Women mean business! Learning how to support women enterprises in Uganda


This page in:


On a recent World Bank mission in Kampala, we held a roundtable with Ugandan women entrepreneurs and witnessed a cacophony of anger sweep the room as one brazen male banker stood up and declared “We have the loan products; women just need to step up and be more ambitious!” The collective frustration felt around the room was a result of him revealing little empathy for the real challenges Ugandan women face in running and financing their businesses. But why don’t women entrepreneurs take out more loans, what constraints do they face, and what services can support them to grow their business? In the new Uganda Generating Growth Opportunities and Productivity for Women Enterprises (GROW) Project, we have incorporated a learning agenda using impact evaluation to tackle some of these important questions.

In this blog, we share some lessons from the ongoing collaboration between the Government of Uganda and the World Bank Africa Gender Innovation Lab (GIL) to learn from the GROW project through impact evaluation.



Use a participatory process with the client right from the beginning

The Uganda GROW project plans to deliver a multi-sectoral program that pairs finance (loans and grants) with business development services and productive infrastructure, including childcare, to support women to grow their businesses. At the design stage of the project, almost two years ago, GIL started working with the government and GROW project team to advise on the design of the proposed interventions based on the existing body of impact evaluation research. Presentations summarizing evidence of what works to support women entrepreneurs in Uganda and beyond were given during implementation support missions, right when the client was making program design decisions. GROW is designed to offer several programs that have already proven to be effective in addressing gender gaps in skills and capital and sectoral gender-segregation to help boost the profits and livelihoods of Ugandan women entrepreneurs.  Some of this existing impact evaluation evidence is summarized in a policy brief and blog.

Design the project to tackle multiple constraints

Tackling multiple constraints can strengthen project impact. The figure below summarizes the four components of the GROW project and how programs directly link to specific constraints identified for women entrepreneurs. For example, the interventions in component 1 will directly tackle skills, networks, and norms constraints; component 2 draws on the evidence from the access to finance literature to incorporate gender-specific design considerations into the loan products (e.g. flexible collateral requirements and loan terms) to overcome barriers to accessing credit. GROW also includes a “policy innovation and evidence generation” sub-component that involves building a learning agenda that incorporates impact evaluations to establish a causal link between certain project components and key outcomes of interest. The learning agenda could also include innovative pilot activities within the GROW project to test the key gender constraints faced by the beneficiaries targeted under the project.

The Uganda GROW project is designed to tackle multiple constraints faced by women entrepreneurs
The Uganda GROW project is designed to tackle multiple constraints faced by women entrepreneurs

Build capacity by supporting the client to measure impact

On the most recent mission, GIL conducted an impact evaluation workshop with our government partners. The goal was to support the client to understand what impact evaluation is and how to do it, and to brainstorm on what innovative research questions could be answered through the GROW project. We presented different impact evaluation methods, discussed the project’s research priorities, and worked to highlight gaps in the existing scientific evidence. The government partners were keen to learn from previous research and excited to use impact evaluation methods to expand their ability to analyze and adjust programs based on evidence. We discussed how an impact evaluation could involve a randomized controlled trial of a project component, smaller pilots to test innovations, or “nimble impact evaluations” to answer operational questions. We loved seeing our government counterpart using the “constraint – evidence – intervention” framework when introducing the work to other stakeholders.

Proposed research ideas include examining the impact of relaxing informational constraints on the demand for credit or childcare services for Ugandan women entrepreneurs. Another idea is to examine enabling factors that can support women entrepreneurs to make the best use of the services offered by the GROW project. Over the next few months, we plan to work with the client to identify the priority research questions and finalize the design of the GROW impact evaluations.

Large multi-sectoral projects like GROW provide ample learning opportunities to design interventions based on evidence and to conduct rigorous impact evaluations for policy reform or innovation.  Building a learning agenda into the operations of GROW will not only support the Government of Uganda to deliver the most promising interventions but also contribute to our understanding of new solutions to unlock the potential of women entrepreneurs.



Margarita Puerto

Social Development Specialist, World Bank

Wei Chang

Economist at the Africa Gender Innovation Lab

Join the Conversation

Julian Nyabuhara
May 15, 2023

Thank you for such intervations for women but there are alot of things we need to look at so we can be sure these intervations will make an impact in the women business community.Do we look at challenges of the business women ,the cultural challenges women face ,the setup of women owned businesses and even capacity to run their businesses.
In which setting do women thrive best to be able to face the challenges in their businesses with confidence .Women thrive in groups in association s where they feel confident to talk, to sell ,to market, to share that's why personal loans don't favour women.
Finance support is key but it must come with support in digitisation so women can move with the current trends .
Most entities have ignored exposure of women,buy exposure opens womens minds and are able to learn from different experiences.

Thank you .

Afekuru Milka
September 05, 2023

GROW project is real targeting the rural poor, women in the grass root, but the question is how do the benefit? Who will mobilise and guide them?
I am the Executive Chairperson of ALIO WOMEN EMPOWERMENT AGENCY, which is located in Egamara Parish, Alikua sub county in Maracha District Northern Uganda

Nanfuka Damalie
September 28, 2023

This great initiative but have questions below;
.How will the women entrepreneurs access the funds?
.Are steps designed to access the funds attainable women entrepreneurs?
. What mechanism is used to identify the women in need won't the rich be ones accessing the funds?

October 13, 2023

How will the women entrepreneurs access these funds?

December 13, 2023

Thanks for the intervention. it is right and fitting.

December 13, 2023

How will women access this funds?

December 13, 2023

This is good innervation for the women, however have you put into consideration the urban women with struggling businesses and post corvid innervations, there has been an influx of rural urban migration of women to urban centers to try to survive, how will GROW INTERVENTIONS HELP US? How will GROW help us who fall in this category.
What do we need to do to be able to access this funds?

Julius Kitara
January 02, 2024

Promising project to uplift women

Linda Layet oloya
February 27, 2024

its a good initiative , but how will that funds reach the grassroot women .

Maureen Asiimwe
February 27, 2024

I look forward to be part of this program.
I'm in a business where marketing is so much of a challenge due to high cost of qmark from UNBS