Government urged to protect, re-tool and skill workers

Published By UNNGOF |  November 16, 2021

Just like it has been in the past save for the virtual celebrations, 1st May is that time of the year when workers, employers, governments and other stakeholders take a reflective, stocking-taking and celebration mode for the scores in the labour and employment sector. As Uganda joins the rest of the world to commemorate the International Labour Day under the theme: Enhancing innovation for increased employment and labour productivity as sustainable COVID-19 response”, our member – Platform for Labour Action an NGO that promotes and protects the rights and livelihoods of vulnerable and marginalized workers in Uganda, presents this call to government;

  1. Assent to the recently passed workers’ progressive bills into law: Since the last celebrations in the storm of COVID-19, Parliament of Uganda has passed various workers progressive Bills including the National Social Security Fund Amendment Bill 2019 and Employment Amendment Bill 2019 which have since remained waiting for the president to assent to them. These Bills seek to strengthen the protection of workers’ rights and social protection for all workers.
  2. Re-tool and skill of informal traders on digital trading: Re-tool and skill of informal traders on digital trading particularly the women on the emerging economically viable sectors of work and employment as well as the new spaces of trading. Women still lag behind in the use of digital platforms to conduct trade and businesses and yet the new era introduced by COVID-19 has embraced the use of technology in all spheres of the economy. The reach through technology is unlimited and beyond borders. In Uganda 42% of the population accesses and use internet. In the same realm there is need to address Government’s prohibitive policies on e-commerce such as taxes on online platforms that hinder the use of the digital platforms for business particularly for the women. In addition, while the Government introduced free wireless internet in the greater Kampala metropolitan in 2017. The free Wi-Fi goes live from 6PM to 6AM (EAT) on weekdays, and 3PM to 6AM (EAT) on weekends. Note, this is only accessed within selected areas in Kampala, and Entebbe. While this a good service that market women would benefit from as they innovate by shifting to digital trading, the service has not targeted markets with this service. Government should extend the free wires internet access in markets to facilitate the market vendors to join the digital platform of trading.

Ensure equality and equity in accessing the covid19 recovery fund under the Uganda Development Bank. It is now common knowledge that the COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted on Uganda’s economy. The International Monetary Fund growth projections assumed a recovery in Uganda economy in the second half of FY2020-21. Subsequently to help alleviate the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, Uganda requested emergency assistance of $491.5 million. This financial assistance which is a zero-interest rate loan, with a grace period of five and a half years, and a 10-year maturity was expected provide critical support to limit the decline in international reserves, contribute to heath care spending, shield the most vulnerable, and protect businesses from the shock of the COVID-19 crisis. Part of this money was reflected in the national budget for the financial year 2020/2021, part of it, was to recapitalize Uganda Development Bank (UDB) to enable small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) access capital to generate liquidity for the financial sector. Whereas the Bank employed a series of measures to deploy this funding effectively and expeditiously including nationwide publicity through targeted media interventions boosted by the issuance of public Calls for Applications; Set-up of an online application tool to ease the process where a complete application and all documents can be submitted digitally; Building technical and process capacity within the bank to augment the business sourcing and credit appraisal processes; Entered a strategic partnership with Post Bank to leverage on their country-wide network thereby extending reach. Applications to UDBL can be submitted to post Bank branches for upcountry clients; the measures lacked a clear strategy to ensure equality in accessing the fund and thus the measures of deploying the fund were not engendered posing a risk of leaving out the women.