PSFU Katale is key to Women Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Empowerment.  

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The 2024 Women’s Day Katale is slated for 15th to 17th March, 2024 at Dam Waters Rugby Ground in Jinja. This annual Women Entrepreneurs Empowerment event is organized by Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) and supported by the Young Africa Works program implemented in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation.

In a detailed interview last week, Mr. Stephen Asiimwe, the PSFU CEO discussed why the Katale is so dear to his organisation, why Jinja was selected for the 2024 edition and why everyone must be interested.

Question: Give us a background and present a case for the annual PSFU Katale.  

Stephen Asiimwe: First of all, PSFU is the umbrella body of 330 business associations and corporate companies. As part of our strategic plan, we are mandated to do four things but the principal mandate of PSFU is to be an enabler for business.

Our motto is business growth is our business. This is premised on creating an enabling environment for businesses and business people to thrive. We do this through four ways. We do it through policy and advocacy. We do it through business development support, which we call BDS. We do it through capacity building and training and by extension, equipping people to do business better. We do this by one supporting them in understanding how to do business, where to do business, with whom to do business, how to value add in order to get a better return on your investment. We open markets. We are the front runner at the East African Community, COMESA and now the AfCFTA.

Now in so doing, we have what is known as evidence-based research to inform policy. In our evidence-based research, we discovered that in the business pyramid, the lower part of the pyramid is dominated by women, which is a good thing. But the value proposition of those women is on the lower scale. So, in terms of value, the higher you go, the less women and more men, but at the same time, the higher you go the more earnings for men and not women. So, we, we had a lacuna there where we felt that how do we get the women to go higher.

So, you have micro small medium and then large. So, micro is dominated by women. Small is a lot of women. The moment you start to go to medium the scale dips for women and becomes lower. And the higher you go on the scale, it’s the men who dominate that space and there are factors that speak into why the women are less ass you go further up. Number one is access to finance, and number two is the cost of finance. Women pay more money for accessing finance. In other words, they are more women in the money lending and borrowing arena. But the cost of accessing that money is terrible.

Now, the higher you go to get cheaper money, which is commercial banks, development, bank lending or even international financing instruments, it is dominated by men, meaning the men have an upper scale in terms of accessing better money, which then makes them get more money.

This is not a competition of men and women. It’s a thing of affirmative action in the business sense to scale the women.

One of the factors that we also saw, which was a positive, was that women are very, very good at doing business, but they don’t grow as expected. They stagnate. They have a stunted growth. They never grow taller. They are more, but they never get into the value proposition of business. So, in a summary, we wanted to create a special purpose vehicle that would usher these women into the business economy.

One of the other things of course, we saw over and above those overarching issues was the fact that women do not network. Men are very good at networking in the evening as they socialize, they are also doing business. There are more men on the golf course. Golf is about sports health but it’s a business thing. Rotary is dominated by the male space. They don’t just meet there for a cause. They also do business. They network, they carry business cards. They are more aggressive. So, we want to create a psyche to get the women into that networking space.

And then of course, business of late – in the last 50 years is dominated by Innovation and Technology. It is about Digital Business. Government has gone e-procurement. It is ebusiness. Who controls that space? It is the men.

So those were the problematic factors? So, what was the solution? What’s the intervention? So, then we said, as PSFU we cannot say we are growing businesses when a significant part of our constituency is still stagnated on the low pyramid. It is not about numbers. It is about the quality of the numbers.  So how do we get to improve the quality and quantity of these numbers.

We also wanted to identify with the World International Women’s day celebrations, The Katale would be our contribution to the International Women’s day celebration and that is why we chose to ran this project around the International Women’s day celebrations.

Hence the creation of a special purpose vehicle called Katale.  

The full meaning of Katale in our view is a Marketplace; a Marketplace of innovation., of networking, of digitization, of crosscutting Demand and Supply opportunities, doing business better and training. But also telling the young lady out there that you can do it.

We held the first PSFU Katale in Luwero. It was very successful; a big hit with innovation at its highest, drawing over 100 women-founded and women-led businesses. We saw women creating unique recipes such as Samosa with Enkejje, Rolex with Nsenene, crafts among others. It was really fantastic.

We said we don’t want a one hit wonder scenario. We wanted to create something that will grow further than the current situation. So, we made it an annual calendar activity for us in partnership with our partners from Mastercard Foundation.  

The second year – 2023, we held it here in Kampala at UMA show grounds and again, it was very successful. The second edition, hosted in Kampala in 2023, witnessed the participation of more than 250 women enterprises who showcased their products and services. The Kampala edition gave women from all walks of life a chance to show case their skills including creatives such as Women DJs and Musicians.

As part of our strategic rollout of footprints across the country, we decided to send it far away from Kampala and the first place was to go to the east. There was no better place than Jinja. And coincidentally, we were blessed with the new queen – the IneBantu, who is going to grace this occasion and obviously encourage Women in the Busoga region to be part and parcel of this initiative and all other Economic Transformation activities. So, in a brief, that is what PSFU Women’s Day Katale is and how we intend to use it to uplift Women Entrepreneurs.

Question: In the first two years of the Katale, what really stood out for the Women Entrepreneurs and PSFU? What were the key successes and learnings from the 2022 and 2023 editions?  

Stephen Asiimwe:The factors that impede, somewhat threaten Women Entrepreneurs such as Cost of Finance, Access to Finance, Markets and Networks were all exemplified in the first two Katale editions. Participants walked away with business, better networks and more knowledge to improve their businesses. In Katale two, many people walked away very excited and satisfied with the endless opportunities the platform offered them. In fact, I know of many that have said they are willing to book their stalls in the Katale for the next 10 years.

We also got a lot of positive Media buy-in. The stories that came out were stories of hope, success, growth, expansion and efficiency. But for the first time, banks started coming in and said ‘guys, we have a lot of money here, how can we deploy it to support women better.’ Development partners such as UN Women and many others also took note and came in. So, everyone now wants to be part of this initiative because we have opened their eyes on the opportunities available in the Women space.

As PSFU, we are excited with these outcomes, because they sit well with our day to day objectives. We can’t play small scale, we have to open the door for this country. The President is talking about Value Addition. At both the 2022 and 2023 Katale episodes, we saw Value Addition at its best and we are hoping that every Katale gets even better outcomes.  But most importantly, to be in Luwero for the first Katale, was a big blast for the Women Entrepreneurs in that sub-region.

Question: Why Jinja for the third edition of the Katale? Why not another town in Eastern Uganda?

Stephen Asiimwe: This is a young initiative. This is Katale three. A three years kid operates like a three-year kid. But more importantly, last year we had a big event in west Nile. We also had a big event in Mbale. Our affirmative action is to ensure that we spread equitable across the country.

The most important thing is that we wanted to go eastwards this year for the Katale and settled on Jinja. We wanted to ‘piggyride’ on the new enthusiasm of the new Queen of Basoga, her Majesty the IneBantu. She is new, fresh and popular. She is the biggest, youngest woman influencer in the country right now. The third season of the Katale, running in the month of March coincides with the end of her honeymoon. Culturally, she has to go through a honeymoon process which among other things stops her from appearing in the public until a certain number of days which are done now. The PSFU Katale is thus a great event for the people of Busoga to engage with the IneBantu not that her honeymoon is done.

Further, Busoga region and Jinja particularly has a huge population of unemployed women. Jinja has a huge population but the per capita is very low. We wanted to use the Katale to catalyze the outreach for businesses there. Besides, Jinja is a town on the run; Tourism city, source of the Nile and once upon time, the biggest manufacturing center in the country. Jinja is a good place to be and support the transformation of Women and the Girl child.

Question: As rightly observed by yourself, Jinja is a Tourism Hub. How can the Tourism sector tap in to this Katale initiative?

Stephen Asiimwe: All roads lead to Jinja for the Katale. Jinja has the largest concentration of guest houses in Uganda. Many houses next to River Nile have been converted in to boutique hotels or guest houses. After Nyege Nyege, the Coronation and Royal wedding, the Women’s Day Katale is going to be the next biggest event in Jinja and Busoga region. The people of Jinja should prepare themselves in three ways. One; be ready to receive the visitors coming in for the Katale and make some money. Two; be part of the Katale by exhibiting the different products they have to offer. And three, the Jinja leadership and Tourism fraternity must use this opportunity to organize pocket friendly tourism packages for the visitors. These may include mini trips to the water falls, bungie jumping, visiting the source of the Nile and many others. It is a good time for Jinja, especially the Tourism fraternity. They must exploit these opportunities.

Question: Still related to Tourism, the Chapati and Rolex delicacy is popular in Jinja. There have been several efforts to popularize this delicacy globally. Does it have an opportunity in the Katale?

Stephen Asiimwe: While there are several theories around the origin of Rolex, the proprietor of Rolex is a Jinja person and a woman to be specific. She was once Miss Tourism and has contributed greatly to popularizing it as a Ugandan delicacy. I agree that the people of Jinja must showcase their Chapati and Rolex making skills as this is a sub-sector that employees so many young people. But it doesn’t end at Rolex. Jinja has so much more to offer. What we are telling the people of Jinja is very simple; use the PSFU Katale to showcase your products, services and innovations. Use the Katale to catapult your business to higher heights.

Question: Minus the Katale, which is an annual event, what follow-up activities that PSFU undertake to ensure that the ladies that have benefited from the Katale continue to grow their businesses and transform their communities?

Stephen Asiimwe: As PSFU, we have a big membership drive because we are a member-based organization. We have eased the process of enrolling new members especially those that are upcountry based. So, we intend incorporate all the Women that participate in the Katale in to our database for continued follow-up and support. We also have more projects that are supporting the Women Entrepreneurs such as like GROW with World Bank and Ministry of Gender, we have the Young Africa Works supported by Mastercard Foundation, INVITE – Investment for Industrial Transformation and Employment and UN Women programs among others. We also have several calendar events that support women. This very month, we have a big summit; EU-Uganda Business forum where Women Entrepreneurs will still have a chance to further grow their businesses. In all, we continue to support Women in Business to scale.

Question: As we conclude this interview, why must the Women Entrepreneurs in Jinja not miss this Katale? Why must the people of Jinja attend this activity?

Stephen Asiimwe: I would like to implore as many people from Jinja and Busoga to come for the Katale. We have a lot of transformative activities learned up. We are going to teach, and equip. Financial institutions are going to be there and our membership, projects and technical teams to ensure that all participants benefit. I would like to call upon the leadership of Jinja and the Kingdom of Busoga to be part of this. We won’t be coming to Jinja in a long time as we have to spread this Katale across over 100 districts, the 20 sub regions if you like. So, 2024 is for Jinja and I implore the leaders to rally their people to participate. PSFU is a home to everyone doing business. If you are a business person, intend to do business or want to do business better, the PSFU Women’s Day Katale is your event.

Ends.