BEMANYA TWEBAZE: The Entrepreneurial Opportunities amidst the COVID-19 crisis

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BY BEMANYA TWEBAZE

The onset and spread of COVID-19 has left few people, if any, unaffected.

The impact of the pandemic on entrepreneurial businesses and in the case of Uganda, the multitudes of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) cannot be underestimated.

Since March, when the effects of the coronavirus started taking a toll on the business community, businesses have been calling for Government support to fast track their recovery.

In a bid to offer remedial support, the Government introduced stimulus packages to encourage creativity, re-enforce  competitiveness and capitalise MSMEs to keep them operational.

The Government is channeling sh1 trillion into the private sector through the Uganda Development Bank and this funding is aimed at supporting faster recovery of the economy from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Start-ups play a key role, especially in the growth of developing economies like Uganda. However, the COVID-19 crisis is reducing their establishment, challenging their survival and limiting their growth. There is an urgent need to address challenges in both supply and demand caused by the pandemic.

Entrepreneurial opportunities amidst the crisis While a large number of start-ups have suffered during the pandemic, COVID-19 has also led to an increase in entrepreneurial activity. Companies and individuals across the world have rallied to respond to, and where possible, tackle this crisis.

Many businesses have positioned themselves to meet the new demands for goods or services borne out of the crisis. From MSMEs involved in mass production, to start-ups and individuals crafting and selling basic COVID-19 related items like face masks and shields and others like the boda bodas turning into grocery delivery agencies, the nature of innovation has been incremental during the pandemic period.

Uganda as a nation has for years dominated the ratings as one of the most entrepreneurial countries globally. If the COVID -19 pandemic has taught business owners anything, it is that they need to have their entities formally registered.

Bemanya Twebaze

To benefit from Government’s stimulus package, businesses must have legal registration and good finance, governance and administrative structures.

This has ultimately lowered the threshold of entrepreneurship for many and encouraged people to formally register their businesses.

URSB’s contribution to formalisation of Uganda’s economy has exponentially grown with the numbers of registrations over the years surging, and amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, the outlook is still positive.

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During this COVID-19 period, March to October, over 7,145 companies and 4,039 business have been registered electronically under URSB’s all-digital, all-online new service model. Additionally, 67 trademarks were registered by indigenous entities.

These registrations are proof Uganda’s entrepreneurial spirit cannot be broken by the crisis.

Supporting innovation and creativity Necessity being the mother of invention, the current COVID-19 crisis presents immense opportunities for MSMEs to develop technologies that will not only change lives, but also provide basic necessities during the crisis. To fully understand how the entrepreneurial landscape is changing, we must explore the other types of entrepreneurial activities as well.

The Government, through the Uganda Registration Services Bureau (URSB), in partnership with other stakeholders launched the National Intellectual Property Policy (NIPP) and the Security Interest in Movable Property Registry System (SIMPO).

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni officially unveiled these two services to the country on September 23.

The objective of the NIPP is to stimulate and nurture innovation and creativity. The policy also facilitates integration of intellectual property into national priority sectors and programmes towards realisation of national development goals.

SIMPO responds to the pressing needs of the youth, women and MSMEs who cannot access affordable credit due to lack of substantial collateral like land. With SIMPO, prospective entrepreneurs borrow money as start-up capital using their movable property like stock, electronics and even intellectual property.

SIMPO is further driving financial inclusion through facilitating access to affordable credit as guided by Vision 2040 and the Third National Development Plan 2020-2025 Policies that support entrepreneurship, provide incentives for start-ups and MSMEs and boost entrepreneurial potential will go a long way in speeding up the recovery of ailing businesses and improve economic growth in the long term.

The writer is the Registrar General of Uganda Registration Services Bureau


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