Changing the mindset of Ugandan entrepreneurs: from Muppets to Gazelles

The research project ‘Changing the mindset of Ugandan entrepreneurs: from muppets to gazelles’ aims to contribute to socially inclusive development in eastern Africa by identifying and tackling key constraints on domestic entrepreneurship through social networking, mainly among rural women in Uganda. It explores where opportunities for domestic entrepreneurship lie, and what assistance strategies could effectively empower aspiring entrepreneurs to grasp these opportunities. The following are the interim findings and policy messages from the mid-term report.

Interim findings

  • Many rural female entrepreneurs in Uganda are trapped in poverty. They are not entrepreneurs in the conventional sense, as their productive activities are generally very small and hardly grow.
  • Rural female entrepreneurs lack financial and technical resources, knowledge about procurement, production, and markets, and marketing skills. Furthermore, their product quality and packaging are also generally below basic acceptable standards.
  • Most rural female entrepreneurs lack the strategic contacts to access new ideas, information, and resources, provide them with inspiration or enable them to attain a better bargaining position.
  • The sales proceeds of rural female entrepreneurs contribute to important social goals (e.g. they can enable women to send their children to school, meet the costs of healthcare, invest in land, or simply enjoy a little independent spending money). These women tend to define business success with reference to such social goals, rather than profit or employment growth.

Policy messages

  • Start by understanding women’s aspirations and contexts: Different women pursue different goals through their businesses. Their businesses form a small part of a much larger palette of activities for household income generation and risk diversification. Support for rural female entrepreneurs must be attuned to these goals, while helping them to attain more income security. However, in every rural community there are also a few capable female entrepreneurs who can be coached to become business leaders and provide productive employment to others.
  • Address rural female entrepreneurs’ social relations: Rural female entrepreneurs’ constrained social relations are hampering productive investment and innovation and need to be addressed.
  • Improve rural female entrepreneurs’ social connectedness: Rural female entrepreneurs’ social connectedness can be improved through simple ICTs (e.g. an SMS-supported trading platform and M-PESA schemes) or through conventional media (e.g. local radio stations), which are hugely popular in rural areas.
  • Establish local resource centres: Local resource centres can provide women with information, networking opportunities and professional assistance. These can be built on locally-driven initiatives (e.g. a local community centre or a local radio station) and ‘enriched’ with limited external help (e.g. from the government). Centres can also offer training (e.g., in Mobile Money) and the service of brokers to connect sellers and buyers of agricultural produce.
  • Organize poor entrepreneurs into groups: Local groups are pivotal for poor entrepreneurs, as they can be approached through their local group leaders and derive strength from each other.
  • Acknowledge the variation among entrepreneurs: Entrepreneurs are not a homogenous group: some need access to the Internet, others an intermediary or assistant, and some need training.
  • Focus on the role of men in supporting women entrepreneurs: Men who support women entrepreneurs should be encouraged to spread the message that women’s businesses are not threatening, but can lead to increased financial resilience, social dignity and happiness.
  • Provide one well-targeted strategic intervention: Too many support services can smother women, contributing to passivity, whereas one well-targeted intervention can effect a range of problems.
  • Do not expect quick fixes: Successful projects need to go through several learning iterations.


Dynamic entrepreneurship is scarce in low-income Sub-Saharan African countries. Dynamic entrepreneurs are sorely needed in order to boost local/regional economic growth and productive employment through innovations that can improve productivity and create new markets. Barriers to dynamic entrepreneurship are especially large in the rural areas, and among women. Hence, many enterprises remain small subsistence activities.

This research proposal, which builds on a long-standing collaboration between Makerere University Business School and Eindhoven University of Technology and strong research expertise in the field of entrepreneurship in Uganda, aims to investigate pivotal barriers to dynamic entrepreneurship in Uganda, in particular among rural and female entrepreneurs.

Research methodologies include surveys, qualitative ethnographic research and a social networking experiment using a digital platform. The research findings will form the basis for the development of improved entrepreneurship coaching, education and training services offered by the Ugandan Investment Autority and the Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association Limited.


Scientific article

  • G. Rooks, G. Solano(2018): Social capital of entrepreneurs in a developing country: The effect of gender on access to and requests for resources Social Networks pp. 279 - 290 ISSN: 0378-8733.

Publication meant for a broad audience

Publications for the general public


Project number

W 08.370.102

Main applicant

Dr. H.A. Romijn

Affiliated with

Technische Universiteit Eindhoven, Faculteit Industrial Engineering & Innovation Sciences, School of Innovation Sciences

Team members

B Ajer, Prof. dr. M. Frese, D Kanduhuky, R Kiconco, S. Kyejjusa, C. Omusana, F.E. Oyella, Dr. H.A. Romijn, Dr. G. Rooks, Dr. G. Solano, Dr. A. Sserwanga


01/11/2014 to 01/03/2018