Tuesday, April 9, 2019




9TH APRIL, 2019

The Executive Director, Uganda Media Centre,
The team from the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, and,
Gallant Members of the Press,

The Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme (UWEP) is a revolving fund initiated by the Government of Uganda with the main objective of increasing women access to affordable credit.
This is intended to enhance financial inclusion, promote entrepreneurship development and effective participation of women in the economic development of the country.
The Programme started off in was initiated in 19 Local Governments plus KCCA in the 2015/2016 Financial Year and starting Financial Year 2016/17 it was rolled out to all Local Governments in the Country.
The Ministry of Gender, Labour and social Development was handed the mantle to implement the Programme and it’s my pleasure to report to you that the Women Entrepreneurship Fund has been a great success so far1.
Currently in its fourth year of implementation, the Programme has received Shs 85,483,476,837, representing only 14.6% of the overall approved budget of Shs. 585,000,000,000.
So far, 9,381 women projects have been financed, directly benefitting 117,551 women.
In its creation, UWEP was intended to address the challenge women face in accessing credit from the formal financial institutions like Commercial banks.
The banks still regard women to be uncrediworthy because they lack collateral among other improbable reasons.
UWEP has demystified this and shown that women are actually credible debtors than any other demographic.  
For example, to-date, we have recovered Shs7, 069,684,946 out of the Shs 8,710,321,031 that is due for repayment. That represents an 80.1% repayment rate.
If indeed women were not creditworthy they couldn’t have had such impressive recoveries.
And remember that our credit is unsecured. We don’t take security from the women. Their groups act as security. The Commercial Banks are fully aware of this impressive women performance since all funds are disbursed and recovered through accounts held in commercial banks.
Our desire is to see Commercial Banks opening up more facilities for women and cutting back on the stringent requirements.
As a Ministry, we intend to build on the achievements to ensure that we make it even simpler for the women to access credit and entrepreneurial skills.
Given feedback generated through performance monitoring visits, we sought Cabinet approval of core changes to ensure that we serve the women better.
i.    As enumerated by Mr. Ofwono Opondo, reducing the minimum group size to five (5) women from ten (10) will enhance group cohesion. The group approach was adopted because it is cost effective and enables members to co-guarantee each other to secure revolving funds/loans, since most of the beneficiaries cannot provide collateral (assets as security).
ii.     Cabinet also approved our request for flexibility in management of enterprises to allow groups decentralize management of their enterprises into individual and/or mini- groups where applicable. This means group members can borrow money and finance individual enterprises. BUT they remain collectively responsible for the loan repayment.
iii.    Disburse funds directly to approved women beneficiary groups’ accounts from the Bank of Uganda. Previously, funds were sent to a special Programme account at the district from where funds would be passed on to group accounts. With the new Cabinet approval, the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development will henceforth send money directly from Bank of Uganda to group accounts. This will go a long way in solving the delays we have experienced in some Districts and Municipalities.  
iv.     Closely related to that, women groups will also maintain only group members as Signatories to group accounts [that’s the Chairperson, Secretary and Treasurer]. Previously, the women groups had the Sub-county Chief as a signatory to their account.
v.    Women have been running Current accounts in the Commercial Banks, which are costly to maintain. Cabinet approved that groups open and operate Savings Accounts so as to reduce on operational costs. This will be a great relief to the women.
vi.    For groups that have completed repayment but wish to scale up to their activities/innovations, the Ministry is opening a window within the Programme to support such groups. We shall work swiftly to refinance groups that want to scale up.
vii.     To match the growing trend of financial management and ease repayments, the Programme will integrate use of technology such as through developing ICT platforms for monitoring project implementation as well as Mobile Money for easing the repayment process especially for hard to reach areas. This eliminates transport costs and time wasted in travels to make repayments at Commercial Banks.
viii.    To mitigate losses arising from unforeseen calamities like extreme weather, the Ministry secured Cabinet approval to explore possibilities of in-building affordable insurance products to safeguard beneficiaries against risks during project implementation such as through the Agricultural Subsidy Scheme in collaboration with the Agro-Consortium.
ix.    Currently the Programme targets women aged between 18 and 65 years but I am glad to report that the upper age limit cap was lifted from 65 years to 79 years. This opens opportunities for more women. With the age of beneficiaries under the Social Assistance Grants for Empowerment increased to 80 years, the Ministry is happy to incorporate women in the 65-79 age bracket into the women entrepreneurship Programme.
x.    Also, the increased Resource Allocation for Institutional Support to 20% from the current 15% will provide additional resources for the training, technical support and supervision of groups. This hugely contributes to the groups’ success.
xi.    Henceforth, the Ministry will keep a keen eye on and prioritize enterprises in value addition so as to enable the women set up small scale cottage industries and therefore have a high multiplier effect on job-creation. I call upon women to submit more projects in this area.
xii.    We also want to support women enterprises to tap into new profitable ventures and opportunities such as in the Pharmaceutical Industries, Construction sector, extraction of plant and animal oils, wheat, technology among others.
xiii.    This will go hand in hand with creating backward and forward linkages through collaboration with research and enterprise incubation centres for purposes of promoting innovations and product development.
xiv.    The Ministry would also like to see enhanced collaboration with other actors to create common user facilities such as Maize millers, Animal Feed Mixers, Extractors to support the Women to undertake processing of Oil,  Carpentry, Leather Tanning, among others so as to enhance exports
xv.    Another unique area where we want to invest is the Music and Film/creative Industry. We call upon women with ideas in this field to apply for funding.
xvi.    As I conclude, we are elated by the Cabinet’s approval of the idea to allot women quotas in public procurement at local and National level. At least 30% of all Procurements should be provided as local content by the women. This will open markets for the women and empower them economically. 

With these new changes, women are on a guaranteed path to contribute a significant share to national development. This is in line with the Programme goal.
Lastly, I implore you the media fraternity to identify women who have benefited from the fund in your areas and allocate them space to talk about how the Programme has impacted their livelihoods. Through that, we shall all be making a contribution to national development.
I thank you.

Pius Bigirimana