By Tracy Gwambe
National Social Security Fund (NSSF), and Mastercard Foundation, on Monday 10 May 2021, launched a program, dubbed HI-Innovator, where UGX 35 Billion was put aside to fund entrepreneurs.
The five (5) year Hi-Innovator program aims to support over 75,000 entrepreneurs and provide them with practical entrepreneurship training to enable them to address gaps in their businesses.
NSSF Managing Director Richard Byarugaba said that the Fund is working to strengthen the existing entrepreneurship ecosystem through which entrepreneurs can be harnessed and supported to build profitable, sustainable and scalable businesses, as well as engaging the young people in developing solutions that address today’s social and economic challenges.
“Interacting with young innovators, I have understood that their businesses fail to succeed not just because they lack affordable financing, but also a business development support system. We are creating this ecosystem that consists of entrepreneurs, business incubation, advisory and business development services as well as funding partners that these young innovators can benefit from,” he said.
“There is also high attrition of SMEs due to inadequate governance practices, inadequate adoption of technology to scale, inadequate access to expertise, and inadequate access to funding. Through this programme, we hope to bring discipline, structure, and jump-start funding to the entrepreneurship space of Uganda,” Byarugaba added.
“Entrepreneurship is a game of persistence, where entrepreneurs fail and rise again. Entrepreneurship can be a solution. It is a high risk, though a high reward,” said Byarugaba, at the launch.
He informed entrepreneurs that the program will provide them with knowledge and basics of businesses online, with self-teaching classes online, and know-how.
Participants will get support from innovation Hubs including;
The partnering hubs will assist entrepreneurs in bringing their ideas to the market.
By signing up for the Hi-Innovator program, https://bit.ly/3o9qobe, “Entrepreneurs will have a chance to build something that grows Uganda,” said Byarugaba, who promised that that partners and implementers will engage with entrepreneurs taking on the program, to see to it that country grows and benefits from the Hi-Innovator program.
“We believe that the ladies at the Hi-Innovator program have a safe space to grow their businesses, to make this course go forward and to make sure that our country grows through this program,” he said.
Important to note about the Hi-Innovator program is that it also targets to create at least 130,000 employment opportunities for youth and women, over 5 years.
Mastercard Foundation Country Head, Samuel Yalew Adela, applauded NSSF for starting the initiative and committed to being part of the ecosystem for the next 5 years.
“This partnership is part of our Young Africa Works initiative that aims at helping millions of people to find a pathway out of poverty. We have committed to enabling 30 million young Africans, especially women, to find employment they see as dignified and fulfilling by 2030. The Hi-innovator Programme gives us an opportunity to further contribute to the achievement of this objective.”
NSSF is always looking for investable businesses to make them better. According to the Managing Director of NSSF, one of the sad stories is that the Fund doesn’t have enough companies to invest in. “We have a whole fund of 20 Million Euros and always miss out on companies that would be ideal for us to invest in,” he noted.
The NSSF and Mastercard Foundation partnership of investing in entrepreneurs will make Uganda a better country with more jobs created, thus reducing unemployment.
“We can unlock the new financing opportunities for our entrepreneurs with big dreams, by breaking down the silos. If we all financial partners come together in supporting this, we can surely make it a better world for entrepreneurs.”
The NSSF Hi-Innovator Programme consists of 2 phases – the first being self-directed online learning via a platform providing foundational business knowledge to entrepreneurs to enable them to address gaps in their businesses. It is open to individuals interested in starting a business or those who have a small and growing business.
The second phase is a six-month business support process where entrepreneurs will have an opportunity to receive funding, technical assistance, business development and market development support to enable them to scale their businesses.
Written by Tracy Gwambe