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Over the years, the number of women-owned businesses in Uganda have continued to grow, out-pacing male-owned enterprises. Despite this positive trend, experts say that businesses owned and run by women face more difficulties than those run by men, Eronie Kamukama writes.
There have been several efforts to empower the Ugandan woman by moving her from the kitchen to putting her at the fore-front of trade and commerce. These efforts are not only geared towards contributing to her financial independence but also enhancing the country’s economic base.
There are certainly a rising number of successful women in business in the country. This is a good thing but many women continue to conduct business on a small scale.
At the heart of this crisis is an ecosystem that engages banks, private sector and the academia, that is trying to help the average Ugandan woman become another Oprah Winfrey.
Despite the trainings, women empowerment programmes, women such as Ms Sarah Kyampaire are still far from attaining growth in their businesses.
Ms Kyampaire owns a cosmetics and soap making business. Following the demise of her husband, the widow in her late thirties was left to fend for her nine children. It was not just the need to be financially independent that propelled her to do business but also the need to feed and maintain a roof over her children’s heads.
The resident of Busukuma, Wakiso District, says after acquiring the necessary skills in 2013, she started manufacturing Kushanana jelly in 2014.
Three years later, she is still selling seven to ten tins of this jelly every week at Shs5,000. As she talks about why she has not been able to grow her business, she reveals that doing business as a woman is still difficult because of failure to recapitalise the business.
“I started this business with Shs30,000. However, it has been difficult to grow the Shs30,000 to Shs100,000 because I have had to utilise every profit without re-investing. Whatever profit I make, I spend because my children have to feed and go to school,” she explains.
Her inability to re-invest in the business has cost her some customers due to inconsistent supply.
“When I get some money I produce a few tins of the product, then my clients have to wait for a month or more because I don’t have the capital,” she notes.
According to Centenary Bank chief manager for business growth, Mr Micheal Jjingo, more than 65 per cent of people in business in Uganda are women but are facing outstanding challenges.
He says women in business lack collateral security against which they can access credit to capitalise their businesses.
More so, the high illiteracy levels continue to make business growth very difficult.
“Most of them drop out of school. They run into business as a last resort so it’s not like they have been trained on how to run the businesses.”
He adds: “The issues around lack of education are that book keeping is not right, financial management and customer care are not right,” he noted.
Successful businesses pick the right tenets that drive them to another level. However, according to Mr Abbey Mutumba, a lecturer at Makerere University Business School, women are engulfed in a number of challenges that veer them from business growth.
He admits that recording transactions in their own circumstances without necessarily having an accountant is a huge hurdle.
“They lack simple record keeping where they have documents like receipts and vouchers so that when they are negotiating for a contract, they have a record of defence, that justifies their capacity to supply or deliver. If they need a loan, they have a record that shows that,” he says.
He attributes this to reasons of ignorance and mistrust from husbands yet without records, businesses cannot expand.
Mr Mutumba admits that these women struggle with balancing incomes from different businesses.
“They tend to mix the different sources of income because most of them are portfolio entrepreneurs. You find one is into piggery, poultry and has a wholesale shop and balancing the incomes, expenditures and profits becomes tricky,” he notes.
However, Ms Ruth Musoke, head of the skills development facility at Private Sector Foundation Uganda, says women in small businesses need to concentrate on achieving the business goal of one enterprise before setting up another.
“Prioritise and cut your list down to one thing and try to put actions down per year such that you are able to achieve what you want to do, one at a time,” she says.
In addition, for most women, separating their personal income from the business income is far from easy.
Ms Kyampaire says: “I have not worked on separating my incomes. I know I should not mix the two but when a need arises I utilise what is there. I don’t do budgets, I cannot follow them because of the needs of the home,” she admits.
Ms Musoke says personal budgets are a must-have and can enable women manage their finances.
“When you are running a business, you have to know how much money you pay yourself from it. Once you know this, you know how much you are spending to sustain your life,” she says.
Mr Jjingo suggests that women get the business right, upscale and cross scale so that the business expands within the same line to get more profits.
To Mr Mutumba, women must keep proper records, manage finances well and continuous learn through engagements with a diversity of business-minded people.
Women have to look at their businesses as separate entities because then they are able to balance their different business portfolios and identify which one to concentrate on.