Albert Byaruhanga, Absa Bank Uganda’s Head of Business Banking
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will benefit from a Business Continuity and Survival Training and Coaching tailored to their growth. The interactive online training programme is aimed at equipping SMEs with the knowledge, skills and tools necessary to enhance their survival, recovery and continuity in light of the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The trainings, which will support SMEs in the construction, manufacturing, tourism and hospitality sectors, will be a blend of short live webinars conducted twice a month and a series of online courses available to the SMEs to take online at their convenience. The trainings will run from March to June 2021 while the one-on-one coaching sessions for the promising SMEs will commence in May 2021 ending in July 2021.
Speaking at the launch of the sessions, Albert Byaruhanga, Absa Bank Uganda’s Head of Business Banking, said, “SMEs in Uganda have been disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and as such recorded a larger decline in business activity compared to large firms. As a financial institution that is invested in the growth of SMEs, Absa Bank Uganda is proud to work with GIZ, an experienced and reputable partner, to bring forward pragmatic resilience-based solutions to the challenges facing these businesses, which are at the core of the country’s economy.”
The Uganda Business Climate Index 2020 conducted by the Economic Policy Research Center found that lockdown measures had reduced business activity by more than half. The report adds that 90% of businesses surveyed reported experiencing an increase in operating expenses due to COVID-19 containment measures decreed by the government. Furthermore, 75% of the surveyed businesses had laid off employees following the risk presented by the pandemic.
In response to the situation, the government announced in June 2020 that SMEs in the manufacturing and tourism sectors would receive a stimulus package of about UGX 1 trillion through the Uganda Development Bank (UDB) to bolster their operations during the lockdown, however, many businesses report that they have not yet received the funds.
The E4D training program, which is being delivered by ACLAIM Africa Limited, will entail modules in, building financial management systems, financing businesses, managing costs effectively, business planning and management, acquiring and retaining customers, running business online, leading and management of people, and managing risk in business. Additionally, selected companies will qualify for small grants from the Employment and Skills for Development in Africa (E4D) programme and financing from Absa Bank Uganda at reduced interest rates.
While giving his remarks, Mr. James Macbeth Forbes, Country Director for GIZ said, ”There is no question that the private sector is critical to the economic development of Uganda, and a large component of this growth will be driven by having a highly skilled and highly competent SME core. To achieve this, we rely on public-private partnerships with institutions such as Absa Bank Uganda, who bring to the table the zeal and experience that is key to sustainable SME growth.”
Mr. Byaruhanga adds, “The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for all the relevant stakeholders to go beyond the call of duty and provide additional value for stakeholders. Absa Bank Uganda is committed to the growth and development of the SME sector, and this is one of the ways through which we are making a mark for our customers and SMEs in Uganda.”
The Business Continuity and Survival Training and Coaching is an initiative of the GIZ E4D programme which is funded by the German and Norwegian governments. The initiative is being implemented in partnership with Absa Bank Uganda, Uganda Tourism Association (UTA), Uganda National Association of Building and Civil Engineering Contractors (UNABCEC), Federation of Small and Medium-sized Enterprises in Uganda (FMSE) and Uganda Manufacturers’ Association (UMA). The training and coaching is being delivered by ACLAIM Africa Limited on behalf of GIZ E4D.