Digital know-how for rural Uganda
Zoora Centre For Empowerment is a digital education platform that empowers rural women and unemployed youth in Uganda. It was founded by Sarah Atuhaire Baryaija.
Founder and Executive Director Sarah Atuhaire Baryaija has seen how hard it is for rural women in Uganda to access good education. She used her experience and expertise in marketing and founded Zoora – a platform for accessing digital education in finance, enterprise development, and smart agriculture. We asked her what challenges she faced in setting up her company and how she has experienced F-LANE.
What are your tips for starting a company?
“My tips for starting a business is: I encourage every woman to go out there and set up a business. Be bold and be great!”
How has the increased use of mobile money like M-Pesa impacted Zoora?
“With growing penetration and more product offering, mobile money provides financial inclusion for the vulnerable women and girls in rural communities. In Uganda, there has been compulsory SIM card registration. This strengthens Zoora’s work and the need for more awareness creation through capacity building and training. Mobile money creates a big market for Zoora and it is our main attraction for growth. It cuts and reduces transaction costs for clients. They do not have to walk long distances to pay bills or carry bulky cash. It has provided a stronger revenue base for Zoora clients especially in skills development and financial education modules.”
How did your own experiences shape Zoora?
“The need for creating self-esteem and awareness among women is important so they can enjoy economic opportunities. While working for a commercial bank for over 10 years, I realized clients in need were not served because they did not have information or the requirements needed to access financial services. These included proper records for their businesses, registration of businesses and even knowing that banks, NGOs, and private institutions had such facilities.”
What challenges and obstacles have you experienced as a female founder, both on the professional and personal level?
“On a personal level, balancing work and family is one of the biggest challenges.
Making a significant impact on communities through women empowerment by uplifting my fellow women in business, get them exposed, have to make decisions on their own without other people’s influence, and having their needs met has been a challenge and is still a challenge that needs every woman to hold each other’s hand.”
What helped you to cope with the challenges that you faced while building Zoora and to get where you are right now?
“One is exposure. This has helped me to get to understand the needs of rural women. Then design a product suitable for them.
My parents have influenced a lot towards building Zoora. I always saw my parents give a hand to other people when I was young. Having people who believe in what I do is the magic behind building Zoora. People like Eugenie Nijhuis, my family, the women I serve in Bugongi, and friends. Lastly and most importantly is the passion to economically empower women for community transformation.”
Do you think that in the next few years more women will go into entrepreneurship in Uganda?
“Yes, absolutely. Women will dive into entrepreneurship, also because there are fewer opportunities in other sectors, education or government cannot absorb the growing female labor force. A good number of these women are illiterate, so entrepreneurship might be their only option. Spreading awareness and acceleration might support this development, and the market is also there.”
What’s next for you?
“Next for me after F-LANE is to scale up Zoora and influence as many women as possible in terms of technology. I want every woman to be able to use technology, to access economic opportunities and influence others.”
What was your favourite part of F-LANE?
“F-LANE has been great and I had an amazing exchange, especially with the fellow entrepreneurs – particularly those working in Africa like Bidhaa Sasa and Hiveonline. That has been really great!”