Emyooga, five years down the road

Belinda Atim Michaels

What you need to know:

  • Granted, there have been negative reports about Emyooga, which was expected, given that members were mobilized from all walks of life, each one with his or her own motive.

During his presidential tour of 2019, President Museveni launched the Presidential Initiative on Job and Wealth Creation, locally known as Emyooga.

The initiative was inspired by the people’s lamentations over the high interest rates charged on loans by commercial banks and money lenders, some as high as forty percent per month.

Through Emyooga, it was hoped that the target beneficiaries would have easy access to affordable financial services to boost their businesses and ultimately, their incomes.

The Microfinance Support Centre (MSC )was tasked with mobilising the masses according to thirteen specialized trades namely: boda-bodas, welders, carpenters, market vendors, restaurant owners, taxi operators, produce dealers, mechanics, tailors, journalists, performing artists, fishermen, and salon operators.

Also added to the list were five special interest categories, including: women entrepreneurs, youth leaders, persons with disabilities, veterans and elected leaders.

So, what has the program achieved five years down the road?

Cumulative savings of 83 billion shillings. By placing a ‘save first before access’ condition, the program’s beneficiaries have slowly adopted a culture of savings. Now individual members can access quick funds directly from their respective SACCOs to meet their enterprises’ operational needs.

Access to affordable loans – Emyooga SACCOs lend to their members at an interest rate of approximately 0.7 percent per month.

Employment creation – apart from creating direct employment to the program’s beneficiaries, a number of Ugandans have gained or maintained their income streams indirectly. 

Skilling – the Emyooga program has opened opportunities for members and non-members to acquire a number of hands-on skills. 

Education for members’ children – in all the Emyooga SACCOs currently active, there are testimonies from parents about their ability to take their children to school, especially private schools, which is a dream come true for them.

A member of the Adjumani West Women Entrepreneurs SACCO recounts how she watched her children sit home for almost three years due to lack of school fees.

Now, however, two of her children are in private schools while the rest are in government schools, with hopes of joining their siblings in the future.

Peer to peer learning – towards the end of 2023, the Microfinance Support Centre initiated the Emyooga Exchange Program, where SACCO leaders were taken on a learning visit to good performing Emyooga and non-Emyooga SACCOs at no cost.

The exchange visit played a tremendous role in changing the mindset of the leaders. They heard about the challenges that the well-established SACCOs suffered in their infancy and how they grew to their current status.

They picked practical lessons in corporate governance, financial management and book-keeping, which had been a challenge for many of them. The leaders returned to their respective places greatly inspired to grow their SACCOs and transform the lives of their members.

Some, like the leaders of Adjumani Women Entrepreneurs, called for a meeting of members to share their learning experience and together resolved that members ought to buy shares worth 10,000 shillings per year to instill a sense of ownership of their SACCO.

Relationship building – Emyooga beneficiaries report making friends and associating with people they never would have met were it not for the program.

The association further serves as a source of mental and emotional stress relief because members have thousands of listening ears at their disposal to share personal or business challenges.

The Kapchorwa Tailors SACCO, for instance, will quickly tell anyone who cares to listen about the power of association in safeguarding one’s mental health. The women testify to looking happier and healthier as a result of the close relationships they have formed through the program.  

Granted, there have been negative reports about Emyooga, which was expected, given that members were mobilized from all walks of life, each one with his or her own motive.

Additionally, and rather sad to say, there are politicians who have de-campaigned the program since it was launched in 2019. Some have told their constituents to ‘eat’ the money, while others have discouraged their constituents from joining the SACCOs.

Nevertheless, there will always be roses even among the thorns. Today, I have chosen to focus on the roses, and ask that you do too. 

Ms Belinda Atim Michaels, MCIPR | Senior Public Relations Officer, The Microfinance Support Centre Ltd
[email protected]