WOMEN IN AGRIBUSINESS MARKETING ACCELERATOR: Equipping Women Entrepreneurs in Agribusiness with Marketing Skills
By Milly Namwanje, Sandra Ejang, and Irene Mirembe
The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, which is an annual assessment of the national level of entrepreneurial activity in countries across the globe, found that, across Africa, the majority of women-owned businesses in developing and transitioning economies were small and micro enterprises with little potential for growth. Although women in Africa produce 60 to 80 percent of the continent’s goods, they earn only 10 percent of the income which means that many women entrepreneurs are restricted from economic growth and their business are forced to remain small and operate in the informal economy. Most findings show that lack of marketing skills and market access are the major limiting factors for expansion and growth of most women-owned businesses. This is clearly reflected in the women entrepreneurs working in agribusinesses in the Wakiso District of central Uganda. In the Wakiso District, like most of Uganda, women provide over 70 percent of the labor force engaged in agricultural production, but they control less than 20 percent of the output. Women continue to experience challenges in accessing factors of production such as land, credit, and extension services, and it is estimated that women conduct 85 percent of the planting and weeding, 55 percent of land preparation, and 98 percent of all food processing. Decisions to market products, however, are usually made almost entirely by men. Countless women lack access to key resources such as vital marketing skills and market information, transport (bicycles, vehicles), storage facilities, labor (skilled, unskilled), packaging materials, processing and milling facilities, infrastructure (roads, market structures, power), preservation and financial institutions (The National Gender Statistics Conference, November 2017).
In June 2019, we attended the Alumni Thematic International Exchange Seminar (Alumni TIES) in Accra, Ghana on “Strengthening Business and Trade for Women Entrepreneurs.” After the completion of the seminar, we were inspired to tackle this issue surrounding women entrepreneurs in agribusiness through an Alumni TIES small grant and create the “Women in Agribusiness Marketing Accelerator.” The project aims to equip women entrepreneurs in agribusiness with the skills to market their products as well as facilitate certification of select products from participants. The project is currently working with 21 women entrepreneurs managing agribusinesses in Wakiso District.
During the first phase of our project, the women entrepreneurs went through a series of entrepreneurship training sessions. Through this training, we helped help these women develop their confidence and identify market strategies for their products and services. Each session was led by experienced business development professionals who shared practical best practices and were able to communicate with the participants on a level that made topics around the marketing and business structure easier to understand. Participants also learned about how to identify their customers, digital marketing, developing a business model canvas, and overall marketing strategies for their businesses. At the end of the trainings, participants engaged in a pitch competition for their businesses where they displayed their products and showcased their newly acquired skills.
The second phase of the project, which is currently in progress, focuses more on supporting the participants through one-on-one mentorship. Our project team members and various entrepreneurial trainers are working with these women entrepreneurs to ensure that they continue implementing the skills that they have learned during the trainings. Additionally, we are focusing on working with the Uganda National Bureau of Standards to achieve certification of five products from the participants’ enterprises. When products are certified by the country’s certifying body, those same products will gain legitimacy that could prove vital for women entrepreneurs in agribusiness to break into the larger market. We hope that these women whose products will be certified will be able to penetrate both local and international markets, and subsequently, increase their sales.
Overall, we hope to empower these women to continue taking the necessary steps to successfully expand and grow their businesses. As we continue learning more about the variety of barriers that they are facing in the market economy, it is even more evident how crucial it is to continue collaborating with one another to provide holistic support.
“I have acquired skills on how to market my passion fruit business. I know my real customers and customer segments and now can concentrate on satisfying their needs. This training has inspired me to add value to my raw passion fruits and now I produce Baraka Juice.”
Women in Agribusiness Marketing Accelerator Project is funded through an Alumni TIES small grant from the U.S. Department of State.