By Alejandra Rios

ConsumerCentriX recently interviewed entrepreneurs in Kampala, to learn about their current challenges, coping mechanisms, and urgent needs in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Below are some highlights from those conversations.

Local measures impacted most entrepreneurs

  • Lockdown, shutdown, and social distancing are top of mind measures for all entrepreneurs. The direct consequences of these measures include a drastic decline in daily sales, an increase in the price of goods, and a reduction in the supply of those goods, which has resulted in loss of revenue for most.
  • The reduction in revenue has additional consequences, including difficulties to pay business rent, bank loans, suppliers, employee salaries, and family expenses.
  • COVID-19 has affected the entire value chain, from suppliers being unable to deliver on existing orders or contracts due to logistical challenges to wholesalers and retailers that stocked up when the pandemic was first announced, and now many are suffering for not generating enough income to pay back to suppliers.

SMEs’s coping strategies

  • SMEs in Uganda are using a variety of different strategies to avoid permanent closure, including keeping in close contact with suppliers, placing and accepting orders via phone, delivering products by motorcycle, and even using their personal Facebook accounts to market their products or services.
  • Other SME owners have downsized, temporarily closed, reduced the number of employees or laid off employees. They stopped stocking up general goods, and have instead focused on stocking fast-moving goods. A number of them based in Kampala have also decided to send their families to their home villages to work in agriculture as a way of diversifying income and reducing family expenses.
  • Some are also suspending payments on bank loans or withdrawing funds from their savings accounts (in many cases, these funds were meant to pay for school fees) to save their businesses from being evicted.

What  SMEs urgently need

  • To survive this crisis, SMEs need urgent flexible and affordable financing and non-financial support to help them to become more resilient and adapt to the new market conditions.
  • While optimistic by nature, entrepreneurs would benefit from building their skills in things like how to keep in touch and negotiate with their suppliers; how to communicate with and deliver to their customers; how to digitalize their businesses; and how to manage their operational expenses such as employee salaries. An equally important topic would center around how to keep mental well-being in these times of crisis.

Meet the Business Info Hub

In this context, ConsumerCentriX in partnership with Stanbic Bank recently launched the COVID 19 Business Info Hub, a platform designed to help entrepreneurs navigate the changing environment.

The Business Info Hub provides entrepreneurs with insights and tools to better manage their businesses.  In partnership with the African Management Institute (AMI), entrepreneurs can also access a suite of programs through their COVID-19 Business Survival Bootcamp, ranging from cash-flow forecasting to adjusting products or services for new customer segments, and from repurposing existing assets to meditation sessions that help promote mental well-being.

We invite you to explore the to find the tools most appropriate for your own situation. And if you don’t find what you need, just let us know so we can try to find the best way to help you!