Changing the Mindset of Ugandan Entrepreneurs: From Muppets to Gazelles

Title: Changing the Mindset of Ugandan Entrepreneurs: From Muppets to Gazelles Funding info: NWO (Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research) Duration Nov 2014-May 2017 Project leader: Eindhoven University of Technology Project team members
  1. Eindhoven University of Technology, NL: School of Innovation Sciences
  2. Makerere University Business School, Kampala, Uganda
  3. Uganda Investment Authority, Kampala, Uganda
  4. Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association, Kampala, Uganda

The project  was implemented by Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) in collaboration with Eindhoven University of Technology (Netherlands), Makerere University Business School, Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association.

The project aimed at investigating pivotal barriers to dynamic entrepreneurship and inclusion particularly among the rural populations in Uganda. 

To do this, the  project team decided to initiate and sustain such processes by utilizing the already existing Rural Based Community Tele-centers to foster research, training, information dissemination and physical infrastructural support to create secondary opportunities within the farmer/business communities specifically in Nakaseke and Mpigi Districts.

This is a contribution towards ‘temporarily’ addressing some of the challenges faced in running these tele-centres towards improving the socio-economic status of poor farmers and/or entrepreneurs.

Objectives

  1. Provision and installation of better of radio equipment to boost the radio signal/coverage of these centers
  2. Provide computers, furniture and generators
  3. Recruit Business advisers for the centers
  4. Build the capacity of both staff and beneficiaries of the center (rural female entrepreneurs)
  5. Rehabilitate the physical infrastructure of the centers
  6. Create a technological marketing platform that enables information flow and directly links sellers to buyers in the two districts.

Interim Findings

  1. Many rural female entrepreneurs in Uganda are trapped in poverty. They are not entrepreneurs in the conventional sense, as their productive activities are generally very small and hardly grow.
  2. Rural female entrepreneurs lack financial and technical resources, knowledge about procurement, production, and markets, and marketing skills. Furthermore, their product quality and packaging are also generally below basic acceptable standards.
  3. Most rural female entrepreneurs lack the strategic contacts to access new ideas, information, and resources, provide them with inspiration or enable them to attain a better bargaining position.
  4. The sales proceeds of rural female entrepreneurs contribute to important social goals (e.g. they can enable women to send their children to school, meet the costs of healthcare, invest in land, or simply enjoy a little independent spending money). These women tend to define business success with reference to such social goals, rather than profit or employment growth.

Policy Messages

  1. Start by understanding women’s aspirations and contexts: Different women pursue different goals through their businesses. Their businesses form a small part of a much larger palette of activities for household income generation and risk diversification. Support for rural female entrepreneurs must be attuned to these goals, while helping them to attain more income security. However, in every rural community there are also a few capable female entrepreneurs who can be coached to become business leaders and provide productive employment to others.
  2. Address rural female entrepreneurs’ social relations: Rural female entrepreneurs’ constrained social relations are hampering productive investment and innovation and need to be addressed.
  3. Improve rural female entrepreneurs’ social connectedness: Rural female entrepreneurs’ social connectedness can be improved through simple ICTs (e.g. an SMS-supported trading platform and M-PESA schemes) or through conventional media (e.g. local radio stations), which are hugely popular in rural areas.
  4. Establish local resource centres: Local resource centres can provide women with information, networking opportunities and professional assistance. These can be built on locally-driven initiatives (e.g. a local community centre or a local radio station) and ‘enriched’ with limited external help (e.g. from the government). Centres can also offer training (e.g., in Mobile Money) and the service of brokers to connect sellers and buyers of agricultural produce.
  5. Organize poor entrepreneurs into groups: Local groups are pivotal for poor entrepreneurs, as they can be approached through their local group leaders and derive strength from each other.
  6. Acknowledge the variation among entrepreneurs: Entrepreneurs are not a homogenous group: some need access to the Internet, others an intermediary or assistant, and some need training.
  7. Focus on the role of men in supporting women entrepreneurs: Men who support women entrepreneurs should be encouraged to spread the message that women’s businesses are not threatening, but can lead to increased financial resilience, social dignity and happiness.
  8. Provide one well-targeted strategic intervention: Too many support services can smother women, contributing to passivity, whereas one well-targeted intervention can effect a range of problems.
  9. Do not expect quick fixes: Successful projects need to go through several learning iterations.