Government on Monday signed a Memorandum of Understanding with partners in science and technology to support digital innovations among small and medium enterprises in Uganda under the Top 100 Mid-Sized Companies survey 2020.

The survey involves partners going to all districts in Uganda to identify businesses with growth potential.

The Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation signed the MOU to collaborate with Nation Media Group (NMG), KPMG East Africa and World Vision Uganda, to recognise best innovative companies as they expand.

The Top 100 Mid-Sized Companies survey is an initiative that was started 12 years ago and it’s sponsored by NMG and other partners to help SMEs understand their challenges and grab opportunities available to them to compete in both local and international markets.

The best company will be declared in December, 2020.

The Ministry of Science and Technology estimates that 75 percent of Ugandans manufacturers are in the SME sector and they significantly contribute to the national economy.

To qualify to be among the top 100 SMEs in the survey, a company should have not above Shs25 billion turnover and not below Shs20 million turnover and should not be listed on the stock market.

Mr Sam Barata, the general manager commercial, Nation Media Group Uganda said that the survey is aimed at increasing technological opportunities for SMEs which is key to attract investments, skills and development.

“We help owners to personally run their companies. Our interest is to grow the economy, and grow the country. We are trying to bring all these technologies into SME ideas so that they can adapt this into their businesses and enhance the business efficiencies and therefore grow,” he said.

This year’s Top 100 survey has incorporated a component of innovation in technology to over 300 SMEs. The innovations will be gauged in terms of product, processes, marketing or any other innovative approach.

Mr Asad Lukwago from KPMG East Africa, one of the partners of Top 100 Survey said that the SMEs have been failing to adapt to technological innovations that exist. He said they have to change the approach so that ideas are transformed into products that can be commercialised into the market.  

Mr David Obong, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation said Uganda’s economy can only progress to a middle income status if they embrace technology.

“Given my rural background, there is a lot to be done in our rural areas. There is a lot of scientific  innovations buried there. These are Ugandans who are many and their future relies entirely on quality of human resource that benefits them in terms of skills and education,” Mr Obong said.

 “By signing this MOU, the government is expecting our children to be equipped with the knowledge and skills which they will use to innovate and come up with new innovations and technologies to solve societal, national, regional and global challenges as identified in Uganda’s NDP III, National Development Plan Three,” Mr Obong said.

He said that Uganda lags behind in terms of incorporating young learners into technology and innovation efforts and should embrace and speed up their approach to compete with countries like Angola, Rwanda, Kenya, Senegal, Sierra Leon, Madagascar and Zimbabwe.

Meanwhile, the government has committed to clear World Vision’s tax obligations, to implement a pilot digital classroom project that will benefit 30 schools in three districts.

The project received funding of Shs21.6 million ($6,000) from Spain for the digital materials for learners and their teachers.

Each school will receive a suitcase which has a laptop for the teachers, one router for the teacher to connect learners to the Internet, 48 tablets for children and a projector.

According to World Vision’s national director, Mr Jason Evans, the digital project will make learning more challenging, practical and interesting for those in lower primary in selected schools in Buikwe, Mpigi and Nakasongola district in 2020. The project will be expand to more 100 schools in 2021.