Dorothy M. Tuma is a business development and international trade consultant. Her work focuses on trade issues with a special emphasis on their impact on women in business. Dorothy belongs to several international consulting networks and contributes regularly to local and international publications and conferences on the challenges and opportunities for small and medium-size enterprises. In addition to the above, she is the founder of the Women’s Centre for Job Creation, an organization that turns around rural women’s income generating projects in Uganda.
She is the immediate past Chairperson of Uganda Women Entrepreneurs Association Ltd. (UWEAL) and current Chairperson of the recently launched East African Women in Business Platform.
Dorothy was previously a brand manager with Avery Dennison Corporation, USA for 10 years. She holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Economics (Honors) from Makerere University Kampala and a Masters in Business Administration from the Anderson School at UCLA in Los Angeles, USA. She is also the author of Keeping Customers & Getting Their Friends Too!, a practical and insightful customer service handbook and writes a weekly column for the Daily Monitor.
I caught up with Dorothy at her office a few days before the Business discussion in Kampala and here is how we got on.
Ida Horner (IH): So Dorothy, as you know you we are only days away from business meeting that will explore the challenges and opportunities that exist for women as part of the global supply chains. What are your thoughts about this top? Is there a business case to be made?
Dorothy Tuma (DT): This is a timely meeting and I strongly believe that MNCs can provide good in roads for women to grow their businesses.But there are challenges for women in business. Some of the challenges have to do with the nature of businesses that women engage in. Women are engaged in petty trade and run enterprises that are not registered, you have to ask when the connection between what MNCs are doing this type of enterprise, there is a disconnect, telecommunication companies like MTN are unlikely to have opportunities for women selling tomatoes as part of their supply chains.
Women-run businesses tend to be agro-based and companies like SABMiller provide opportunities for women to supply the raw materials that SABMiller would require for its beer.
Supermarkets also provide opportunities to become part of global supply chains, but even then women face challenges. A multinational would require the business to be registered, in addition women tend to farm on small scale and there will often be issues of quality and quantity. Women may not be able to meet the quantities required.
So the challenges here are to do with whether your business is formal or informal and the size of the business itself, is it large enough provide the quantities required. We do have to ask the questions, what is the real opportunities for women to supply global chains and what are the connections between women and these chains in the face of such challenges?
Although agro-based supply chains provide opportunities for women, are women ready to supply these chains, have they got the quantities that supermarket require? What about companies like Coca-Cola? What percentage of their distributors are women? I don’t have the latest statistics, but I would guess not many. One needs a large financial outlay to service the contract and generally it is the men that can access such financial resources. The financial outlay is prohibitive for women.
If you are a women in business and you have formalized your enterprise, the MNC will still need to know that you are financially secure and that you can service the contract and if not you are out. Then there are the standards that you have to meet as well as the quality.
IH: What can be done to address some of the challenges, bridge the gap between MNC expectations and the women trying to be part of the MNC supply chains? Are these problems peculiar to female-owned enterprises?
DT: Issues of quality and standards are not peculiar to women owned businesses. MNC need to consider investing in capacity building of their suppliers in order to build long-term relationships.
IH: Is it the job of MNCs to build the capacity of suppliers?
DT: It may not be their business but there is business case to be made. If MNCs did more with the small scale supplier, there is a lot that can be gained from that exercise e.g. the breweries would want to ensure that have good quality raw materials for their beer and this can easily be achieved by both parites working together. Toyota Uganda has a good program of working with its supply base to build the capacity of the small enterprises it outsources to.
IH: I would like to take you back to the issue of the nature of female owned businesses and that the fact there are mostly agro-based. Internationally, it is said that there is a technology revolution going on Africa. Are you aware of any programmes for women to engage with multinational telecom companies for instance?
DT: Not really, if there are, they are keeping that a secret
IH: OK, if I have understood you correctly, women need to UP their game, but is it easy to register a business in Uganda.
DT: It isn’t difficult but there is a perception that it is. You need at least £37. People shy away from it because they think it is complicated and also that if they register, the tax man will be knocking on their door soon or later.
IH: How do we get round these problems and whose job is it to fix them?
DT: I chair the East African women in Business platform which is a conglomeration of all women entrepreneur associations, we have three objectives:
- Increase women participation in integration
- Increase women petrifaction in regional trade
- Help women move from informal to formal enterprises
We are going to do some work around the benefits of having a registered business. It has became very easy to register a business in Rwanda, where the process is online and your business is registered within 24 hours. In Uganda this process can take a month as we shuffle paper form one place to the next. It can be costly too if you do not know how to fill in the forms yourself, but there is help, other than that which is available from lawyers.
The registration of businesses lies with Company Registrar. The Uganda Revenue Authority (URA) should be involved in this too as they have a vested interested.
IH: Does either institution run workshops on how to register a business?
DT: Not really. URA runs workshops with respect to tax procedures.
IH: What about you? When I first met you nearly four years ago, you had taken the decision to return from the US and set up shop, how have things worked out for you?
DT: I am a consultant and mostly work with donors, development partners and NGOs. I also like working with women, to support their enterprises as I believe if women are empowered, that solves a lot of problems. I face challenges of a different work ethic, sometimes people do not want to pay, there are inefficiencies in the system that one has to work with, but I manage and sometimes it is necessary to lower one’s expectations.