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How to keep your business afloat amidst the COVID-19 pandemic

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Find out information about Coronavirus in Uganda. More here.

A shopping mall in downtown Kampala before lockdown.

By Our Reporter

Although remote working was slowly getting embraced by many workers thanks to the fourth Industrial revolution, the trend got a big push by the recent insurgence of the Covid19 pandemic.

Today, many companies are supporting their employees to work from home, in adherence to the World Health Organization’s guidelines of social distancing and quarantine to curb the spread of the deadly novel coronavirus. With the advancement in technology and digitalization, working from home in the 21st century is possible, a few challenges notwithstanding.

With telecommunication services being the backbone of remote working, MTN Uganda, the country’s leading Telecommunications services provider organized a webinar to engage the public on how businesses and their employees can harness technology to stay productive while working remotely.

The online workshop that was live on the MTN Facebook page saw a panel of MTN Uganda’s Enterprise Business Managers offer expert advice to business owners on how they can optimize remote working to keep their businesses afloat even during lockdown.

Stella Yobu, MTN’s Key Account Manager for Large Enterprises noted that keeping in close contact with customers even during the lockdown and supporting their needs is important. Keeping all communication lines open including company websites and social media platforms to reach out and respond to client’s needs is critical at such a time. This, she said, can also be a way of companies getting new customers on board and closing new business deals remotely.

“On-boarding of customers through digital vetting processes and online documents to close new businesses is possible and I encourage companies to use these digital processes. Telecommuting is the way to go for the future and it is an option that companies should look at,” Yobu said adding that companies also need to have online payment solutions to facilitate seamless cash transactions.

Yobu further noted that due to telecommuting, there has been a tremendous growth in data usage and incredible purchases of data and data-enabled devices as more people are working from home.

Phillip Walera, the Senior Manager, Technology solutions under MTN Business noted that in order to facilitate this paradigm shift, MTN Uganda has put in place a plethora of products and services to suit all their customers’ needs as they work remotely. Key among them is the MTN WakaNet which is strictly for home use. It gives users fast internet access from MTN for video calls, e-learning, surfing, gaming and entertainment among other data driven services. Other products that can support telecommuting include closed user group voice calls, Work from home bundles, SME internet packages as well as the Kazi bundles that are specifically tailored to suit the needs of SMEs.

Although there has been a spike in data demand, Sophia Mukasa, the Senior
Manager MTN Enterprise Businuess Unit noted that voice calls are still a very important part of working from home. As such, MTN Business has ‘closed user groups’ offers to support colleagues who are working remotely yet have to keep in touch to keep work going on.

“Closed user groups products for voice call are ideal in this situation. Create a group and call each other for free at an affordable fixed price,” Mukasa said.

Mukasa further noted that sponsored data for organizations that want to help their clients to adapt to digital lifestyle is also available. Sponsored data is where an organization incurs the data cost to allow its clientele access their digital platform at no extra cost, just like the toll free lines where customers call a service provider without paying for talk time.

“All these services are vital for companies to stay afloat in these times when face to face interactions have been limited due to the Covid19 pandemic,” Mukasa said.

Mukasa finally encouraged employees to embrace remote working as it offers a unique opportunity to balance work and life while working close to the people that are most important to you. She however stressed the need for discipline and commitment to meeting work targets and deadlines even when it might be challenging since it is still a new concept to many albeit necessary for business survival and the health of the economy at large.

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CoronaVirus Uganda

Coca-Cola Beverages Africa donates Ugx 1.3 billion towards COVID-19 relief efforts

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Find out information about Coronavirus in Uganda. More here.

By Our Reporter

Coca-Cola Beverages Africa in Uganda has handed over its contribution of UGX1.3billion with three brand new pick-up trucks added to the Ministry of Health COVID-19 fleet.

Prime Minister and Chair of the National Task Force for COVID-19, Rt. Hon. Ruhakana Rugunda, welcomed the contribution and commended Coca-Cola for being a long-standing partner with the government in health causes.

“We are grateful for your support. Coca-Cola has been a long-standing partner with us in many ways. This is further evidence that we stand together. Let’s continue the fight against COVID-19 together,” said Rt. Hon. Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda.

Conrad van Niekerk, Coca-Cola Beverages Africa Regional Managing Director in charge of Uganda, Tanzania and Ghana, stressed that the company contributions were only the first phase of the effort against COVID-19 in Uganda.

“At Coca-Cola Beverages Africa we always look for meaningful ways in which we can contribute to the local communities we serve, whether by partnering with stakeholders such as the government and NGOs or engaging in wider community causes. Our company purpose: ‘refresh the world and make a difference in the community’ is the guiding principle that drives our community outreach activities,” he said.

“Since the outbreak of the Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19) in Uganda, we have been working with the Ministry of Health to support and implement measures to curb its spread. We believe in sustainability – of business and the communities in which we operate. This is an operating ethos that we carry throughout our business every single day. As Coca-Cola, we have carried out different interventions. Apart from taking care of our staff, we have been working with different partners to support our communities in various ways,” he added.

On receiving the vehicles, Minister in charge of General Duties in the Office of the Prime Minister, Hon. Mary Karooro Okurut, emphasized that the contribution would go a long way in enabling the frontline staff to further transverse the country providing assistance and monitoring the spread of the virus.

“We are grateful to Coca-Cola for always prioritizing the wellbeing of Ugandans in the different communities across the country. A pandemic like this one calls for public-private partnerships and we have found Coca-Cola to be a reliable partner,” she said.

Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary, Dr. Diana Atwine, thanked the company for the wide range of support provided to the ministry in the fight against COVID-19, including handwashing support and public awareness.

“Your contributions will help us sink the message deep into the farthest corners of Uganda, among all the people. The catchphrase you have chosen of #StaySafeUG is very important in all our messaging, and you have truly gotten involved in this struggle through handwashing and publicity,” she said.

The Coca-Cola contribution towards curbing the COVID-19 pandemic in Uganda included a consignment of food relief worth UGX390million from The Coca-Cola Foundation, distributed through the Uganda Red Cross Society to vulnerable families affected by the lockdown. The company also donated Ush85million to the Ministry of Health to buy medical equipment and sundries.

Alongside the Ministry of Health, CCBA is currently running a handwashing intervention that involves setting up Handwashing facilities to increase public hygiene. So far, the company has erected four (4) 5,000litre Community Handwashing Tanks in Namanve, Kyambogo and Mbarara Central Market.

The company went further to manufacture Hand Sanitizer that is being distributed free of charge to select segments of society across the country, including those involved in fast-moving consumer goods wholesale and retail trading.

“We are very happy to make this contribution while working closely with different government entities in the fight against COVID-19 for the greater good. When all this passes, all that will be left will be our people, so we have to stand strong together,” van Niekerk reiterated.

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Local Business

Letshego Uganda dismisses loan scam reports

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Find out information about Coronavirus in Uganda. More here.

Roger Mugisha Shillingi, head of corporate communications at Letshego Uganda.

Roger Mugisha Shillingi, head of corporate communications at Letshego Uganda.

By Our Reporter

Letshego Uganda, a microfinance institution, has dismissed media reports linking it to a loan scam involving teachers and policemen.

The report alleges that 5000 teachers and policemen were cheated in a loan scam that fraudulently compelled them to refund money lent to them.

Roger Mugisha Shillingi, the Head of Corporate Communications at Letshego Uganda, has categorically dismissed the reports as untrue.

He revealed that in 2015, they received complaints related to loan disbursements where applicants from districts like Iganga, Jinja and Luwero were raising queries pertaining to deductions being made from their salary and yet they hadn’t applied for the loan (s).

“Letshego reported a case at Jinja road police station, vide Police Ref/CRB2979/2015 and Gef 29/2019 and continue to cooperate with the Police to ensure these cases are logically concluded.” Said Roger Mugisha Shillingi.

“We wish to emphasize that Letshego is the victim because it is the institution that lost money and not a beneficiary of the fraud. We cannot cheat customers who we open doors every day to serve and the only reason we exist.” He added.

He further noted that the company is bound by Customer Protection guidelines issued by UMRA (Uganda Microfinance Regulatory Authority) which embody transparency and integrity.

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CoronaVirus Uganda

NSSF supports paying out partial contributions to members for COVID-19 relief

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NSSF Managing Director Richard Byarugaba

NSSF Managing Director Richard Byarugaba

By Our Reporter

The global outbreak of COVID-19 has disrupted all economies around the world.

This after different measures aimed at curbing its spread were implemented including a lock down which created massive economic and social challenges.

This has led sections of the general public to turn to the National Social Security Fund(NSSF) for relief,  calling for a pay out of a portion of accumulated contributions to its members.

The NSSF managing Director Richard Byarugaba, in a letter to members, has said that the Fund is in support of the public call for mid term Benefits to members.

“We have witnessed a heightened level of stress among our members that have lost means of their livelihood. This has brought to the forefront the role of NSSF to its many members,” Richard Byarugaba says in the letter. “Understandably, some politicians and sections of the general public have been calling for the Fund to pay out a portion of accumulated contributions to its members. We feel your pain and understand your outcry.”

“Following this outcry, we shared with our line Minister our understanding of the worst-case scenario of the economic implications of the proposal to pay out an unplanned 20% of the Fund to its members. We owed it to the Minister, our members and all Ugandans to be honest in the analysis to facilitate the process of making the right decisions that need to be made.Understandably, this analysis may have given a wrong impression that NSSF does not in any way support mid-term benefits. That is far from the truth.” He added

“In the final paragraph of the letter to the Minister, we reiterated our support for planned mid-term benefits, that are embedded within the NSSF Amendment Bill before Parliament. We must clarify that the current legislation, NSSF Act Cap 222, that governs the Fund’s operations does not provide for mid-term benefits and regrettably has limited our ability to offer you new benefits.” He concluded.

Meanwhile, before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fund together with various stakeholders especially the Trade Unions proposed amendments to the NSSF Act which among other changes provides for additional benefits to the existing age benefits, invalidity benefit and survivors benefit. The proposed amendments are currently before Parliament.

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CoronaVirus Uganda

East African Business Council donates face masks to cross-border communities

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Find out information about Coronavirus in Uganda. More here.

East African Business Council (EABC) has donated Face Masks worth UGX60million to cross-border communities in Uganda.

By Our Reporter

In support of efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, the East African Business Council (EABC) has donated Face Masks worth UGX 60 million to cross-border communities in Uganda.

The reusable Face Masks are intended to help protect over 30,000 members of communities at Uganda’s border points who at the highest risk of contracting COVID-19.

In recent weeks Uganda has recorded COVID-19 positive cases mostly from cargo truck drivers crossing the borders from within the East African Community (EAC).

While making the donation, the EABC appealed to everyone in the EAC region to avoid stigmatization of cargo truck drivers as it could lead to a break in the supply chain in the EAC, affecting trade and investment.

The EABC has approached the Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) to support the distribution of the masks at the border points of Malaba, Busia, Mutukula, Katuna, Kikagate, Kagitumba, Cyanika, Elegu, Nimule, Oraba and others where cross-border activities take place.

“We trust the URA as one of the government agencies that has been central to Uganda’s success in the fight against the spread of COVID-19, and recognize the effort invested in tracking and monitoring truck drivers. We know this will support the work of the Ministry of Health and we will encourage more businesses to contribute to all government efforts against
COVID-19,” said EABC Director Stuart Mwesigwa (Roofings Group).

The communities to benefit from this consignment include customs officials, clearing agents, cross-border women traders, porters and truck drivers themselves. The masks were procured in Uganda and manufactured by Ugandan SME Chrisams Designs.

“This is an indicator that the EABC values local content in East Africa and we will actively support the development of business at all levels. We have also arranged to order similar consignments from each EAC Partner State and we urge the governments to focus on building business in East Africa,” said EABC Director Simon Kaheru (Coca-Cola Beverages Africa).

Uganda’s First Deputy Prime Minister, Gen. Moses Ali, welcomed the gesture as significant and highly meaningful.

“We are winning this war because of contributions such as these. COVID-19 is the enemy and the enemy is already squatting. Every contribution we get will help us defeat this enemy fully. It is also good to note that these Face Masks were made by a Ugandan and East African business,” said Gen. Ali.

He was flanked by Hon. Mary Karooro Okurut, Minister in charge of General Duties, and COVID-19 Task Force Chairperson Emmanuel Katongole and Member Robert Kabushenga.

The EABC has also donated masks to Rwanda Revenue Authority to aid in the fight against the Covid-19 at Rusumo One Stop Border Post, and will continue to mobilise business across the region.

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