Although Uganda bears the highest percentage of women entrepreneurs globally (38.2%), funding is without a doubt, a critical constraint for female founders. Their access to funding is mainly through savings and mutual guarantee lending groups (for example savings and credit cooperative organizations). The average size of their loans is reportedly smaller as compared to their male counterparts. This partly explains the $42 million gender-financing gap in Africa, across business value chains, including $15.6 billion in agriculture alone.
Pertinently, Uganda has made some remarkable achievements regarding the funding of female founders within the startup-ecosystem. According to the Briter Bridges’ Africa Funding Landscape report (2019), Uganda featured among the 13 African startups co-founded by women, that raised at least $1 million in total venture capital in 2019. More importantly, a number of funding initiatives have been rolled out to support female entrepreneurs specifically in Uganda. The Ugandan government, for instance, initiated financing programmes such as the Youth Livelihoods Programme (an extension of the Youth Entrepreneurship Venture Capital Fund) to provide start-up capital for young entrepreneurs. Of these, 30% were enterprises started by young women (both in terms of clientele and loan value).
Together with the European Investment Bank, the Uganda Development Bank (UDB) has also committed to closing this gender gap by dedicating a minimum of 30% of a EUR 15m loan to businesses that meet one of the “2X Challenge” criteria on entrepreneurship, leadership, employment or consumption. Similarly, DFCU Bank established the Women in Business program (WiB) to press for women’s economic empowerment while increasing their financial literacy as well as creating business linkages for them.
Creating a robust financial system that is inclusive of women-owned enterprises will not only spur their growth but Uganda’s economic development at large. A 2019 report by McKinsey Global Institute suggests that GDP across Africa could increase by 10% in 2025, should greater parity between men and women be achieved. Beyond financing female enterprises, it's important to create a supportive ecosystem or an enabling environment that fosters a foundation of skills, knowledge, and experience for female entrepreneurs. This is true regardless of gender, as companies that scale are built by highly committed, engaged, and skillful teams. Having a suitable degree for a given role is therefore essential to gain an understanding of the market and how to best provide a service.