrepreneurship Programme. The programme is one of the ways that the foundation connects with youth entrepreneurs, and TEF is currently looking for the most innovative business ideas across the African continent for the 7th cohort of this programme. The intervention’s priority will be to address the effects and challenges arising from Covid-19-related business disruptions by supporting economic recovery of small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs) and young entrepreneurs.

TEF, together with other global partners, aims to reach 2,400 youth with a plan to lift them out of poverty and create sustainable employment. Specifically, successful applicants will benefit from:

 

  • $5,000 in seed capital
  • Business training
  • Mentorship
  • Global networking opportunities

 

Who is eligible?

The programme seeks entrepreneurs with new business ideas or those that are start-ups with less than three years of existence in any sector within any country across Africa.

How to Apply

To apply visit the TEF digital platform on: www.tefconnect.com

Selection Process

Applicants will receive notifications upon submission and status alerts as the screening progresses. The selected and confirmed entrepreneurs will commit time between May to December in the application year to participate in the various programme activities. In this period the entrepreneurs will complete a compulsory 12-week Start-up Enterprise Toolkit Course as well as undertaking business plan development, pitching and access the seed capital. At the end of the programme entrepreneurs will get automatic enrolment to the TEF Alumni Network.

Application Deadline: 31st March, 2021

For inquiries contact: programme@tonyelumelufoundation.org


funding for SMEs

Call for Proposals for START funding for SMEs in Northern Uganda

Call for Proposals for START funding for SMEs in Northern Uganda

START facility invites proposals for commercially viable investment projects active in agro-processing/value addition including processing plants, post-harvest handling technologies, effective storage systems and digital technologies. Through the facility, SMEs in Northern Uganda will have access to a customized mix of business development services, project development services and financing. The three lines of services are managed by three participating institutions: Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU), United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF), and Uganda Development Bank Limited (UDBL). The available financial products under the facility include concessional loans with an annual interest rate of 10%, reimbursable grants for SMEs impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, technical assistance grants, and project-based partial credit guarantee schemes.

 

About the START facility

Support to Agricultural Revitalization and Transformation (START) funding supports implementation of the Development Initiative for Northern Uganda (DINU)’s food security and nutrition component.  The DINU programme objective is to consolidate stability in Northern Uganda, eradicate poverty and under-nutrition, and strengthen the foundations for sustainable inclusive and socio-economic development. The facility is intended to offer access to affordable medium-term finance for agricultural value adding projects through the provision of SEED capital to SMEs.

Am I eligible to apply?

To be eligible, you must operate a business located in one of the 40 districts in the five sub-regions of Northern Uganda as shown below:

Region Districts
Karamoja Abim, Amudat, Kaabong, Karenga, Kotido, Moroto, Nakapiripirit, Nabilatuk and Napak
Acholi Agago, Amuru, Gulu, Kitgum, Lamwo, Nwoya, Omoro and Pader
Lango Alebtong, Amolatar, Apac, Kwania, Dokolo, Kole, Lira, Otuke and Oyam
Teso Amuria, Kapelebong and Katakwi
WestNile Adjumani, Arua, Pakwach, Koboko, Maracha, Moyo, Obongi, Nebbi, Madi-Okollo, Yumbe and Zombo

 

In addition, businesses must be:

  • An agribusiness entity registered in Uganda under the Companies Act, a cooperative formed under the Cooperative Societies Act, trade association or similar business representative organization legally established in Uganda;
  • Able to demonstrate their experience and capacity to manage activities corresponding in scale and complexity with those for which financial support is requested;
  • Able to provide, either from its own resources or in combination with other shareholders, equity equal to at least 25% of the total cost of the project. The equity contribution of owners is mandatory and may come in the form of land, plant & equipment or cash.

Financing requirements include:

  • Capital expenditure required must be at least 75% of the total project cost
  • Non-capital costs which are direct to the project and necessary for carrying out the project may be accepted up to 25%.
  • Funds to cover the project financing gap requested from START Facility may range from UGX40m – UGX400m. However, total project size can be 3 times the financing gap. Leveraging extra funds from other institutions should be sought where necessary.

Priority will be given to enterprises including apiary, cassava, coffee, groundnuts, livestock, rice, sesame, sorghum, soybean, and vegetables. These value chain projects should contribute towards one or more of the following:

  • Economic empowerment of women and youth
  • Development of refugee hosting areas and leverage the refugee potential for local development
  • Reduction of environmental risks and ecological scarcities

How do I apply?

All applications for the facility will be done online and the application form can be accessed on www.start.go.ug. The online forms are also available on the PSFU and UNCDF websites at www.psfuganda.org.ug or www.uncdf.org.

Note: No hard copy or email applications will be accepted. All online applications must be completed carefully with all the required information. Any incomplete applications will be automatically rejected. Each entity is allowed to submit only one application.

 

Deadline for submission: 15th March, 2021 12:00 midnight GMT+3 (Nairobi)

 

For inquiries and details contact:

 

 

Dues    Tirwakunda deus.tirwakunda@uncdf.org

+256 322 200 241

 

Daniel   Kisekka

dkisekka@psfuganda.org.g

cfpstart@psfuganda.org.ug

 

 

Visit: https://www.psfuganda.org/projects/15-psfu-news/331-3rd-call-for-proposals.html


Webinar: Entrepreneurial competencies

Abantu Impact Foundation webinar: entrepreneurial competencies - making African businesses survive and thrive in a pandemic

Abantu Impact Foundation webinar: entrepreneurial competencies – making African businesses survive and thrive in a pandemic

 

Compliments of the new year from Abantu Impact Foundation. They are thrilled to invite you to this webinar organised by Abantu Impact Foundation.

Date: 18th of February 2021.

 

Time: 5 pm (UK time), 6 pm (West African time) and 8 pm (East African and Southern Africa time).

 

We are particularly pleased to be bringing you a strong line-up of globally esteemed leaders as our guest speakers:

 

1.        Dr. Justina Mutale, Founder & President, Justina Mutale Foundation for Leadership and African Woman of the Year (2012), and:

2.        Ms. Gugu Ndebele, Executive Director, Executive Director of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls (OWLAG).

 At the last webinar hosted by Abantu Impact Foundation, they addressed ways in which African SMEs can survive the challenges brought on by COVID-19 and the subsequent lockdown in many countries across the region. There was a recurring interest in addressing the vital competencies that African entrepreneurs need to run successful businesses.  

This webinar is designed to provide a space for discussion, sharing of ideas and sign-posting entrepreneurs on where to start building up their competencies to grow and run thriving businesses. The discussion will be considering the continued impact of COVID-19 on African SMEs. 

The foundation will also use this opportunity to introduce The Abantu COVID-19 Resilience Fund that aims to provide blended financing and support to bolster African SMEs at risk of closing due to the impact of measures taken to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

With limited places available for this conversation, we invite you to RSVP by 1st February 2021. We look forward to receiving your registration before the cut-off date and to warmly welcome you to another global conversation with a focus on African SMEs.

 


Young entrepreneurs

Voices of Young Entrepreneurs

The Covid-19 Business Info Hub is excited to announce that we are dedicating the month of January to identifying, understanding, and supporting young entrepreneurs. Young entrepreneurs (defined as people between 15 and 35 years of age who explore different opportunities to create value in a given enterprise) contribute significantly to the economic development of Uganda as a source of both labor and innovation.  Young people make up a significant portion of the workforce and the majority of them are engaged in some form of employment: according to United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), sixty-four percent (64%) of persons aged 15 to 29 years in Uganda are employed and 15% of youth in school are also engaged in employment.

As Uganda’s young population continues to grow, there is an increasing need to empower young people to embrace entrepreneurship. Uganda’s youth are attracted to entrepreneurship by different factors including personal motivations, financial necessity, and driven by creativity, pro-activeness and self-efficacy. Education is a significant enabler for young people to engage in entrepreneurship as it provides both knowledge and exposure and helps develop the human capital needed to succeed as an entrepreneur.

In this month, we will learn from young entrepreneurs and the different actors – government, private sector, development partners – that facilitate the entrepreneurial ecosystem, with a special focus on how these actors have helped young entrepreneurs cope during the pandemic. We will also hear from young entrepreneurs themselves to understand how they have maintained their entrepreneurial spirit during the pandemic. The Covid-19 Business Info Hub will feature unique stories of resilience and growth which we hope will provide inspiration and lessons to other young entrepreneurs.

Young entrepreneurs face a number of challenges as they seek to improve their livelihoods and create sustainable businesses for themselves. Chief among these are education (i.e., the World Bank 16th Uganda Economic Update indicates that a child born in Uganda will only be 38% as productive when she grows up as she could be if she enjoyed complete education and full health), and an overall challenging entrepreneurship ecosystem in Uganda (i.e., Uganda ranks low by on the Global Entrepreneurship Index on factors such as perception of entrepreneurship opportunities, availability of skills, levels of innovation, and technology, and the integration with the international economy – according to the World Bank 15th Uganda Economic Update). The Covid-19 Business Info Hub hopes our focus on young entrepreneurs will inspire both aspiring and existing entrepreneurs as well as those players in the ecosystem that have the capacity to better serve them to continue improving entrepreneurship among young people in Uganda. We look forward to an exciting journey with you as we explore this theme as our first of the New Year!


Business Incubator Training

Interview with Robert Mudenya General Manager of New Court View Hotel in Masindi

Ernest Wasake: Good afternoon Robert. I hope this finds you well, could you please describe your business and tell us a bit about yourself?

Robert Mudenya: Good Afternoon Mr. Wasake Ernest, glad to join you in this conversation.  I’m privileged to be associated with Stanbic Bank Business Incubator cohort four. My name is Robert Mudenya the General Manager of New Court View Hotel.  New Court View Hotel was established in 2003 with the vision “To be the first choice of hospitality in the Bunyoro Region”. The hotel is located in Masindi along Murchison park route with branches in Kinyara sugar factory and high-end restaurant and bar in Hoima. I am a hotelier by profession and training with 15 years’ experience in the industry.

Ernest Wasake: Why did you decide to participate in the training with the business incubator and how did you learn about the training?

Robert Mudenya:   I decided to participate in the training of the business incubator because of the very rich and appealing training content that was to be offered to SMEs. Upon realizing that as SMEs we do not get the opportunity to be equipped with this kind of technical information on how to run businesses, for me this was a chance to join. This content included topics such as; business ethics, financial literacy, bookkeeping, compliance and human resource management that would strengthen the business.  How I learnt about the business incubator training was from various sources. First was from a colleague that I had participated in another training called E360 on bid management. I had seen an advert in the newspaper and e-fliers on the WhatsApp groups. I also received an email that was sent to the company notifying us about the training.

Ernest Wasake:  So, tell us, what were the main learnings from the incubator training that you have integrated into your business?

The main learning to me was gaining deeper understanding on professional methods and ways of running an SME which was not the case before. The approach used by the Stanbic Business incubator provided me with hands-on learning experience and ability to implement knowledge from the different topics. Another main take away was the knowledge on oil and gas plus associated opportunities. I was able to learn how to position and prepare the hotel to cease the oil and gas opportunities through preparation of necessary requirements. In addition, I refreshed my knowledge on human resource understanding that it is one of the most important resources in the organization and should be factored into the organizational plans.

The training also expounded a lot on banking issues like identifying the key functions of banks/financial institutions, importance of establishing and maintaining a banking relationship, executing the basic key banking activities, take opportunities of the offerings from the bank and managing of business finances. The trainings also emphasized issues on keeping books of accounts, source documents, interpreting the financial statements (Profit and Loss, Balance sheet, etc.) this was beneficial to me because this area of accounts had mainly been left to the finance and accounts staff.

Ernest Wasake: Would you tell us, any specific learnings from the training that have helped you cope during the pandemic?

Robert Mudenya: There are a number learnings specifically that I took from the training that have helped us cope during the pandemic.

Obviously, you appreciate that the times and also of things have changed since COVID-19 pandemic especially for hospitality and hotel industry. It has been so devastating for me. The main learning was on the management of human resource, which required me to be very careful on what I do. My interactions with people who run businesses I noticed that most of them had to reduce their staff drastically. For our case this situation was handled differently thanks to the training from the Stanbic incubator. Notably, before the pandemic the hotel was employing over full time 100 staff, this changed to having some staff on part time basis hoping that when the situation normalizes, they would be reinstated to full time work. Our approach was to negotiate with the staff and we were able to strike a balance for the business to survive without losing the staff. We had meetings with all the staff to discuss the business difficulties and complications during this time and most of them were  able to understand the situation. Since they never wanted to lose their jobs, we proposed to them salary reductions and agreed to maintain linkage with the hotel. Another learning in this situation is about compliance. We acknowledge during COVID-19 the times are very difficult within our industry. Our business depended a lot on travelers and tourists going the Murchison falls National Park most of whom were [foreigners] travelling from Europe and Canada. But due to the travel restrictions and airports closing, this meant we were not able to sell meals, accommodation and other services that generate income and cash flow. This situation to the business led to compliance challenge for filing and paying NSSF, PAYE, local authority tax on time yet it is a mandatory obligation. Through the training we were advised to always strike a balance to remain compliant by at least working out a payment plan to avoid the risk of non-compliance. Bid management was also a critical learning to access more business through a highly competitive process. I was able to learn that the company needs to be strategically positioned to take advantage of available business opportunities to supplement on the income. In order to win bids and retain the clients this calls for professionalism, satisfaction of customer needs while strictly observing the standard operating procedures (SOPs).

Ernest Wasake: How has your business coped during covid-19?

Robert Mudenya: My business, has coped during the pandemic by putting in place new measures. First, we have appointed one of our colleagues on the management team charged with responsibility to oversee the Covid-19 related issues. The in-charge ensures that staff are regularly trained and SOPs such as wearing masks, sanitizing surfaces and social distancing are followed. This is to ensure the staff and guest are safe at the hotel and gives the guests confidence to come back to the hotel.

Within this period of time, we have encouraged local tourism packages among our business partners for the nationals who are not able to go to the National Park. We suggested to them sites such as the Polish Church in Nyabyeya near Masindi town with a lot interesting history to learn. Another site is the Royal mile where King Kabalega of Bunyoro used to go hunting. It is a fascinating straight and flat path that goes in middle of the huge trees Budongo Forest Reserve. Bird watching in the forest and chimpanzee trekking. Other local visitors are also encouraged to visit the town and their ancestral homes.

Ernest Wasake: From your perspective, what needs to be done to help the tourism sector revive?

Robert Mudenya: From my perspective, what needs to be done to help the tourism sector revive, is to inform the population that the virus is contagious and mutates all the time. This means a call to discipline to all the sector players by observing SOPs as well as ensuring healthy living to control the spread. Secondly continuous awareness, sensitization and training is need for the staff and operators in the sector about COVID-19. Lastly the need to demonstrate to visitors that the facilities are safe and comply with the SOPs in order to win their trust to book for the tourism services along the chain.


Financial Training

How financial literacy training helped ATACO Country Resort thrive during covid.

he Covid-19 Business Info Hub spoke with Richard Twesige, the managing director of ATACO Country Resort, to learn how the Stanbic Business Incubator helped his business overcome the challenges caused by the pandemic.

Ernest Wasake: Describe your business and tell us a bit about yourself.

Richard Twesige: My name is Richard Twesige. I’m the managing director of ATACO Country Resort, which is a hospitality industry business that is located near the Tooro Kingdom Palace. We offer services like accommodation, and conference services.  Next year, we will have been in business for 20 years.

Ernest Wasake:  Why did you decide to participate in the training from the Stanbic business incubator?

Richard Twesige: I decided to participate with in the business incubator training because I believed the quality training that would help us at ATACO Country Resort transform itself from a purely family business to a more professional, structured hospitality business in the region. The class offerings were very precise and that’s exactly what we wanted.

Ernest Wasake: What were the main learnings from the Stanbic Bank Incubator Training that you have integrated into your business?

Richard Twesige: The entrepreneurial attitude training at the Stanbic Business Incubator helped us start planning and implementing more innovative ideas at work. We were able to look at our business with another set of eyes and implement dynamic skills that made us more fluid in comparison to our previous rigid business models.

Ernest Wasake: Are there any specific learnings from the training that the business incubator offered you that have helped you cope during COVID?

Richard Twesige: The financial literacy training helped us become dynamic with our finances in terms of how we spend, how we invest as well, and keep the business afloat.  So without those learnings, it would have been difficult for us to try and think outside the box.

Ernest Wasake: How has your business been affected and how have you coped during COVID?

Richard Twesige:  Some of the changes and decisions we had to make as a business were to cut as many costs as possible to maximize the income, that little income that we could get. For example, as a hotel, we could still deliver packed lunches. However, you still can’t have full occupancy. We have to leave a few rooms unoccupied because just in case you have a COVID patient or someone that we suspect has COVID, the guidelines require us to have some rooms vacant.

Because of these challenges, we really needed to cut as many expenses as we could. It was a good thing that we had done these trainings with the business incubator. We looked at different ways of leveraging what little we had and investing it into implementing sustainable strategies and technologies to help reduce on our utilities.

Unfortunately, we also had to let some of the staff go and keep others on a temporary basis. As we recovered and implemented more changes, we are slowly able to bring people back. However, right now, the changes are still in effect and we’re hoping to get back on track.

Ernest Wasake: What do you think the future of the tourism sector looks like in terms of what needs to be done to help the sector revive?

Richard Twesige: When all the borders were locked down, we still had our local tourists now to serve. We need to improve the road networks so that at least the local people can get to the natural places. Payments are also changing to entirely cashless. I believe the industry will revive faster because we have had digital payments for some time.

Implementation by some of the big telecom networks is really good. And also some of the workings of the financial institutions is really great. But there is another level to go because sometimes actually what is going to happen is that when industries like us start to adopt to these other situations like covid, you have to do cashless payments, there are other places that are really thinking about. As ATACO we could use a token system – such that as a guest, as you check-in and spend you, end up accumulating these kind of tokens that could be transferred into monetary value. So we’re looking into things like this now. And that is where I feel that the industry would go and the industry will revive faster because we have had digital payments in Uganda for some time.