Dfcu Bank boosting women at all levels

Some of the women entreprenuers who attended a recent study trip in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo/Courtesy of Dcfu Bank

What you need to know:

  • Rising Woman initiative, which was birthed in 2018 to recognise, celebrate, and promote a culture of mentorship among women in the business space in Uganda. 

The 2023 Global Gender Gap Report indicates that it will take up to 131 years to close the global gender gap. It also shows that the gender gaps in economic participation and opportunity remain high for countries worldwide. 

On a positive note, the report indicates that sub-Saharan Africa has closed 67.2 percent of the gender gap on the Economic Participation and Opportunity sub-index. 

In Uganda, women make up 51 percent of the population and own 38.4 percent of registered Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

Despite the government’s dedication to gender parity, Uganda stands in the 78th position in The Global Gender Gap Index 2023 rankings, one position behind its neighbour, Kenya.

To align with the 2024 International Women’s Day theme: Invest in women: accelerate progress, organisations must arise to support the government’s efforts. 

Through various programmes, Dfcu Bank works to empower Ugandan women to remove the barriers in the various sectors. 

One of these is the Rising Woman initiative, which was birthed in 2018 to recognise, celebrate, and promote a culture of mentorship among women in the business space in Uganda. 

It is done in partnership with Daily Monitor, Uganda Investment Authority and Uganda Airlines. 

Over the years, Dfcu Bank has invested more than Shs1.2b in the Rising Woman Initiative, in the form of mentorship programmes, skilling sessions and exhibitions, which lead to increased market and visibility for women entrepreneurs in Uganda.

The impact thus far is undeniable as it has benefited more than 60,000 women directly and more than one million virtually. This is through various programmes such as regional power trainings, live TV talk shows, proposal writing competitions and mentorship trips within the region.

Getting into specifics, the reach stretches to 30,000 women-led/owned enterprises while 6,000 women entrepreneurs were financed and equipped with financial literacy and are thriving in a network of like-minded women eager to share experiences and insights. 

30 enterprises across borders have been mentored while more than 500 business proposals were received and Shs120m of seed capital granted to winners in the last six years.

While Ms Irene Mugenyi had always loved financial independence, it did not come easy. 

Delving into poultry keeping and piggery, the expenses ate into the profits, making it impossible to build infrastructure to house the birds and animals. 

Soon, disaster struck and 80 of her broilers died. While she recovered from the loss, a lot more needed to be done to make it a profitable business. She found this in the Rising Woman training of 2019.

“Attending this training was a blessing...For instance, I learned that partnerships and networking are key to creating a wider source of information, support, and avenues for growth,” she said. 

Ms Irene Walimbwa, a bamboo farmer from Mbale credits the Rising Woman Initiative for equipping her with confidence and knowledge. 

“Having been one of the top ten winners in that season... I ...learned a lot such as the essence of record keeping for business longevity,” she said.

Ms Christine Atieno Muga, the founder of Mt Elgon Women Specialty Coffee, remembers her journey to the top of the Rising Woman Initiative vividly. However, the pitching moment stands out as she was told, “Don’t confine your business to the bedroom; bring it to the sitting room.”

Emerging one of the winners, she said the study tour to Nairobi enabled them learn more from other businesswomen. 

Ms Sandra Ejang was the winner of the 2019 season of the Rising Woman edition, which came with a lot of business visibility, coupled with money that facilitated expansion. 

“We opened an outlet in Kisementi, bought a new bike for deliveries and a 50kg capacity honey press,” she said. 

“The trip created partnerships that positively impacted the business to create market access for other women in business in Uganda,” she said.

Apart from empowering women externally, dfcu Bank is also empowering its female employees because the words of Mahatma Gandhi: “You want to change the world, start with yourself”, ring true. 

That is reflected in having 78 percent of the bank’s executive committee and 51 percent of its 1,000-plus staff being women.

Some of  Dfcu’s top female executives
Kate K Kiiza

Ms Kiiza is a chief financial officer and executive director who joined Dfcu Bank in 2015 as the chief financial officer. Her career spans over 14 years in senior finance roles including financial controller and chief financial officer at Shell Uganda Limited (now Vivo Energy) and chief financial officer at United Bank for Africa. She has a wealth of experience in finance management and business leadership.

Doreen Byaruhanga
She is a chief corporate and institutional banking officer and a professional banker with more than 20 years of experience. 

Ms Byaruhanga has worked in  four African countries in business and credit. 

Starting her career at Barclays Bank Uganda in 2001, Ms Byaruhanga quickly moved up the ranks to lead the Trade Finance team before moving to corporate credit. 

She worked at Stanbic Bank Uganda for 11 years, then joined Equity Bank and later Dfcu Bank.

Angelina Namakula-Ofwono
She is the chief legal officer and company secretary at Dfcu Bank. 

Ms Namakula-Ofwono joined the bank in 2019 and boasts of legal experience in banking, corporate matters. among others. 
She previously worked with Barclays Bank of Uganda Ltd (now Absa Bank Uganda Limited), Uganda Law Society, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions as a State Attorney.

Annette Kiconco
Ms Kiconco is  the chief retail banking officer at Dfcu. 

She has 20 years of banking experience with strong attributes in business strategy formulation and development, governance, customer service excellence, and risk management.

She joined Dfcu Bank as chief retail banking officer in February 2024, where she will be the executive head responsible for driving and delivering strategy through personal, commercial and enterprise banking segments.
Previously, Ms Kiconco worked at Stanbic Bank, Orient Bank and  Absa Bank (formerly Barclays Bank) where she worked for 18 years in various roles, the last one being the acting retail banking director. 

Maryann Wanjiku Michuki
Ms Michuki is the  chief business solutions and marketing officer who has has over 15 years of experience across several industries including financial services, telco, service, and manufacturing.
She has experience working both internally within the corporate world and in an external advisory capacity, enriching the unique skillset she brings on-board dfcu.
Her career started at Safaricom Plc, before switching to advisory, managing and growing a $4m portfolio of clients as general manager at Squad Digital, a WPP company. 
In 2020, Ms Michuki joined Stanbic Bank - Kenya as head of innovation. 

Margaret Karume
Ms Karume is a chief credit officer at Dfcu Bank and a seasoned banker with more than 30 years of experience.  She started her banking career in Barclays Bank Kenya (now ABSA Bank) and later joined NIC Bank (now NCBA Bank Group). 
Her exceptional leadership skills echo in the banking industry in Kenya and more recently in the United Republic of Tanzania, where she led the first voluntary merger between two legacy banks giving rise to NCBA Tanzania Limited. 
She served on the board of NIC Bank Tanzania and later NCBA Bank Tanzania Limited as the Managing Director. 

Before that, Ms Karume was the Director Credit Risk of NIC Bank Kenya (now NCBA Bank Group). She currently sits on the Investment Committee of adOpes Kenya.