With an increasing number of women in the country starting and running successful enterprises, Charles Ocici, the Enterprise Uganda executive director, says Ugandans should support them to thrive and become business icons.
Enterprise Uganda half-year statistics shows how that there is a new wave of women-owned enterprises that contribute meaningfully to the country’s economic transformation. Ocici, however, decries government’s concentration on micro and small enterprises in helping women entrepreneurs, saying that it is not sufficient to make them grow and break through to become transformative agents for the economy.
“In getting the informal woman into entrepreneurship, government has been getting women to form groups like savings and credit cooperative societies and [giving them] support within that kind of sphere. That is not bad but is not sufficient to make them grow and break through the space that we are talking about,” Ocici said.
He added: “Not much has been done beyond giving the ordinary woman baby steps to enter the private sector. We need more empowerment of the ordinary woman to build that enterprising mindset that makes her know entrepreneurship is not only about providing food for her family or paying children’s fees; it is about transforming society.”
Ocici said that government has a key role to play in empowering women entrepreneurs to build a strong economy using the private sector.
“The government must recognize that there are different levels in the entrepreneurship journey and offer the necessary support at each level.
“In business, there are those entrepreneurs at the micro entry level, those at the small stage, medium-size stage and large category. All these require different interventions to ensure sustainable growth,” Ocici said.
According to Ocici, creating a journey of a flourishing private sector requires the government to recognize the different stages in businesses and have a structure of what has to be done at each stage to support enterprise growth. This, he said, requires government to put in place properly structured schemes that support all the various levels of enterprise growth, right from entry to big enterprises, especially for women.
While the Ugandan woman has made tremendous effort in making her presence felt in the private sector over the past years, especially in the service-based industries, Dr Juliet Wakaisuka, from Makerere University Business School, said women entrepreneurs still need support to thrive.
“Women entrepreneurs continue to be important and many initiatives, policies, programmes and organizations have been introduced to support women entrepreneurs but there are still areas that still need attention in order to improve the business environment for women economic empowerment,” she said.
She added: “There is need to invest in women economic empowerment to set a direct path towards gender equality, poverty eradication and inclusive economic growth by implementing regional and national plans, legislation, policies, strategies, budgets and justice mechanisms in order to strengthen their economic empowerment.”
Dr Wakaisuka noted that women entrepreneurs still face a range of challenges in realizing their business growth potential, including reluctance of financial institutions to offer credit to women-owned businesses because they consider them riskier.
Additionally, she said that women entrepreneurs need to be given expertise and skills, given that majority of them lack the level of business acumen and skills to grow in a profitable and competitive manner.