Banks, VISA Forum Seeks to Promote Women’s Economic Empowerment
In a joint initiative aimed at championing women’s economic empowerment in Uganda, the Uganda Bankers’ Association (UBA) partnered with VISA to host a groundbreaking forum at Mestil Hotel in Kampala on October 24. The event highlighted the crucial role of improving women’s access to customized financial services and technology.
Sarah Arapta, Chairperson of UBA, emphasized the need to overcome the barriers that have hindered women’s economic empowerment through limited access to finance and related services.
Recognizing that effective solutions require collaboration among various institutions, Arapta stated that women constitute 52.5% of Uganda’s labor force. Despite this, they face higher unemployment rates, spanning across both educated and less educated segments of the population.
The United Nations Development Programme Resident Representative to Uganda, Elsie Attafuah, stressed that achieving gender equality by empowering women to participate equally with men could contribute up to $28 trillion, or 26% of annual GDP by 2025, bringing significant benefits to developing countries.
“Economic empowerment of women is one of the most fundamental components of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 5, which aims to achieve gender equality,” Attafuah noted.
She added, “Inequality poses a long-term threat to social and economic development, hampers poverty reduction, and impacts individuals’ sense of fulfillment and self-worth.”
Salma Ingabire, Country Director at Visa Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda & Tanzania, highlighted the rapid increase in the global rate of female entrepreneurship compared to male entrepreneurs, with over 250 million women engaged in entrepreneurship worldwide.
Ingabire pointed out that 40% of businesses in Uganda are owned by women, signifying significant progress. However, challenges in financial inclusion persist, underscoring the need to support women entrepreneurs.
The forum stressed the pivotal role of technology as a catalyst for women’s financial inclusion. It highlighted the importance of using digital platforms to facilitate easier access to financial services and market information, taking advantage of the growing prevalence of smartphones and digital infrastructure.
Phyllis Kamau, Head of Government Engagements, East Africa-VISA Sub-Saharan Africa, stated, “Financial inclusion is not merely about accessibility; it is about the quality of that access. We are committed to driving small businesses towards digitalization.”
Betty Amongi, the Minister of Gender, Labor, and Social Development, emphasized the significance of financial institutions investing in women’s organizations to educate them about mobile savings and loan schemes. Access to bank accounts plays a crucial role in women’s ability to access credit.