Partner in the Spotlight: Edward Katende of the Uganda Agribusiness Alliance

The first article in our Partner in the Spotlight series features Edward Katende, CEO of the Uganda Agribusiness Alliance (UAA), who explains his and SAFIN's role in bringing together Uganda’s foremost agricultural stakeholders to collaboratively identify, prioritise and define goals which affect agribusiness development in Uganda.

Edward Katende, CEO of UAA

Can you tell us in short about UAA and its history?

The Uganda Agribusiness Alliance (UAA) is a national private sector-led organisation established in July 2014 under the laws of Uganda as a not-for-profit. Its aim is to convene, actively engage and build alliances with various agricultural ecosystem actors in Uganda to transform the ecosystem into an interconnected and well-coordinated, business-oriented one, ensuring the growth of all actors along the agricultural value chains.

UAA works towards increasing productivity, efficiency, profitability, competitiveness, sustainability and resilience of agricultural value chain actors, creating jobs and lifting millions of Ugandans out of poverty. To achieve this, UAA strives to use a multi-stakeholder perspective and works with key drivers of change in the sector (as members or as partners). These include 1. Multi-sectoral stakeholders with credibility in the market; 2. Policy makers with authority and incentive to reform; 3. Top-level agribusiness executives, agri-entrepreneurs and investors; 4. Independent and respected sources of evidence and technical solutions providers; 5. Credible implementers and facilitators (e.g. development partners and international NGOs).

Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your role in UAA?

I lost my father when I was barely a year old (courtesy of a ruthless regime in Uganda at that time) and my teenage mother could not cope with two young boys. My big brother and I spent our childhood with our loving grandmother in rural Uganda. I grew up and was educated on the earnings from a smallholder farm. After my undergraduate studies, I worked in the finance department of the now-defunct Cooperative Bank and upon its liquidation in 1999 I moved to London, where I enjoyed an illustrious career with several top corporate advisory firms, retiring as a licensed insolvency practitioner and Fellow of the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants in 2011. Upon my return to Uganda, I worked for Focus on East Africa, a boutique investment advisory firm, investigating better ways to create wealth for many Ugandans, and thereafter left to help establish UAA as a founding CEO.

In addition to the traditional technical skills base, one of the key requirements of my job is to bring parties together to address complex situations and achieve the best possible results for all stakeholders involved. Among my responsibilities as CEO of UAA, I have spearheaded the establishment of, and I am responsible for coordinating, facilitating, administering and otherwise providing structure and form to Uganda’s Agriculture Finance Platform (AFP). The AFP is a dynamic, responsive and issues-based multi-stakeholder platform whose purpose is to promote effective actions that will increase the depth, quality and absorption of financial services for and by all levels and sizes of actors along the agriculture value chains in Uganda. The Platform is the designated “champion” for agriculture finance in Uganda and brings together relevant actors and interests, with a holistic approach, so that issues of agriculture financing (including mobilisation of the private sector to finance agriculture) are supported and sustained by all involved.

In this role, in 2016, I led the process of advocating for the designation of Uganda’s Ministry of Finance as the ‘home’ for agriculture financing in the country and I now sit on a Technical Working Committee that is guiding the Ministry to undertake reforms in Uganda’s agriculture finance enabling environment. Among other roles, I currently chair the Steering Committee for the SAFIN Investment Prospectus Framework in Uganda.

What do you think are the most significant developments in the context of Uganda in the past couple of years in terms of the agri-finance landscape?

The micro-finance revolution in Uganda has enabled MFIs to be a reliable delivery vehicle for financial services to the country’s agribusiness sector (particularly women, smallholder farmers and other agri-MSMEs). MFIs in Uganda vary enormously in scale, sophistication and organizational design, and consist of licensed institutions, NGOs, SACCOs as well as a large collection of associations ranging from women and youth clubs to loosely organised bodies. Different MFIs use different innovative products and models, reflecting the capacity, conditions (grace period and repayment terms), collateral requirements and cash flows proper to specific commodity value chains and value chain actors. They offer savings, payments, micro-leasing and insurance services to their clients. The strength of MFIs in Uganda is that they serve rural areas at low operating costs compared to commercial banks; affordability, eligibility, and product appropriateness barriers are lower; their service delivery is flexible, which makes it easier for

agri-MSMEs to access financial services from them. However, they also suffer from weak operational and management information systems, poor internal controls, liquidity, limited access to technical assistance and dependence on donor funding.

On the agricultural finance enabling environment front, the government of Uganda is using a public-private sector partnership, through a policy “hub and spoke” model, to address the limited access to finance (especially by smallholders and agri-SMEs) that continues to have a negative impact on the country’s attainment of its strategic aspirations. The Ministry of Finance’s (MoFPED) Financial Services Department is the policy hub, while UAA is the spoke. This is because the main responsibility for developing an Agriculture Finance Policy, Strategy, Legislation and underlying Regulations lies with MoFPED, while the Agriculture Finance Platform (AFP) hosted by UAA is recognised by MoFPED as the Champion for agriculture finance in Uganda, ensuring coordination of agriculture finance in the country. This relationship ensures that while agriculture finance issues have an effective domicile within the public sector, relevant concerns and expertise in the private sector are aggregated and championed by the AFP through UAA. This relationship is being leveraged to develop timely and seamless policies, strategies, legislation and regulations that can add up to a conducive environment for private sector entities to access agricultural finance and incentivize these entities to increase their participation in the transformation of the agriculture ecosystem in Uganda.

Why did UAA decide to join SAFIN?

For too long, major stakeholders supporting agribusiness development in Uganda, many of whom are actually SAFIN partners, have worked in silos. This is mainly because of their limited resources and the fact that each one of them is focused on specific issues. In addition to the lack of industry coordination, many interventions have only been implemented for short periods of time with no follow-up strategies to ensure continuity of activities and impact. As a consequence, Uganda's agricultural ecosystem is fragmented and presents many problems.

For agribusinesses to play their important roles in addressing Uganda's numerous challenges, the sector has to be well organised, well networked, well represented and respected. There is the need for an effective multi-sectoral coordination of SAFIN in-country partners’ activities to better respond to Uganda’s agricultural investment challenges.

UAA decided to join the network to harness the platform provided by SAFIN in building a coordinated, positive and practical agenda for sustainable agribusiness growth in Uganda. UAA aims at using the coordination provided by the network to contribute to better policy-making, inform business decisions, share best practices, facilitate collaboration and engage stakeholders.

How is UAA contributing to the work of the network?

As an in-country anchor partner for the Investment Prospectus Framework (IPF) in Uganda, UAA is using the private sector’s ability to implement, innovate and ensure commercial viability to take the lead in mobilising industry stakeholders to drive a growing and modern economy, reduce poverty, ensure food and nutrition security, protect the environment and return a profit at every link of the agricultural value chain. This includes identifying what works, gaps and mismatches in interventions as well as recommendations for prioritisation of efforts by SAFIN partners.

Through the SAFIN platform, UAA is able to bring together Uganda’s foremost agricultural stakeholders to collaboratively identify, prioritise and define goals as well as develop strategies aimed at addressing systemic bottlenecks, which affect agribusiness development in the country.

UAA hopes to use the IPF to collaboratively 1. Identify and/or coordinate solutions for addressing systemic bottlenecks that can have a catalytic effect on agribusiness development across the country; 2. Give the agricultural private sector a unified voice at the highest level of government on issues that impact their industry and the success of their organisations, thereby building an environment in Uganda where it is easier to start, run and grow agribusinesses of all sizes; 3. Drive opportunities for agricultural enterprises, of all sizes, to thrive in a fast-paced global economy; and 4. Coordinate efforts as well as mobilise resources that address the fundamental drivers of growth of the agribusiness industry in Uganda.