Progress report April 2016

Progress report April 2016


Interim findings 

Changing the mindset of Ugandan entrepreneurs: from muppets to gazelles 

This research project aims to contribute to socially inclusive development through productive employment in eastern Africa. It identifies constraints on domestic entrepreneurship, particularly among rural women in Uganda. The following are the interim findings and policy messages from the mid-term report. 

·         Many rural female entrepreneurs in Uganda are trapped in poverty. They are not entrepreneurs in the conventional sense, as their productive activities are generally very small and hardly grow.   

·         Rural female entrepreneurs lack financial and technical resources, knowledge about procurement, production, and markets, and marketing skills. Furthermore, their product quality and packaging are also generally below basic acceptable standards.  

·         Most rural female entrepreneurs lack the strategic contacts to access new ideas, information, and resources, provide them with inspiration or enable them to attain a better bargaining position.  

·         The sales proceeds of rural female entrepreneurs contribute to important social goals (e.g. they can enable women to send their children to school, meet the costs of healthcare, invest in land, or simply enjoy a little independent spending money). These women tend to define business success with reference to such social goals, rather than profit or employment growth. 

Policy messages: 

·         Start by understanding women’s aspirations and contexts: Different women pursue different goals through their businesses. Their businesses form a small part of a much larger palette of activities for household income generation and risk diversification. Support for rural female entrepreneurs must be attuned to these goals, while helping them to attain more income security. However, in every rural community there are also a few capable female entrepreneurs who can be coached to become business leaders and provide productive employment to others. 

·         Address rural female entrepreneurs’ social relations: Rural female entrepreneurs’ constrained social relations are hampering productive investment and innovation and need to be addressed. 

·         Improve rural female entrepreneurs’ social connectedness: Rural female entrepreneurs’social connectedness can be improved through simple ICTs (e.g. an SMS-supported trading platform and M-PESA schemes) or through conventional media (e.g. local radio stations), which are hugely popular in rural areas. 

·         Establish local resource centres: Local resource centres can provide women with information, networking opportunities and professional assistance. These can be built on locally-driven initiatives (e.g. a local community centre or a local radio station) and ‘enriched’ with limited external help (e.g. from the government). Centres can also offer training (e.g., in Mobile Money) and the service of brokers to connect sellers and buyers of agricultural produce.

 ·         Organize poor entrepreneurs into groups: Local groups are pivotal for poor entrepreneurs, as they can be approached through their local group leaders and derive strength from each other.  

·         Acknowledge the variation among entrepreneurs: Entrepreneurs are not a homogenous group: some need access to the Internet, others an intermediary or assistant, and some need training. 

·         Focus on the role of men in supporting women entrepreneurs: Men who support women entrepreneurs should be encouraged to spread the message that women’s businesses are not threatening, but can lead to increased financial resilience, social dignity and happiness.  

·         Provide one well-targeted strategic intervention: Too many support services can smother women, contributing to passivity, whereas one well-targeted intervention can effect a range of problems. 

·         Do not expect quick fixes. Successful projects need to go through several learning iterations. 

Knowledge products:

“Changing the Mindset of Ugandan Entrepreneurs: From Muppets to Gazelles Project, Kick-off Workshop Report”, Kampala, 21 January 2015.

Pedro I Poblete Lasserre (2015) “Social networks and mobile money adoption : a quantitative case study in Uganda”, Master Thesis, Human Technology Interaction programme, School of Innovation Sciences, Eindhoven University of Technology, Eindhoven.

Chitra Laras (2015) “Why some innovate and others do not”, Master Thesis, Human Technology Interaction programme, School of Innovation Sciences, Eindhoven University of Technology, Eindhoven.


Dr Henny Romijn, research project leader,