Business experts say, a number of small scale businesses in Uganda do not live to celebrate their first anniversary and this has been attributed to a number of factors. However, lack of entrepreneurial skills is top on the list.
In order to reduce on this, a number of initiatives have been started in schools to help equip secondary school students with entrepreneurial skills especially on critical thinking before one starts a business, business planning, and management, among others. One such programme is PASCH (partner schools for the future) together with the Geothe Institute’s Start Up competition.
One such student is Zulaika Namwanje, a Senior Four student at Mengo Senior School, who recently participated in the business startup competition. She shares that, “Students had to come up with different projects. I took interest because I felt that it was important to have business skills currently and in future, but also, the competition came after a weeklong training on how to develop a business plan,” she says.
During the training, 24 participating students were trained on business skills of communication, marketing, confidence and coming up with a business plan and to put these further into practice, they were put in groups of three and given six weeks to come up with a business plan for their start-up project.
“As a team, we looked at Uganda’s economy as it stands now and concluded that it is largely based on agriculture. We also noted that farmers who grow bananas on a small scale lack the market. We, therefore, came up with a project that would seek to provide market for small scale banana farmers which can help improve their standards of living by getting our raw materials – bananas from them,” Namwanje explains.
Her colleague Darlson Ruth Bawooza and Betty Flavia Nankya with whom they won the competition also noted that they also thought about children who are underweight, malnourished and of stunted growth in Uganda that would benefit from those bananas if value was added to them.
“For our project we added value to sweet bananas and made banana porridge. This is a highly nutritious porridge, with minerals such as potassium as well as calcium, Vitamins A, C, and B6 which are all essential for proper nutrition,” Namwanje exhibits her marketing skills as she explains her product.
Using an easy and affordable method, they dried the sweet bananas in an oven, crushed them into powder form and later sieved it to have fine flour.
“In this, we applied the skills we were taught such as; packaging, using polythene bags and also designed an attractive logo for identification of our product in the market but also to attract customers. To further market the product, we applied communication skills to talk to our customers to get them to know about our product,” Bawooza says.
Furthermore, they applied skills such as research about their product by using online sources but also talking to experts in the field who were of great influence and importance to their project. They also carried out direct sales and advertised their product directly to fellow students.
Kelisha Mariam Byarugaba, a Senior Two student of Mengo Senior School, says she also gained a lot of business skills. “I got interested in participating in the programme because I needed to unlock the mysteries of successful businesses.
I realised you may want to start up a business where you have to produce quality products but then your business collapses because you lack the market or because people do not know about your products and services,” Byarugaba narrates.
It is that background that informed her team to start a marketing company - Development Initiatives for Startups (DIS360) which comes in to market other people’s businesses, goods and services.
“We do this through publicising people’s products on social media, designing fliers and banners, using animations and maybe in the future, we will have billboards and adverts in the media to make our client’s businesses known thus enabling businesses to survive in Uganda,” Byarugaba says.
Among skills they employ is creativity: “To improve the entrepreneurship background of our country, young people should start by identifying the problems and challenges in their communities and develop entrepreneurship ideas out of these,” she says.
The winning team will travel to Berlin in August this year. They will get to know the Start-Up scene in Berlin through short-term internships and site visits. Such opportunities can be life-changing and crucial in adding skills to students and shaping their paths for the future therefore, students should participate and make use of all such opportunities.