Entrepreneurship needs resilience, focus

A youth group demonstrates how to preserve fish. Business entrepreneurship requires innovation and resilience to grow. PHOTO BY RACHEL MABALA

What you need to know:

Charles Ocici is the executive director of Enterprise Uganda, an organisation that provides integrated and comprehensive range of business development services such as entrepreneurship training, business advisory and counselling service, information, business planning, marketing, technology, business linkages and other services. For years he has been a change agent in Uganda’s approach towards youth employment and sustenance. He spoke to Jonathan Adengo about his aspirations, plans and love for youth entrepreneurship.

What does Enterprise Uganda do?
We recognise there is a challenge for small and medium enterprises. What we do is seek out partnerships through which we can mentor youth, small and medium enterprises with the aim of building lasting and strong businesses that are able to turn into profitable ventures.

You have recently launched a number of programmes with organisations such as Stanbic Bank. What is your specific role in these programmes?
Let me specifically speak about the Stanbic Bank programme because it is the most recent. If you realise many of our entrepreneurs have no access to credit.
Even when they have access, paying back is a problem. So in this programme we seek to grow small businesses’ capacity to be self-sustaining through training them on how to handle money, identify profitable investments and other businesses.

Uganda is the world’s most enterprising country. But at the same time the business mortality rate is very high. What could be the problem?
The first challenge is failure for a business to move to the next level.
Most of our small businesses don’t grow through the various stages of development because they mostly operate at a low level.
But we should also note that these businesses fail to focus and concentrate on anything in particular. A lot of them do so many things with no clear focus.
So we want to teach these businesses to stick on a single ambition even when they are doing other businesses.
Secondly, we need to teach them how to address the pillars of enterprise growth, which, among others, include operation, marketing, leadership and governance.
These are the kind of issues that enterprises need to bring together to generate an enterprise with a clear direction and ability to grow.

What are some of the things that businesses get wrong, especially when it comes to borrowing from banks?
Many of these businesses borrow on the basis of having collaterals. But the best form of borrowing would be idea-driven. It is useless to put your land title in the bank as collateral for a loan which you have no idea of how you are going to invest the money.
Banks also need to assist people. Why do you lend someone money claiming to be borrowing for business but has not shown you an investment plan? We need to refocus our priorities.
In the event that the loan is poorly invested there will be two losers; the bank and the borrower.

Do you mean businesses most times get their fundamentals wrong?
Most people fail to understand if their businesses or services provide a solution. It is important to know what impact your business or service has on society.
The mistake that is with most small business owners is random investment. Many invest where others have already invested. Thus within a very short time the service or business is saturated and has become unprofitable.
We need to invest in research, however basic it might be. The market will be driven by the impact that your goods or services will have on it.

What is your last word for those in and those hoping to establish business?
The private sector is ruthless, survival and business growth is for the fittest. You must make sure that you can survive there.
It should not only be a survival thing but your business must show signs of growth.
If you start with something and you are not able to add anything after a couple of years then you should know there are fundamental problems that you must work on and find ways of growing your business.


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