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How to leap from job seeker to job maker

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Ms Aisha Nakyejwe Kintu in her boutique, which she started after quitting her teaching  job. Photo / Vicent Lusambya 

When Samuel Wasswa Ssebungo graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication in 2018, he had high hopes and big dreams. 
Then he was jobless for nearly three years. It was a reality check.
“I came to terms that finding employment remained a dream I will never achieve. I had to spend another one year doing casual work in agriculture and bricklaying,” he says.

 “When I attained some capital, I ventured into vending local foods, which I collect from various village parts of the country to my stall in Lugoba-Kawempe,” he adds.
Since then, Mr Ssebungo has grown his capital from Shs900,000 to Shs2.4 million in a year. 
He is not alone in taking such baby steps. Mr Paul Kato was just as unsuccessful but not after learning that he had to pay a bribe to get into gainful employment. The efforts of the Civil Engineering graduate were, however, in vain.

“When several potential employers turned unethical, I resorted to manufacturing multi-purpose liquid soap, a skill I had attained in my form six vacation, but also my initial market referral was by a fellow graduate who was then supplying eatables to two supermarkets. She referred me and I built up from there,” he says.
Mr Kato says his liquid soap business has since gained market share from various supermarkets, medical centres and households within Nansana and Nabweru divisions. 

It is not just the spectre of exhortation that hovers above Uganda’s job market. There is also another form of exhortation or to put it more accurately, sextortion. Ms Aisha Nakyejwe Kintu was forced to quit her teaching job after wrestling with the monster for nine months. She had been at the job for nine months. “Despite being a secondary teacher, I could hardly save and yet my salary could not even meet my basic necessities, so I started with Shs300,000 financial support from my siblings,” she says. 

The small stall Ms Nakyejwe started at Kawala-Kataka Stage in Rubaga Division was in many respects threadbare. A few kids’ shoes here and ladies’ shoes there were what she worked with before the business grew to also include men’s push-in sandals, watches and other ladies’ accessories.

New normal
Ugandan youth have had to learn, unlearn, and relearn in a bid to deal with the crippling unemployment in the country. The solution has largely lied in them employing themselves. This is not a risk-free undertaking. From high rent charges to inflationary pressures, challenges abound. 
Experts Monitor spoke to say there are tried and tested ways that can be used to surmount the challenges.   

Mr Richard Ssempala, a senior lecturer at Makerere University School of Economics, says market research about the location of their business, the required capital, how long one must wait before turning in a profit, and the required labour, are key.
“Just because a jobless graduate has got some capital doesn’t mean the market can respond to any idea,” he says.

Dynamic terrain
When one does business, they are entering into a largely dynamic terrain. They have to be ready to adjust to cope with the challenges that come along the way. 
Mr John Walugembe, the executive director of the Federation of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, notes that this includes adjustment from mistakes committed by the employer or his employees.

“Succeeding in business doesn’t happen overnight. Hard work must be done and sacrifices have to be made to reach your goals, but things will be made easier if one is systematic in approach,” he says.
While business proprietors might think self-employment is devoid of stress, Ms Nakyejwe says any success of a business requires the full involvement of the proprietor, among other things. 
“One must network, make sure that they are fully involved in the business operations,” she says.

Do your homework
Mr Thaddeus Musoke, the chairperson of Kampala City Traders Association (Kacita), notes that one must do basic research on tax-exempted businesses.
“So, if one is new in business it would be a good move other than venturing into a business that is highly taxed and then fail to celebrate any birthday,” he says. 

Ms Nakyejwe advises that one ensures that their business thrives without bending or breaking any laws.
 “When people lend you money, pay back; when people trust you to deliver certain things, deliver them on time; be able to communicate. It is these attributes that will influence the success of the business.”

While one may assume that a successful business is measured by how much it has extended its service to different areas with branches, Mr Kobwemi stresses that success lies in customer sustainability. 
“Very many people think it’s by expanding—I have a branch here, I have a branch there. But its sustainability—has the client come to you? Yes has the client stayed with you, has the client recommended someone else,” he says.

Start-up capital
While start-up capital is the most hindering factor of unemployed youth’s success in business, Mr Kato advises that youth should take on casual labour to attain capital as opposed to taking up financial loans.

“When you graduate and find that there is no opportunity for you, do any job that comes your way, most youth have villages and their parents have a lot of land, even when you hate digging, do some bit of farming in the essence of getting capital,” he says.