Access to finance, unfair taxation in focus at UN Women in Agribusiness Expo

KAMPALA, January 19, 2024 – As the United Nations [UN] Women in Agribusiness Expo in Kampala concluded on January 16, 2024, women entrepreneurs voiced concerns over the formidable challenges posed by inadequate access to affordable and appropriate financing along with an unfavourable taxation system.    

During a panel discussion at Serena Hotel, Kigo, Kampala, Hellen Munyasa, the Chief Executive Officer of Helton Traders LLP, lamented the financial constraints faced by many women in business particularly those in the startup phase. 

From L-R: Prof. Goodler Naiga Basaza, Hellen Munyasa, and Dr. Rose Okurut Ademun sharing expertise recently during a panel discussion at the Expo, Serena Hotel, Kigo (Photo by Mubale Muke).

“Most of us are starters; we have the ideas, but financial institutions have very strong strings attached to their loans, and we do not have such collateral yet,” Munyasa said.

Despite these challenges she expressed optimism about the Expo’s potential to foster women’s knowledge exchange and sustainable partnerships both locally and internationally.  

Munyasa also urged organisers to enhance the event’s appeal to the international and local visitors, facilitating a broader exposure which would offer more networking opportunities.

A participant speaking during the United Nations Women in Agribusiness Expo (Photo by Chrispus Mubale Muke).

Similarly; Dr. Rose Okurut Ademun, the Commissioner for Animal Health at the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry, and Fisheries [MAAIF], emphasised the harsh impact of expressive loans to women-led businesses.  

“There is a lot of business attrition, with wives running around with lost hope because a person takes alone to buy the first merchandise but cannot restock because they are repaying the loans,” she said.

Dr. Rose called for increased sensitisation on loan utilisation and financial literacy, cautioning against the potential pitfalls of excessive borrowing.

“A lot of people have gone into poverty due to loans. Train people about the negative aspects of loans. A loan is not actually your money, so handle it as if it is not yours; you can only use your profit,” the government official  said.

She asked the government to revise taxation on women businesses, especially starters, in order to keep them afloat.

“We need to have thresholds at which the government cuts off, whether the tax is paid or not. There is a lot of taxation; it should be reduced so that women are encouraged to grow their businesses and their profit margins,” Rose said.

The Commissioner also asked the government to link female processors with manufacturers of automated processing and packaging materials to increase their levels of mechanisation and production.

“Our hands are always dirty; we produce products that are manually handled, and with a lot of handling, you find that there are chances of contamination, and we end with rejections of our products,” Dr. Okurut noted.

 In an exclusive interview with theCooperator News on the fringes of the event, Amb. Rosa Malango, highlighted the importance of knowledge and awareness in seizing opportunities.

Amb. Rose Malango delivering her speech during the UN Women in Agribusiness Expo (Photo by Chrispus Mubale Muke).

She encouraged women to articulate their case for tax incentives through documented justifications for a tax policy that focuses on women in agribusiness.

“Based on evidence and documents, we can present our case to the cabinet to request a tax incentive package for women and women in agribusiness,” Malango said.

She cautioned women to stop looking for donations, for they come with stringent conditions. She advised women to work hard and attract funders by developing attractive business plans and catalogues.

She continued: “Funding a business is not humanitarian; you need to gain the trust of someone who has the money and maintain that trust. Eventually, you will be in a better position to compete if you package yourself better.”

The former diplomat also applauded the government of Uganda for establishing a favourable environment that among others supports business growth.

“Uganda is one of the few countries in the world where one can get real organic food, which means when you go to the international market, you have premium products,” Amalango said.

She advised the women to repackage and present their products in a way that gives multi billionaire investors enough confidence to invest in their businesses.

In a related development, the United Nations Women Country Representative Paulina Chiwangu said that the women’s event in Kampala aimed at unlocking investment opportunities for women in agribusiness.

“We have a five-year programme of nurturing and networking women as the sustainability plan for the continuity and growth of the event,” Chiwangu said.

Dr. Paulina Chiwangu, UN Women Country Representative, captivated the audience with her insightful speech during the UN Women in Agribusiness Expo. (Photo by Chrispus Mubale Muke).

She said that the programme will save women from the culture of overdependence on donations and their husbands, reducing gender-based violence, a vice that has resulted in family breakages.

In her remarks Jane Amuge, the Director Operations at The Uhuru Institute for Social Development [TUI], a social business enterprise that supports cooperatives in Uganda, pledged the institution’s commitment to providing publication opportunities for women in agribusiness in theCooperator Magazine, and its sister platform, theCooperator News.

 What you need to know about the Expo

The Women in Agribusiness Expo, a side event of the ongoing 19th Non-Aligned Movement [NAM] Summit in Kampala was aimed to unlock investment opportunities for women in agribusiness. 

The expo featured over sixty companies from across Uganda, providing a platform to address and overcome challenges faced by women in the agribusiness sector.

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