NSSF, MasterCard Foundation Announce Shs35 Billion Innovation Program to Support Entrepreneurs - Daily Post Uganda

NSSF, MasterCard Foundation Announce Shs35 Billion Innovation Program to Support Entrepreneurs

Richard Byarugaba, NSSF Managing Director gives a keynote address during the launch of the NSSF Hi-innovator program on 10th May 2021. PHOTO COURTESY/NSSF

KAMPALA: The National Social Security Fund (NSSF) in partnership with MasterCard Foundation have announced a Shs35 Billion Hi innovation Programme aimed at supporting entrepreneurs, mainly the youth, small and medium-sized businesses to sustainably grow through entrepreneurship education, funding and technical support.

The Programme, dubbed the “NSSF Hi-Innovator” will also provide practical entrepreneurship training to more than 75,000 youth to enable them to address gaps in their businesses, and it is aimed at identifying great innovators,mainly the youth with brilliant ideas that have an impact on society and that can be sustainable.

Speaking at the launch of the Programme on Monday, the NSSF Managing Director Dr.Richard Byarugaba said that the Fund is working to strengthen the existing entrepreneurship ecosystem through which entrepreneurs can be harnessed and supported to build profitable, sustainable and scalable businesses, as well as engaging the young people in developing solutions that address today’s social and economic challenges.

“Interacting with young innovators, I have understood that their businesses fail to succeed not just because they lack affordable financing, but also a business development support system. We are creating this ecosystem that consists of entrepreneurs, business incubation, advisory and business development services as well as funding partners that these young innovators can benefit from,” Byarugaba said.

Richard Byarugaba added, that, there is also high attrition of SMEs due to inadequate governance practices, inadequate adoption of technology to scale, inadequate access to expertise, and inadequate access to funding. Through this Programme, we hope to bring discipline, structure, and jump-start funding to the entrepreneurship space of Uganda.

Dr.Byarugaba called on the youth and innovators to embrace the Programme and utilize their full potential. “if you are out there and that is what you think you have, come and join us”, Byarugaba said.

He said that as NSSF we are willing to take that one step that will see us grow with you until the big guys come and take over. The reason we have gotten partners around the country is that we understand that people may not have internet or no smartphones. In this case, you can go to a regional hub, get on their computer and do the training.

The regional hubs include, among others: Makerere University Innovation and Incubation Centre, MUBS Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Incubation Centre, Stanbic Business Incubator, and Shona in the Central region.

The Shs35 billion Hi innovation Programme was on Monday launched by the Managing Director of NSSF Dr.Richard Byarugaba and his Deputy Patrick Ayota. Who said that programme will be online and was designed with eight self-driven modules where one can take himself through the interactive ideas for a period of 45 days.

L-R : Patrick Ayota, NSSF Deputy Managing Director, Angie Kerubo Nyabuto – Program Partner – Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises; Mastercard Foundation and Richard Zulu, Lead, Outbox during a panel discussion at the launch of the NSSF Hi-innovator programPHOTO/NSSF

The Hi-Innovator Programme is co-funded by MasterCard Foundation, through its Young Africa Works Initiative. Outbox Uganda, an innovations hub is serving as the lead implementation partner.

The MasterCard Foundation Country Head, Samuel Yalew Adela, commended NSSF for starting the initiative and committed to be part of the ecosystem for the next 5 years.

“This partnership is part of our Young Africa Works initiative that aims at helping millions of people to find a pathway out of poverty. We have committed to enable 30 million young Africans, especially women, find employment they see as dignified and fulfilling by 2030. The Hi-innovator Programme gives us an opportunity to further contribute to the achievement of this objective.”

The NSSF Hi-Innovator Programme consists of two phases the first being self-directed online learning via a platform providing foundational business knowledge to entrepreneurs to enable them to address gaps in their businesses. It is open to individuals interested in starting a business or those who have a small and growing business.

The second phase is a six-month business support process where entrepreneurs will have an opportunity to receive funding, technical assistance, business development and market development support to enable them scale their businesses.

For trainees to benefit from that program by visiting NSSF’s landing page nssfug.org/hiinnovator, learn online with partner hubs, demonstrate their potential growth and use their new resources to build investable business.


The National Social Security Fund Uganda is a multi-trillion Fund mandated by Government through the NSSF Act, Cap 222 (Laws of Uganda) to provide social security services to employees in the private sector.

NSSF is the most profitable, trustworthy, efficient, secure, innovative and dynamic social security provider that guarantees safety, security and a competitive return on members’ savings, delivering an annual return of investment of over 2% above the 10-year inflation average.

The Fund manages assets worth over UGX 14 trillion invested in Fixed Income, Equities and Real Estate assets within the East Africa region. As the largest Fund in East Africa by value, we have the ambitious goal of growing our Assets under Management to 20 trillion by 2025.

Since 2012, the Fund is regulated by the Uganda Retirement Benefits Regulatory Authority while Minister of Finance, Planning and Economic Development is responsible for policy oversight.

For more information, please visit our website at www.nssfug.orgwww.facebook.com/nssfug,   www.twitter.com/nssfug



  1. What is the NSSF Hi-Innovator Programme?

The NSSF Hi-Innovator Programme is an innovation initiative of the National Social Security Fund (NSSF, Uganda), in partnership with Mastercard Foundation, that aims at supporting Uganda’s Small & Growing Businesses (“SGBs”) that demonstrate potential for scale, sustainability, and impact. The support involves technical assistance, market linkages, access to business development support services and follow-on financing from a network of financing institutions and investors.

The programme does not intend to develop its own ecosystem but rather act as a bridge that brings together participants in the existing entrepreneurship ecosystem to ease access to affordable financing, and business development and incubation services that together increase the odds of success for young businesses.

This should lead to, access to efficient and affordable financing for SGBs, and improved business development support services thus improving the viability of SGBs Through these successful businesses, the Fund will create new members and new opportunities for investment.

Ultimately, the programme aims at improving the odds of entrepreneurial ideas coming to life and resulting in viable commercial enterprises.

  • Why did NSSF start the Hi-Innovator Programme?

Despite Uganda being recognised as one of the most entrepreneurial countries in Africa, NSSF has for a long time seen the challenges facing youth in the country, from a lack of dignified and fulfilling work for new graduates, to young businesses failing before they reach their 3rd birthday. One estimate puts Uganda’s business failure rate at 7 in 10 businesses failing within 3 – 5 years.

With such stakes, this means that many Ugandans will not have any reasonable social security protection by the time they retire, exposing many – especially women – to the challenges of sustaining themselves in retirement. It also means that in the long run, the Fund is at risk of having no new opportunities for investment in Uganda that, in turn, will affect the returns of existing members contributing to the Fund for their social security welfare.

With all this in mind, the Fund saw the only effective and sustainable way to drive a new wave of economic prosperity is to intervene in the entrepreneurship space and develop a mechanism that allows young businesses have a better chance of survival. If such businesses can scale, the domino effect of new employment opportunities within and around such successful businesses would unlock new opportunities for youth to access not only increased incomes but also dignified and fulfilling work.

To do this, our programme looks to intervene in several areas:

  1. Youth & Women employment opportunities – the programme targets to create at least 130,000 jobs for youth and women over 5 years.
  1. Support an innovations ecosystem – that consists of entrepreneurs, business incubation, advisory and business development services, and funding partners to assist small and growing businesses grow, attract funding and scale.
  2. Jumpstart funding for start-ups – the programme brings discipline, structure, and opportunities to jump-start funding to the entrepreneurship space of Uganda.
  1. Provide a robust business support system -to support Ugandan start-ups and innovators succeed by extending technical assistance, business development, business training and market development support.
  • Entrepreneurship training – through access to foundational business knowledge to enable them to address gaps in their operations at no cost.
  • How will the Programme be implemented?

There are two implementation phases for the Hi-Innovator Programme

  • Phase 1: The Pre-accelerator
  • Phase 2: The Accelerator.
  • What is Pre-Accelerator all about?

The Pre-Accelerator phase is geared towards providing foundational business knowledge to entrepreneurs to enable them to address gaps in their businesses. It is the first step in the Hi-innovator initiative and every potential beneficiary SMB must participate in the Pre-Accelerator.

It consists of a self-directed online learning platform with applied exercises, supported by our network of partner hubs, to enable you to apply the skills you are learning to your business. The Pre-Accelerator enables entrepreneurs to prepare for the next phase of support known as the Accelerator.

The Pre-Accelerator course will last 45 days from 11th May to 24th June 2021. Within this duration, one must enrol and complete the self-directed course. An applicant should start the pre-accelerator as soon as they have an interest in the programme.

  • How can I start the Pre- Accelerator course?
  • Step 1 – Visit the Hi-innovator website at www.nssfug.org/hi-innovator
  • Step 2 – Complete the “Expression of Interest” form.
  • Step 3 – You will receive an automated invitation with sign up details for the pre-accelerator course Learning Management System.
  • Step 4 – Login to the Learning Management System to enrol and start the course.
  • What is the Accelerator Phase all about?

The Accelerator is a six-month business support process where qualifying small and growing businesses receive grant funding, technical assistance, business development, business training and market development support to achieve investment readiness.

  • What is the Accelerator Phase Process like?
  • Step 1 – Complete the Pre-Accelerator phase and receive evidence of completion (a business plan and certificate of completion).
  • Step 2 – Contact the partner hub assigned to you for a due-diligence exercise.
  • Step 3 – Once you complete the due-diligence, your partner hub will submit a recommendation to us for you to join the accelerator.
  • Step 4 – You will receive an invitation email to register for the accelerator from our Idea Management System.
  • Step 5 – Your application will be evaluated by a shortlisting panel.
  • Step 6 – If shortlisted, your application will be forwarded to an independent advisory panel for further evaluation.
  • Step 7 – If your application is successfully selected, you will undergo another due-diligence process to help us understand the gaps in your business and establish a baseline.
  • Step 8 – You will be supported to agree on milestones to achieve in the accelerator and a corresponding support budget. You will receive a formal contract to sign.
  • Step 9 – Join the accelerator and participate to become investment ready.
  • Who is eligible for the Accelerator phase?
  • SGB Founding members

The business should have at least 2-3 founding team members. An individual founder will not be eligible.

  • Completion of the pre- accelerator course modules.

Only applications that have evidence of completion of the pre-accelerator phase of the initiative and have applied through the Hi-Innovator Idea Management System web portal shall be considered.

  • Sector/vertical of the business

We are currently considering agri-businesses for this call.  These include, but not limited to those involved in agro-processing, those providing agro-industry products (food and non-food products), service support firms in distribution, financing, marketing, etc, ICTs in agriculture.

  • Registration of the business

The business must have fully registered with:

  • Uganda Registry Services Bureau (URSB).
  • Uganda Revenue Authority (URA).
  • National Social Security Fund (NSSF).
  • How long will the entire Hi-innovator cycle last?
  • Phase 1: Pre-Accelerator (This is the period from the start of the call for applications to the deadline) – 45 Days
  • Pre-Accelerator to final selection (This is the period from the start of the call for applications to final selection of applicants to join the accelerator): 90 days
  • Phase 2: Accelerator (This is the period within which a business receives funding, business training, business development support services, market linkages to become investment ready – 6 months
  1. Who is funding the programme?  

The NSSF, in partnership with the Mastercard Foundation (through its Young Africa Works) is serving as initial funders of the program, pooling together UGX 35 Billion for a period of 5 years.

The Fund continues to seek out interested financiers and investors willing to partner with the programme and extend affordable financing to entrepreneurs.

  1. Other partners involved in the program

Throughout the programme, entrepreneurs will be supported by business incubation hubs across the country. These include;

  1. Lead Implementation Partner
  2. Outbox Uganda
  1. Content and Curriculum Development Partners
  2. Teesa Business Advisory.
  3. Makerere University Business School’s Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Incubation Centre.
  1. Implementation Support Partner Hubs

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  1. What will be the roles of the partnering hubs?

The Hubs will offer the following services:

  1. For the Pre-Accelerator Phase:
  • Access to internet services and working space to aid the Entrepreneurial learning process.
  • Hosting like – minded communities of learners that you can tap into for knowledge exchange during the pre-accelerator.
  • Responding to any inquiries that you might have about the initiative.
  • Undertaking due diligence to determine eligibility into the accelerator and making recommendations for improvement.
  1. For the Accelerator Phase:
  • Delivering business development services at an affordable cost to your business.
  • Hosting business training and coordinating mentorship sessions for your business.
  • Linking you to market actors to help your business grow.
  1. Are participating businesses required to pay the hubs for the services offered?

Participants in the pre-accelerator will not need to pay for support.

However, entrepreneurs should expect to pay for access to the Hubs’ business development support services and networks, but this can be offset from the funding received by the businesses when accepted into the accelerator.

  1. How is Hi-innovator different from other entrepreneurship support initiatives in Uganda?

The NSSF Hi-Innovator Programme takes a sustainable approach in how businesses are supported. It does not intend to develop its own ecosystem but rather act as a bridge that brings together actors in the existing entrepreneurship ecosystem to ease access to affordable financing, entrepreneurship knowledge, and business development and incubation services for the benefit of increasing the odds of success for young businesses.

This programme is structured to help business owners recognize that business success requires a disciplined approach to implementing and executing entrepreneurship. Though many entrepreneurs understand this, many others lack the same insight to no fault of their own.

As part of this mindset change, businesses are encouraged to build a mindset of paying for business development support they deem valuable. The support offered to businesses is one that seeks to move them to the next stage and make them investable.

Businesses are also expected to be willing to give up equity or other equitable forms of exchange to gain new capacities for growth, whether this is from the Fund, or any other investor such as angel investors, private equity firms, etc. Carefully selecting who to partner with is a requisite skill for any entrepreneur seeking exponential growth and being willing to share in the risks and rewards with such partners maintains their commitment to your business’ success.

Lastly, the Programme seeks to galvanise affordable access to finance. We are working with various financial institutions and investors to build a community that believes in supporting early stage small and growing businesses sustainably.

  1. Where can one find more details about the program?
  1. Hi-innovator website: www.nssfug.org/hi-innovator
  2. Contact any of the partnering hubs.
  3. All information with regards to the scoring criteria, application guidance and contracting arrangements can be found on our website.
  1. How safe is the information submitted by entrepreneurs?

All personal information collected from you is subject to Uganda’s Data Protection and Privacy Act (2019) and our Data Protection and Governance policy located in the FAQ section of the Hi-Innovator website.

  1. How many entrepreneurs/ innovators will benefit at each phase?

Over 5 years, the Program is looking to impact:

  • Phase 1 – Pre-Accelerator: 75,000 entrepreneurs
  • Phase 2 – Accelerator: 500 businesses
  1. Programme Contacts
  2. Visit our web www.nssfug.org/hi-innovator for more information about the programme.
  3. Engage with the Lead Implementing Partner Outbox on 4th Floor, Soliz House, Lumumba Avenue, Kampala, Uganda, Tel +256392000152, 0757 000152
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