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INTERVIEW: Accessible finance is key to realizing Uganda’s potential |


Dmitry Poshidaev Many UN agencies have a very specific thematic focus: they deal with women, children, health care or other important issues. However, UNCDF can engage in a wide variety of thematic areas, as long as there is a financial solution that can be used to address a specific challenge, from education to agriculture.

Dmitry Pozhidaev, head of the UNCDF Uganda office.

UNCDF

Dmitry Pozhidaev, head of the UNCDF Uganda office., of UNCDF

Uganda holds a lot of promise. For example, 50% of arable land in East Africa is in Uganda; 75% of Uganda’s population are young people under the age of 30.

So this has the potential to pave the way for Uganda towards achievement Sustainable development goalsand its own development goals.

But to unlock that potential, you need to invest in building systems that enable the country to use that potential and, among other things, find and adopt different financial solutions and ensure that there is sufficient funding for such development plans.

United Nations News Are small businesses in Uganda difficult to access finance?

Dmitry Pozhidaev Right. We know that there are many unresolved needs. The real problem is that in the context of the private sector we are talking about very inexperienced and very rudimentary business processes and business structures. They do not create enough confidence with potential financiers – such as banks and equity providers – that those entities will be able to use the money in the best possible and possible ways. pay their debts.

United Nations News How can you solve this problem in the north of the country?

Dmitry Pozhidaev In northern Uganda we are engaged in several areas. One is to assist local governments and the public sector, especially at the district level, to find financing solutions for various public projects. Such public projects could be in the area of ​​climate change adaptation, local economic development or in the area of ​​forced displacement.

Agriculture employs about 75% of all Ugandans, so it is important that we take agriculture to the next level, in terms of productivity and competitiveness.

We also engage with the private sector on digital finance and the digital economy, to attract smallholder farmers, and village savings and loan associations have integrated them with formal banking system, and thus improve their access to finance.


Okubani Market, Yumbe, West Nile, northern Uganda

UN News / Conor Lennon

Okubani Market, Yumbe, West Nile, northern Uganda

United Nations News You have worked with solar power service companies in the north. Why?

Dmitry Pozhidaev Access to electricity remains a challenge in Uganda, and access to the grid is not yet available in many places, especially in rural areas.

But even in Kampala and larger cities, power supply is frequent with outages and disruptions, which has many implications for businesses, individuals and government entities.

Ensuring access to solar energy offers additional opportunities for businesses, especially micro and small businesses, and especially in rural areas. Having electricity allows those businesses to extend their working hours as they can now work outside of daylight hours.

For individuals, it means light, and it allows students to use electronic devices and study longer.

We are working with a company that provides solar panels on a pay-on-demand system. Their customers’ payments are tracked digitally, which means they can build a credit score, which will make it easier for them to get loans from the official banking system.

This is very important in an economy where 90% of jobs are in the informal sector: in the absence of formal records, it is very difficult for anyone to access the formal financial system. .


Cathy Avako, a farmer in the village of Lumonga, West Nile, northern Uganda.

UN News / Conor Lennon

Cathy Avako, a farmer in the village of Lumonga, West Nile, northern Uganda.

United Nations News Some of your projects involve funding MTM and Airtel, the largest telecom companies in Africa. Why should they receive UN funding?

Dmitry Pozhidaev People often find this surprising. They think a large company can afford to expand into less traditional and riskier areas.

This is not the case, even for very large and financially sound companies like MTM and Airtel; unless the viability of the business case is proven to them, they are clearly not going to go to areas where they are not currently in.

And this is the case with refugee camps. Telecommunications companies have serious doubts about the ability of refugees to buy the products they offer.

However, by demonstrating the need and ability of refugees, and facilitating through a relatively small number of grants, we have allowed these companies to expand into refugee camps. in northern Uganda.



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