President Museveni has announced that his government will set aside shs.100 billion to finance cooperators involved in sector-specific, low-skill areas of the economy, like boda boda cyclists, carpenters, saloon operators, taxi drivers among others.
The President first made the pledge to set aside a special fund for these small-medium enterprises during his wealth creation tours across the country last year but did not disclose how much would be invested, when.
Now, in a message delivered to Bugisu Local Government leaders through the Chairperson Presidential initiative on Jobs and wealth creation Rita Namuwenge on Monday, the President noted that government would set aside shs.100billion to support actors involved in the “emyooga,” a Runyankole word for specialized, tertiary skills.
“Through the new initiative of ‘Emyooga’ we are prepared to support any youthful group, SACCO or Cooperators who are embracing partnerships to ensure that they escape from poverty,” he said, in a statement read for him by Namuwenge.
In a 12-page missive to the Ministry of Finance in August last year, the President guided argued that the money would be accessed through registered specialized SACCOs for the 16 identified interest groups in each district, with each interest group SACCO expected to have district-wide membership.
But although the President announced that the fund would be rolled out in earnest, it was not yet known where the money would come from, and on Monday, Namuwonge was reluctant to divulge whether any money for the fund had been released, and if so, from where.
In the 2019/2020 budget, shs.437billion was set aside for Operation Wealth Creation, the Women, Youth and Innovation funds, including shs.40billion for the Micro-Finance Support Centre. These are some of the several other funds also designed to avail affordable credit to entrepreneurs, some of whom cut across the newly identified 16 interest groups. With these funds already in place, it is not exactly clear why government is setting up another fund.
Nonetheless, the President has said he is convinced the “emyooga” fund will help increase household incomes and deliver his wealth-creation agenda for the country. He is also optimistic that affordable credit for these interest groups will aid Uganda’s efforts to attain at least two of the Sustainable Development Goals; SDG 1 – ending poverty and SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and Communities.
“The difference with this initiative is, it’s not the districts or municipalities controlling the fund but the beneficiaries themselves receive the money through their own SACCOs and use it accordingly through management committees,” Namuwenge explained, on Monday.
She was also unequivocal that the intervention is not political: “This is not a political move. It is purely intended to ensure that we encourage young cooperators to work together so as to achieve sustainable development and overcome the poverty trap,” she said, adding that it is a constitutional duty for the President to put in place measures to empower his or her people economically.
Namuwenge warned the youths against State House impersonators, some of whom were recently arrested in Ankole soliciting money from people as registration fee to benefit from the emyooga initiative, advancing that the initiative is free of charge.
She clarified that the money would be borrowed at a modest interest rate of 1%, arguing that there was now no longer any excuse why the youth would any longer shun participation in the cooperatives sector and the SME value-chain.