Accessing finance is a problem that many women face in Uganda. With property passing from male to male, women struggle to offer collateral to lenders. A study by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) found that only 9 per cent of commercial credit in Uganda goes to women. However, nearly 40 per cent of small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in Uganda are owned by women and these businesses employ nearly two million people.
DFCU Bank, a commercial bank in Uganda, has recognised that women have an important role to play in the country’s development and tries to help women entrepreneurs overcome the challenges they face. In 2007, the bank set up a ‘Women in Business’ programme, which currently supports over 6,500 businesswomen and provides training, networking opportunities, preferential borrowing rates and mentor programmes.
The programme offers support and products for different groups of women, dependent on the nature of their work. Professional women are offered access to finance through salary loans. Female traders are given unsecured lending of up to US$20,000, enabling them to trade and return the money when they are finished selling their goods. Rural women have been supported to set up investment clubs, in order to pool savings.
“The women are so motivated because they have to run their families, they have to make sure their children have a quality life, that they go to school and that they have medical care. Once they go into business they have a reason for being in business, to support their families to have a quality life.”
Supporting businesswomen and their employees
Clean Plus Professional Services is a successful business. It employs 175 people, has a turnover of US$275,000 per year, and its 45 clients include banks, UN agencies, telecoms companies and government offices. Its founder and managing director is Yvonne Katamba, who started the company ten years ago and has watched it grow from only one employee and an annual turnover of just under US$2,000.
However, achieving that growth has been challenging. Yvonne found it difficult to open a business account at many banks. She turned to DFCU, where she found the conditions much more favourable for a start-up business. Later, a lease of approximately US$14,000 from DFCU enabled her to purchase a vehicle, a scrubber machine and a vacuum cleaner.
Yvonne has also benefitted from the bank’s ‘Women in Business’ programme, which has provided her with opportunities for training workshops and courses, and to build her network.
"I'm so proud, from where we started, at home with one employee, and now it's such a big company. We are able to write good proposals to the bank and get money."
Margaret Bako has worked for Clean Plus Professional Services for six years and is now a supervisor. Margaret has two children – a daughter who is 14 and a son who is 10. As a single mother, she uses her wages to pay her children’s school fees and to pay her rent.
Over the past decade, Yvonne has helped many women like Margaret progress their careers and increase their income. The majority of Yvonne’s employees are women aged 18 to 30, many with low levels of education, and the company trains them and encourages them to take evening school classes. Two of Yvonne’s three current managers started as cleaners, and many others who started as cleaners have now progressed to become supervisors.
“I’m using the money to pay my children’s school fees, to pay the rent, feeding myself also. Actually, I want them to be in the future better. Better than me.”
||US$15.1m (equity) and US$10m (subordinated loan)
|Date of First Investment