Ugandans using internet for chatting rather than business, worries UCC

Over The Top (OTT) tax
A woman in Kampala scrolls through her WhatsApp messages.

Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | The Ugandan government has initiated the groundwork for the introduction of G6 Internet infrastructure, slated for implementation in the country next year. However, concerns have arisen about whether this technological advancement will be harnessed effectively to generate wealth.

Speaking at the inaugural Entrepreneurship Stakeholder’s Forum organized by TechnoServe in Kampala, Nyombi Thembo, the Director of Universal Access Fund at the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), expressed optimism that Uganda’s connectivity challenges would soon become a thing of the past.

However, he noted that two persistent barriers to maximizing Information Technology (IT) benefits in Uganda are illiteracy and the high costs associated with digital devices.

Thembo observed that many Ugandans, while demanding access to higher-generation networks (internet), predominantly use their advanced smartphones for social media communication rather than for innovation or job-seeking endeavors. He emphasized that addressing these limitations is crucial for realizing the full potential of G6 Internet infrastructure.

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The government, in collaboration with the World Bank, is actively working on deploying over 200 internet sites globally and establishing fully equipped resource centers across the country, particularly aimed at supporting Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs).

Thembo asserted that politicians may soon be compelled to include internet connectivity in their manifestos or face challenges from the electorate.

Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in Uganda and other developing nations have grappled with resource limitations, including inadequate finances and skilled manpower, hindering their capacity to keep pace with global innovation trends. This predicament is especially pronounced in sectors such as agriculture, where SMEs struggle to secure funding for their operations.

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Alice Warweru, Director for Entrepreneurship Programs for East Africa at TechnoServe, emphasized their commitment to empowering rural enterprises, particularly in agriculture, to leverage digital advancements. She highlighted the challenge of limited resources faced by individual farmers and entrepreneurs who tend to operate in isolation, underlining the need for collaboration and capacity-building.

TechnoServe’s primary concern lies in the high rate of enterprise collapses within a few years of their formation. This underscores the importance of equipping innovators and entrepreneurs with the skills necessary to sustain their ventures.

Julius Byaruhanga, Director of Policy and Business Development at the Private Sector Foundation Uganda, pointed out that one of the key hurdles in SME development in Uganda is the absence of a Startup Policy. Efforts are underway, in collaboration with the Ministry of Trade, to rectify this gap.

TechnoServe has been actively engaged with entrepreneurs, Ugandan farmers, cooperatives, suppliers, and processors, with a focus on dairy, coffee, horticulture, maize, and beans, to foster competitive industries.

The Country Director of TechnoServe Uganda, Juliet Kyokunda, emphasized the significance of SMEs in driving the country’s economy. She cited the example of price fluctuations in the global vanilla market, where small farmers often face insurmountable challenges, highlighting the necessity for alternative solutions and support.