2 million Ugandan women involved in entrepreneurship are set to benefit from an initiative that the government has adopted to help them expand access to capital financing, business information and networks across the Africa continent to support their businesses, Sarah Kanyike, the minister of state for Disability and Elderly Affairs, said in a statement.
Dubbed the 50 Million African Women Speak Networking Platform, the project will be implemented by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development in partnership with the East African Community Secretariat, Ministry of East African Community Affairs and the UN Development Program (UNDP) with support from the African Development Bank (AfDB).
The project provides an online networking platform to connect 50 million African women in business across 38 African countries from the East African Community (EAC), the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), and the Economic Community for West African States (ECOWAS).
“It is an online social network that allows women in Africa learn from each other and be able to share lessons, as well as conduct business,” Minister Kanyike said.
“It is accessible at: womenconnect.org (and is also downloadable as an app at the Google and Apple online stores).”
In Uganda, like in most African countries, women are the majority players in the small businesses and informal sector.
They, however, face enormous challenges in accessing finances needed to grow their businesses while they also lack networks, information and opportunities relevant to their business needs.
The platform comes at a time when sub-Saharan Africa hosts close to 13 million formal and informal Small and Medium-sized Enterprises with one or more women owners.
However, only 16-20% of women entrepreneurs are able to access long-term financing from formal financial institutions to scale up their businesses.
This Project is also in line with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 on achieving gender equality and empowering women and girls by the year 2030.
The minister said it’s “our national interest to have more women onto this new platform to tap into the opportunities at the continental level.”
The ministry is already engaging in umbrella organizations that support women entrepreneurs.
These include; Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association Limited (UWEAL), KACITA Women’s League, Private Sector Foundation (PSFU), Uganda Manufacturer’s Association, Uganda Small Scale Industries Association (USSIA), Cross-border Associations, Market trader Associations, and civil society organizations.
“Our intention is to also bring onboard women entrepreneurs who do not belong to any umbrella organization,” she said.
“It’s our great conviction that the project will compliment other running Government efforts aimed at addressing the key development challenges faced by women- owned Small and Medium Enterprises.”
For the last two years, EAC Secretariat has been engaging different stakeholders to make sure that the platform is developed, enriched with information including but not limited to; Information on instruments signed by the Partner States and their relevance when it comes to advocacy; Financial literacy and its relevance; Training and coaching on critical aspects of capacity building; Mentorship and how it helps women entrepreneurs as well as potential local mentors ready to nurture women entrepreneurs and how they can be accessed (individuals and organizations preferably doing it for free), just to name a few.
The Platform Project was officially launched on November 26, 2019 in Kigali Rwanda during the Global Gender Summit organized by the African Development Bank. Partner States are required to hold a national launch of the Platform Project and in Uganda, the launch will be held today at the Kampala Serena Hotel.
“We believe that the launch will build enthusiasm for the platform among the different stakeholders and also avail us an opportunity to brief stakeholders about the objectives, use, and benefits of the 50 Million African Women Speak Digital Networking Platform,” the minister said.
“These and many more initiatives focused on women’s economic empowerment, will close the financing gap and enable access to information for women in business, ultimately leading to growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for African economies.”