Uncovering Government Support for Entrepreneurs. The case of the Matching Grant Facility

Have you ever walked into a clinic only to find shelf after shelf stacked with dusty discoloured files of patients’ files? Well I have, in some cases they are even tied together with rubber bands and piled sometimes according to alphabetical order.

As someone with a technology background, this scene always makes me uncomfortable to the extent that I have been forced to engage some of the staff at these clinics over this matter.

In 2006, Mr. Wilson Kutegeka wrote the first line of code for ClinicMaster software whose primary purpose was to reduce the waiting time for patients when they go for treatment at a hospital or clinic.

Starting off simple and struggling to gain customer confidence, his team was able to overcome numerous hurdles to grow their business from scratch. However, like is typical of most start-ups in Uganda, business performance is always aligned to the direction where the founders have the greatest expertise. A strong programming background would guarantee a start-up to have a very good software product but the lack of a marketer on the team implies a dismal ability to market the wonderful software product.

Despite having existed for a number of years, one of the greatest challenges ClinicMaster faced was the lack of institutional systems and a corporate identity. Matters were exacerbated by the fact that they didn’t even know how to address these challenges. During a Netherlands Trust Fund (NTF III) workshop, a representative from the Private Sector Foundation of Uganda brought to the participants’ attention the existence of a Matching Grant Facility (MGF) which supports businesses in specified areas by availing counterpart funding as well as facilitating access to expertise.

Without hesitation, ClinicMaster chose to move in for the ISO 9001:2008 certification as well as Branding support. Having successfully applied, they received support for both aspects.

Talking to Mr. Kutegeka Wilson, one of the founders, he intimated that while the project implementation of the MGF was so involving and sometimes strenuous, the benefits accrued as a result, have been amazing.

Knowledge of the staff about the business increased and they were able to align it to the company’s objectives. Today, the new identity is consistent with the company’s communication strategy. There is also a notable improvement in internal documentation of tasks as well as a faster response to clients’ concerns.

Of the ninety (90) installations in various clinics and hospitals across the East African region, ten (10) of them have been acquired after the MGF support. Company revenue has also grown with the bulk of it coming from the most recently acquired clients like Lacor Hospital, Lubaga Hospital, Mildmay among others.

The Matching Grant Facility (MGF) that has since run its last call was open to any formally registered business in Uganda with a genuine interest to improve its competitiveness. As opposed to applying for it without knowing exactly what is needed, I greatly advise anyone applying for a grant of this kind to first carefully scan your challenges as a business and then apply for this facility to address those areas that it supports. As an example, it is unlikely that the facility supports buying machinery in most cases.

Taking up an MGF facility is like having an invisible business partner, who will not only invest in your business but rather will constantly monitor and check on you in terms of how to best use an investment meant for a specific task,” states Wilson Kutegeka.

The Matching Grant Facility is a subcomponent activity under the Competitiveness and Enterprise Development Project (CEDP). Do not be held back waiting for the ever elusive angel investors, you can grow your business or even make it more attractive for potential investors by taking advantage of the resources that are readily available in government grants like the MGF.

James Wire is a Business and Technology Consultant based in Kampala, Uganda
@wirejames on Twitter.
lunghabo [at] gmail [dot] com

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