Government of Uganda has adopted a new initiative to ensure that Ugandan women entrepreneurs have expanded access to capital financing, business information and networks across the Africa continent to support their businesses.
According to Sarah Kanyike the State Minister for disability and elderly affairs, the project dubbed the 50 Million African Women Speak Networking Platform, will be implemented by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development in partnership with the East African Community Secretariat, Ministry of East African Community Affairs and the UN Development Program (UNDP) with support from the African Development Bank (AfDB).
The project provides an online networking platform to connect 50 million African women in business across 38 African countries from the East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS).
The project is an online social network that allows women in Africa learn from each other and be able to share lessons, as well as conduct business.
“It is accessible at: womenconnect.org (and is also downloadable as an app at the Google and Apple online stores) of the targeted 50 million African women entrepreneurs, at least 2 million will be Ugandan” the minister said.
She noted that in Uganda, like in most African countries, women are the majority players in the small businesses and informal sector but face enormous challenges in accessing finances needed to grow their businesses while they also lack networks, information and opportunities relevant to their business needs.
Kanyike says that the platform comes at a time when sub Saharan Africa hosts close to 13 million formal and informal Small and Medium-sized Enterprises with one or more women owners.
“Yet, only 16-20% of women entrepreneurs are able to access long-term financing from formal financial institutions to scale up their businesses. Weak property rights also deprive women of collateral and tangible assets while legal barriers impede their economic activities and cultural barriers discourage them from thriving as entrepreneurs. This Project is also in line with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 on achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls by the year 2030” she told the press in Kampala on Monday morning.
She noted that it is in Uganda’s interest to have more women onto this new platform to tap into the opportunities at the Continental level.
“Already, our engagements with umbrella organizations that support women entrepreneurs have generated a lot of enthusiasm for bringing the platform to their members. These include; Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association Limited (UWEAL), KACITA Women’s League, Private Sector Foundation (PSFU), Uganda Manufacturer’s Association, Uganda Small Scale Industries Association (USSIA), Cross-border Associations, Market trader Associations, and civil society organizations.”
Adding that; “Our intention is to also bring onboard women entrepreneurs who do not belong to any umbrella organization. It’s our great conviction that the project will compliment other running Government efforts aimed at addressing the key development challenges faced by women- owned Small and Medium Enterprises”
Kanyike says that for the last two years, EAC Secretariat has been engaging different stakeholders to make sure that the platform is developed, enriched with information.