By Our Reporter
KAMPALA-SHIFTMEDIA- Uganda has over the years fostered women’s participation in the economy through gender-responsive policy and programs, policy dialogues and advocacy to leverage resources. According to the Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs (Miwe) 2019, Uganda leads Africa in countries that have a high number of women-owned enterprises as a percentage of total business owners despite poor entrepreneurial supporting factors.
The Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG) was engaging with Parliament and Ministry of Finance officials at Sheraton Kampala Hotel on Wednesday.
The CSOs noted that to date, 33.8% of businesses in Uganda belong to women1 and 85.6% of women in Uganda are in informal employment outside agriculture. “Many of these women are engaged in small businesses and earn from hand to mouth. Their businesses are largely concentrated in the leisure and hospitality economy specifically as bars, hotels, food vending on streets, night clubs, recreation centres among others,” said Carol Namagembe the CSBAG Coordinator. She noted that some of these businesses are largely informal and greatly characterized by lack of knowledge on the market, limited financial access and support to formalize and strengthen structures.
The concern is that many are casual labour provided with a daily wage and lack basic formal social protection that would provide a buffer against economic distress. “This makes them vulnerable to socio-economic shocks despite earning them a decent income and livelihood,” said Namagembe.
In order to respond to some of these challenges, the Government has set aside resources to act as incentives to support businesses especially those owned by women including tax waivers and deferrals to reactivate female-owned businesses and facilitate quick recovery in FY 2020/21.
These funds however are not directly targeting women which puts them in a very tricky situation because they may never benefit from such packages.
Taxation specifically affects businesses in more ways than one, including women-owned businesses. Some taxes are favoring for example exempting taxes on feminine hygiene products like sanitary pads and birth control while others target luxuries like taxes on female cosmetics, hair extensions, jewelry, perfumes, among others.
The CSOs have tasked the Government to strike a balance in the collection of taxation to support not only women’s use of some essential products but also support women-owned businesses.
Julius Makunda the CSBAG Executive Director said such discussions help CSOs to know how they can support the government and various vulnerable groups on the tax policies.
He said women are key players in wealth creation and economic empowerment.