Government eyes start-ups policy in 2024

A man looks at some bags made at MOTIV. Young people are creative innovative business ideas which can raise revenue. PHOTO/ MICHAEL KAKUMIRZI 

What you need to know:

The policy seeks to protect interests of local start-ups which are highly scalable with capacity for enormous returns on investment.

To make Uganda’s start-ups sustainable, profitable and attractive to investors, stakeholders drawn from across the country are working against time to deliver a National Start-Up Policy for the country in 2024. 

The policy that will address the existing constraints affecting the start-up ecosystem in Uganda is being spearheaded by Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU), supported by the Mastercard Foundation and coordinated by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives.

There are several startups in the country which are highly scalable with capacity for enormous returns on investment. 

The policy seeks to govern the interactions between the government, incubators, start-ups, and investors; with the view of promoting a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in Uganda. 

Speaking during a technical team round-table meeting held in Kampala yesterday, Apollo Muyanja Mbazzira, the PSFU lead firm structure (LFS) project director noted that on conclusion, the national start-up policy will streamline small and young businesses’ operations. 

“Tunisia has one of the best start-ups policies and they are doing well. When you go to Cairo, a similar thing is happening and bearing results. Beyond start-up policy, can we position Uganda as a benchmark of start-ups regionally and across the continent,” Mr Muyanja said, adding; “Uganda is a home of over 5 million refugees, showing our welcoming nature. If we can welcome businesses in the same way we welcome refugees, then we shall thrive as a country. This is our thought at PSFU and we have shared it widely. We need to position ourselves and go after the available opportunities across the continent.” 

According to Keneth Twesigye, the lead policy at Startup Uganda, this policy, when concluded and implemented, will shield Ugandan entrepreneurs from unfair competition. 

“Several multinationals come here and get several business facilitation privileges yet not so much is done for local start-ups. We believe that with this policy, Ugandan start-ups will have a chance to compete favorable on the market as it will not only establish what they need but also how to get support. 

A startup can be defined as new entity of at least 12 months old that applies innovation or technology to develop a disruptive process, product or service that is scalable or has growth potential to commercialise. 
In the context of Uganda, such a business must meet some of this criterion; has a temporary management structure, spends part of its budget on research and development, is Ugandan owned by majority and is locally incorporated in Uganda. ​

While Uganda has several start-ups employing hundreds of youth and women, these businesses continue to be hampered by low innovation, stagnated growth, low startup scalability, low startup sustainability, and unfair competition. It is these evils that the National Start Up Policy comes to cure. 

“This is a private sector initiative, we need to own it and make it work.  The start-up policy will build on all our other interventions. The policy is extremely critical as it will help protect interests of our local businesses,” Arnold Byaruhanga, a representative of the Mastercard Foundation noted. 

Relatedly, Mr Boniface Okot, the Youth MP for Northern Uganda, a few months ago presented a Start-Up Act as a private bill in the Uganda Parliament. At that time, he noted that the Start-up Act is one of the progressive legislative interventions and incentives for young people to actively participate in matters of socio-economic transformation.