Led by Emmanuel Omara, a group of roughly 100 opinion leaders, opinion shapers and residents of Lira City have petitioned the World Bank Social Development Specialist & Task Team Leader for Uganda’s GROW project Margarita Peurto Gomez demanding for an inquiry into the Ministry of Gender officials.
To strengthen their 3 page petition, the aggrieved Lira City residents attached their national ID NIN numbers while disclosing their full names. They are concerned that the Growth Opportunities & Productivity for Women Enterprises (GROW) project Coordinator Alex Asiimwe (who substantively is also the Commissioner in charge of Labor & Industrial Relations in the same Ministry) has been closely working with Minister Betty Amongin-affiliated organisations like Arova Producers Cooperative Society Ltd and NUWEBIZ Foundation to exclude them from benefits anticipated from the rolling out of GROW.
That the two organisations are already actively operating in Oyam district and Lira City where more than Shs800m has already been lent out following a very complex and exclusionist eligibility criterion. That an interest rate of 10% is being imposed on every borrower per month besides a nonrefundable loan processing fee of Shs50,000/=. That under this impugned arrangement, the Gender Minister a few weeks ago launched the disbursement of hustler loan funds of Shs500m for Lira City and another Shs300m for Oyam district.
The petitioners, whose dossier the World Bank Kampala office confirms to have received on Tuesday 12th September this very week, plead with Margarita Peurto Gomez to inquire and establish whether there is any relationship between the GROW project billions (close to Shs1trn) and the hustler loan funds that are currently being operationalised targeting beneficiaries in both Lira City and Oyam. They also want the World Bank to establish the extent of 2026-related politicisation relating to the way these hustler funds are being rolled out to the community in both Lira City and Oyam.
Launched a few months ago at Kololo Ceremonial Grounds by Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja, the GROW project seeks to avail affordable finances to women-founded and ran business enterprises across Uganda. The WB grant was prompted by the realisation that many of the previous entrepreneurship-enhancing funds and interventions by the GoU had not adequately empowered women because of the unique impediments they always face hence the need for this unique intervention.
The grant from the WB was exhaustively discussed and approved by both Cabinet and Parliament after leaders at both levels realised the need to do more to effectively emancipate women in the entrepreneurship arena. The idea was and remains to impact on a minimum of 60,000 female-owned enterprises including 3,000 refugees-owned businesses. A total of 280,000 are destined to directly benefit and these must be involved in small and medium scale business enterprises across the country.
A total of 1.6m Ugandans are targeted to indirectly benefit from the World Bank grant whose rolling, under the banner of GROW, was launched and flagged off by Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja at Kololo with the implementation of the project being entrusted in the hands of both the Gender Ministry and Private Sector Foundation Uganda.
At the Gender Ministry, Commissioner Alex Asiimwe has been handling being the main man charged with the establishment of everything including the coordination Secretariat and recruitment of highly competent staff to man the same. But in their petition, the Lira City residents dispute Mr. Asiimwe’s suitability for the role doubting if he can ever do/say anything or take any stand on anything in a manner that can antagonise their powerful and overbearing daughter (the Minister of Gender) in any way.
That many of their children applied for slots when the Gender Ministry put out the advert seeking to recruit technical staff to implement the Shs833bn project only to be disappointed when the Ministry ended up recruiting using some other methods including head hunting contrary to the WB way of doing things. They propose that the World Bank uses its leverage as the sole funder of the project to demand for a more transparent and inclusive recruitment process of staff into GROW.
They claim that unless the best talented and qualified staff are recruited, as opposed to cronies of powerful officials, the entire Shs833bn project will go to waste and end in extreme scandals as has been the case with several other GoU interventions that were originally well intentioned to emancipate Uganda’s genuinely poor people. They also ask the World Bank to intervene and prevail on the Gender Ministry in a manner that ensures that access to the funds isn’t unnecessarily made to be complicated. That such prohibitive requirements such as high interest rates and loan processing fees will alienate many intended beneficiaries of the project because many people in especially the Ugandan countryside are already poverty-stricken and financially struggling.
The petitioners, who say they are ready to endure anything including intimidation and being witch-hunted by whoever gets hurt by the red flag they have raised, have also escalated matters by delivering copies of their anti-Gender Ministry petition to other powerful government offices in the land such as Speaker of Parliament Anita Among, her Deputy Thomas Tayebwa, the Finance Minister Matia Kasaija, the Gender Ministry headquarters and the Inspector General of Government Beti Kamya who many have previously accused of making big media pronouncements without being able to act decisively whenever required to walk the talk. (For comments on this story, get back to us on 0705579994 [whatsapp line], 0779411734 & 041 4674611 or email us at email@example.com).