Trouble attracting investment to grow your business? Eria Kaweireku from the Uganda Investment Authority offers some key insights on how business compliance can unlock the door to new investments

Business compliance brings a host of potential new benefits for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The ability to take on more staff, access government resources, and engage in new corporate partnerships are among the lesser-known benefits brought about by business compliance. Another key opportunity is securing investment.

To help explain the importance of business compliance when it comes to investment opportunities, we sat down with Eria Kaweireku – a senior investment executive in the SME Division at the Uganda Investment Authority. The UIA is a statutory agency mandated to initiate and support measures that enhance investment in Uganda and advise the government on appropriate policies to promote investment and growth.

According to Eria, roughly 87% of the Ugandan economy is run informally. Eria explains that this informality stems from business owners’ desire to keep outsiders out of their operations, which are typically family-owned businesses operating out of their homes. In doing so, however, what business owners overlook is that this also keeps them from accessing important investment to further grow their businesses. Businesses are much more likely to attract investment – both local and foreign – when they have fulfilled local requirements. Large investors, especially foreign direct investors, are keen to mitigate compliance risks and specifically seek out new partnership opportunities with businesses that have a a risk mitigation strategy in place – much of it starting with the integral component of ensuring a business is registered and has taken the appropriate steps to operate legally and safely in a specific sector.

While it is a corporate government requirement that may take a bit of time to complete, it is a much smoother process than many business owners may think. Eria outlines a 3-step process that starts with business owners registering their businesses with the Ugandan Registration Services Bureau (Click here for our interview with the URSB). Next, they receive a TIN certificate from the Ugandan Revenue Authority. Lastly, businesses receive the necessary permits allowing them to operate within a particular sector.

In the past, it took businesses a long time to fulfill all of the requirements, but the introduction of the One-Stop Center has helped address that bottleneck. The One-Stop Center, based in Kampala, places all the regulatory agencies and authorities under a single roof. It streamlines the registration process by placing all registration services together so business can access “registration at the registration services bureau, TIN at the revenue authority, investment license at Uganda Investment Authority, [and] work permits [with] the director of immigration” at the same place.

To further simplify the process, in addition to the One-Stop Center, UIA has also launched the Tax Registration Expansion Program (TREP). The TREP is being championed by the Uganda Registration Services Bureau, Uganda Revenue Authority and local governments to make tax benefits simpler and easier to access. Eria reiterated the importance of business compliance to attracting investment, and he highlighted that the UIA is here to help. For more information, please contact info@ugandainvest.go.ug  or +256-393-202-077 / +256-393-202-076


Trouble understanding Human Resource compliance? Elizabeth Ntege, Executive Director of NFT Consults, helps explain why it matters

Human Resources (HR) is an often-overlooked aspect of business compliance, especially for the many businesses that operate informally. What’s more is that it can be confusing even for those businesses that are formally registered. To explain the importance, benefits and processes of HR compliance, the COVID-19 Business Info Hub sat down with Elizabeth Ntege, Executive Director of NFT Consult, to shed light on the ins and outs of HR compliance.

Let’s start with the basics. What exactly is HR compliance for small businesses?

Elizabeth explains that HR compliance pertains to the health and safety of a business’ staff. Business owners are responsible for ensuring workplace safety and providing an environment free from risks and hazards to staff members’ health.

Seems relatively straightforward. So, why is HR compliance particularly important?

COVID-19 has put the health and safety of businesses at the front of public attention. According to Elizabeth, if you aren’t compliant with health and safety regulations, unsafe working conditions could result in the serious injury or even death of a staff member. If a business is found to be non-compliant with health and safety regulations, – for instance, if a staff member suffers a serious injury or death – a business may be closed by officials and the owner may at face imprisonment for negligence. Elizabeth maintains that the risks to your staff and to your business from HR non-compliance are very real “so, ignoring it will not [make it] go away.” There are also more positive benefits to HR compliance. Ensuring your business follows correct health and safety standards contributes to your business’ growth by allowing you to partner with larger companies – whether as contractors or as part of the downstream supply chain – who require these standards from their affiliates.

Now that we understand what HR compliance is and why it’s important, what HR compliance activities should businesses know about?

Elizabeth explains that the specific activities needed to ensure HR compliance for your business are largely dependent on the sector in which your business. For instance, a construction or mining company will likely have many more health and safety hazards than a management consulting firm. Nonetheless, as a business owner you “should always have someone on your team,” says Elizabeth, “able to identify the hazards and risks associated with the work you’re doing and [environment] you’re working in.” Whether a business owner hires an additional team member or chooses to assume the responsibilities themself, this person “should be able to provide your employees, especially in the informal sector…[with] the information and the training they require to do their job safely.” To help standardize the process, businesses should prepare safety policies and procedures then ensure they are enforced within your team and the people outside of your team that you may be working with.

Is there anywhere business owners can find more information about HR compliance?

Businesses have a few options here. First, they can hire an HR compliance consultant like NFT Consults to help guide them through the process. Another other option is to source information on their own. The Federation of Uganda Employers (FUE), the Ministry of Labor, and local city council licensing bodies such as the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) can all help with guidelines to support business compliance.

How do businesses achieve and maintain HR compliance?

Elizabeth explains that most businesses achieve and maintain HR compliance by meeting sector compliance requirements or by achieving health and safety certifications. The operational health, safety, and environment certificate is an internationally recognized compliance certification that most ISO-compliant business partners find desirable. In instances where companies cannot afford the certification, they can always adopt the procedures needed for that certification and simply implement them into their business operations. That way, if they are ever audited for health and safety compliance, any changes to processes or procedures will be quick and inexpensive as they “already had the processes running in the business.” Elizabeth says the best and easiest way to offer services to a particular industry is to adopt their health and safety procedures preemptively. That way, in the event that a business finds the certification process too costly, they will be proactively compliant with their industry standard and able to capitalize on potential future partnerships.


Strategies that can help save your business and plan for the unexpected

Due to the pandemic, many businesses have experienced new and significant operational challenges such as inadequate cash flow, decreased demand, and supply chain disruptions resulting from lockdown restrictions. According to the Economic Policy Research Center (EPRC), 50% of businesses in Uganda had to close operations at least temporarily for an average of over three months. These challenges were unprecedented and have made it clear how disruptive a crisis can be. Most companies were unprepared and as a result, some have closed operations permanently. Others have struggled to get back on their feet.

Here is where a business continuity plan can be a critical tool enabling businesses not only to survive but potentially to thrive even during a crisis. A business continuity plan is a document that outlines how a business will continue operating during an unplanned disruption. It guides businesses on how to reassign resources and communicate effectively internally and externally, all key components to maintain operations even during challenging times.

 

Because developing a business continuity plan may be a new concept for small business owners, in September, the COVID-19 Business Information Hub focused on guiding entrepreneurs in their development. We had insightful discussions with stakeholders and businesses who implemented a variety of business continuity strategies during the pandemic, and here is what we learnt:

 

Conducting a risk assessment: The first thing that every business owner should do is assess the risk and vulnerability of their business. This can be easily done using a tool that the International Labor Organization (ILO) provides free of charge. The ILO also outlines a six-step process to develop the business continuity plan with a key focus on four main elements (People, Process, Profits, and Partnerships). We spoke with John Kakungulu Walugembe of Federation of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises-Uganda (FSME), who explained in detail what the 4Ps stand for and how businesses can use the six-step plan to their advantage. (click here to access the special interview with John Walugumbe).

 

Determining critical activities: Business owners need to define critical activities needed to continue to operate during a crisis. Businesses should immediately identify actions to take based on the risk exposure. Lilian Katiso of Mau and More, a company that sells potted plants, recognized that watering plants was critical to mitigate the risk of losing her inventory due to withering. The business decided to purchase a motorcycle to facilitate one staff to do the watering during the lockdown.

 

Establishing an internal communication plan: A communication plan outlines how teams and employees may best communicate with each other to support the company’s objectives. It helps increase communication frequency and promotes the dissemination of information about what is happening within the company and the employees. Toddler’s Gold  implemented a communications plan including regular meetings to discuss business targets and understand staff welfare. As a result, their sales grew during the lockdown.

 

Embracing technology and digital platforms: Technology helps to support business operations during challenging times. When regular work arrangements were disrupted, and we saw a shift to remote work, Rajab Mukasa, Director at Pique Nique Ltd, adopted mobile money and the use of agents to complete his banking activities. It allowed the company to order by phone and pay suppliers remotely instead of using cash.

 

The disruptions caused by COVID-19 have set a new preparedness benchmark and demonstrated that small businesses need to continuously adapt and evolve their strategies to better prepare for future risks. Joseph Walusimbi a national coach and trainer with the International Trade Center (ITC), an agency of the United Nations, encourages entrepreneurs to embrace business continuity plans to prepare for uncertainty. He also highlighted the potential need for external financing to implement specific activities. Businesses should seek financing options focusing on recovery, innovation, adaptation and sustainability, such as the Economic Enterprise Restart Fund available at Stanbic Bank Uganda or credit guarantee schemes that shift risk from the private to the public sector.

 

 


Learn how Toddler's Gold, a store focused on clothing and accessories, has successfully navigated pandemic disruptions

In a recent interview, Rosemary Tusabe, the owner of Toddler’s Gold, shared how she successfully navigated her children’s apparel and toy business through pandemic disruptions. Toddler’s Gold is an online store that was launched in 2018 with offices in Muyenga and employs six staff.

What was the impact of the lockdowns here in Uganda on your business?

We found it challenging to access our suppliers and customers during the first lockdown because of movement restrictions. So, we intensified our online trading and arranged delivery to our customers through boda-bodas. We found that our demand increased because children were home, and parents realized children needed more clothes now than when attending school. As a result, we ran out of stock.

After the government lifted the first lockdown, we stocked more items for clients to prepare ourselves if there was a second lockdown. So, when the second lockdown happened, we were well prepared.

 

How did you navigate these challenges?

During the first lockdown, because we could not access our suppliers, we identified similar businesses that were struggling to sell because they lacked an online presence. They agreed to supply us on a cash basis arrangement.

Having increased our marketing online, we also generated many inquiries from expectant mothers, so we introduced a new service line called personal baby shopping for expectant mothers. Through this service, we agree with our customers on their shopping needs and pricing and then buy and deliver the items. They can do all of this from the comfort of their homes.

 

What business continuity strategies were most helpful as you navigated pandemic disruptions?

Since we continued to sell our products online, we were able to keep all our staff working. We also introduced regular meetings to discuss how to hit targets and understand staff welfare during this time. As a relational capital-focused business, we realized that rewarding and motivating our staff during the crisis would keep them happy and, in turn, serve the customers with a smile. So, we continued to pay full salaries for staff and also provided them with relief items.

We also introduced a new program, the winning mom’s mastermind. The program advises mothers on financial planning, conscious parenting, and personal growth and development. Although the company had set to start this program in 2 years, the lockdown presented us an opportunity to speak to mothers who were now at home and needed advice on parenting and personal development.

 

What other business continuity strategies are you implementing to survive any further disruptions?

The pandemic has taught us to prepare for a rainy day, and here are some of the strategies we are implementing:

The business has established an emergency fund to help us with any unforeseen circumstances that may arise in the future. We consistently put aside a certain amount of money from our profits that we don’t touch for any cash obligations that occur. I recommend this practice to other business owners as part of their continuity strategy.

We regularly engage our customers to understand their needs and problems to tailor our products and services. We hope that these interactions will enable us to get new product ideas to help diversify our offering.

Finally, we have embraced technology and digital platforms to seize online customers since most people use their phones and laptops to shop. The technology helps us understand customer purchase habits, and then we offer them a convenient shopping experience.

 

Learn more about our products on:

Instagram:     @toddlersgold

Facebook:     @toddlersgold

WhatsApp:   0776511499

Call:             0709728624/ 0776511499


Learn from Lilian Katiso, Proprietor of Maua and More, on the strategies she implemented to ensure business continuity during crisis

Learn from Lilian Katiso, Proprietor of Maua and More, on the strategies she implemented to ensure business continuity during crisis

The COVID-19 Business Info Hub spoke with Lilian Katiso, Proprietor of Maua and More, to understand how she managed to facilitate growth of her business during the pandemic. Maua and More, a seven-year-old company whose name means flowers and more, is located in Kampala and offers unique potted plants and garden accessories.

When the lockdown started and the mall where her business is located closed, Lilian quickly identified risks to her business and came up with strategies that would provide the best chance at business survival. These centered around four main areas:

 

Products

Lilian’s first concern was to ensure her products were cared for to avoid potential losses. The plants must be watered every 3 days, so Lilian discussed with her staff and came up with a plan. The business obtained a bicycle for one staff member who was willing and able to ride to the outlet every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday to water the plants.

 

Suppliers

Maua and More relies on both local and international suppliers, most of whom require payment within three days of delivery. Knowing that this would be challenging during the lockdown, Lilian negotiated with international suppliers for a thirty-day credit period, which provided the business with enough time to sell products and use that funding to make payments before placing another order.

 

Team communication

Realizing that lockdown would make communication among her team more difficult, Lilian set up a WhatsApp group for easy collaboration. The group allowed the team to have regular discussions about ideas and issues as they arose in real-time. This was complemented by monthly progress meetings to discuss what went well, what didn’t go so well, and how to improve.

 

Customer engagement

Before lockdown, Maua and More engaged customers by posting live photos of the products at the shop. With the lockdown, Lilian shifted focus to posting about plants and their maintenance. These posts generated inquiries, and because people were home and could tend to their gardens, it also led to further sales. After the lockdown was lifted, the business saw sales double compared to those made pre-lockdown. Customers also asked for new varieties of plants, so Lilian began further diversifying her products.

 

With these strategies firmly in place, Maua and More was able to weather the challenges brought about by the lockdown and even achieve business growth. However, an increase in demand meant the need to purchase some products in bulk from a new supplier, which posed another challenge for the business. Unable to negotiate credit due to the newness of the business relationship, Lilian needed to come up with sufficient cash to cover the deposit, insurance, import tax, and transportation costs. To avoid facing liquidity issues, she approached a bank and requested financing to support the purchase. The business qualified for an unsecured loan and was able to go ahead with the purchase.

 

In addition to thinking about how some of the above strategies could apply to your own business, Lilian wants other entrepreneurs to know that business owners should not fear spending when it comes to ensuring business continuity. During the most recent lockdown, Maua and More purchased a motorcycle and scooter to ensure staff could get to the shop. While this required laying out cash for these purchases, it also meant three staff could get to work and generate revenue. Additionally, as customers increasingly look to making purchases online, spending for digital marketing can help reach more people in a shorter time. Lilian boosts her posts on Facebook with paid advertising to promote new stock as it comes in. The strategy works, so she has created a budget for this kind of advertising.

 

For more information, contact Maua and More at: 

WhatsApp: 0777014020

Email: mauaandmore@gmail.com


Learn how SME owner Rajab Mukasa implemented business continuity strategies to remain afloat during Covid-19 lockdowns

Learn how SME owner Rajab Mukasa implemented business continuity strategies to remain afloat during Covid-19 lockdowns

Rajab Mukasa, Director of Pique Nique Links Limited, shared with the Covid-19 Business Information Hub how his company managed disruptions caused by lockdowns and plans for business recovery. Pique Nique Links Limited is located at Lakeside crescent in Luzira and currently employs five staff. The company is engaged in bid management, organizing corporate events, and supplying general merchandise to enterprises.

What happened to your business during the first lockdown?

During the first lockdown in March 2020, we were unfortunate because our business came to a standstill. We didn’t expect the lockdown, so we had spent all our money to deliver on client orders but did not have cash flow from client payments. As a result, we closed for the whole length of the lockdown, and our staff had to find their means of survival. Upon easing the lockdown, customers began paying for the supplies we had made, at which point we re-opened business.

After re-opening, the company came up with a plan to only do partial deliveries to clients and agree on a short-term credit period. It was challenging to negotiate with the big corporations on these terms, but they eventually agreed. The plan enabled the business to build a cash reserve to continue operations during critical times, which prepared us for the second lockdown.

 

How did you manage to continue operating during the second lockdown?

During the second lockdown, we were better prepared. We learned that communication needed to be a key part of our business continuity strategy, so we actively engaged our clients and suppliers. We first informed our customers that we could not supply their orders because it was nearly impossible to obtain goods since suppliers’ businesses were closed. Customers understood the situation, and we also kept communicating regularly to alert them when we received some items available for supply. Given that we traditionally pay suppliers in cash, it was also critical to discuss alternative payment options with them. We used mobile money and bank accounts through agent banking, the new methods that allowed us to order by phone and pay remotely.

Another contingency plan that we put in place was to source jobs and consultancy work for our company directors, which funded the company’s operations despite reduced cash flow. This was important to help the company’s operations to stay afloat.

 

What other business continuity strategies are you implementing to survive any further disruptions?

First, we want to ensure that we have a cash reserve in our bank account at all times to be used only to finance critical activities during tough times. We hope this can shield the company against liquidity challenges resulting from delayed customer payments.

We are also thinking about diversifying into other ventures to widen our business model and obtain alternative income. In the past, events management was our primary source of income; given the current circumstances, other sources of income such as the supply of goods will be a priority.

The pandemic disruptions have been a learning experience for the business. The critical lesson here is about building a sustainable value relationship between clients and suppliers. Relationships require transparency and two-way communication where you share openly about the challenges and develop solutions to propel the relationship ahead.


Learn how you can prepare your business to remain stable under disruption.

As part of the Covid-19 Business Info Hub’s focus this month, we spoke with Joseph Walusimbi, a national coach and trainer with the International Trade Center (ITC), an agency of the United Nations, to understand his perspective on business continuity planning. With ITC, Joseph builds SMEs’ capacity to export their products and services and advises enterprises at different life cycle stages to grow their businesses sustainably.

Business continuity planning helps SMEs ensure that critical business aspects remain stable under disruption. 

Joseph walked us through an example of the disruption faced by local agriculture exporting companies, which were hit hard by the pandemic last year when flights were cancelled and airplanes grounded. The European market that typically consumes products shipped by these producers was primarily indoors and could not consume the products. Unfortunately, most exporters were unprepared. Companies did not know how to manage human or financial resources in the face of such unprecedented disruption or continue servicing debts without cash flow. Business continuity plans would have ensured these businesses had measures ready to address many of these challenges.

These challenges have not been unique to one sector or type of business, indicating that business continuity planning is essential whether you are a grocery store owner, an enterprise in the information technology (IT) sector, or have a 4-acre garden producing for an export company.

 

There are six areas of focus that SMEs should keep in mind when developing business continuity plans.

  1. Designate one focal person to identify disruptions and disseminate information.This person should be in touch with relevant authorities to get accurate and regular updates for sharing with the team and other stakeholders.
  2. Identify products or services that are essential for business survival.These should be products or services that generate the most revenue for the business and must be made readily available for customers when needed.
  3. Prioritize key customers and engage them regularly. Customer engagement should involve timely communication about product availability, price changes, and delivery options, for example. Engagement should not be a one-way street – ask for feedback from your customers and incorporate it into your operations.
  4. Establish policies to protect employee’s health and safety. Companies must ensure that all employees understand what preventative measures they need to follow to stay healthy, whether on-site or remotely.
  5. Analyze your supply chain and engage critical suppliers. Regularly speak with suppliers and understand what products might be challenging for them to supply in case of disruption. Understand what changes they may need to make in operations. Understand whether your suppliers can also identify an alternative supply chain in case the main chain breaks down.
  6. Modify service delivery to respond to disruptions.Enterprises should explore flexible and convenient delivery options available that can respond to movement restrictions. These may include services that allow customers to order and pay online; then, you arrange delivery.

 

Finally, businesses should exercise and review the plan. Businesses can do this by taking the time to check if the plan is helping in achieving the objectives; if it is not, you may make some adjustments.

 

SMEs should identify potential funding options for business continuity activities. 

After developing a business continuity plan, SMEs may identify a need for external financing to implement specific activities. Businesses should seek financing options focusing on recovery, innovation, adaptation and sustainability, such as the Economic Enterprise Restart Fund available at Stanbic Bank Uganda or credit guarantee schemes that shift risk from the private to the public sector.  Agriculture Business Initiative (aBi) finance offers credit guarantee products through its partner financial institutions from which SMEs can benefit during challenging times.

 

Business continuity planning is critical to prepare for uncertainty caused by disruptions and must be part and parcel of SMEs’ strategic plans. If SMEs embrace business continuity planning, we will see more transformation and business resilience in the next two or three years.

 

For business support, call 0704006900 or send an email to walusimbij@gmail.com


Developing a Business Continuity Plan for Your Enterprise

The COVID-19 Business Info Hub spoke with John Kakungulu Walugembe of the Federation of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises-Uganda (FSME) to understand the importance of developing a business continuity plan for enterprises and how this helps to build resilience during challenging times.

A business continuity plan can be defined as a document that outlines how a business will continue operating during an unplanned disruption in service. It contains contingencies for business processes, assets, human resources, and business partners – every aspect of the business that might be affected.

John K. Walugembe is the Executive Director of FSME, the umbrella/business association that brings together over 112,000 micro, small and medium-sized enterprises across 20 sectors in the country. Here’s what John had to say about the importance of business continuity plans in light of circumstances brought about by disruptions like the pandemic:

 

“Many businesses don’t have business continuity plans and do not know why they need to develop them.”

 

The impact of the pandemic on the MSME sector is unprecedented. Many businesses are closed, others have limited demand, and many are struggling to pay their staff. Businesses face challenges they have never encountered before and disruptions at overwhelming levels. So, “when we are talking about business recovery and resilience, we are trying to ensure that businesses get back to their pre-pandemic level” of operations. Business continuity plans can help businesses in doing just that. However, many entrepreneurs do not know what they are or how to go about putting them together.

 

FSME worked with International Labor Organization (ILO) to assist 200 MSMEs to come up with a business continuity plan according to a six-step process developed by the ILO.

 

FSME used the ILO’s six-step process for putting together a business continuity plan, which starts with an assessment of risk.

To assess the level of risk and vulnerability faced by a company, business owners need to focus on the 4Ps below and can assess their level of risk using the link included above.

People

How are your workers and their families affected by COVID-19?

Processes

How are the everyday operations of your business affected?

Profits

To what extent is your income and revenue affected?

Partnerships

How is the environment around your business affected by COVID?

Next, businesses must follow six steps as outlined below.

Step 1: Identify your key products or services.

Step 2: Establish the objective of your plan.

Step 3: Evaluate the potential impact of disruptions on your enterprise and workers.

Step 4: List actions to protect/minimize risks to your business

Step 5: Establish contact lists for non-physical activities (WhatsApp calls, Zoom meetings etc.).

Step 6: Maintain, review, and continuously update your plan.

 

“SMEs should also network and reach out for help.”

 

Although business continuity plans help answer questions about how your business can continue operations in moments of crisis, companies need to be agile and adapt plans to changing circumstances. One way to do this is by reaching out for support from organizations like FSME and to other business development service providers. Businesses can also reach out to their networks for ideas and support.

FSME is keen to support SMEs when and where possible, so please reach out to the organization via Tel at 0774147864 or via email at info@fsmeuganda.org or at john.walugembe@fsmeuganda.org


Are you struggling to manage your business due to pandemic disruptions? Business continuity and recovery planning can help you stay afloat.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused disruptions for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Uganda and the rest of the world. As Uganda comes out of a second lockdown, many small businesses are wondering how to re-launch operations and what they will do to stay afloat should further preventative measures cause additional disruptions. We’re here to help.

This month, the COVID-19 Business Info Hub will focus on a key strategy business owners can implement to plan for future disruptions – business continuity and recovery planning. Recent discussions with entrepreneurs and others in the SME ecosystem in Uganda have highlighted the importance of this strategy in the current environment. It was a key topic in a recent interview we conducted with Edward Katende, Chief Executive Officer of Uganda Agribusiness Alliance(UAA), and it came up during a discussion we had with Basil Mwotta, Chief Executive Officer of AgroDuuka Uganda Limited who shared the strategies he used that kept his business running despite challenges brought on by the lockdown.

Through discussions with experts and entrepreneurs with deep experience in this space, the COVID-19 Business Info Hub will focus on helping SMEs understand how to go about business continuity and recovery planning, including how to develop a plan, when and how to implement it, and where to access financing to cover key related expenses.

If you are interested in delving deeper into business continuity and recovery planning as a strategy to respond to the pandemic and better prepare for the next crisis, keep following the COVID-19 Business Information Hub this month!


What we learned this month about how to promote recovery in Uganda’s agribusiness sector

In July, the COVID-19 Business Info Hub focused its efforts on understanding recovery mechanisms and opportunities for the agribusiness sector. We engaged with many stakeholders, including SMEs, financing institutions, and organizations offering support to the industry. Here is what we learnt!

 

The agribusiness sector has faced a number of challenges. 

Just as SMEs were recovering from the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the second wave hit the country in May 2021. This led to another lockdown during June and July, which has brought more difficulties for SMEs operating in this environment. Some of the challenges faced by the businesses include:

  • Supply chain disruptions especially delayed transportation both by road and air cargo for agricultural inputs and products because of movement restrictions.
  • Working capital constraints because of reduced sales and delayed payments, which affect operational efficiency.
  • Reduced demand and price for agricultural products because buyers cannot easily access markets due to the lockdown.
  • Increased cost in retaining essential human resources as businesses work to keep staff on the payroll despite reduced operations to avoid losing critical talent to competition.

As a result of these challenges, SMEs have used up their cash reserves and thus need financial and non-financial support to recover.

 

Several organizations are providing support to help agribusinesses recover. 

Different sector players that we spoke to shared interventions they have in place to support businesses to stay afloat during the pandemic. Some are included here below:

aXiom Zorn creates digital profiles for farmers and agribusinesses to enable them to access financial services. The digital profiles capture data that builds a credit score for the farmer or the business. A credit score of 60% allows the farmer or agribusiness to access financing from a bank.

Stanbic Bank Uganda provides affordable loans to Savings Credit and Cooperative Societies (SACCOs) and farmer groups. SACCOs and farmer groups receiving these funds can then offer affordable loans to their members. Learn more about other interventions of the bank to reduce the financing gap in the financial sector.

Agricultural Business Initiative (aBi) promotes access to agricultural inputs by availing subsidized inputs to farmers to plant within the season. aBi Finance has also tweaked its credit guarantee product for partner financial institutions to help them to lend to customers with better terms.

Palladium is implementing a program to link farmers to service providers and markets via commercial agents. Through the model, over 80 businesses have benefitted to date with increased income.

 

Agribusinesses can implement a three-step plan to speed up the road to recovery. 

SMEs need to seek information to understand the shifts in the consumption, production and trade within the sector to plan for recovery and build resilience. Here is a three-step recovery pathway that SMEs can adopt;

  • Reflect: Pause and think about the impact COVID-19 has had on the business. Analyze what has worked during the period, lessons learnt and what needs to change. Then, adopt a holistic work approach to consolidate the best practices and manage change while maintaining a safe work environment.
  • Restart: Identify steps required to “restart” – maybe a new business process, a new product, or service line to fit in the new normal. Mobilize the necessary resources and take action.
  • Revitalize: Revisit the business environment to seize available opportunities along the value chain. SMEs need to optimize opportunities within the supply chain. They can improve volume flexibility, enhance delivery performance and identify areas where technology can help streamline processes to minimize costs.

 

For faster sector recovery, stakeholders also need to actively engage with the businesses to help them innovate and expand into new markets more than ever before.

 

SMEs can access information on:

Agribusiness financing from Stanbic Bank Uganda  

Call: 0800250250

WhatsApp: 0770588623

Visit:  www.stanbic.co.ug

 

Innovative digital solutions from aXiom Zorn 

Tel: +256 200 951 713/+256 200 903 099

Email: info@axiomzorn.com

Visit:  https://axiomzorn.com/

 

Commercial Agent Model from Palladium

Tel:   +256 774 040751

Email: jackline.kitongo@thepalladiumgroup.com

Visit: https://thepalladiumgroup.com/