COVID-19, SMEs, and workers: Findings from Uganda

Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are vital for the Ugandan economy, comprising over 90 % of the private sector (Uganda Bureau of Statistics, 2017). In this report, we present findings from a unique long panel of SMEs in Uganda, focusing in particular on changes in the trends following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Uganda experienced some of the strictest lockdown measures in the world (Hartwig and Lakemann 2020), with many businesses being forced to close or operate under strict social distancing rules, regular curfews, and challenges in accessing markets due to higher transportation and input costs. Moreover, schools and nurseries have been shut down since April 2020, which forces female business owners, in particular, to make trade-offs between tending to the business and engaging in childcare.

In this report, we aim to understand how this large aggregate shock may have affected the SMEs and whether it led to significant changes in the trends of important SME outcomes. We hope to shed light on whether, and if so how, the impact of the pandemic on SMEs may differ depending on the gender of the business owner and/or the sector of operation.