kampala – A World Bank team on Monday began a 10-day mission to assess progress in the implementation of the new Growth Opportunities and Productivity for Women’s Enterprises (GROW) project. The project aims to increase access to entrepreneurial services and enable female entrepreneurs to expand their businesses in targeted locations, including host and refugee areas. This is a government initiative funded by the World Bank with an allocation of US$217 million.
The Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development (MGLSD) is the lead implementing agency and the Uganda Private Sector Foundation is the executing entity.
The World Bank team is led by Ms. Margarita Puerto Gomez, senior social development expert and leader of the GROW project task team, and includes Mr. Samuel Clark, senior social development expert in Nairobi, Kenya; Fatima Naqvi, senior social security expert. They were accompanied by a delegation from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, USA. The meeting was attended by Mr. Stephen Asiimwe, Chief Executive Officer of PSFU and Ms. Ruth Buyizika Kasolo, Deputy Project Coordinator.
During the induction meeting held at the ministry headquarters in Kampala, the Permanent Secretary, Mr Aggrey David Kibenge, commended the team for the support provided from the project design to approval stages. He disclosed that the delegation would hold various events for each sub-component of the project to assess the implementation.
Kibenge stressed the importance of due diligence and commitment by all stakeholders to adhere to a strict timeline as the project, which was announced in January this year, will end on December 31, 2027 and is non-extendable. Ms. Margarita Puerto Gomez, Senior Social Development Specialist and Head of the GROW Project Task Team, assured the Bank Government of support and said the World Bank team will help the Ministry expedite project implementation, including addressing Procurement-related challenges, expenditures, and funding absorption.
In his speech, Project Coordinator and Commissioner for Labour, Industrial Relations and Productivity, Mr. Alex Asiimwe, pointed out milestones and challenges. He informed the meeting that in order to achieve the development goals of the project, a comprehensive approach is being adopted to address the myriad challenges faced by women entrepreneurs in Uganda; a comprehensive package of services is being provided to women entrepreneurs individually or as a group. Alex reported on the progress in acquiring trade/industry specific skills where a call for expressions of interest (EoI) for windows 1 and 2 has been issued with a closing date of September 6, 2023; Regarding the Core Corporate Entrepreneurship Course for Micro and Small Enterprises, he said , MUBS is developing the course so that the ministry can hire training companies to train women entrepreneurs.
On the much-anticipated grant support for micro-enterprises through business competitions, Mr Asiimwe revealed that the participation of women entrepreneurs has been initiated, the grant manual as a condition for disbursement is being finalized and the competition will commence before the end of this year.
Regarding the sub-item aimed at promoting access to credit for business development, the Commissioner reported that consultative meetings and evaluation studies have been held with financial institutions to inform operational manuals and loan products. A call for expressions of interest from participating financial institutions has been issued and will close on September 1, 2023. The lending institution’s licensing process has progressed under guidance from the Uganda Microfinance Regulatory Authority (UMRA) on the use of the PSFU Catalytic Fund.
Under the sub-component focused on establishing multi-purpose service and production facilities to enhance the productivity of women’s enterprises, Mr Asiimwe said the first phase of mapping of existing multi-purpose co-user facilities in the country has been completed and the second phase will be in 2023 It was completed in September 2016, paving the way for the design and upgrade of the facility.
Mr Asiimwe cited the establishment and first meeting of the GROW Steering Committee and Technical Committee on August 14, 2023 and August 22, 2023 respectively. He noted that the next key steps and timeline have been identified to expedite the implementation of the project.
This is the second Implementation Support Mission (ISM) carried out by the Bank for the GROW project; the first was carried out in January 2023.
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