business continuity plan

Developing a Business Continuity Plan for Your Enterprise

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.

The COVID-19 Business Info Hub spoke with John Kakungulu Walugembe of the Federation of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises-Uganda (FSME) to understand the importance of developing a business continuity plan for enterprises and how this helps to build resilience during challenging times. A business continuity plan can be defined as a document that outlines how a business will continue operating during an unplanned disruption in service. It contains contingencies for business processes, assets, human resources, and business partners – every aspect of the business that might be affected.

John K. Walugembe is the Executive Director of FSME, the umbrella/business association that brings together over 112,000 micro, small and medium-sized enterprises across 20 sectors in the country. Here’s what John had to say about the importance of business continuity plans in light of circumstances brought about by disruptions like the pandemic:

 

“Many businesses don’t have business continuity plans and do not know why they need to develop them.”

 

The impact of the pandemic on the MSME sector is unprecedented. Many businesses are closed, others have limited demand, and many are struggling to pay their staff. Businesses face challenges they have never encountered before and disruptions at overwhelming levels. So, “when we are talking about business recovery and resilience, we are trying to ensure that businesses get back to their pre-pandemic level” of operations. Business continuity plans can help businesses in doing just that. However, many entrepreneurs do not know what they are or how to go about putting them together.

 

FSME worked with International Labor Organization (ILO) to assist 200 MSMEs to come up with a business continuity plan according to a six-step process developed by the ILO.

 

FSME used the ILO’s six-step process for putting together a business continuity plan, which starts with an assessment of risk.

To assess the level of risk and vulnerability faced by a company, business owners need to focus on the 4Ps below and can assess their level of risk using the link included above.

People

How are your workers and their families affected by COVID-19?

Processes

How are the everyday operations of your business affected?

Profits

To what extent is your income and revenue affected?

Partnerships

How is the environment around your business affected by COVID?

Next, businesses must follow six steps as outlined below.

Step 1: Identify your key products or services.

Step 2: Establish the objective of your plan.

Step 3: Evaluate the potential impact of disruptions on your enterprise and workers.

Step 4: List actions to protect/minimize risks to your business

Step 5: Establish contact lists for non-physical activities (WhatsApp calls, Zoom meetings etc.).

Step 6: Maintain, review, and continuously update your plan.

 

“SMEs should also network and reach out for help.”

 

Although business continuity plans help answer questions about how your business can continue operations in moments of crisis, companies need to be agile and adapt plans to changing circumstances. One way to do this is by reaching out for support from organizations like FSME and to other business development service providers. Businesses can also reach out to their networks for ideas and support.

FSME is keen to support SMEs when and where possible, so please reach out to the organization via Tel at 0774147864 or via email at info@fsmeuganda.org or at john.walugembe@fsmeuganda.org


Stanbic Business Incubator Chief Executive Gives an Overview of the Opportunities for SMEs in the Oil and Gas Value Chain in Uganda

Stanbic Business Incubator Chief Executive gives an overview of the opportunities for SMEs in the Oil and Gas Value Chain in Uganda

Ernest Wasake:   Good morning, Comrade Tony Otoa; I hope this finds you well. How have you been holding up during this period of the pandemic? 

Tony Otoa:   Thank you very much for hosting me. I have been great.

I have had a great time of learning, growing and understanding how to do things differently—and now we are getting used to doing different things to make things happen.

Ernest Wasake:  Could you give us an overview of the Oil and Gas Value Chain in Uganda?

Tony Otoa: The Oil and Gas Value Chain is a very vast and intense one. It is a great value chain with many opportunities, especially in the local context.

The chain has upstream, midstream and downstream project segments. The upstream project is about the drilling, construction and civil works. In the midstream project, you have the oil pipeline of 1400-kilometre from Hoima in Uganda to the Tanga Port in Tanzania. The downstream, which is already evident in the country, is available for many local entities to deliver the final oil products to the consumers. There is less local participation in the upstream and the midstream projects because they are technical and capital intensive.

The Oil and Gas Value Chain in Uganda is an exciting opportunity for many local people. Opportunities include a wide range of jobs created plus the provision of services and goods in the downstream operations. With close to 15,000 workers to be employed directly, there will be a big need for food, accommodation, and health services, among others. When we talk about food, agriculture becomes a critical focus area, presenting many opportunities to benefit from.

Ernest Wasake:  Great, please tell us about the Stanbic Business Incubator Limited’s role in the Oil and Gas Value Chain?

Tony Otoa:  The Incubator’s role is very interesting and has been evident for quite some time.

We do not see ourselves as a stand-alone financial entity but as an entity supporting Oil and Gas Value Chain players. The Stanbic Business Incubator has concentrated on training and making Ugandan businesses astute over the last three years. When I speak about astute, I mean ensuring the visibility of demand, letting them know what opportunities are coming their way, and training them to become efficient, sustainable, and thrive.

There is no doubt that Ugandan businesses will seize the Oil and Gas sector opportunities with the Incubator’s support. For example, some companies that have come out of the incubator program are now huge players in the Oil and Gas space. One of the companies is Inspecta Africa, a company providing services to the Chinese National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) and has gone on to forge international partnerships with businesses across the region.

We also want to create stories that speak to employability for young people and steer financial rotation in the sector. We hope that as we support local businesses to become better, we can see many companies improving and actively participating in the industry. In the early times, not many Ugandan companies actively participated during the exploration and the appraisal phase. Many of them were sub, sub, sub, subcontractors. We want our companies to be contractors or subcontractors who are making real revenue and not breadcrumbs.

Ernest Wasake: Thank you for the excellent overview. What opportunities exist for SMEs in the Value Chain?

Tony Otoa:  Enormous opportunities exist for SMEs in the Value Chain.

As you all know, the Government of Uganda has been very deliberate in ring-fencing some areas for local businesses. So Ugandan SMEs have priority when it comes to these opportunities. Some of these include civil work construction, transport logistics, catering, hospitality, security, manpower, etc. SMEs simply need to understand and prepare to apply for the opportunities.

As a business, you might have been in operation for a long time, but for as long as you have not gone the extra mile to make yourself known and active in the Oil and Gas space, it will be hard to participate. First, the Oil and Gas sector is capital intensive. Businesses need time to develop and become attractive to financing. That financing is now readily available.

Second, seek to understand the sector more by engaging with the different sector actors. We now see a trend of the Oil and Gas sector now coming back into the arena. Businesses need to seek partners to make this a reality through joint venture partnerships with local and international companies. If SMEs can do that, then we are doing well as a country because the sector proves that growth is possible.

Ernest Wasake: What policies exist to encourage SME participation in the Value Chain? 

Tony Otoa:  Uganda has done well in terms of policy and regulations for the Oil and Gas sector.

When we compare with countries like Nigeria, which has been producing oil for over 60 years, their local content regulations and laws came into play around 2010/2011. For Uganda, even before the Oil and Gas activities were fully operational, we created those laws, regulations and policies, which is a good step. We have policies that support the participation of local businesses in the Oil and Gas space under the local content policy. Some sector activities are ring-fenced for Ugandan companies, which is a great starting point.

These laws and policies are great, but if we do not have Ugandan SMEs who can manage to participate in that space, the law also allows foreign entities to take over the space. So it is upon us to take advantage of the policies and maximize the available opportunities.

Ernest Wasake: What would it take to increase SMEs’ level of participation in the Oil and Gas Value Chain? 

Tony Otoa:   We can do a lot to increase SMEs’ participation in the Value Chain.

I will share a story to answer the question. In 2018, I knew a company while I was at Total E&P as National Content Manager. This company wanted to do what the big players like Schlumberger, Halliburton, and Baker Hughes were doing. The company kept on bidding for those opportunities, but unfortunately, they kept falling off the grid. Why? They did not have what it took to participate in the sector. They had no policies in place. When we brought them on board at the Incubator, we trained them on a three-month program and coached them for close to nine months. During the same time, we supported them to get ISO certification and other certifications. As I speak today, the same company supports CNOOC in various operations and project work for an international logistics company.  That shows you that it is possible in a short period for a small company to become a great participant in the Oil and Gas Value Chain, employ many people and create value in the country. This story speaks to the many businesses that still have the dream and hope of participating in the Oil and Gas sector.

Lastly now that the Final Investment Decision (FID) is soon, it is a signal to an excellent start for Ugandans participating in the Oil and Gas sector. But like the gun at a race, if you are not ready when the sound goes off, you are not prepared, and whoever is prepared will take on this whole race. Therefor SMEs need preparation to benefit from this value chain. As the Stanbic Business Incubator together with our partners we support SME preparation through training, information sharing and creating visibility over demand. We are positive that with these interventions we shall have more SMEs participating in the Oil and Gas value chain.


One Farm Platform

Learn How Stanbic Bank Uganda's One Farm Platform Promotes Business Linkages Within the Agribusiness Sector

A version of this article was originally posted on the Covid-19 Business Info Hub.

The COVID-19 Business Info Hub spoke to Christian Karamagi, Innovation Lead at Stanbic Bank Uganda Limited (SBUL), to understand how the One Farm Platform is creating business linkages within the agribusiness sector in Uganda. Read along to find out more.

What is the One Farm Platform?

The One Farm Platform, which is channel partner-led, is essentially a data-driven digital solution that creates business linkages within the agribusiness ecosystem, especially between smallholder and enterprise service providers like banks, insurance companies, exporters, and manufacturers. The platform has two main components. The first is supply certainty, the assurance that there is the right quality and quantity at the right time. The second is supply optimization, which is about empowering smallholders to produce at maximum capacity. The components are critical for SMEs to forecast the crop to buy from farmers, which helps builds trust between the farmers and SMEs.

Information is critical to creating meaningful linkages. The platform captures data on; location, acreage, and inputs to prepare data profiles of the farmers. This data is aggregated to estimate total production in each area and shared with off-takers or SMEs and other service providers. The profiling helps formalize the sector by providing farmers with a digital identity, giving them access to finance, insurance, agronomy and market linkage. It also helps the users grow their farming business, giving them credit and financial history, creating trust, increasing productivity, improving access to markets, and managing counterparty risk. SMEs use this information to make business decisions on where to source, when to supply the clients and the financing source. Other service providers, such as input suppliers, can project and plan for demand from the farmers.

The platform delivers its benefits to the users through the categories below:

  • Lend: is credit, including farmer production loans and value chain financing.
  • Protect: this is savings and insurance currently weather-based index.
  • Trade: this is the linkage within the marketplace, allowing SMEs to tap into the out-grower database. It includes a digital marketplace.
  • Grow: this focuses on offering agronomic services to farmers to enable them to grow their crops well.
  • Share: this refers to reaching out to communities with available food to feed the hungry.

How does the bank facilitate the participation of different actors on the platform? 

The platform is channel partner enabled. The bank has various approaches to engaging different actors on the platform, as elaborated below.

We are adopting multiple repayment options for the SMEs and farmers who have received lending using our hybrid models. It allows them to pay conveniently and access additional financing for their operations.

Delivery of timely financial services to suit the agricultural seasons when farmers need the finance through One Farm Lend. We know that farmers may miss out on the planting season in case of delays in the availability of financing to buy inputs. We manage the lending process to ensure that farmers apply for financing well in time to avoid any delays.

Establishing partnerships with NGOs/Donors, fintech & Agritechs, input suppliers, equipment leasing companies, and insurance providers has helped us increase the use of the platform. Working with the various partners brings onboard a broad range of services, experience and expertise that platform users can tap into.

We have embedded financial literacy and agricultural extension services for farmers and SMEs through One Farm Grow. These are influencing behavioural change, adopting new technologies, and best practices for sustainable solutions.

What is the future of the platform?

Our vision is to have the One Farm platform as the leading ecosystem driver in Uganda’s agriculture sector. Scaling up for the platform is also underway, which means capacity and capability initiatives. The first plan is to increase the number of data profiles to 20,000 profiles by June 2021. Second, we plan to incorporate more value chains from maize to coffee, beans, barley and oilseeds. We continue to engage different stakeholders and partners, especially SMEs, as buyers, SACCOs and fintech & Agri-techs, facilitating the development of value chains. Finally, we plan to empower young people to integrate such digital solutions into farm practices because we understand that the future of digitization in agriculture lies with the youth.


agribusiness

What we learned this month about how to promote recovery in Uganda’s agribusiness sector

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.

In July, the COVID-19 Business Info Hub focused its efforts on understanding recovery mechanisms and opportunities for the agribusiness sector. We engaged with many stakeholders, including SMEs, financing institutions, and organizations offering support to the industry. Here is what we learnt!

 

The agribusiness sector has faced a number of challenges. 

Just as SMEs were recovering from the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the second wave hit the country in May 2021. This led to another lockdown during June and July, which has brought more difficulties for SMEs operating in this environment. Some of the challenges faced by the businesses include:

  • Supply chain disruptions especially delayed transportation both by road and air cargo for agricultural inputs and products because of movement restrictions.
  • Working capital constraints because of reduced sales and delayed payments, which affect operational efficiency.
  • Reduced demand and price for agricultural products because buyers cannot easily access markets due to the lockdown.
  • Increased cost in retaining essential human resources as businesses work to keep staff on the payroll despite reduced operations to avoid losing critical talent to competition.

As a result of these challenges, SMEs have used up their cash reserves and thus need financial and non-financial support to recover.

 

Several organizations are providing support to help agribusinesses recover. 

Different sector players that we spoke to shared interventions they have in place to support businesses to stay afloat during the pandemic. Some are included here below:

aXiom Zorn creates digital profiles for farmers and agribusinesses to enable them to access financial services. The digital profiles capture data that builds a credit score for the farmer or the business. A credit score of 60% allows the farmer or agribusiness to access financing from a bank.

Stanbic Bank Uganda provides affordable loans to Savings Credit and Cooperative Societies (SACCOs) and farmer groups. SACCOs and farmer groups receiving these funds can then offer affordable loans to their members. Learn more about other interventions of the bank to reduce the financing gap in the financial sector.

Agricultural Business Initiative (aBi) promotes access to agricultural inputs by availing subsidized inputs to farmers to plant within the season. aBi Finance has also tweaked its credit guarantee product for partner financial institutions to help them to lend to customers with better terms.

Palladium is implementing a program to link farmers to service providers and markets via commercial agents. Through the model, over 80 businesses have benefitted to date with increased income.

 

Agribusinesses can implement a three-step plan to speed up the road to recovery. 

SMEs need to seek information to understand the shifts in the consumption, production and trade within the sector to plan for recovery and build resilience. Here is a three-step recovery pathway that SMEs can adopt;

  • Reflect: Pause and think about the impact COVID-19 has had on the business. Analyze what has worked during the period, lessons learnt and what needs to change. Then, adopt a holistic work approach to consolidate the best practices and manage change while maintaining a safe work environment.
  • Restart: Identify steps required to “restart” – maybe a new business process, a new product, or service line to fit in the new normal. Mobilize the necessary resources and take action.
  • Revitalize: Revisit the business environment to seize available opportunities along the value chain. SMEs need to optimize opportunities within the supply chain. They can improve volume flexibility, enhance delivery performance and identify areas where technology can help streamline processes to minimize costs.

 

For faster sector recovery, stakeholders also need to actively engage with the businesses to help them innovate and expand into new markets more than ever before.

 

SMEs can access information on:

Agribusiness financing from Stanbic Bank Uganda  

Call: 0800250250

WhatsApp: 0770588623

Visit:  www.stanbic.co.ug

 

Innovative digital solutions from aXiom Zorn 

Tel: +256 200 951 713/+256 200 903 099

Email: info@axiomzorn.com

Visit:  https://axiomzorn.com/

 

Commercial Agent Model from Palladium

Tel:   +256 774 040751

Email: jackline.kitongo@thepalladiumgroup.com

Visit: https://thepalladiumgroup.com/


Uncertain Times

Managing Through Uncertain Times  

Managing Through Uncertain Times  

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

The SME Response Clinic spoke with Ruzindana Gerald, a nutritionist from Amazon Nutrition Cabinet, a business supporting people with healthy nutritional practices to promote physical and mental wellness. Gerald shared some of the common challenges entrepreneurs have faced in recent months due to the pandemic and tips entrepreneurs can use to mitigate those challenges. These include:   

  • Disruption to normal routines for example lesser operating hours due to curfew. This may make it hard to meet deadlines, find time to efficiently and productively serve your clients or even take breaks for re-energizing.   
  • Rising anxiety and stress from situations you cannot control. For example, irrespective of the current situation, you still have to deal with expenses such as rent, salaries, and taxes.  
  • Lack of concentration or a sense of not knowing what to focus on next due to lesser interactions with clients and suppliers.  
  • Negative effects on our health or state of mind such as  
    • Loss or increase of appetite and craving 
    • Changes in our mood due to loneliness at the workplace or working remotely
    • Inability to sleep arising from stress and anxiety  
    • Decrease in physical activity due to periodic lockdowns 

To mitigate these challenges, Gerald suggested tips that would help entrepreneurs make better decisions, lead employees and make changes to survive the pandemic and ongoing lockdown. They include:  

  • Try to rise at the same time each day and organize your day including time for work, meals, light exercise, and family obligations. Try to go to sleep at the same time each night.  
  • Carve out time for exercise – even 20 minutes of light stretching, a short walk, or even dancing at home can help clear your mind.  
  • Make sure you make time for meals and try to eat healthy foods when you can. Some examples of healthy foods are vegetables and fruits. These can help boost your immunity, giving you more energy to run your business.  
  • Reach out to your networks. Send messages, make calls, or video chat when you can with your friends and family. Checking in with your clients, employees, and suppliers to see how they are doing will also go a long way! Share your own thoughts and experiences so that they feel connected, too.  

These are just a few tips – different things work for different people, so try things out and see what works for you.  

 

For more information contact: Tel: +250 784 465 520

Email: ruzindanagerald@gmail.com 


Building resilience

Building resilience for your small business through challenging times

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

As Rwanda faces an uptick in COVID-19 infections and the government mandates new measures aimed at preventing a third wave, the SME Response Clinic wants to take a moment to recognize the challenges you face as a small business owner. Entrepreneurs like you have come so far in navigating the unchartered waters of a truly unprecedented health and economic crisis, but new developments indicate that there is further yet to go.

Micro-, small- and medium-enterprises (MSMEs) make up 97% of businesses in the country, contributing to 55% of total GDP and employing over 40% of Rwanda’s population (Microsave Report, 2017). The start and stop of operations for many if not most businesses over the past year and a half has had a tremendous impact on the economy but also importantly on the financial health of individual entrepreneurs like you and, importantly, your families. In addition to and often caused by the significant negative economic impact resulting from the pandemic, we are all struggling with challenges that affect our wellbeing. Increased levels of stress and anxiety make our day-to-day even tougher. Studies of entrepreneurs in Rwanda (as well as globally) undertaken in recent months indicate that business owners are facing high levels of anxiety caused by uncertainty about the future.

This uncertainty is not surprising as you work to navigate new and rapidly evolving regulations, make changes to your business operations to work to stay afloat, and manage relationships with your suppliers and customers remotely rather than face-to-face. You do all of this while working to ensure your families are healthy and safe.

Since our launch in May 2020, the SME Response Clinic has sought to provide you with updates and tips relevant to managing your business through the various challenges that have arisen and continue to arise as a result of the pandemic. Now, we want to offer you the opportunity to also focus on yourself so that you can in turn better manage your business, positively impacting your family, your employees, and your community at large.

Over the next few months, we will be providing simple tools to support you in building business resilience. These will include short videos, articles, and audio recordings that you can use to manage stress and maintain a positive outlook in the months ahead.

Stay in touch with us at smeresponseclinic@gmail.com and remember to stay safe!


agribusiness sector.

Stanbic Bank Uganda is helping to reduce the financing gap in the agribusiness sector.

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.

Melisa Nyakwera, Head Agribusiness at Stanbic Bank Uganda, spoke with the COVID-19 Business Info Hub on the banks’ initiatives to reduce the financing gaps for smallholder farmers and agribusinesses. 

Stanbic Bank Uganda’s initiatives to reduce the financing gap in the agribusiness sector

Stanbic Bank Uganda has the following initiatives to facilitate access to finance for the sector:

  • The bank uses the One Farm platform to profile farmers and agribusinesses. We understand their needs and provide solutions such as input financing, agronomy training, insurance, and information on markets.
  • Stanbic Bank Uganda is increasing access to affordable finance to the farmers through their SACCOs and farmer groups by lending to the SACCOs and farmer groups at a subsidized interest rate.
  • The bank provides several financial products to the sector, including short-term and long-term loans, invoice discounting, stock financing, and asset financing.
  • Using the Flexi pay wallet, clients receive and pay for services or commodities from one wallet to another at no charge.

Keep in mind that agribusinesses need to have in place good business records, plans and a clear strategy to access financing during these challenging times.

For more information call: 0800250250 or WhatsApp: 0770588623

What is the role of Stanbic Bank Uganda in the agribusiness sector?

Stanbic Bank Uganda’s agribusiness segment works with all customers within the agriculture space. We look at the value chain from input suppliers, smallholder farmers, aggregators, and processors. We also engage with non-government organizations (NGOs), development institutions and ministry agencies working together to make a difference. Our role is running through that whole value chain to understand the needs of different actors and develop solutions to meet the requirements. We ensure that the solutions help them achieve their needs, and in case they require long term support, we work and walk with them along that journey.

 

How is the bank facilitating access to finance for the agribusiness sector? 

The bank has several initiatives in place to facilitate access to finance for the agribusiness sector.

First, we’ve got a new initiative called the One Farm platform. Here, we partner with Agri-techs, who collect data from farmers and agribusinesses, analyze it to understand their requirements and provide solutions through the platform. Some of the services offered include input financing, agronomy training, insurance and information on markets. This initiative has helped to improve financial inclusion for several actors in the agribusiness value chain.

The bank has come together with several funding partners to provide affordable loans to Savings Credit and Cooperative Societies (SACCOs) and farmer groups.  SACCOs receiving these funds can offer affordable loans to their members as well. We are also helping the SACCOs and farmer groups digitize records for a faster lending process.  Funding partners include Agricultural Business Initiative (aBi), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).

The third initiative is through the bank’s conventional offerings, which cut across the different value chain players from actual farmers, input providers to processors. Essentially, we have short-term and long-term loans, invoice discounting, stock financing, and versatile asset financing. We also have the Flexi pay wallet that enables users to receive and pay for services and commodities from one electronic wallet to another at no charge.

 

What can SMEs do to overcome disruptions resulting from the pandemic effects?

We all understand the impact of the pandemic, and we need to protect ourselves and keep safe. It means we have to go into the digital marketplace. Embracing digital tools will keep you safe and enable you to reach more customers than opting for face to face interactions.

Suppose businesses want to last and withstand the pandemic effects. In this case, they need good business plans, financial records and a strategy to follow through during this period. It will ease access to financing that they can use for operations to adapt to the current and future changes.

Financial institutions also need to play more in this space by supporting SMEs prepare the necessary records and plans to access the financing required.

 

For more information and access to Stanbic Bank’s Agri-banking Team;

Call: 0800250250

WhatsApp: 0770588623

Website: www.stanbic.co.ug

Visit any of our over 60 branches countrywide!

 

 


SMEs in Agribusiness

Building resilience for SMEs in the Agribusiness sector post COVID-19

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.

This month, the COVID-19 Business Info Hub seeks to understand how the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the Agribusiness sector can remain resilient after the pandemic. We will feature insights from different players in the Agribusiness Ecosystem. We will explore the pandemic’s disruptions on the Agribusiness supply chain, learn about the sector’s challenges and opportunities, and provide insights on what to do to stay afloat. We will provide you and your business information on the available interventions and support that you can take advantage of to grow your business.

Before the pandemic, SMEs in the Agribusiness sector were vibrant and engaged in significant value addition with the food system. They created employment along the value chains in agricultural trade, farm services and inputs, agro-processing, urban retailing and food services. However, when the pandemic hit, the sector suffered adverse effects, especially disruption of the supply chain and reduction in market demand. Although SMEs tried to respond by adopting digital solutions to access information on production, training services, and access to finance and markets, business still remains low. Nevertheless, as the economy is slowly opening up after months of lockdown and restricted movement, SMEs are slowly seeking to build back businesses.

Stakeholders, therefore, need to design interventions that support SMEs to continue playing their critical role within the sector. Interventions should help SMEs cope with the economic and financial implications of the pandemic. For example, help them strengthen their digital capacity through training and provide them with relevant information for business continuity. Successful implementation of these interventions will enable SMEs to become innovative, build resilience, and manage the current pandemic effects. They will also withstand continued market uncertainty and position for more robust post-COVID trade.

Are you interested in learning how some of the Agribusinesses managed to survive the pandemic? Do you want to know more about the policies and initiatives to help you stay resilient and grow your business? Then, keep following The Covid-19 Business Information Hub this month for more insights and relevant resources in the Agribusiness sector!


Uganda Investment Authority

How the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) is helping women entrepreneurs outlast the pandemic

How the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA) is helping women entrepreneurs outlast the pandemicThis is a custom heading element.

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.

Uganda Investment Authority

The Covid-19 Business Info Hub spoke with Winnie Lawoko-Olwe, Director of SMEs at the Uganda Investment Authority to learn how the Uganda Investment Authority is helping women entrepreneurs through the pandemic.

Ernest Wasake: Would you kindly introduce yourself and what you do at the Uganda Investment Authority?

Winnie Lawoko-Olwe:  My name is Winnie Lawoko-Olwe and I am the Director of SMEs at the Uganda Investment Authority.

Ernest Wasake: The COVID-19 Business Info Hub is looking to focus on how women entrepreneurs have been able not only to survive, but to thrive during the pandemic. Tell us about yourself, and your role at Uganda Investment Authority (UIA). How have you been able to survive and thrive during this pandemic?

Winnie Lawoko-Olwe: COVID-19 came as a major surprise to everybody. And because of the nature of the Standard Operating Procedures and the activities around the pandemic, it required fast thinking and fast adaptation. As UIA, we immediately conducted research that where a total of about 385 businesses were interviewed. And of these interviewed, about 30 percent were SMEs, and of those 30 percent, we were able to interview 32 percent specifically women.

We know very well that the SME economy of Uganda is a very much a cash economy. The pandemic affected most women and challenged how they balanced finances for the businesses and finances for their families.

The assessment found that the businesses are distressed and needed additional money. The assessment also found that a intervention was needed to help businesses change their models from the direct channel of selling off the street to the effective use of mobile money, networks to deliver your business, and developing business products to what clients need the most.

Under the Rising Woman campaign, Investment Authority is looking at how we can take the women’s businesses into a next level of digitization in terms of marketing their products, in terms of effectively using mobile payments as opposed to cash payments. And we are running trainings in six areas for the newly developed digitization product for the campaign. We are going to be able to come up with a clear product rollout in terms of digitizing and e-commerce adaptation

Ernest Wasake: How has the Investment Authority supported the SME sector during the pandemic?

Winnie Lawoko-Olwe: In this period of the pandemic, one of the major challenges is that our Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) have limitations on number of people that we can support. During the first part of the pandemic, our programs were supporting about a maximum of 10 people, thereby limiting outreach numbers. Given these limitations, UIA has started delivering capacity building programs that allow a few leaders from women organizations to be taken through the program and to pass on the lessons to other women. The training currently has narrowed down from entrepreneurial development to marketing and access to markets training programs. We are looking at digitization of business processes and we are also looking at using ICTs.

Ernest Wasake: Do you have testimonies of businesses that have thrived during the pandemic and what lessons can be learned from them?

Winnie Lawoko-Olwe: Yes, we have had businesses that have thrived so far.  Businesses that have thrived have been able to place themselves into the e-commerce platform. We have a number of ladies who are doing sanitizers and foodstuffs that are currently registered on the Zimba Mart (an online e-commerce platform created by ZimbaWomen) I must say that Zimba  Women is one of those women-in-tech initiatives that we think will help and support to take women to the next level, because it is owned by women that can easily understand the dynamics of women and the challenges that women are having. The second group that we work closely with is the Business and Professional Women of Kampala branch who actually access the women groups, identified which is the most appropriate time to be able to help them to sell their products online.

Ernest Wasake: What can be done to increase the level of women entrepreneurship in Uganda?

 Winnie Lawoko-Olwe: To increase the participation and the overall input from women entrepreneurs in Uganda means that we need to be able to identify the supporters or service providers in specific areas so that women activities and growth activities are not duplicated. I want to talk about the three key things that women face: The first is access to effective networks that allow them to grow within different areas of growth.  The second is linkage for growth in terms of the value chain. The third is affordable financing that looks at one’s internal competitiveness.

I know that the Stanbic Bank Incubator Platform is doing quite a bit in terms of getting those value chains together. But I think that if I’m a woman entrepreneur sitting in Busia, where do I go to get that information? And that’s where I think the most important opportunity is – to have a national portal, where every woman can access information where she is able to click networks and be able to access networks that she can work with. And last but not least, is the mentorship for growth – that means that we are looking at women who have excelled within those specific areas, to inspire and lead other women.

Also, I think there’s a missing gap, in terms of specific funds for SME women. If you talk today about the Emyooga(poverty eradication program) which is easily accessible, it requires one to be in a group to access the funds and yet, as an SME you’re not going to join a group. As an SME you need to be identified as a specific business that can walk into any place and is assessed based on your internal competitiveness, the ready market that you have for your product and the support systems that you need to be able to effectively utilize them. So I think those are the key things that we as Uganda Investment Authority are strongly pushing to address through interventions.

Ernest Wasake: What advise have you given to a woman entrepreneur on a personal level to help them grow.

Winnie Lawoko-Olwe: OK. On a personal level, I have supported Vantage Communication and Zimba Women. And this is specifically in terms of growing their business and looking at the environment. Both companies have fantastic products and they met the challenges in terms of setting up processes and procedures to manage the internal environment. And the advice here is: you are the entrepreneur, you know the business, you know what you want out of it. But take yourself back and think of growing this business scalability. Can you scale the business to the level you want working as an individual? And if you can, then it’s going to remain a niche product for a few people. And yet the demand for the product is great. The concept that we went through was one, assess your strengths and concentrate on this strength.

Secondly, look at the operatives. If you are taking this unique project out, you have any unique selling proposition. But in order for this proposition to be delivered, what are the steps you need? Do you need a marketing person? Do you need somebody to actually install, you know the uptake? And do you need somebody to do your finances? If you’re able to look at those critical business steps within the business, then it will help you to identify who internally would be the best person to manage it. If you do not have somebody internally, how would you then be able to take that? And that means you are recruiting. Are you able to price the product? Once you price the product, is it right for the market to be able to take it to the market?

I think from this learning perspective, there are two things that entrepreneurs need to know. As an entrepreneur, you do have a drive. You’ve seen the gap. You know that the market needs it. And that’s very important. But in terms of scalability of your product, in terms of taking your business to the market, you then need to look at those critical procedures, internal procedures that will allow you to take the product to the market. And the product will be the same today, tomorrow and the next day. That means there’s a standard of procedure. It’s a unique selling proposition and it’s a unique product that is going out to the market.


Thriving during Covid

Cleaning up after COVID-19: An Interview with Lydia Syson Naiga of NLS Services 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.

COVID-19 Business Info Hub spoke with Lydia Syson Naiga, Business Development Manager at NLS Services Limited to understand how her business has weathered through the pandemic and to hear her advice for other women entrepreneurs.

Ernest Wasake: Thank you for joining us today. Can you introduce yourself and describe your business?

Lydia Syson Naiga: My name is Lydia Syson Naiga and NLS Services Limited is our business. We deal with medical waste disposal, hazardous waste disposal, and industrial waste. We pick up medical waste from different hospitals, around Kampala and the rest of the country, Kampala mainly, and take it to our incineration plant for disposal.  As of April, we have been in business for 11 years and currently, we’re employing 52 staff members.

Ernest Wasake: Can you tell us about how much of the market you control and what your business means in terms of its significance in the market.

Lydia Syson Naiga:  We have around 80 percent of the market share. Most of the private hospitals, actually almost all private hospitals are our clients. Recently, we managed to penetrate [to work with] the government referral hospitals.

Ernest Wasake: Let us understand a little bit more about your business. How has NLS waste management fared during the pandemic?

Lydia Syson Naiga: As essential workers, we continued to work through the lockdown because we had to pick up medical waste and there is no way medical waste could be left in the hospitals. I would say we didn’t get really affected because we have never stopped working. The only issue we had was making sure some staff members came to work, given the covid-19 travel restrictions. Some of our staff had to work from home, which wasn’t something we were ready for. That was a bit of a struggle.

 Ernest Wasake: Tell us what practical tools or skills you put in place to survive? What worked and what didn’t?

Lydia Syson Naiga: We just had to make sure we had to be very strict on the protective wear policy. We had to do mass testing every month for all staff members. The fact that our staff actually have to go on the ground and interact in these particular places where we have to actually pick up COVID waste meant we had to be very cautious.

 Ernest Wasake: Is there any other part of your business that you had to change or adjust as a result of COVID, either to increase your business or to protect business?

Lydia Syson Naiga: We have clients that have been struggling because their earning numbers have dropped. This has affected their payments flow, as a result we had to make sure we have money to run the business. You can’t tell a client “because payments are delayed, we can’t pick up your waste.” We had to just work with what resources we had and we made sure we save on every penny because it’s going to be tough ahead. The pandemic has also affected our suppliers, but we managed to get through.

Ernest Wasake: How can businesses position themselves for the times ahead? Now that we’re entering a different phase of the pandemic that will continue to shape the economy?

 Lydia Syson Naiga: The virus isn’t about to end today and It’s not going to end tomorrow. We just have to work with what we have and cut costs if we can. People have to be very careful with their operations and plan because enterprises are closing abruptly due to the effects of the pandemic.

Ernest Wasake: Could also tell us where do you see NLS Waste Management Services going in the next couple of years?

Lydia Syson Naiga: In the next couple of years, I think we will be the next big waste management company in Uganda and in Africa once we have aligned particular products, that we will roll out.

Ernest Wasake: If you had any personal last message that you can give to women entrepreneurs, what lessons would you share?

Lydia Syson Naiga: Be very clear and be consistent. If you think it’s going to be a walk in the park, it’s never a walk in the park, so it’s persistence and consistency. If you tell someone the contract, say this, it says we shall pick up your waste or shall do this – live within the contract. Don’t go beyond.