Assessing the Business Opportunity of Women's Market for Financial Services in Uzbekistan

ConsumerCentriX Project Team
September 26th, 2023
Area Covered:
Uzbekistan • Central Asia
Financial Inclusion • Women’s Financial Inclusion • Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) • Financial Regulation  • Research

Uzbekistan has recently witnessed significant economic growth and development, creating new opportunities for financial services providers. One emerging and untapped area is the women’s market for financial services.

To delve into this potential business opportunity, the International Finance Cooperation hired ConsumerCentriX to conduct a comprehensive market research study to assess the viability and dynamics of catering financial and non-financial products and services specifically to women in Uzbekistan. The study aims to provide a 360° understanding of the women’s market for financial and additional non-financial services examining demand-side needs and preferences, supply-side readiness, and the conducive state of the underlying enabling environment.

The research was conducted over six months and involved a mix of qualitative and quantitative methodologies using principles of Human-Centered Design (HCD). Through surveys, focus group discussions and in-depth interviews, the CCX team assessed the demand side of the women’s market and offered distinct insights on women both as individuals and as entrepreneurs. The sample size was strategically chosen to ensure representation from urban and rural areas (retail segment) and women SMEs at different stages of business growth (business segment), all the while covering women from different socio-economic backgrounds, age groups and occupations.

Several Key Insights:

  • The majority of women entrepreneurs pointed out access to finance as a significant obstacle to their current operations, and while most claim banks to be their first choice when it comes to borrowing, the actual integration of women entrepreneurs into the formal sector remains low.
  • For investments planned in the near future, most women’s businesses intend to finance their activities from sources perceived as more suitable and approachable than FIs.
  • Current formal lending options are often regarded as too expensive to finance and too risky to lose collateral – that they often do not even have.
  • Often facing time and mobility constraints, women as individuals unanimously expressed a strong need for more convenient and speedy service, including digital (mobile) options. These women also expressed a robust interest in working with FIs to plan a more secure financial future – and for the financial stability of their families, their children’s education is considered the key investment.
  • With a strong preference for keeping their savings in cash, most women seem to have not yet been convinced of the benefits of savings with financial institutions. Similarly, only a small minority have borrowed from formal sources while informal means play a significant role.
  • Current market offers mostly provide banking as a commodity, leaving an opportunity to provide more value for women as individuals and as entrepreneurs. The few dedicated products for women still reflect a program-driven focus on loans rather than a broader value proposition.
  • Aside from these specialized loan products, there are no other types of specialized products for women that involve deposits and savings, insurance, or payments and money transfer arrangements, or women-specific bundles of such services.
  • The non-financial services also have a narrow functional focus. At the same time, Uzbekistan is rapidly becoming a focus for digital financial services providers.

The Uzbek enabling environment presents a mixed picture of strong socio-cultural limitations as well as the substantially supportive digital driver, which is strengthening female financial inclusion. While the country’s legal and regulatory framework and the existing support systems are currently more neutral drivers, both areas offer the potential to significantly move the needle for women navigating their way through the Uzbek financial sector.

Learn more from the report: Market Research to Assess the Business Opportunity of Women’s Markets for Financial Services in Uzbekistan.

AFI Special Report • Blog: In times of crisis, Financial Inclusion with a focus on Women is not a distraction but actually a force- multiplier

Benedikt Wahler, Partner
June 16th, 2023
Area Covered:
Financial Inclusion • Women’s Financial Inclusion • Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) • Financial Regulation • Crisis Response • Resilience Building • Research

In times of crisis, Financial Inclusion with a focus on Women is not a distraction but actually a force- multiplier – as highlighted by a new Special Report of the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI) prepared by CCX. The COVID-19 pandemic has not just been a call to action but also a hotbed of innovation, testing and learning.

A new Special Report published by AFI, analyses the global set of experiences of financial sector policymakers, regulators and financial institutions, and provides recommendations: financial inclusion policy, particularly with a focus on Gender Inclusive Finance (GIF) leads to more effective policy response when a crisis is on as well as faster recovery and better resilience to future crises. In other words: a focus on women is the way to Build Back Better in the financial sector.

Gaps between women and men in the access to and usage of formal financial services, such as bank accounts, credit facilities, and insurance remain large and in a few regions were even growing. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Gender Inclusive Finance (GIF), therefore, was a policy priority in many emerging markets. Already in 2016, the members of the Alliance for Finance Inclusion – central banks and financial regulatory institutions from 76 developing countries –  committed to halving these gender gaps in the Denarau Action Plan. But a fast-moving crisis that disrupted social and economic life might seem to suggest such priorities have to wait.

With deep-dive research, extensive stakeholder interviews, a survey of one-third of AFI members and the financial inclusion policy and solution design expertise of our team, ConsumerCentriX (CCX) supported AFI to explore the nexus of women’s financial inclusion and crisis response in the project “Closing the Financial Inclusion Gender Gap During the Crisis and Afterward”.

The evidence from pioneering AFI member experiences is clear and borne out in macroeconomic data and numbers of active users of financial services. Without a focus on women as the largest group of at-risk, under-served citizens, crises linger, recovery is slower and less stable, and countries can catch a case of “economic long-COVID”.

AFI members like Paraguay, Fiji, Egypt, Bangladesh, Zimbabwe, Togo, Ghana, and Rwanda show that even under the pressures of crisis, Gender Inclusive Finance should be in focus. It helps set the right priorities, mobilise the most impactful set of stakeholders, identify the key operational challenges, and target beneficiaries with a large multiplier effect. Enabled by the opportunities of digital finance that can be ramped up fast even for poor countries that had so far seen limited adoption, GIF gets crisis relief and stimulus to where it is needed most and makes sure economic life can continue.

Some of the key recommendations for policymakers and financial services providers include:

Policymakers (central banks, regulators, supervisors)

  • Support the development and use of digital financial services as an enabler and crisis-proofing of financial sector operations. Benchmarked against women’s needs and constraints, it will deliver the widest adoption – especially in areas likely the hardest to reach in times of crisis. For example, one of Africa’s poorer and smaller economies, Togo was able to launch payments to informal workers – many of them women -within 14 days and ramp it up to 1 in 5 adults.
  • Make sure that new users who signed up during the crisis remain active users of formal (digital) financial services – and don’t revert to cash or informal practices. Women as financial managers of the household are key. Incentives, financial literacy, and consumer protection can help entrench these new practices of using financial services. What counts most are reliable, lost-cost everyday use cases: sending money to family and friends, paying for groceries – enable such ecosystems so that money that arrives from government support remains cashless.

Financial services providers (banks, MFIs, Fintechs, insurance companies)

  • Building cashflow-based and digitally-enabled lending solutions ahead of a crisis makes the short-term liquidity support easier to deploy when crises hit. Women, as consistently better re-payers even in times of a global pandemic, are loyal clients, and as the financial managers of their households, they should be at the center of efforts to create these lending solutions. Using human-centred design that focuses on their needs and constraints is the approach to get it right.
  • Partner with other organizations to promote financial inclusion for women, such as NGOs, government agencies, or business development skills providers where possible to enhance your reach among women. This can be done through providing non-financial services, such as business development training tailored to the needs of women entrepreneurs.
  • Actively engage regulators in financial inclusion working groups to help shape Gender Inclusive Finance and be able to draw on established lines of communication and collaboration when crisis hits. This will lead to pragmatic and impactful policies.

In addition to the 5 case studies that are already published, ConsumerCentriX and the Alliance for Financial Inclusion will soon also share a policy toolkit to operationalize the recommendations from the special report. Stay tuned for more updates.

To access the report, visit:  “Closing the Financial Inclusion Gender Gap During the Crisis and Afterwards” project special report.

Photographer; Financial Administrative Officer; Consultant; Local Advisor

Request for Proposal for Local Market Research Firm in Guatemala

Request for Proposal for Local Market Research Firm in Guatemala

Issued Tuesday, August 9, 2022
Proposal due Tuesday, August 30, 2022


The present Request for Proposal (RFP) is open to all Guatemala-based firms that can and are able to provide the requested services described further below and have the legal capacity to deliver these services the country.

1        Background

CCX Inclusive Business (CCX IB) is currently working on a project to assess market conditions and identify gaps and opportunities in financial services use among low-income and marginalized populations, especially women, as well as to advance digital financial inclusion in Guatemala.

2        Objectives & Responsibilities

The research firm will be responsible for recruitment, logistics, and research activities for market research with target segments in Guatemala.

Main activities:

  • Draft questionnaire/interview guides with moderator instructions for focus groups and individual interviews
  • Source and recruit research participants for focus groups, individual interviews, phone / online survey, and/or other formats as needed
  • Secure research venues as needed and appropriate in the current health climate
  • Facilitate qualitative research sessions according to CCX IB methodology
  • Provide regular updates and reporting on research activities to CCX IB
  • Generate interview transcripts within 24 hours of every session, and provide video footage if required for the assignment
  • Ensure translation services for indigenous (Mayan) language conversations where necessary
  • Support or lead analysis of the research, including identifying relevant insights and making recommendations based on the findings
  • Develop a presentation on key findings

The team has broadly estimated the need for between 18 and 22 focus groups followed up by individual interviews with certain participants based on broad criteria critical to achieving the objectives of this project. The team anticipates individual interviews will consist of testing a service or solution.


  • Key findings presentation that includes:
    • Report on all activities conducted
    • Profiles of target segments including income level, income sources (labor and non-labor), other socio-economic information
    • Information on current needs, preferences, and behaviours related to financial and non-financial services by target segment, including both household and business
    • Overview of most relevant gaps in servicing target segments and potential entry points for financial service providers
    • Description of tested service or solution, including ideation process, prototype features and target segment perspectives, as well as marketing tactics

3        Project Team

The research firm will work with the CCX IB team, including a local team member, as well as with the Project Manager in New York city and Research Lead based in the Dominican Republic. The research firm will report to the Project Manager and Research Lead and work closely with local team member.

4        Duration of Consultancy

The expected start of this project will be September 2022. Activities are expected to run through October 2022.

5        Location of Work

The selected consultant will have an office in Ciudad de Guatemala and accessibility to the selected regions of the country where the investigation will take place (exact regions to be determined). All research will take place in locations convenient for the target participants.

6        Minimum Qualifications

  • Based locally, with offices in Ciudad de Guatemala
  • Proven track record in research design, field-based qualitative research, and analysis of findings among vulnerable populations
  • Experience conducting research in financial services
  • Fluency in English, Spanish, and local languages (Mayan)
  • Strong English-language writing skills are a plus

7        To Apply

Applications must be received no later than August 30 at 11:59pmEST. Please Send electronically to and with “RFP Request for Proposal for Market Research Firm in Guatemala” as the subject line.

Please submit a short proposal detailing the firm’s experience in conducting qualitative research with vulnerable populations and/or for the financial services sector. Please include a proposed budget with a cost estimate per focus group and individual interview for urban, secondary urban, and rural locations.

9       Overview of the Evaluation Process

Submissions will be evaluated based on:

  • Compliance with minimum qualifications and other requirements set forth in this RFP
  • Qualifications and experience of both company & proposed personnel
  • Price quote

This RFP does not guarantee or commit CCX IB to proceeding with the above-described job. Due to the overwhelming responses, not all candidates will be contacted. If you have any questions, please send them to Laura Trueba at


About CCX IB

CCX Inclusive Business (CCX IB) is a strategy consulting firm, based in Geneva, Switzerland, that works with financial service providers and policymakers on translating consumer insights into market strategies and policies to reach the un/underserved.

Our mission is to develop scalable solutions that are based on deep insights into the lives, needs and constraints of un/underserved people in emerging markets to improve their livelihoods and create opportunities for economic growth. To accomplish this mission, we focus on Entrepreneurship and SME Development, Inclusive Finance (including gender-intelligent finance), and Policy Dialogue and Regulation. We are a young and growing company with international partners and staff working in fast-paced and often changing environments.

We have delivered over 60 projects reaching more than 8 million previously unbanked clients in both the largest emerging markets and the poorest landlocked countries.

ConsumerCentriX Contributes to Unlocking the Power and Potential of Women’s Financial Inclusion Data

ConsumerCentriX Contributes to Unlocking the Power and Potential of Women's Financial Inclusion Data

The female economy is the largest, fast-growing market representing a multi-trillion-dollar opportunity. However, despite significant progress made in expanding access to financial services, women remain unserved by the financial sector. Lack of quality sex-disaggregated data is a major barrier to women’s financial inclusion. Financial service providers (FSPs) and financial regulators are data-driven organizations but not always when it comes to collecting and using gender data.

ConsumerCentriX (CCX) conducted country-level sex-disaggregated supply-side data collection that contributed to the development of the “Gender Data for Financial Inclusion,” a report commission by the Women’s Financial Inclusion Data (WFID) Partnership that assessed the state of gender data and women’s financial inclusion in Bangladesh, Honduras, Kenya, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Turkey. The WFID Partnership is a coalition to improve the availability, production, and use of sex-disaggregated data to promote women’s financial inclusion.

CCX assessed data from their vast network of regulators, FSPS, and other key stakeholders in order to design, prioritize and manage interventions that address gaps in women’s financial inclusion. Mapping the ecosystem of financial services, identifying opportunities and building coalitions of national stakeholders is essential when driving action for women’s financial inclusion. The country research in the report provides a detailed mapping of the supply-side ecosystem helping to pinpoint the key stakeholders that are well-positioned to advance inclusive financial services for women using gender-disaggregated data.

Sex-disaggregated data is essential for driving solutions and policies that promote women’s financial inclusion.

– Anna Gincherman, Partner  at ConsumerCentriX

The research calculated the women’s market opportunity in each country in order to build the business case for the financial sector. The annual revenue opportunity for reaching unbanked or underserved women in the six countries is staggering and ranges from an estimated $352M USD in Kenya to $1,159M USD in Turkey. Even given the limitations in incomplete gender data sources, CCX calculations suggest that there is a strong potential for market revenue gains if FSPs were to maximize their women’s market opportunities ranging from 2 percent in Turkey to 25 percent in Honduras. And by increasing the availability of supply-side data, business case metrics could be further leveraged.


Sharing Our Learnings: You Can Only Monitor What You Measure

Findings from the research were shared at a webinar on June 14th hosted by WFID in partnership with The Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI), Data2X, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the Financial Alliance for Women, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Women’s Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative (We-Fi), and the UN Capital Development Fund (UNCDF). The event celebrated the progress made in advancing women’s financial inclusion data in these six countries.

Speakers from the event included Antoinette Sayeh (Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund), Rebecca Ruf (EVP of Programs at Financial Alliance for Women), Elsie Addo Awadzi (Deputy Governor of Bank of Ghana), Tukiya Kankasa-Mabula (Former Deputy Governor of Bank of Zambia), Greta Bull (Director of Women’s Economic Empowerment at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), and Inez Murray (CEO of the Financial Alliance for Women). The event was moderated by Mayra Buvinic (Senior Fellow of the United Nations Foundation with Data2X).

The panel discussions focused on country regulators and financial inclusion experts who have been taking bold steps forward when it comes to use of gender data. They have been working with FSPs to better understand the women’s market, drive revenue for businesses, and build more inclusive growth for society.

From a policy maker perspective, we have to understand who is being excluded and what services work differently for whom. We need sex-disaggregated data to answer these questions. There is no alternative.

– Mr. Md. Abul Bashar, Bangladesh Bank

Panel I included speakers from CCX collaborators:  Sophia Abu (Central Bank of Nigeria), Md. Abul Bashar (Bangladesh Bank), Alba Luz Valladares O’Connor (Comisión Nacional de Bancos y Seguros Honduras) moderated by Wendy Teleki (Head of We-Fi Secretariat at the World Bank).

The first panel highlighted the importance of collecting standardized data in order to build convincing evidence on the women’s market opportunity and design effective policies and products. Without regulated mechanics for data collection, standardization is very difficult. A productive first step towards collecting better metrics is updating the regulatory institution’s dashboards and templates in order to capture higher quality data to advance specific products that meet women’s needs. All three speakers highlighted the importance of the WFID partnership in supporting them to build the mechanisms to collect quality gender-disaggregated data.

There’s a lot of data that’s already being collected and submitted by the financial services providers – we’re working with them to develop a women’s financial inclusion dashboard alongside the WFID partnership to show the business case to serve the women’s segment—once they see its good business, there will be more products and services tailored for the women’s segment.

– Sophia Abu, Central Bank of Nigeria

Speakers from Panel II included Melsa Ararat (Corporate Governance Forum of Turkey), Tamara Cook (CEO of FSD Kenya) moderated by Rosita Najmi (Head of Global Social Innovation at Paypal).

Women are often perceived as not being profitable enough, which makes it difficult for FSPs to justify investments in women-centered products in specific markets. The second panel discussed how improving women’s financial inclusion will require engagement from not only the FSPs, but also across the private and public sectors, along with international organizations, donors, associations, and civil society. Going forward, we should focus on strengthening all stakeholders’ ability to collect, report, and use gender data to increase women’s access to and usage of financial services, while encouraging collaborative thinking and action on the intersecting issues.

Women’s financial inclusion should not just be focused on justifying the business profitability but should also be based on the notion that financial inclusion of women is a public good.

– Melsa Ararat, Corporate Governance Forum of Turkey

Building out quality supply-side and provider-level data on women is vital in order to advance women’s financial inclusion, as highlighted by Greta Bull in her closing remarks. Clarity around what is best to measure, helpful reporting mechanisms and essential changes to FSPs systems are all key in progressing access and usage of formal financial services for women. Ultimately, there is a strong business case for society to serve the women’s market and a need for more coordination and collaboration among all stakeholders in order to develop data driven women’s financial inclusion solutions.

Gender data is primordial to women’s financial inclusion; it shines a light, measures where we are, prompts us to do better, shows us how, builds accountability and potentially shames us into action.

– Inez Murray, CEO of Financial Alliance for Women 

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Tony Otoa

How has Covid-19 affected the Stanbic Business Incubator and How Does it Plan to Respond? Chief Executive Tony Otoa Explains

ConsumerCentriX works closely with Stanbic Bank Uganda on both the COVID-19 Business Info Hub and the Stanbic Business Incubator. This article originally appeared on the COVID-19 Business Info Hub.

How has Covid-19 affected the Stanbic Business Incubator and How Does it Plan to Respond? Chief Executive Tony Otoa Explains

Tony Otoa

Like all businesses, the Stanbic Business Incubator (SBIL) faced a slate of new challenges and obstacles stemming from the pandemic. To understand how the Stanbic Business Incubator navigated these challenges, we sat down with Tony Otoa, SBIL’s Chief Executive. Mr. Otoa provided us with an insider’s perspective on SBIL’s pandemic experience, lessons learned, and projections for Covid-19 recovery.

Mr. Otoa explained that the pandemic afforded SBIL one major lesson: a business must remain agile and adapt to the flow of the new normal. Covid-19 upended traditional business operations, relationships, and practices. Businesses that were unable to adjust and respond to the evolving environment suffered immensely while those that were flexible and adapted practices and operations as things changed flourished. For its part, the Stanbic Business Incubator changed its program development process and how it connects with its clients.

Because of the lockdown, explained Mr. Otoa, SBIL was unable to carry out in-person training, so the team switched to online platforms to complete its mandate of supporting Uganda’s business community. Like in businesses throughout the world, transitioning online heavily impacted how SBIL delivers its services and required a shift in its approach to client relations and communications. The upshot to these challenges was an increase in the number and geographic location of people reached. Pre-pandemic, class sizes were limited to what was allowed by regional training hubs, but the online platforms allowed SBIL to reach many people through the country.

Mr. Otoa believes that SBIL’s Covid-19 recovery started long before the lockdowns were lifted. Stanbic Business Incubator remains focused on supporting businesses to drive and achieve more. Their strategy is to assist businesses in accessing finance, accessing markets, and provide tracking to better understand how to support them better. More importantly, is how this support is delivered. Mr. Otoa stresses the need to blend approaches to best support businesses in the coming period. This means combining online and in-person training to best support their clients while blending business techniques from both the pre- and post-Covid period.

SBIL expects its new chapter to encapsulate the lessons learned from this pandemic period. Namely, the need for agility as they switched to new, online platforms, the new geographic regions and audiences they were able to reach as a result of their online shift and continuing the newly blended approach to continue supporting their clients. All told, Stanbic Business Incubator expects a strong recovery for themselves and for their clients as they step forward into this new period.


Interested in training opportunities with the Stanbic Business Incubator? Incubator Business Manager Sheila Agaba explains upcoming offerings

ConsumerCentriX works closely with Stanbic Bank Uganda on both the COVID-19 Business Info Hub and the Stanbic Business Incubator. This article originally appeared on the COVID-19 Business Info Hub.


Interested in training opportunities with the Stanbic Business Incubator? Incubator Business Manager Sheila Agaba explains upcoming offerings

- Sheila Agaba

Business Manager, Stanbic Business Incubator

The Covid-19 Business Info Hub recently sat down with Sheila Agaba, the Stanbic Business Incubator’s Business Manager to discuss the many training opportunities on offer to small and medium enterprises and aspiring entrepreneurs.  

Ms. Agaba leads Stanbic Business Incubator Limited (SBIL)’s strategy, coordinates partnerships, and tracks SBIL’s impact. During her tenure, she has witnessed some of the pandemic’s major impacts on SBIL’s clients. She notes that small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) struggled throughout the pandemic to access much-needed finance. Viewed as riskier investments by financial institutions, SMEs struggle to secure capital to develop their businesses. To address this challenge, SBIL has implemented various capacity-building trainings to help de-risk SMEs and improve their chances for access to credit.   

The Enterprise Development Programs – which have been rebranded as the Stanbic Accelerator Program, Micro enterprise Development Program and Supplier Development Program. These will have both in-person and online sessions and include both a local and regional focus. These sessions specifically target SMEs at a more intermediate stage of their business journey, such as those that can provide annual turnover reports and other business information. The local program largely supports businesses with the know-how to access capital and markets in the Kampala region. They were shifted fully online when Covid-19 struck for safety reasons. The Micro Enterprise Development Program provides similar support but operates at a national level and targets micro enterprises with 1-2 staff and an average annual turnover of 5M shillings.  

SBIL’s Supplier Development Program is largely geared toward those in the oil and gas industry. This program supports SMEs aiming to qualify as suppliers to larger companies engaged in drilling and other work across the Albertine region. The program supports SMEs to get registered to the national supplier database if not yet registered. This program will support linkages for the beneficiaries to the existing players in the oil camps in order for them to supply companies in drilling and oil and gas construction. This will be conducted with support from local oil companies in the industry. In addition, personal finance modules help SMEs with the necessary principals to arrange both personal and business financing. Similarly, SBIL arranges masterclasses post the trainings for alumni which are information-sharing sessions for about several topics relevant to business growth.  

SBIL’s program Implementation relies on financial support from Stanbic Bank, local and international partners This funding helps SBIL to deliver on the key pillars of access to  capital and market for SMEs. These programs facilitate SMEs develop new product lines, obtain new contracts, and expand into new markets and geographical regions. One of SBIL’s major partners is the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), which focuses on job creation specifically for women and youth. Their target is to create employment for nine hundred people annually through the GIZ partnership. The French Embassy in Uganda is another donor that focuses on supporting SMEs especially youth and women in agroecology and ecotourism. Similarly, the African Development Bank (AfDB) has partnered with SBIL through Petroleum Authority Uganda (PAU) to facilitate and train Business Development Services (BDS) to over 200 SMEs in various sectors along the EACOP route districts – a Ugandan area where the oil and gas pipeline will pass before entering Tanzania. All told, these partnerships have yielded a significant increase in SMEs’ access to funding. 27% of unbanked SMEs engaged in the programs have opened accounts with Stanbic Bank while 15% have begun access credit from Stanbic Bank. 35% have improved their tax compliance – allowing access to more markets and proving an early victory for SBIL’s international partners.  

With pandemic lockdowns coming to an end, Stanbic Business Incubator is now looking to the future and how it can keep serving the business community. Ms. Agaba notes that the company is looking forward to expanding partnership opportunities while prioritizing sustainability. 


Sharing vital COVID-19 resources with Ugandan entrepeneurs to help them thrive

Employing over 2.5 million people in Uganda, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are the key driver of growth for the country’s economy. However, due to disruptions in the supply chain, travel restrictions, and changing work conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the SME was under threat of shrinking significantly and thus threatening the livelihoods of many microentrepreneurs. Stanbic Bank and Stanbic Business Incubator Limited have offered a variety of innovative products and services to assist entrepreneurs in addressing these challenges during the pandemic.

In May 2020, Stanbic Bank partnered with ConsumerCentriX to develop the COVID-19 Business Info Hub, an online platform that shares vital information and solutions for Ugandan enterprises and corporate clients coping with the financial effects of the pandemic. The goal of the platform is to eliminate misinformation surrounding COVID-19 resources by providing entrepreneurs with a centralized site to learn about new laws, regulations, support systems, and emerging innovations, alongside the provision of critical financial advice and business training relative to the crisis.

A Useful Resource

The site serves as a trusted resource for all Ugandan entrepreneurs seeking business information and relevant training courses.The site includes four resourceful sections:

  • Insights for my Business where entrepreneurs can find information on current policies, regulations and industry trends amidst the pandemic;
  • Growing My Skills which provides SMEs with access training opportunities with corresponding testimonials, and video animation tips aimed at increasing their capacity development;
  • How We Can Help which is centered around Stanbic Bank’s content and the measures it takes to support entrepreneurs including the tools they use to support them; and
  • Voices of Entrepreneurs created as a response to highlight topics often overlooked with catering to underserved markets, such as women entrepreneurs.

Content was developed based on the target market’s needs, by analysing popular content, but also through understanding what entrepreneurs are looking for. The covid-19 business info hub conducted a survey to understand SMEs preferences for content and communication. It found that training opportunities and financing sources are considered the most useful content. This survey also highlighted some discrepancies in content preferences by gender. For example,  while females prefer testimonials on training alumni, males are poised towards more videos and animations on tips to grow entrepreneurial skills.

Finally, 28% of respondents have accessed training or finance through the Covid-19 Business Info Hub, this shows how the site is meeting the gap between access to training, development and finance to entrepreneurs.

Raising Awareness

With over 53,600 website views and 38,380 visitors since inception, Facebook and Instagram profiles were also launched to further disseminate information through paid advertising. When the COVID-19 Business Info Hub was launched in 2020 it had zero followers, and its social media presence grown to over 9,350 followers and users had reposted over 8,400,000 times by 2022. The online community is thriving, with over 224,900 engagements, where SMEs reacted, commented, asked questions, and interacted with the content.

Visit the Covid-19 Business Info Hub 

Key Learnings

A few key learnings from the launch of the platform in 2020 to early 2022 include:

  • Videos and animations are essential for engaging with SMEs. Out of the top three most engaged Facebook posts, two were video animations including tips for their business and testimonials from other entrepreneurs.
  • Facebook has been the most successful platform in engaging with entrepreneurs, however, other platforms and search engines have supported in organically increasing outreach. Following trends and developing content in tandem has led to an increase in search engine referrals, which shows the value of the platform in providing much-needed support for Ugandan entrepreneurs.
  • Women need to be specifically targeted to reach gender parity. On average, women’s visitors account for 39% of total visitors. In order to support women entrepreneurs through their additional challenges and increase gender parity, it is critical to create content specifically targeting women entpreneurs. Moreover, when creating targeted promotions, we have seen a decrease in bounce rates and improvement in time spent per page, showing that the website content resonates with the audience and meets their needs.
  • Website views and visitors are closely correlated to the release and promotion of new pieces. Weekly traffic analyses demonstrate that it is vital to publish new materials and advertise as often as possible to drive visits to the portal and keep up to date with trends.
  • Partners are critical in bringing new perspectives and content development. Most viewed pieces are those referring to Stanbic Bank. Moreover, the bank is crucial in increasing content distribution and expanding outreach via WhatsApp and their databases.

Stanbic Business Incubator

Business Training During the Pandemic: Experiences, Lessons and Recommendations from the Stanbic Business Incubator Limited 

ConsumerCentriX works closely with Stanbic Bank Uganda on both the COVID-19 Business Info Hub and the Stanbic Business Incubator. This article originally appeared on the COVID-19 Business Info Hub.

As the pandemic enters its third year, governments and the private sector reflect on the lessons learned from COVID-19. The last two years have yielded extensive data on how external shocks and crisis response can affect the business community.  

Stanbic Business Incubator Limited (SBIL) has played a key role in supporting small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Uganda, guiding many businesses through the pandemic’s perpetual twists and turns while helping them to make sense of the information overflow. To benefit from these lessons, the COVID-19 Business Info Hub will highlight SBIL’s experience throughout the pandemic in an effort to benefit the Ugandan business community. 

Founded in 2018 and operating under Stanbic Uganda Holdings Limited, the Stanbic Business Incubator Limited runs capacity building and entrepreneurship development programs for SMEs. In 2021 alone,  SBIL managed to train over 700 business owners from various sectors and more than 4500 entrepreneurs across Uganda. Drawing from SBIL’s experience in training SMEs through the pandemic, this series will focus on the experience of the Incubator’s experts and training staff through interviews and first-hand discussions. Our readers can expect insight into different topics, including: 

  • A high-level overview of SBIL’s impact, responses, and opportunities for SMEs as they navigate the pandemic 
  • An exploration of SBIL’s partnerships and upcoming programs helps to outline what it prioritizes for members of the business development workshop. 
  • Reflecting on 2021’s selection of training programs, Incubator staff discuss the experience of the program’s exiting alumni so businesses can learn from their peers 
  • First-hand interviews with alumni and non-members help to better understand SMEs biggest needs while sharing frontline experience as they navigate the pandemic 

Over the next five articles, we’ll help SMEs understand the unfolding business environment with experience from SBIL’s practitioners, managers and businessowners. Readers are likely to find business insights that will help in developing new strategies and tactics to maintain their business competitiveness while responding to the fast-changing conditions of an evolving pandemic. 

Interested businessowners may be interested in SBIL’s upcoming schedule of master classes, training events, cohorts and partnership events. Similarly, readers may be interested in the Compassionate Leadership Webinar Series, which provides training through a slate of webinars. Updates on all these programs and more will be available on the COVID-19 Business Info Hub. 

Ultimately, the coming series of articles provides opportunity for businesses to benefit from peer-learning and the guidance of an industry stalwart. We look forward to you joining us.  



SME Response Clinic hosts webinar on Practical Solutions for Improving the Wellbeing of Women Entrepreneurs

A version of this article was originally posted on the SME Response Clinic


The SME Response Clinic held a webinar on practical solutions for improving the wellbeing of women entrepreneurs at Kigali Public Library on the 8th of December 2021. The webinar was part of the Building Back Healthier Series that was launched with a talk show on KT Radio on the 18thof October 2021 and followed another webcast on practical strategies to deal with stress held in November. The series is organized in partnership with the Geruka Healing Centre.

The objective of the webinar was to inform, inspire, and share knowledge and skills that businesswomen can use to better their wellbeing when dealing with day-to-day stresses of running a business while managing other responsibilities. In addition, the webinar dove into practical techniques for increasing psychological safety and productivity and how to optimize the workplace especially for women entrepreneurs.

The webinar featured a mental health expert, Adelite Mukamana, M.Sc., with two active businesswomen, Scovia Umutoni and Amina Umhoza. Mme. Mukamana started the session with a fantastic example to help the audience have an in-depth appreciation of mental health and wellbeing:


Our mind is like an engine of any car.  No matter how good-looking the car might seem on the outside, without the engine, it wouldn’t start. The car can only move when the engine is working in full force. Think about your mental health and wellbeing like that. When something is wrong with your car engine, you look for a mechanic. The moment you feel that your mental health or wellbeing is struggling, look for professional help.” 



Scovia’s Experience:

Scovia Umutoni is Founder of KGL Flour Limited, an agribusiness factory that produces maize flour – locally known as Kawunga – and animal feed. Before the pandemic, she was employed elsewhere, but she lost her job like many others when the pandemic hit. Undeterred, she decided to invest her savings to create her own business.

While exciting, it proved to be a very challenging time because once she started her business operations, Rwanda went into lockdown, putting everything on hold.

By the time lockdown was over, while many businesses were back up and running, Scovia’s target market including schools and hotels were still not operational. She started to feel frustrated and uncertain about the future. Scovia thought quickly and decided to change her approach, targeting the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). She has been serving customers in DRC since then, and as Rwanda has begun to recover, she has started to deliver her products locally.

Scovia believes that women entrepreneurs often face specific challenges based on the fact they are women. When she ordered a corn flour machine to start her business from a local businessman, Scovia struggled to get the machine in the agreed-upon two week period. It took engaging male friends to visit the provider with her for Scovia to get the machine two weeks later than promised. Scovia is certain that had she been a male entrepreneur, she would not have had to resort to engaging friends to help her. This is just one example of common obstacles faced by women entrepreneurs, many of whom were also disproportionately affected by COVID-19.

During the pandemic, Scovia took a step back to reflect on her businesses and to think of new strategies to improve operations. Recognizing the importance of her own wellbeing, she took a number of actions to improve her mental health, including listening to music. Her business life is not without challenges – she still faces challenges like being a woman in a male-dominated industry and travel restrictions due to the ongoing pandemic – but she doesn’t intend to stop. Scovia has learned that challenges will always exist, and what is important is to look for solutions to deal with them.


Amina’s Experience:

Amina Umuhoza is Founder and CEO of SAYE – DUKATAZE LTD, which aims to fight unintended pregnancies in young Rwandan women due to menstruation stigma. Her company provides young women with reproductive health information, menstrual hygiene management, and economic empowerment by selling products produced by young women through technology and community engagement.

The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically changed SAYE’s operations, and like many other businesses, the company took its business online during lockdowns. This major shift in operations led Amina and her colleagues to question whether they would attain their goals, and Amina had to work hard to balance competing priorities. For instance, the company had to use profits planned for investment to instead pay employee salaries to ensure proper staffing and employee satisfaction. Choices like these have allowed Amina to ensure SAYE continues delivering on its business and social objectives throughout the challenges of the pandemic.

Like Scovia, Amina also faces challenges unique to being a woman entrepreneur. A key example is negative comments from others, including social media bullying. It is not uncommon for Amina to receive questions about plans to marry when she posts about new products or partnerships. She believes that these comments come from cultural beliefs about the role of women, but things have started to change as the government has been educating Rwandans on the role of a woman in societal, family, and personal development.

The hardest part of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic for Amina was to ensure she was strong and resilient for herself as well as for her co-workers and employees. Amina used the lockdown as productively as possible to ensure a positive mindset, reflecting on herself and catching up on important paperwork. This cheered her up, and that feeling encouraged her to reach out to co-workers through virtual platforms. Amina also managed to take care of action items she had postponed or put off pre-pandemic, which provided SAYE with new opportunities after lockdown.

Building Back Healthier:

Scovia and Amina seek to thrive as businesswomen, but this is not always easy. Both receive negative comments based on stereotypes nearly every day; for example, the idea that as women entrepreneurs they can only be successful if they are married. Adelite Mukamana disagrees with this stereotype. “We often hear that the development of women depends on a man. Scovia and Amina are true examples that a businesswoman can run her business smoothly and shine through all circumstances, and we hope they are good examples to our fellow women in the Rwandan society,” she says.

Both entrepreneurs agreed on one fact – one chooses her or his own mentality, and a positive sense of wellbeing is key to carrying on in the face of adversity. Adelite Mukamana agrees. “We act how we think, and we decide how to think,” she says.

Women entrepreneurs are typically challenged by balancing work and home life. Amina believes that marrying to a partner who supports you and who understands your vision is a crucial element for a success as a businesswoman. Mme Adelite Mukamana, both an expert in her field and a mother, advised businesswomen to not be afraid of having families since a woman is a human being that is capable of carrying out multiple tasks. She advised women to launch businesses regardless of their family lives if they’re confident they can do it. She also pointed out that men shouldn’t be threatened by women’s economic empowerment and their partners’ success but instead focus on growing together.

Visit the SME Response Clinic for tips for entrepreneurs to support their mental health and wellbeing. We also invite you to keep an eye on our social media platforms for entrepreneurs’ stories on how their businesses are prioritizing mental health and wellbeing, as part of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic challenges. You can find us on YouTube,Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. Submission

Women Entrepreneurs and Leaders in Rwanda

Celebrating Women Entrepreneurs this March with the SME Response Clinic – Insights from Women Entrepreneurs and Leaders  

A version of this article was originally posted on the SME Response Clinic

As we continue to celebrate March, the women’s history month, the SME Response Clinic is pleased to share with you a recap of some of the highlights from our engagements with women entrepreneurs and leaders in Rwanda over the past two years. Women entrepreneurs play a vital role in developing Rwanda’s entrepreneurship ecosystem and make a tremendous contribution to the nation’s economy. Join us in celebrating women entrepreneurs this month and throughout the year! 

Here are some of the highlights:  

Webinar on “Practical Solutions for Improving the Wellbeing of Women Entrepreneurs” 

On 8 December 2021, the SME Response Clinic, in partnership with Geruka Healing Center, held a webinar featuring women entrepreneurs at the Kigali Public Library as part of the Building Back Healthier series. The webinar’s objective was to inform, inspire and share knowledge and skills that businesswomen can use to better their wellbeing as they deal with their day-to-day business activities while managing other responsibilities. The webinar featured a mental health expert, Adelite Mukamana and two businesswomen, Scovia Umutoni and Amina Umuhoza. 

Learn More 

Interview with Her Excellency Dr Monique Nsanzabaganwa, former Deputy Governor of National Bank of Rwanda and current Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission 

In July 2020, the SME Response Clinic interviewed Her Excellency Dr. Monique Nsanzabaganwa to understand the barriers women face in accessing information to help them better manage their businesses. During the interview, H.E. Dr. Monique emphasized the importance of not just making information available online but also mobilizing women to access that knowledge with a personal touch.  

Watch the video to learn more 

Learn about AMI’s Business Survival Bootcamp from Justine Ntaganda, owner of La Cornicle Hotel Rubavu and Nyabihu 

Justine Ntanganda, a businesswoman who co-owns La Cornicle Hotel operating in Rubavu and Nyabihu districts, attended a Business Survival Bootcamp training organized by the SME Response Clinic in partnership with the African Management Institute. Ms. Ntanganda shared with the SME Response Clinic more about what she learned.  

Watch the video to learn more 

To learn more about AMI training offers in Rwanda, visit: Africa Management Institute