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Missing link between budget and entrepreneurs

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Japheth  Kawanguzi. 

The budget illustrates a commitment to growth, emphasizing crucial sectors like health, education, and industrial development. Significant allocations such as Shs2.946 trillion for health and Shs2.497 trillion for STEM education, reflect the government’s dedication to enhancing infrastructure and human resources. 

Additionally, initiatives to establish industrial parks and bolster infrastructure aim at attracting significant foreign direct investment, positioning the GDP growth target at a commendable 6 per cent. 
Entrepreneurs are the engine of economic dynamism globally, and Uganda is no exception.  They introduce fresh ideas, create jobs, and propel innovation. With 78 percent of Uganda’s population under the age of 30, there exists immense potential for economic expansion driven by innovation and entrepreneurship. Engaging this demographic will determine the trajectory of our growth. 
We must no longer plan for them as if they are outside the solution, for soon they will be the leaders tackling our current challenges.
Realising our full economic potential hinges on creating a nurturing environment for young entrepreneurs. 

Historically, Uganda has shown goodwill in supporting young people through programmes like the Youth Livelihood Programme and Emyooga funds. However, there is a gap between the availability of funds and accessibility. For instance, out of the allocated Shs100 billion, only Shs18.4 billion has been disbursed, highlighting the need for improved accessibility.

Entrepreneurship and small business development are vital to local, regional, and national economies. They drive job creation, economic diversity, and improve overall   quality of life. Entrepreneurship also plays a pivotal role in reducing poverty and narrowing economic disparities and fostering community cohesion. Traditional strategies for attracting large corporations have proven inadequate. Research indicates that entrepreneurs and young enterprises are indispensable for sustained economic growth and employment opportunities.

Enhancing budget 
To  maximise the effectiveness of the current FY2024/25 budget for young entrepreneurs, several strategies should be considered: 

1. Enhancing financial accessibility
Ensure effective distribution of resources through micro-loan schemes featuring lower interest rates and extended repayment periods facilitated through innovative FinTech partnerships. These alliances can accelerate the growth of alternative investment vehicles already in use, broadening access.  This approach also involves expanding financial options such as micro-loans, venture capital, matching funds, and angel investment networks, enticing diverse stakeholders to participate through a national start-up fund that considers the venture stage and risk level.  
2. Beyond capacity building
Broaden the network of incubators, accelerators, and innovation hubs across the country. Increase funding for existing programmes and establish new ones in under-served regions, transforming traditional incubators into Small Business Development Centres. This rebranding aims to support mainstream businesses by addressing their specific growth needs, including adopting modern practices like EFRIS, enhancing compliance, formalising business operations, securing financing and forging strategic partnerships, with technology adoption as a complementary, not, central focus.   

State Minister for Investment and Privatisation Evelyne Anite tours the fabric area at Motiv. PHOTO / Stephen Otage

3. Streamlining regulatory processes
Simplify business registration by minimsing bureaucratic obstacles and implementing efficient online registration systems. Adopt policies that reduce compliance costs, recognising that startups are tomorrow’s established enterprises.

4. Fostering a knowledge
Supporting entrepreneurs accelerates the adoption of new technologies across sectors, boosting productivity and efficiency. Startups, through their focus on research and development (R&D), drive innovation, thereby enhancing Uganda’s capability to innovate locally.  
By nurturing the entrepreneurial ecosystem, Uganda can achieve unprecedented growth and innovation, driving towards a more resilient and diversified economy.

In conclusion, fostering entrepreneurship is paramount to unlocking Uganda’s economic potential. Strategic support to young entrepreneurs and closer integration of the private sector into the growth process can leverage Uganda’s demographic dividend into a powerful engine for sustainable development. Urgent action is needed focusing on structural reforms, targeted incentives, and comprehensive support systems. 

Japheth  Kawanguzi is the chief executive officer of Innovation Village.