Lack of basic skills to run a business coupled with a small-alone mindset among Ugandans, has been cited as one of the key obstacles to the growth of the private sector.
Speaking at the Inaugural TechnoServe Stakeholders Forum under the theme: “Innovation and inclusion: collaboration for sustainable entrepreneurship ecosystems, Juliet Kyokunda, the country director Technoserve Uganda says many entrepreneurs have no requisite skills to run businesses.
Kyokunda says that to accelerate the critical role played by Small and Medium Scale enterprises (SMEs) in the economy and subsequently reduce poverty levels, there is need for deliberate effort to empower these businesses at different levels.
“In Uganda, we know that people who fail in school usually will run and start a kiosk, they start up something they do not have any knowledge how to run it , they have not done any research, and most of these businesses where they throw in their hard earned money which is not easy to come by, most of them do not see their 1st birthday and the cycle of poverty will continue,” Kyokunda.
In her remarks, Alice Waweru, the Entrepreneurship Program Director, East Africa at TechnoServe notes that SMEs can work better and yield more if they work together through business associations, adding that small businesses ought to know that the challenge is not being small but rather being small alone.
“We are telling these businesses that the challenge is not being small, it is actually being small alone so we want them to come together and form formidable associations/ business groups that can raise their voices and can be able to lobby with government and other sector players and so we have developed a n elaborate approach to help these entrepreneurs move from one level to another, we are building their technical capacity in business finance, supply chain management and even access to finance,” Waweru said.
Waweru adds that there are many barriers that SME’s face other than lack of access to finance that limit their survival and growth that later undermine the economy.
She explains that through the TechnoServe Stakeholder Forum, the organization aims at working closely with government and other sector players to help entrepreneurs overcome business challenges which are beyond accessing credit.
Waweru says TechnoServe has realized that lack of an enabling environment is a big challenge that hinders entrepreneurs to move from one point to another and of course access to finance.
“Many people argue that there is a lot of money for entrepreneurs but I want to present to you that a lot of the money out there is not appropriate financing for a lot of our entrepreneurs. So we are advocating that these barriers be addressed.
“We also know that a lot of entrepreneurs do not keep proper records of their transactions and even in this digital age lack of data hinders them from making appropriate decisions,” Waweru stressed.
The business community has also been urged to take advantage of the internet facilities installed by the government to grow their businesses and better their livelihoods.
Although telecom companies have significantly rolled out robust network systems across the country to promote ICT-related business, few people are embracing the use of information technology platforms to promote their respective businesses.
The Director of Uganda Communications Universal Services Access fund at the Uganda Communications Commission Nyombi Thembo says that although the telecom companies have introduced the 4G and the 5G-Network respectively, very few people in the community have gadgets that allow them to access such networks.
Nyombi explained that with the improved internet connectivity and better internet speeds there is a lot of useful information available, but it has not been fully utilized by the Ugandan entrepreneurs.
Nyombi says, yet it’s only through the use of such Morden Network that communities such as farmers will be able to market their products, and also grow their businesses with ease.
“Information is a raw material for decision making so it is important for decision making so it is important every entrepreneurs to access connectivity in these times of using ICTs otherwise when you don’t have any connectivity the ….for example marketing especially small business do not need to send even 1000 shillings to reach 1 million people so that is the power of connectivity so our young people who are in business can now market their products at very low costs reaching mass population and that will help them” Nyombi said.
He added that digital platforms are important in the promotion of agricultural start-ups because they help improve food security by making the food system more efficient, sustainable, and equitable.
Fortunately, the organization has embarked on equipping entrepreneurs with digital skills in addition to other business skills in order to make their expected contribution to the economy and subsequently alleviate poverty.
“We are helping them to take up digital technology, we want none of our entrepreneurs left behind in this digital transformation, it may be challenge with internet penetration and all issues of access, but we do not want none of our entrepreneur left behind we want then to learn to engage to learn through digital technology, how to access supply through technology, how to engage each other, networking opportunities through technology”-Waweru adds.
Meanwhile the private sector Foundation revealed that efforts are underway for the government to put in place a start-up policy to guide good business ideas to support the growth and survival of business enterprises.
Dr. Julius Byaruhanga the Director Policy and Business Development at Private Sector Foundation Uganda said that there are very interesting business ideas in this country that are dying because there is no start up policy.