The minister of Trade, Industry and Cooperatives Amelia Kyambadde has advised women entrepreneurs to wake up from the old style of running businesses and register their businesses, pay taxes and embrace bookkeeping if they want to compete at the same level as men.
Kyambadde believes many women are failing at doing business because they do not know how much they have invested, how much should go to paying taxes, how much to spend and how much to reinvest.
“Use your children to keep your records. You keep calling us asking for jobs for your children, but why don’t you employ them to keep your records?” wondered Kyambadde at the financial literacy conference held at the Lugogo UMA showgrounds in Nakawa yesterday.
Organised by Uganda Revenue Authority, Finance Trust Bank and CBS FM’s Pewosa Sacco, the conference attracted over 1,000 women entrepreneurs from across the country to share ideas on how they can utilise money to develop themselves, their families and communities.
According to URA commissioner general Doris Akol, the conference was called in line with this year’s Women’s day, under the theme “Push for progress, manage your finances, grow your business and prosper.”
Kyambadde, therefore, encouraged the women to utilize government programmes and departments to grow their businesses. She noted that her ministry has introduced a policy on the services sector (education, banking, hospitality, etc), which will help in reducing bureaucracies and trade barriers.
“Interest rates are high because there are no streamlined regulations…the new policy will check on such unfair rates,” Kyambadde said in her key-note address.
She further urged women to stop fearing government offices and utilize benefits such as the Gender Fund or the One-Village, One-Product initiative for rural industrialization.
“Go to offices of Uganda Export Promotions Board. Many of you are lazy to approach these offices. If you have quality products in right quantities, go get a quality mark from UNBS and sell your commodities abroad. These offices are there for you,” she advised.
Earlier, Akol had noted that although 31 to 38 per cent of formal businesses are owned fully or partly by women, growth and sustainability of these businesses is undermined by low levels of financial literacy.
“We need to start planning for multi-generational businesses. This is an opportunity for learning and personal reflection; where are you on your business growth journey, do you know where you want to be? Or are you doing business fwaaaa [anyhow]?” she asked.
“We like working small; decisions are made at the dining table. This must stop. There are times you will have to downsize. Downsizing is a reality of business growth. Some of these things are hard but they are decisions that have to be taken. There is no growth when you are comfortable.”
There was also a panel discussion, which included Annet Mulindwa Nakawunde, the managing director of Finance Trust bank; Maria Odido, the director Bee Natural Honey and honorary consul of Botswana in Uganda; Gudula Naiga Basaza, the chairperson of Uganda Women Entrepreneurs League; Dr Maggie Kigozi, the former executive director of Uganda Investment Authority.
The gathering also heard testimonies from successful women such as Margaret Ssekidde, the proprietor of Seroma Hardware and Schools; and Lovinsa Kakaziki, a real estate developer. During the panel discussion, Finance Trust’s Nakawunde advised women to get loans only when they have to.
“Stop risking the appetite [to take loans], stop copying, know which risk can be managed by your business. Loans are expensive, loans can bring you down. Know when to borrow. Every penny we give you has a price. Some of you borrow ten million and start buying phones. Invest in assets that give you money,” she advised.
For Maria Odido, a successful woman entrepreneur is one who manages their customers indiscriminately.
“Don’t be a mother, don’t be a sister and don’t be a colleague. Even if it is your daughter, let her pay,” she said.
Dr Maggie Kigozi emphasized the need to involve children in businesses for continuity.
“Ugandans love educating children, I hate it. Take your children to your businesses. They should learn how to earn money. Having your own child in a shop is not exactly child labour. But you just concentrate on sending them to school…borrow a leaf from Indians,” she said.
Meanwhile, CBS FM’s Florence Luwedde shared how Project Empower Women Through Saving and Loan Associations (Pewosa) has so far touched more than 750,000 women through the community-managed microfinance model.
This year’s International women’s day will be celebrated nationally at Busubizi core Primary Teacher’s College in Mityana district under the theme: Empowerment of rural women and girls: Opportunities and Challenges.