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

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

Dmitry Poshidaev Many UN agencies have a very specific thematic focus: dealing with women, children, health care or other important issues. However, UNCDF can be involved in various 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 Office in Uganda., for UNCDF

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

Therefore, this potentially creates the conditions for Uganda to move towards achieving the Sustainable development goalsand their own development goals.

But to unlock this potential, it is necessary to invest in building the systems that allow the country to use this potential and, among other things, find and apply various financial solutions and ensure that there is adequate funding for these development plans.

UN news Are small businesses in Uganda struggling to access finance?

Dmitri Pozhidaev Yes. We know there is a lot of unmet demand. The real problem is that in the context of the private sector we are talking about very inexperienced and very rudimentary business processes and structures. They do not build enough trust with potential financiers, such as banks and capital providers, that these entities will be able to use the funds in the best possible way and will be able to pay their debts.

UN news How is he able to address this problem in the north of the country?

Dmitri Pozhidaev In Northern Uganda, we are engaged in several areas. One is to support local governments and the public sector, particularly at the district level, to find the financial solutions to various public projects. These public projects can be in the field of adaptation to climate change, local economic development or the field of forced displacement.

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

We are also engaged with the private sector on digital finance and the digital economy, to connect smallholder farmers and village savings and loan associations with the formal banking system and thereby improve their access to financing

Okubani Market, Yumbe, West Nile, Northern Uganda

UN News / Conor Lennon

Okubani Market, Yumbe, West Nile, Northern Uganda

UN news You have worked with companies selling solar energy services in the North. Because?

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

But even in Kampala and the larger cities, there are frequent cuts and interruptions in the supply of electricity, which has multiple implications for businesses, individuals and government institutions.

Ensuring access to solar energy offers additional opportunities for businesses, especially micro and small ones, and especially in rural areas. Having access to electricity allows these companies to extend their working hours because they can now work beyond daylight hours.

For people, it means enlightenment and allows students to use electronic devices and study longer.

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

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

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

UN News / Conor Lennon

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

UN news Some of your projects involve funding for MTM and Airtel, Africa’s largest telecommunications companies. Why should they receive funding from the UN?

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

Not so, even for very large and financially sound companies like MTM and Airtel; unless they are shown the viability of the business case, they clearly will not go into areas where they are not currently engaged.

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

But by demonstrating the demand and ability of the refugees to pay, and facilitating through some relatively small grants, we allowed these companies to expand into the refugee camps in northern Uganda.

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About the Author: Chaz Cutler

My name is Chasity. I love to follow the stock market and financial news!