By Shamim Saad
Banks and other financial institutions have been urged to offer credit to bamboo growers for them to scale up the bamboo business industry
“Like the saying goes, finance is the blood of the organisation. Just like the human body cannot survive without blood, similarly, without finance, the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) cannot scale up,” the regional programme manager of the International Bamboo and Rattan Organisation (INBAR), Selim Razar, says.
“Bankers do not know much about the potential of the sector. In this line, we are sensitising and encouraging them to give more support to the sector, get ideas to realise the potential of financing the sector hence create good business opportunities for investment,” he adds.
Razar says bamboo value chain studies and market assessment carried out by INBAR in Uganda in 2022, identified key number of enterprises in the product line that have huge market opportunities both locally and internationally.
“If we want to scale up and strengthen these enterprises and create more employment opportunities for the youth, we need the finance to do that so that the banks and financial institutions in Uganda can be the funding source of the supporting services for the sector to be more enterprising,” he adds.
He also pointed out that, since there are few people engaging in the bamboo sector, banks can easily invest and finance the sector citing Ethiopia banks that dedicated 10% in upper lending for the SMEs in the bamboo sector to scale up.
Razar, who made the remarks on Friday in Bugoloobi, Kampala, also called upon banks and financial institutions to model their package for bamboo in enterprises in the near future saying, they are stakeholders on the value chain who play a crucial role.
Herbert Mugisha the chief executive officer of Green Cane Innovations based in Kisoro district, said bamboo is now the alternative source of raw materials from waste products.
“Bamboo is going to be the only source sustainable for example in the paper-based products. Production of paper, tissues, garments and building materials are now the most sustainable and where to go,” he said.
According to Dutch Sino-East Africa Bamboo Development Programme national project co-ordinator Michael Malinga, Uganda has an estimated 54,533 ha of bamboo growing area in the areas of Kampala, Moyo, Nebbi, Kisoro, Gulu, Mount Elgon and Rwenzori.
“Bambo utilisation and production is mostly confined to meet the sustenance needs, tradition and low value products. An estimated one million people in Uganda is dependent on bamboo for sustenance and livelihood,” he said.
Malinga said Dutch Sino-East Africa Bamboo is a three-year project run by the INBAR in the countries of Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda and all are geared towards bamboo development in East Africa.
What bankers say
Holding business manager at Centenary Bank, who is also in charge of the green loans, Abdul Kyanika Nsibambi said: “We find this discussion interesting. First, it is looking at climate change which is a key focus area of the bank for sustainable financing and we have learnt that bamboo plays a big role in not absorbing excess carbon from the atmosphere, but also it is a commercial crop that can earn one good money”.
He added that they are looking at opportunities to boost production since they have several products in production, agriculture, processing and export.
“If one identifies potential businesses we can extent financial services to the farmers or entrepreneurs along the bamboo value chain to boost production and gain markets.
Equity Bank manager business growth and development Ronald Mugabe said they have room to finance those in the bamboo business as long as they are well organised in groups.
“We have known bamboo as grown by low-income earners who normally have bigger lands to plant, but they do not have collateral to secure their facility. So, we encourage them to form groups to have access through the youth or women loans,” he said.