Published on Africa Can End Poverty

Strengthening Uganda’s Economic Growth with Support to Women Entrepreneurs

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Woman selling vegetables in Naalya market. Woman selling vegetables in Naalya market.

Women’s economic empowerment is key to quickening and strengthening Uganda’s path to inclusive and sustainable economic growth.  Women’s entrepreneurship holds a critical place in Uganda’s efforts to revive its economy from multiple global and domestic shocks including the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet there are programming gaps, that when addressed will support the growth and productivity potential of women entrepreneurs. The benefits of investing in women’s job skills and growth-oriented entrepreneurship will accrue not only to women, but to all Ugandans, says the 18th edition of the Ugandan Economic Update: Putting Women at the Center of Uganda’s Economic Revival.

According to the Uganda Jobs Strategy for Inclusive Growth, micro, small, and medium enterprises created within the past five years now generate over 50% of formal jobs, and household enterprises provide employment for 3.1 million households. The 2020 Mastercard Global Index of Women Entrepreneurs estimated that women own nearly 40% of all businesses. However,  women entrepreneurs earn 30 % lower profits than men and women business owners in Uganda face gender specific barriers, including lower access to capital, and segregation into lower-value sectors.  

To unlock the potential of women entrepreneurs in Uganda, a comprehensive package is needed to address key barriers in a comprehensive manner. The new Generating Growth Opportunities and Productivity for Women Enterprises (GROW) Project will support a multi-sectoral program of customized services that empower women entrepreneurs and transition their enterprises, from micro to small and, from small to medium, as well as improve their productivity.

Women exhibit craft-items at Kololo grounds during the during the Buy Uganda Build Uganda (Bubu). Credit: Rachel Mabala
Women exhibit craft-items at Kololo grounds during the during the Buy Uganda Build Uganda (Bubu). Credit: Rachel Mabala

GROW’s components will tackle key barriers through:

  1. the provision of enterprise development services including training (technical, life-skills, digital), business advisory services, and women’s networks that facilitate market linkages, value chain and transforming negative social norms that prevent women from engaging in business activities.
  2. increased access to finance for women entrepreneurs to transition from micro enterprises to small and medium enterprises.
  3. enabling inclusive infrastructure through common-users’ facilities and childcare.
  4. support project management, policy innovation, and evidence generation. These components include host communities and have specialized activities that address the specific needs of refugee women entrepreneurs.

GROW’s team will work with World Bank teams focused on  Social Inclusion and Sustainability, Social Protection and Jobs and Finance, Competitiveness and Innovation and collaborate with the Gender Team. Given the innovative nature of the project, the Africa Gender Innovation Lab has played a key role in its design and  will also support implementation in order to document lessons learned and support impact evaluation.

Similarly, the GROW team will continue its collaboration with the Women, Business, and the Law program to address policy constraints for women entrepreneurs in Uganda.

The project will also work closely with external partners such as the Gates Foundation, development partners, women entrepreneurs’ associations, and academia. GROW represents the largest and most comprehensive effort to support women’s economic empowerment in the country under the leadership of the Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development in conjunction with the Private Sector Foundation in Uganda. It is expected that the project will create a solid platform for dialogue, exchange of experiences and action towards women’s economic empowerment.


Margarita Puerto

Social Development Specialist, World Bank

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