Ugandan Women Mean Business

A look at the lives of three businesswomen vying for the prestigious title of Female Entrepreneur of the Year.

Last Modified: 01 Oct 2013 14:59
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This documentary follows the fortunes of three Ugandan businesswomen trading at different levels as they defy stereotypes and compete for the title of Female Entrepreneur of the Year.

Benedicta Nanyonga, who makes bags, belts and shoes from used drinking straws; Regina Mukiibi, offering dignity in death with her funeral services business; and Define Nafula Aromite, selling car shades to the new middle class, are shining examples of the enterprise that is helping Uganda's economy boom.

An inspirational film that reveals what it takes to make it in Africa today in the face of sometimes overwhelming odds.

Filmmaker's view

By Carol Cooke

Up until last year, I used to think I had it pretty tough trying to run my own production company here in Scotland.

That was until I went to Uganda and met with the country's growing band of female entrepreneurs who are defying the statistics, cultural stereotypes and credit restrictions and taking the business world by storm. They are putting so-called hard working Western business women like me to shame on a daily basis.

After all, this is a country where just over half of the female labour force receive no wage for their work, and where 40 percent of businesses are owned by women and yet just seven percent of all credit is allocated to them.

As you will see in the film, access to credit is one of the biggest barriers facing our three main characters: Daphne, the self-titled 'Queen of Sales'; Regina, Uganda's first ever funeral director; and Benedicta, a former banker-turned straw bag designer, whose products are made out of total rubbish - recycled drinking straws that she collects from the gutter and transforms into bags, belts, earrings and even shoes.

According to Benedicta, the secret to a successful business is uniqueness and quality of product and if you can guarantee both of these you will not need to look for the market, it will look for you.

Her innovative business idea is already a big hit across the globe. However without a machine to assist with the painstaking and often painful production process, she is being forced to turn these orders down.

Benedicta's business is the first of its kind in the world and, as a result, no such machine exists so is having to rely on local engineers to help create it and apply for a substantial bank loan to fund it. The interest rate is 30 percent. 

Unlike here in the UK where I can apply and receive a new credit card almost instantly, in Uganda women rarely receive credit to help build their businesses.

Access to credit is still dictated by land ownership and with over 90 percent of the country's land owned by men, the challenge is clear.

Business is still seen very much a "man's world" in Uganda, although day by day and sale by sale this is changing and there is a real appetite and environment for reform.

You can see this just by looking at President Museveni's chosen cabinet with almost all of the key departments - Finance, Trade, Education and Health - headed by women.

Women are the unsung heroes of Uganda's economy and this is a film that aims to showcase and celebrate their incredible enterprises, but also attitudes and the frustratingly simple challenges that stand between them, success and a truly sustainable business.

As a businesswoman myself, I am passionate about this project and really excited about its potential to not only showcase their efforts but also unite them with potential customers, investors and business mentors from across the UK and beyond.

This film does not conform to the stereotypical images of Africa we are used to seeing in the mainstream media. This is about trade, not aid and these women mean business. All they are asking for is a level playing field and an opportunity to show the world what they are capable of. 

For more information about the project please visit here  

In Pictures  

Ugandan Women Mean Business can be seen from Monday, September 30, at the following times GMT: Monday: 2230; Tuesday: 0930; Wednesday: 0330; Thursday: 1630.

Watch more Witness films 


Al Jazeera
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