#UGYouthDay 2015: Helping young people in Uganda to become successful entrepreneurs

Aug 24, 2015

Gillian Ochen puts the finishing touches to her new business plan, which will see her diversify her product range by adding fresh juice to the fruit salads she supplies to office workers in Gulu town (Photo: UNDP Uganda 2015)

SOROTI - Charles Oyo’s gaze keeps darting from the small black Nokia phone in his hand, to the business manual lying open on the desk amidst other documents. With deep concentration etched on his face, he punches some numbers in to the calculator before writing out the sum on the balance sheet.

“I am putting together a business plan for an agricultural inputs supply stores”, explains the 26-year old while looking up impatiently, eager to continue the task at hand.

Oyo, who holds a diploma in agriculture from Arapai Agricultural College in Soroti, is confident the new inputs supply store will flourish, owing to the large number of farmers in his home district of Agago, in Acholi region of Northern Uganda.

“I am a farmer myself and I know many others in my district who want to modernize their farming but lack inputs like improved seeds, herbicides, fertilizers and many others,” says Oyo who is looking forward to making a good profit from the 4 acres of groundnuts that he will be harvesting at the end of the season.

Oyo is one of 130 youth that received training in business and entrepenueral skills in Soroti district. The training was part of the United Nations’ country support to Government of Uganda, ahead of national preparations to mark International Youth Day which falls on August 12 every year.

United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the International Labour Organisation (ILO), jointly funded the training. The two agencies co-chair the UN Uganda convergence group on Youth Engagement and Employment (YEE) which provides support for youth development in  three key areas, namely: Policy and dialogue, Capacity for delivering quality socio-economic service to youth; and Knowledge management. 

The business and entrepreneurship training was based on ILO’s Start Your Business (SYB) Programme, and targeted youth predominantly drawn from Acholi, Lango, Soroti and central regions of Uganda.  The youth were then divided in to groups of 30 and trained by a team of certified national and regional SYB trainers.

The SYB training is tailored for entrepreneurs with feasible business ideas but lacking formal business planning knowledge. Among others, the training helps trainees to develop a detailed business plan and to actually get started or improve existing businesses. It also provides an opportunity to test drive the required entrepreneurial skills and the business plan in a simulated and safe environment that also incorporates peer-review feedback.

“The group work helped me to focus and to identify other opportunities to market my product”, revealed Miriam Ayo who manufactures and packages liquid detergent soap, which she currently supplies to mostly restaurants and hotels in Gulu town. She hopes to expand to other districts and at the time of the training was awaiting confirmation of a

“Before I came for this training, I didn’t see any value in keeping a record of my earnings, or expenses. I would often spend the money as soon as I got it because I kind of know I will make more”, says Maggie Nansubuga, 22, a comedienne who is part of the Queen of Comedy outfit which holds shows every Wednesday at Theatre LaBonita.

David Musolo, 22, a leader of Bantu Clan, a new-age Pan-Africanist youth band, says the training taught him the value of correctly pricing his services. His 11-member band normally charges about Shs900,000 for a gig, which he says is not sufficient to cover their expenses or allowances. “From this training, I was able to work out that I need to charge at least Sh2million per booking, if we are to make some good money and to grow as a band,” he explains.

For Charles Oyo, the training presented a window of opportunity to cut his losses and venture in to agriculture - a sector that employs more than 60% of Uganda's population. The small secretarial bureau he has been running for over two years in Adilang Sub-country in Agago, barely makes enough income to afford him a quality lifestyle. Its’ growth prospects are also very minimal owing to a predominantly rural clientele. With the training, he was able to evaluate his current business and to make a decision to open an agricultural inputs supplies store.

“I am very confident the agricultural inputs supply store will be a big success. I already have Shs300, 000 in savings, and if I sell the secretarial business, I can raise some more to start me off slowly as I look elsewhere for capital,” reveals Oyo is also responsible for paying school fees for his two younger brothers, as his parents have no income.

With a start-up capital of Shs5million and good management, Oyo expects to break even in four months, and to begin making a profit of Shs 400,000 after the sixth month, according to the new business plan he formulated at the training.

Unlike Oyo, 32-year old Gillian Ochen, is convinced she can succeed in her current enterprise.  Following the SYB training, Ochen, who sells fresh fruit salad in Gulu town, decided to add fresh fruit juice to the menu, and to employ an additional person to help prepare and package the fruits, and to set up a more efficient distribution system with the aid of commercial motorcycle riders (boda boda) to help her increase volumes and quantities of sales.

“I normally do all the work myself – purchasing, cleaning, packaging and distributing on foot – which is a lot of work. But with the additional person, I will be able to increase the quantity of fruits, and to distribute to more offices in a very short time”, says Ochen.

In the new business plan, she has budgeted for a juice extractor, which will be able to extract juice from the leftovers from the fruit salads, retailing at Shs1500 a glass.

“I have been throwing away a lot of left-over fruit that is unused after slicing the salad. But with a juice extractor, I will able to use them to make some juice which I can then sell along with the fruit to get more money”, says Ochen who supplies fruit to some 30 offices in Gulu.

The UN Youth Engagement and Employment convergence group will be providing follow-up training to the youth to enable them develop their business ideas fully, and access financial services and business mentoring among other services.

A number of youth who received the training were also supported to exhibit some of their products at the national Youth Day celebrations that were held in Katakwi district. The global theme was on youth civic engagement while the national day theme was: We are the investment choices we make; youth matter.  

Speaking on behalf of the President of Uganda, Mr Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the Vice President Edward Sekandi, called on youth to engage in entrepreneurship and employment creation – in order to contribute to the realisation of the Country's Vision 2040 which aims to transform Uganda to a middle income status in 30 years.

He revealed that Government was exploring opportunities in Green jobs for youths, and to develop a national youth service that would offer opportunities for skills training, mentoring, apprenticeship and volunteerism.

In her remarks, the acting United Nations Resident Coordinator in Uganda, Ms Esperance Fundira, called on youth to participate actively in public service, and in driving the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda that will guide development around the world over the next decade, after its formal endorsement by heads of government at the UN General Assembly this coming September.

“Generating decent jobs for youth is one of the most pressing post-2015 development challenges. As the UN we believe that young men and women deserve a fair chance to acquire employment security and decent remuneration, and have equal opportunity to access decent work ,” she noted, adding that UN Country Team is keen to work with Government and other partners to engage with youth in localising the SDGs.

Ms Fundira, who is also the country representative for United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) applauded government-led initiatives to increase investment in you, such as the Youth Livelihood Programme, the student loan scheme, proposed green jobs and fair labour markets in Uganda, and ICT incubation centres which she described as offering great prospects for youth-led development.

She however, highlighted the need to expedite the revision of the National Youth Policy and the National Action Plan for Youth Employment which are still being discussed at inter-ministerial level.

“Approval of these two policy documents will guide the UN’s investment in the youth sector, and to ensure we target the most vulnerable young women and men”, she explained.

Ms Fundira called for action to end child marriage, female genital mutilation, sexual gender-based violence, as well as providing young people with greater access to sexual and health reproductive services, including family planning to reduce unintended pregnancies, and other sexually transmitted infections, including HIV, to enable adolescents lead healthier lives.

Other UN Heads of Agency who participated in the National Youth Day celebrations in Katakwi include, UNDP Country Director, Ms Almaz Gebru; UNAIDS Country Representative, Mr Musa Bungudu while, the ILO was represented by Mr Stephen Opio.

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