What you need to know:
Being educated exposes you to the knowledge and skills which are required to maintain, preserve and develop the business.
Entrepreneurship and elites seemingly never mix. Why? The latter takes the plunge as long as there is an opportunity while the former calculates risk to the dot.
This argument was recently pronounced by Mr Andrew Turyahabwe, a BSc Computer Science graduate from Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST), a matooke businessman exudes the mindset, passion, and has been in the business environment. It was natural for him to be an entrepreneur as a child, long before he understood what it meant.
“By Primary Six, I sold my father’s cabbages for a commission until Senior Four. At some point, I planted some to make extra money,” he recalls. Mr Turyahabwe grew as an entrepreneur selling whatever was legally saleable.
Mr Abel Mwesigye, the executive director, Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA), says some of the aspects failing the elites from jumping onto the entrepreneurship boat include: mindset, the environment in which they are raised and passion among others.
For instance, a banker, a doctor and other civil servants are accustomed to getting a salary regardless of whether they work or meet the expected target. Additionally, some are entitled to benefits such as fuel, accommodation, and support when rendering services.
“However, in the business sector, many barely sleep as they plan for their businesses, encounter several risks, and suffer economic changes, which is unappealing to the elite. Unfortunately, no one can hold an office permanently as they retire, get laid off, or the project will end. The destination is entrepreneurship,” he says.
The foundation of entrepreneurship and it either breaks or makes one. While skills such as customer care, and dealing with employees are crucial in entrepreneurship, a hands-on approach is a powerful way of acquiring entrepreneurial skills.
“Most entrepreneurs train their children during the holidays on how to run the shop,” he says.
His friends at times describe his business as ‘dirty income’ and wonder why he can’t switch to a better one. “Some ask why I threw away my degree for a business of the unlearned,” he reveals.
Role of education in business
Although some people still believe that a university education isn’t important to successful entrepreneurship, alternative educational programmes are still worth considering.
A well-educated entrepreneur is more than an asset to that business. Being educated exposes you to the knowledge and skills which are required to maintain, preserve and develop the business.
While some successful entepreneurs don’t see the need for being educated, this is very dangerous because it may lead to the business’failure in an ever-changing business environment.
Ms Mary Namuyanja, an adult education teacher at Mbuyu Foundation, says most students in their adult literacy programme are business owners. They often range from street, road and market vendors to small and medium-sized enterprise owners.
“The most sought-after classes include languages such as English both written and spoken and Kiswahili, as well as accounting and record keeping,” Ms Namuyanja says.
Education is very key as the business world has moved from the traditional way of doing business (organic business growth) to using technology. For instance, if you cannot operate a smartphone, you will miss out on business opportunities. If you are illiterate, you will not be eligible to participate in bidding and tendering processes.
Education boosts confidence for instance, when networking, Mr Mwesigye says you will enter spaces where communication is done in English. If you are illiterate and do not want to up your game, you will always have a phobia of networking. Moreover, even those in local production need global markets and suppliers to operate.
Therefore, without any form of education, you will be despised which will affect your business. However, with education, you will have confidence in your dealings,” he says.
Financial aid: Mr Mwesigye says you cannot get any financial help if you do not have proper books of accounts.
That is why KACITA Uganda has partnerships with universities and institutions such as UNICAF University, Makerere University Business School (MUBS), Cavendish University, and St Lawrence University.
“We organise short-term training based on audience needs. We also encourage adult education, even for those who have not achieved any form of education which has improved their livelihoods,” he says.
Ms Namuyanja, however, presents a disturbing fact that even with a willingness to learn, the success stories of those that complete the course and achieve what they came for are numbered.
She attributes this to the distractions and responsibilities these students already have. “There is a lot of absenteeism with justifications such as business or family demands, thereby affecting concentration levels. Subsequently, learning is very slow,” she says.
Nonetheless, Ms Fatuma Nantongo, a 43-year-old fruit vendor, and single mother of three, is reaping the benefits of returning to school.
For the Primary Two drop-out, both spoken and written English was challenging as she interfaced with non-Luganda speaking customers frequently. Although she relied on a translator, this increased her operation costs and dented her profits.
So, Ms Nantongo enrolled on the programme at the foundation,just to learn English. This has boosted her business as she communicates with her clients better.
Banking is also easier now. Previously, I needed someone to write for me. Now, I can do it myself. I plan to return to school for recording-keeping lessons,” Ms Nantongo reveals.
Besides boosting business, the most profound role of education is in this context of informing people’s choices in handling wealth. Mr Turyahabwe says the educated use wealth differently from the uneducated.
He adds that he admires how friends in formal employment save money for vacations and are intentional about the number of children they have with the goal of giving them a good life.