Women-led businesses urged to network, exploit technology

By David Rupiny

By David Rupiny

Women-led businesses in Uganda have been urged to build networks in order to navigate the business terrain both during this period of Covid-19 and after.

The call was made by Sheila Mugyenzi, Director for Investment Promotion and Business Development at Uganda Investment Authority (UIA), at a conversation event on women-in-technology, innovation and leadership organised by UIA and Opportunity Bank in Kampala, held on March 11, 2021.

Mugyenzi urged women-led businesses to build networks because “networks are not only a powerful lobbying force” but there is power in numbers. She recalled how the formation of Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Network (UWEP) in the 2000s contributed significantly to the growth and development of women-led businesses.

Mugyenzi said UIA is willing to lead a revived UWEP and target businesswomen of all walks of life across Uganda – rural to urban, micro to large.

Winnie Lawoko-Olwe, UIA’s Director for Small and Medium Enterprises, said “every woman must dare to dream that she has the potential to rise from the lowest to the highest echelons of any business or organisation”.

Lawoko-Olwe said the Covid-19 pandemic has demonstrated the need for resilience, positioning, innovation and adapting new ways of doing things, including how to run businesses. She said the dynamics ahead will require women to snap up business and investment opportunities afforded by Covid-19 and government programmes like import substitution and export promotion.

Pamela Abonyo, the Marketing Team Lead at Opportunity Bank said they are focused on engaging and supporting women entrepreneurs with the aim of scaling up many women-led businesses. She said they are adapting use of simple technologies to transact with and take banking services closer to their clients, particularly microbusinesses.

Ruth Asasira, Microfinance Manager at Opportunity Bank, said since women constitute more than half of the population, their interventions aim at economic transformation of women right from the households up to higher levels. She urged women to continuously learn and stay relevant by, amongst others, embracing business-enhancing technologies.

Alice Lajwa, the Manager SheTrades, said the programme, an initiative of the World Trade Organisation and United Nations run through Opportunity International, aims at enabling women access credit, markets, business advisory services and networks in order to transform their lives.

Lajwa said they are building networks and value chains in which women can participate in economic activity, from the lowest level like farming through to accessing foreign markets. She said women-led businesses need to adapt to new changes in order to remain relevant and sustainable.

Carolyn Kakooza, the Executive Director of aXiom-Zorn, a big data analytics company, appealed to women-led businesses to utilize available technological tools like mobile phones and mobile money, as well as existing networks, even at village level, to breakthrough in business.

Barbara Mutabazi, the Executive Director of Hive Colab, a business development organisation, said when women, who are naturally sharing beings, network they have the potential of achieving much more, including harnessing the use and benefits of technology. She said technology plays a very big part in scaling up a business, noting that there are some many business opportunities afforded by technology which are not being exploited yet.

Mutabazi encouraged businesswoman to start building informal networks, like of family members and friends, before even venturing into other and bigger networks.

Sarah Kirumira, a hardware trader, narrated how she ventured into business by first selling snacks (samosas) and then used microcredit from Opportunity Bank to keep growing and scaling up.

David Rupiny is UIA’s Media Relations Officer