28 women entrepreneurs graduate with business skills

Dr Hillary Emma Musoke (left seated) with some of the graduates and officials

At least 28 Ugandan women entrepreneurs graduated last week with hands-on skills to excel as business managers in different sectors after 10 months of training, thanks to the Graca Machel Trust (GMT). 

Founded by Graca Machel, the former Mozambique and South Africa first lady, GMT runs a ‘Women Creating Wealth Programme’ to impart practical skills and knowledge to enable women entrepreneurs to prosper in their businesses.

The training programme, which is funded by Visa Foundation to a tune of $125,000, included modules on book-keeping, business finance, digital marketing and pitching to potential investors.

Hired business experts and coaches conducted the training through online platforms. It was a rollercoaster programme for the 33 entrepreneurs – of which 28 graduated – as they went through peer-to-peer learning, quizzes and individual assignments in the 10 months.

Cecilia Sewagudde, who owns a landscape firm, Beautiful Blooms, was one of the graduates last week. She says her business, which employs 48 people, has gained more visibility in the market because of the network she built with fellow entrepreneurs during the training programme.

Apart from Uganda, this training programme has piloted successfully in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Malawi, Senegal and South Africa. According to Korkor Cudjoe, the GMT entrepreneurship manager, some of the pitches from the trainees’ have already raised $100,000 through proposals to investors.

Cudjoe said the Trust aims to partner the government and the private sector foundation to raise money and extend the training programme. She said GMT wants to empower 10,000 women entrepreneurs across Africa to raise $1 billion in five years.

Dr Theopista Ssekito, the national coordinator, appealed to the government to find a solution on reducing the high interest rates in the market. Currently, the banks charge between 18 and 21 per cent interest on the loans but the fines skyrocket to as high as 43 per cent in any case of defaults.

Speaking at the graduation event held on May 24 at Mubs campus, Nakawa, Dr Hillary Emma Musoke, the private secretary to President Museveni in charge of youth, agriculture, value addition, innovation and export promotion, advised the women entrepreneurs to apply for loans from the Uganda Development bank whose interest rates range between 10 and 12 per cent.

Musoke, who was the chief guest at the graduation event, said the president wants interest rates lowered to seven per cent. He promised to organize a meeting between the women entrepreneurs and the president soon. Most of the entrepreneurs who graduated are involved in value addition cottage industry, hospitality and tourism sub-sectors.

Source: The Observer

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