NSSF, MasterCard in Shs 7.6bn support to women

Patrick Ayota

The National Social Security Fund (NSSF) in partnership with MasterCard Foundation has earmarked over Shs 7.6bn seed funding to 100 indigenous women-owned businesses under the third cohort of the NSSF Hi-innovator programme, an innovation initiative.

This was revealed at the launch of the third funding round for NSSF Hi-Innovator, dubbed NSSF Hi-Innovator Women Accelerator, during the Uganda Innovation Week that ran in November 2022 in Kampala.

Speaking at the launch, Patrick Ayota, the NSSF deputy managing director, said the funding is aimed at giving women entrepreneurs an opportunity to improve their business skills and grow their businesses whilst readying them for future investor funding.

“We have noticed the low participation of women entrepreneurial business initiatives. Whereas Uganda is ranked the second country in the world with the highest number of women business owners (38.4 per cent), according to a 2021 MasterCard Index of Women Entrepreneurs, a 2019 World Bank stated that women-owned microenterprises in Uganda generate 30 per cent lower profits than their male counterparts.”

Ayota added, “Through our women-only funding round of the NSSF Hi-Innovator, we will provide opportunities for women entrepreneurs to reverse the trend. We will avail Shs 75m as seed funding for each women-owned business and our target is to fund at least 100 businesses in this round.”

Adrian Bukenya, the Mastercard Foundation country director, said that through the NSSF Hi-Innovator Women Accelerator, Mastercard Foundation aims to support highly impactful and scalable small and growing businesses to access seed capital and technical support for their businesses.

“With this intervention and by decentralizing and democratizing investment, more start-ups can receive funding and technical assistance to enable them scale and create work opportunities,” Bukenya added.

In addition to the seed funding, the selected businesses will have unlimited access to customized business courses on the Hi-innovator Business Academy – an online learning platform, tailored technical support, mentorship and peer-to-peer learning and networking opportunities from experienced entrepreneurs.

Applicants will first receive entrepreneurial skills training through the Hi-innovator Business Academy, then pitch to an expert panel of judges. It is through pitching that successful businesses will be selected. Although the program is open to all women entrepreneurs in all economic sectors across the country, for a business to be eligible to participate in the program, it should be 50 per cent female-owned or have 70 per cent women in top management, fully registered with Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB), Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) and NSSF (first time registration before application is acceptable), should be legally and actively operational in Uganda for at least two years, should be employing at least two full-time staff with 50 per cent of staff below 35 years of age.

The business should also possess at least one Ugandan founding member and 70 per cent of employees Ugandan; should have a minimum annual revenue of Shs 10m in the past year and should not have raised more than Shs 1bn in grants, convertible grants, debt or private equity.

The Women Accelerator program will be implemented within a period of seven months starting November 23 to June 2023. However, signing up for the program will close on January 31, 2023.


Source: The Observer

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