KAMPALA – The National Social Security Fund (NSSF) in partnership with Mastercard Foundation have awarded UGX 4.8bn seed funding to 66 women entrepreneurs through their Hi-innovator Women Accelerator program.
The NSSF Hi-Innovator Women Accelerator is a women-only cohort aimed at giving women entrepreneurs across all sectors an even opportunity to improve their business skills and grow their businesses into resilient enterprises that are more competitive and better placed to receive financial services.
The third cohort of the NSSF Hi-innovator program aims to create an ecosystem where Small and Growing Businesses by Ugandan entrepreneurs can be supported to mature into viable businesses.
Ms. Apiyo Masinde – Program Lead at Outbox, the lead implementing partner for the program noted that since the program launch in November of 2022, they have trained over 1900 businesswomen where 240 businesses finished the course.
“From there, 220 were invited to boot camp and learn how to better communicate about their businesses, and how to sell their businesses by offering a good value proposition.”
So from the 220 businesses, 102 were shortlisted to pitch where 66 won $20000 each.
Ms. Apiyo notes that over the years, women participation in business has been low, mostly due to lack of self-confidence.
“They have the ideas, they know their businesses, but they are not confident enough to actually come and present their businesses. And so what we did differently was to create a cohort that actually makes them feel comfortable by running an app showing men cohort, but also when we’re running the boot camps, were able to take them through sessions that were inclusive and making them feel more confident.”
For one to win, Ms. Apiyo says the business must demonstrate ability to scale and sustain itself beyond $20,000 but also create impact around employment.
The businesses funded anticipate to create 15,000 job opportunities for women and youths countrywide.
In addition to the seed funding, the entrepreneurs were trained in business management skills through the program’s self-directed online Business Academy, with support from renowned entrepreneurial support organizations countrywide. Specifically, the women entrepreneurs were skilled in financial literacy, compliance, marketing, and bookkeeping among others between November 2022 and January 2023.
Patrick Ayota, the NSSF Ag. Managing Director said, “Whereas 66 businesses have received funding today, I am pleased to note that the program has enabled over 500 women entrepreneurs formalize their businesses, giving them a steppingstone to access funding easily.”
“We believe this will help bridge the funding gap for women-owned enterprises,” he said.
The successful businesses were assessed using a criterion that included the potential for scalability, sustainability, good governance, and impact on the community. A panel of experts ranging from investment experts to renowned manufacturers helped select the winning businesses.
Each of the winning businesses was awarded USD20,000 (approximately shs75m each) and will receive tailored technical support in the next few months.
The majority of the winning entrepreneurs intimated that they would want to use the funding to expand their product base, scale up the reach of their products and obtain quality certification for their products and services.
Adrian Bukenya, the Mastercard Foundation Country Director said, “The businesses selected for funding today affirm our commitment to creating more jobs for women and youth in Uganda. At Mastercard Foundation we believe that supporting businesses to scale will expand employment opportunities and that’s why we partnered with NSSF in this initiative.”
The beneficiary businesses were from the agriculture, energy, health, nutrition, real estate, ICT, fashion, and education sectors.
Richard Zulu, Founding Partner, and Team Lead at Outbox Uganda which is the implementing partner for the Hi-innovator programme, said that the women accelerator has shown that women entrepreneurs are willing to participate in initiatives if they see the impact they will have on their livelihoods. “We, therefore, intend to continue training entrepreneurs through the online Business academy. Entrepreneurship training is a prerequisite to receiving seed funding from the program. We encourage entrepreneurs to log in to the NSSF Hi-innovator Business Academy to kickstart their journey of growth.”
To date, 220 businesses have received seed funding worth UGX 18bn and skilled 12,000 youths of which 30% are female, since the programme began in 2021.
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