Several stakeholders in Uganda’s innovation space have over the years been scratching their heads to find out key reasons as to why there are high attrition rates for young start-ups.
This has been a formidable task undertaken by experts at National Social Security Fund (NSSF) and MasterCard Foundation, who contend that by spotting these bottlenecks, efficient mechanisms can be crafted to ensure their redress.
For close to two years now, NSSF and MasterCard Foundation have popularized several initiatives, which they believe will effectively outdo a vicious cycle of collapse for young businesses in Uganda’s entrepreneurial space.
In close collaboration, the two entities launched comprehensive mechanisms to educate Uganda’s young population on business management practices, through the famous NSSF Hi-Innovator Initiative.
The Hi-Innovator intervention strategy was launched by Mr. Richard Byaruhanga, the outgoing NSSF Managing Director in May 2021 to create a favorable ecosytem through which small indigenous, but viable businesses are aided to grow into scalable and sustainable enterprises.
While delivering his speech during the launch of the Hi Innovator intervention strategy, Mr. Byaruhanga pointed out several reasons for the failure of small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in Uganda.
These according to him include; poor leadership practices, poor record keeping, poor financial management, duplication of business ideas by others, inadequate adoption of technology to scale, inadequate access to expertize and limited access to financing.
Since then, NSSF and MasterCard Foundation have not only pumped billions of shillings into young businesses, but also provided training in business management practices to the youth.
They have also gone an extra mile of providing techinical support to young businesses during their operation and also link them with other possible funders.
Important still, NSSF and MasterCard Foundation have since May 2021 launched several awareness campaigns about the initiative by taking part in a series of business-linked events in Uganda to raise consciousness amongst the population about the seed funding initiative.
For instance, this year, NSSF was one of the sponsors of the 5th annual KTA business investment symposium which took place at Commonwealth Resort Munyonyo on October 20th, 2022.
During the symposium, the deputy NSSF Managing Director Patrick Ayota announced that NSSF would launch a fully-fledged women seed funding initiative.
This was confirmed during the Uganda Innovation week organized by the two entities in close collaboration with other key players in Uganda’s innovation space at Mestil Hotel Nsambya on November 22nd, 2022.
The event brought together several young innovators in Uganda’s entrepreneurial space who deliberated several ways of strengthening innovation ecosystems in the country, major focus put on how to ensure the survival of young businesses.
During the event, NSSF and MasterCard Foundation officially launched an all out women Hi-Innovator seed funding initiative to stimulate the partipation of the female gender in business initiatives.
“There is low participation of women in business because of the way females are looked at culturally. They have limited ownership to property, limited access to inheritance, cannot produce collateral security to access loans in banks, and most of them have been confined to house work,” noted Patrick Ayota.
Since its launch in May 2021, the Hi-Innovator seed funding initiative has benefited a vast array of young businesses in Uganda, taking everyone by surprise.
As asserted by Patrick Zulu the chairperson for Startup Uganda, the intervention has groomed a total of 120,000 businesses since its inception.
Some of these entities have benefited financially, while others have gained expertise after enrolling into the NSSF Hi-Innovator Business Academy, which is the first step to access these funds. It is an online self-directed platform that facilities training in business operation practices.
“We have the first step chiefly to prepare you for the next step which is the accelerator, for instance; how do we help you from being informal to formal,” said Zulu.
After participating in the online business academy for a period of not more than three weeks, one can then apply for the funding.
Note has to be taken that every start-up that emerges winner after the pitching process automatically receives USD. 20,000.
For any business to qualify for this funding, it must have been operational for a period of not more, or less than two years, must employ two permanent workers, must not have raised more than UGX. 10 billion in the last two year, among other conditions.
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