As we start the new year, we bring you some of the business stories that made headlines in the last week of 2021.

Two women of Ugandan origin raise record funding for their startup in US

Two women of Ugandan origin have raised $1 million in funding for their start-up company in the US state of Kansas.

Deborah Gladney and Angela Muhwezi-Hall, whose parents are immigrants, raised the money for their company, QuickHire, becoming the first ever black women to raise such amount in the state of Kansas.

QuickHire is a career discovery platform for the service economy workforce. The company partners with job seekers to find career fulfilment by finding the right job and advancement opportunities.

The seed funding round was led by MATH Venture Partners.

“We see the QuickHire team approaching the market differently – putting skilled trade and service workers first in geographies that have been traditionally overlooked,” says Dana Wright, the managing partner at MATH Venture Partners.

 “The timing is right for this approach. We are excited to be part of this funding round, providing fuel for product innovation and market expansion,” adds Wright.

Muhwezi-Hall says the funding will go towards technology investments and team expansion.

Airtel, Buganda Kingdom partner to revive K2 telecom

Airtel in partnership with Buganda kingdom have relaunched the Airtel K2 partnership. This was revealed at a press briefing held at Bulange in Mengo recently.

Started in August 2018, the Airtel K2 partnership saw the integration of K2 customers into the Airtel fold under the number ranges 708 and 709. They have  full access to Airtel’s wide range of affordable Voice, data, mobile money services that they opt in.

Speaking at the event, Airtel managing director Manoj Murali said, “We are humbled to utilise this partnership, on our 100% 4G network,  as a vehicle for us to give back to the community we serve.”

Officials of Airtel Uganda and Buganda Kingdom during the launch.

Since 2018, there has been growth in the number of people accessing the Airtel K2 services. Over the same period, Airtel has added over 800 sites to accomdate the changing needs of the customers and provide the much needed capacity for a 4G network.

 “We pledge a full financial and technical resources to this exclusive and long term partnership to transform our people. We would like to do more for the kingdom subjects in areas that the kingdom shall identify and offer guidance us from time to time,” Mr Manoj added.

In his remarks, the Vice chairman  K2 Telecom Mr Michael Kawooya Mwebe, said “The Kingdom of Buganda is proud of the role played by Airtel and its great contribution towards the social and economic development of Buganda and the country.”

Kenya airlines block unvaccinated passengers from Uganda

Airlines in Kenya have issued travel advisories, urging all passengers coming into the country to travel with their Covid-19 vaccination cards/certificates.

This is in response to a directive by Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA), which seeks to curb the spread of the Omicron Covid-19 variant.

In response, Uganda Airlines has urged all its passengers going to Kenya to respect the directive.

Passengers board a Kenya Airways flight. PHOTO/COURTESY

 “Entry into Kenya has been restricted to only COVID-19 fully vaccinated passengers. Passengers travelling into Kenya are advised to carry their Covid-19 vaccination cards,” the Uganda Airlines advisory reads in part.

KCAA’s directive, which took effect from 21st December 2021 reads: “All passengers arriving into Kenya through any point of entry must have certificate of COVID-19 vaccination. Travellers below the age of eighteen (18) years are exempt from this requirement.”

Uganda Airlines flies to Nairobi, Kenya twice a day and 14 times a week, making it one of their busy routes.

UAE suspends flights from Entebbe amid surge in Covid-19 cases

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has suspended flights from Uganda.

In a move described by Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA) as temporary, the suspension comes amid the surge in Covid-19 cases.

“UAE has temporarily suspended flights from Uganda to Dubai until further notice,” UCAA said in a tweet on Tuesday, December 28, 2021. 

“Passengers planning to travel to Dubai are advised to keep in touch with their respective airlines for guidance on any changes in the restrictions,” UCAA added.

However, according to UCAA, all incoming Emirates flights from Dubai are still operational.

“The restriction is also applicable to transit passengers who have been in Uganda within 14 days prior to entry to Dubai,” added UCAA in a statement.

In June this year, UAE also suspended flights from Uganda to Dubai, over a surge in Corona virus infections and deaths.

Ugandans spend 80% of monthly income on Xmas expenses – study

A study has revealed that Ugandans spend 80 percent of their monthly income on festive season expenses.

The study, which was conducted by WorldRemit to determine the true cost of Christmas in 14 countries, showcases the average costs of traditional Christmas meals, decorations and gifts.

The study indicates that Christmas is one of the primary reasons immigrants and migrants send money back to their home country because of the high cost of coveted seasonal items, food, and the overall impact Covid-19 has had on supply chains and inflation.

Of the 14 countries observed, data showed Rwandans are most impacted by the disparity between average household income and holiday costs, spending 708% of their monthly income and nearly 60 percent of their annual income on the holiday.

 “Filipinos spend 257% of their monthly income on the holiday. In the region, Christmas celebrations begin in September and extend into January, making it challenging for many families to afford the basic costs of Christmas. Without remittances into countries like the Philippines, celebrating Christmas would be near impossible,” reads the study in part.

Bank loan approvals rise to Shs2.8 trillion in 4 months

The value of loan approvals in commercial banks rose to Shs2.8 trillion in the quarter to October 2021, reflecting improved economic activity following the easing of the lockdown.

According to the Bank of Uganda (BoU) State of the Economy report for December 2021, the value of loan approvals, a proxy for credit supply,  rose to Shs2.8 trillion in the quarter to October 2021 from Shs2.2 trillion in the quarter to July.

Weak economic activity that was occasioned by the Covid-19 induced lockdown saw aggregate write-off of bad loans rise by 46.9 percent. COURTESY PHOTO

The value of loan applications, which is a proxy for demand for credit, rose to Shs4.9 trillion in the quarter to October 2021 from Shs3.7 trillion in the quarter to July 2021

“Demand and supply of credit improved in the quarter to October 2021, reflecting improved economic activity following the easing of the lockdown,” the report released on Monday, December 27, 2021, reads in part.

“Both the number of loan applications and loan approvals picked up in October 2021, having declined for a couple of months previously,” the report adds.

Innovation hubs not doing enough in skilling Ugandan start-ups, survey shows

Innovation hubs, incubators, and accelerators are not doing enough to help support Uganda’s budding start-up industry, a report shows.

According to the Annual Start-up Survey Report for 2020/2021, the innovation hubs are not helping in terms of skilling and connection to funding opportunities.

“Start-ups require advanced support from the hubs, in areas such as mentorship, funding, training, and capacity-building – their business planning and management skills needed to be sustainably sharpened, to grow to scale, to appeal to Series A and B investors,” the survey reads in part.

“Start-up Uganda, in collaboration with Innovation Hubs incubators, and accelerators, should mobilize international financers to avail credit guarantees, to local and international investors, such that they can comfortably fund Uganda’s budding Start-up Industry,” it adds.

According to the survey, some challenges persist in the start-up ecosystem, including weak linkages (or fragmented start-up ecosystem) among the institutions, uneven access to funding, gaps in skilling of start-ups (at innovation hubs), unequitable access to affordable ICT infrastructure, and low capacity to commercialization of R&D products and services.