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Ugandan women among the best entrepreneurs but…

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Added 16th March 2018 12:40 PM

Women saddled with children to nurture, often by themselves have borne the brunt of the hard times, but as is being recognised now, they not only survived but have thrived.

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Patrick Bitature is the chairman of the Private Sector Foundation of Uganda

Women saddled with children to nurture, often by themselves have borne the brunt of the hard times, but as is being recognised now, they not only survived but have thrived.

By Patrick Bitature


A study carried out in 57 countries around the world established that Ugandan women are among the most entrepreneurial in the world.

The 2018 Mastercard Index of Women’s Entrepreneurship released last week showed that one in three businesses or 33.8% of businesses in this country belong to women. Our women were third behind their counterparts in Ghana, 44.4% and Russia, 34.6%.

Survey after survey has shown that Uganda is one of the most entrepreneurial counties in the world, so it should come as little surprise that our women are among the most entrepreneurial in the world. This does not, in any way, take away from their initiative and resilience in the surviving of our competitive business environment.

Our entrepreneurialism was forced upon us by the hard times we faced as a nation in the 1970s and 1980s, when few, if any, salaries could carry families through the month. For the majority of us who did not have the option of leaving the country to greener pastures, we stuck around and hustled the best we could.

Women saddled with children to nurture, often by themselves have borne the brunt of the hard times, but as is being recognised now, they not only survived but have thrived.

As things have improved over the last three decades, these businesswomen have not just shed their business acumen and returned to regular jobs but have carried on and grown with the economy.

It is fitting that in this month when we commemorate Women’s Day, they are being recognised internationally.

Looking around and from my experience, women have been strong in the small and medium enterprise (SME) section but have struggled to build their companies beyond this level.

I think this is because as well as being economically active, they are also mothers, which often acts as a natural barrier to their career or business advancement.

In addition, while for successful men one can point to a strong and supportive woman behind them, men do not seem to return the favour, in being supportive of their women’s ambitions beyond the family.

There are natural and cultural impediments to their advancement. And not only in Uganda.

In the same Mastercard survey, they report that women in countries such as New Zealand and Portugal struggle are not well received as entrepreneurs and struggle to get a bank loans, insurance and trade finance.

We take it for granted in this country, but there are countries around the world where entrepreneurship is not as widespread, live alone among women. This is a rich resource.

What we should exercise our minds on, is how to sweep away the barriers that prevent our businessmen and women from attaining their full potential.

My advice to women and really to all our businessmen, would be to aspire towards improving the business’ processes and systems as a way to set themselves up for future growth. A business is never too small or insignificant to organise.

Their inherent ability to mitigate against risk, which some call risk aversion, makes women good business bets – they repay their loans and are trusted partners, which means if they work at formalising their businesses, the sky is the limit.

This report says what I have always known and experienced in my life. It is no secret that the more empowered the women in a country are the better the quality of its families, which will inevitably lead to a more prosperous country.

As a country, we should not lose sight of the importance of this powerful resource.

By elevating women to places of position in politics and administration, promoting the education of the girl child among other things, the Government has done well to create a momentum towards empowering the Ugandan woman. And this should continue.

At the Private Sector Foundation of Uganda (PSFU) there are business support programmes that our business people can exploit to take them to the next level and I invite businesswomen to take advantage of these.

I am excited about the latest findings. Not because I did not know this intuitively, but because of the promise it holds for this country’s future.

The author is the chairman of the Private Sector Foundation of Uganda

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