SHARLEEN BBOSA: Digital platforms empowering women entrepreneurs in Uganda

Sharleen Bbosa works with Ministry of ICT&NG.

Sharleen Bbosa works with Ministry of ICT&NG.

KAMPALA —In recent years, the digital landscape in Uganda has evolved rapidly, opening up new avenues for women entrepreneurs to build and grow their businesses. Digital platforms, including social media, e-commerce, and business listing platforms, are transforming the business landscape in Uganda and providing women with opportunities that were once out of reach.

As a country, Uganda has made significant strides in creating an enabling environment for entrepreneurship. However, women entrepreneurs still face systemic barriers that limit their access to finance, market information, and other resources necessary for business success. Digital platforms are addressing some of these challenges and empowering women to create thriving businesses.

Social Media: A Powerful Tool for Women Entrepreneurs.

Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are increasingly popular in Uganda. According to a report by Hootsuite, there were over 8 million active Facebook users in Uganda in 2020, with the number expected to rise to over 10 million by 2025. TikTok has also gained popularity becoming one of the most used social media platforms in the country.

For women entrepreneurs, social media provides a powerful tool to showcase their products and services, reach new customers, and build brand awareness.

Social media platforms allow entrepreneurs to create business pages, where they can share information about their products, post photos and videos, and interact with potential customers.

Social media also enables Ugandan entrepreneurs to reach customers beyond their geographical location. For instance, a woman entrepreneur based in a rural area can use social media to market her products to customers in urban areas or even other countries. This has the potential to significantly increase her customer base and sales.

Moreover, social media platforms allow entrepreneurs to leverage influencer marketing, collaborate with other entrepreneurs, and engage with their customers in real time. This level of engagement can build brand loyalty and real-time customer retention, both critical factors for business success.

E-Commerce Platforms: A Gateway to New Markets.

According to a report by the International Trade Center (ITC), e-commerce can help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Uganda reach new customers, expand their product lines, and increase their sales. E-commerce platforms like Kikuubo Online, Bulooka, and Tubayo provide entrepreneurs with an online storefront to showcase and sell their products. This can significantly reduce the costs associated with setting up a physical store, such as rent, utilities, and staffing.

Afrocanfit, a growing fitness brand based in Uganda run by Patience Ankunda, has benefited greatly from its use of multiple e-commerce platforms. E-commerce has also enabled Afrocanfit to reduce its operational costs by eliminating the need for a physical storefront, reducing overhead expenses, and allowing the company to operate 24/7.

Additionally, e-commerce has provided Afrocanfit with valuable customer data and analytics, allowing the company to personalize its marketing efforts and improve its overall customer experience.

Overall, the use of e-commerce has been a key factor in the success and growth of Afrocanfit as a fitness brand.

Business Listing Platforms: Increasing Visibility for Women Entrepreneurs

Business listing platforms like Google My Business are also providing women entrepreneurs with a cost-effective way to increase their visibility and reach potential customers. These platforms allow entrepreneurs to list their businesses, including their contact information, location, and product or service offerings.

They provide entrepreneurs with an opportunity to showcase their products and services to a wider audience. For instance, Maxima Nsimenta, proprietor of Livara Natural and Organic Cosmetics who produce organic hair and skincare product, has found it easier for potential customers to find her products and learn more about them by listing her business on Google My Business.

The Importance of High-Quality Content
To stand out from their competitors on digital platforms, women entrepreneurs must create high-quality content that showcases their products or services. High-quality content, including images, videos, and blog posts, can help entrepreneurs differentiate themselves from their competitors and create a strong brand identity.

For instance, a woman entrepreneur who produces handmade jewelry can use high-quality product photos and videos to showcase the unique designs and craftsmanship of her products. This can help her stand out from other jewelry sellers on social media or e-commerce platforms.
Similarly, entrepreneurs can use blog posts to share information about their products or services, including their unique features and benefits. This can help build brand awareness and establish the entrepreneur as an expert in their field.

Challenges and Opportunities

While digital platforms offer immense opportunities for women entrepreneurs in Uganda, there are still challenges that need to be addressed. For instance, there is a digital divide between urban and rural areas, with entrepreneurs in rural areas having limited access to digital infrastructure and connectivity.

Many women entrepreneurs lack the digital skills necessary to effectively leverage digital platforms for their businesses. To address this, there is a need for training programs and resources that can help entrepreneurs acquire digital skills and knowledge.

There are also concerns about online fraud and cybercrime, which can pose a significant risk to entrepreneurs who conduct their business online.

The 2019 Uganda Police Annual Crime and Road Safety Report showed more than 41 billion Ugandan Shillings ($11m) was lost to criminals through cybercrimes including swapping SIM cards and hacking digital financial accounts. To mitigate these risks, there is a need for effective cybersecurity measures and awareness campaigns to educate entrepreneurs about the risks of conducting business online.

Despite these challenges, digital platforms offer immense opportunities for women entrepreneurs in Uganda to build successful businesses and contribute to the growth of Uganda’s economy.

To fully leverage the potential of digital platforms, there is a need for concerted efforts from stakeholders, including government, civil society, and the private sector. This includes initiatives to bridge the digital divide, provide training and resources for digital skills, and strengthen cybersecurity measures to protect entrepreneurs from online fraud and cybercrime.

With the right support and resources, women entrepreneurs in Uganda can harness the power of digital platforms to build successful businesses and contribute to the economic development of their country.

The writer, Sharleen Bbosa works with Ministry of ICT&NG.

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