Managing director of NSSF, Richard Byarugaba
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The National Social Security Fund (NSSF)and  MasterCard Foundation have launched a Hi-Innovator program aimed at supporting youth, small and medium-sized businesses to sustainably grow through entrepreneurship education, funding and technical support.

The Shs35 billion program was launched by the Managing director of NSSF Richard Byarugaba and his deputy Patrick Ayota. The online training platform was designed with eight self-driven modules where one can take himself through the interactive ideas for a period of 45 days.

For trainees to benefit from that program by visiting NSSF’s landing page nssfug.org/hiinnovator, learn online with partner hubs, demonstrate their potential growth and use their new resources to build investable business.

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Speaking at the launch, the deputy managing director of NSSF Patrick Ayota said: “We are looking for disruptive ideas with potential to have impact, scale and be sustainable. If you are out there and that is what you think you have, come and join us. We are willing to take that one step that will see us grow with you until the big guys come and take over.”

“The reason we have gotten partners around the country is because we understand that people may not have internet or no smart phones. This means you can go to a regional hub, get on their computer and do the training.” Ayota said

The regional hubs include; Makerere University Innovation and Incubation Centre, MUBS Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Incubation Centre, Stanbic Business Incubator, and Shona in the Central region.

NSSF Managing Director Richard Byarugaba said that the Fund is working to strengthen the existing entrepreneurship ecosystem through which entrepreneurs can be harnessed and supported to build profitable, sustainable and scalable businesses, as well as engaging the young people in developing solutions that address today’s social and economic challenges.

“Interacting with young innovators, I have understood that their businesses fail to succeed not just because they lack affordable financing, but also a business development support system. We are creating this ecosystem that consists of entrepreneurs, business incubation, advisory and business development services as well as funding partners that these young innovators can benefit from,” he said.

“There is also high attrition of SMEs due to inadequate governance practices, inadequate adoption of technology to scale, inadequate access to expertise, and inadequate access to funding. Through this programme, we hope to bring discipline, structure, and jump-start funding to the entrepreneurship space of Uganda,” Byarugaba added.

The Hi-Innovator Programme is co-funded by Mastercard Foundation, through its Young Africa Works initiative. Outbox Uganda, an innovations hub is serving as the lead implementation partner.

Mastercard Foundation Country Head, Samuel Yalew Adela, applauded NSSF for starting the initiative and committed to be part of the ecosystem for the next 5 years.

“This partnership is part of our Young Africa Works initiative that aims at helping millions of people to find a pathway out of poverty. We have committed to enable 30 million young Africans, especially women, find employment they see as dignified and fulfilling by 2030. The Hi-innovator Programme gives us an opportunity to further contribute to the achievement of this objective.”

The NSSF Hi-Innovator Programme consists of two phases – the first being self-directed online learning via a platform providing foundational business knowledge to entrepreneurs to enable them to address gaps in their businesses. It is open to individuals interested in starting a business or those who have a small and growing business.

The second phase is a six-month business support process where entrepreneurs will have an opportunity to receive funding, technical assistance, business development and market development support to enable them scale their businesses.