Makerere equips refugees with entrepreneurship skills

The refugee community that trained in entrepreneurship with  some of the Makerere University officials  at Makerere University.  PHOTO | NOELINE NABUKENYA

What you need to know:

  • Training of the refugee community gives them confidence and sparks their innovativeness as they live in different communities.

Makerere University through the research and innovation fund with the funding from the Government of Uganda has equipped entrepreneurial skills in refugees from 10 countries.

This follows a training conducted for six months from June to December 2023 in their various centre points in Wakiso, Kampala and Mukono districts. From this exercise, 435 trainees were awarded certificates.

The trained refugees come from Burundi, Comoros, DR Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, and Tanzania. They were trained from different communities including Kisenyi, Najjanakumbi, Kawempe, and Kireka.

Dr Anthony Tibaingana, a lecturer at the College of Business and Management Sciences (Cobams) who doubles as  the principal investigator of the project, said he conceived the idea in 2019 after doing research about refugees and found out they were one of the vulnerable groups that needed a hand to improve their living standards.

“The refugees were trained to generate business ideas and how to develop the ideas and also market test those ideas, and transform them into real businesses,” Dr Tibangana said.

Dr Tibaingana said he wanted refugees to be self-reliant and grow economically to support their families and also thrive economically in the business arena.

“We awarded them certificates such that even when they leave Uganda and go to other countries, they will have a skill that they can use to survive,” Dr Tibaingana said.

“Uganda is the second country in hosting refugees and there is need for avenues to integrate the refugees into economic activities to reduce on the crime rate in the country.”

He said they have already written a proposal requesting for more funding from the government to be able to support these refugees with startup capital to boost their businesses.

Be useful to each other

Ms Patricia Driver, the chairperson of Bondeko Refugee Livelihoods Centre, graced the function as guest of honour and called for togetherness. Ms Driver told the beneficiaries to start with the little they have as they wait for financial support.

“Think about working together because at the end of the day, we are always strong when we are together. Everything on this earth starts small. This is a new start for all of you to change your lives…be ambassadors of your fellow refugees who did not make it to this training and stay committed to change your lives and that of your families once and for all,” Ms Driver said.

Ms Driver said she is committed to bail refugees out of the conditions they live in.

Pledge to impact the vulnerable

Dr Jude Thaddeo Mugarura, the head of Department Marketing and Business at Cobams, said they have developed a module to help the graduates as they go by their businesses and this will be able to guide them.

While Mr Ezra Byakutangaza, the Makerere University Research and Innovation Fund (Makrif) representative, lauded Dr Tibaingana for the research of that nature. And pledged on behalf of Makrif to continue supporting all the projects that create an impact on the lives of vulnerable people in the country.

“We want refugees to be economically productive. Makrif is not looking to stop here, we shall continue to support you where necessary,” Mr Byakutangaza said.

Ms Samantha Simbi, an administrative assistant at the Association of Refugees with Disabilities (ARD),  in Najjanankumbi said many refugees out there are not recognised even when they have qualifications from their respective countries, but now they are now confident since they have been trained from Makerere University.

Empowered to fit in the market

Mr Robert Goobi Kitenda, the head of Marketing Africa at Movit Products limited, said their partnership with Makerere in training these refugees was to help them create jobs and have income generating businesses that can support their families.

“We want you to use reliable products that will keep your clients and also market your businesses to prospective clients. What we have given you is knowledge and that is your compass. If you live by your compass continuously, and years ahead, you will be able to live up to your expectations,” Mr Ggoobi said.

Ms Everline Amokol, the Monitoring Evaluation Accountability and Learning (MEAL) officer at Bondeko Refugee Centre, said refugees should not lose hope that they are out of their countries of origin, but rather, they should start afresh and look for a new life.

“It is you and I who have life that we can say that we are rich. No dead human being has property. The day you die is the day you cease to own property. You as brothers and sisters, you are not even responsible for what happened to make you run away from your country and find yourselves in Uganda,” Ms Amokol said.

“Don’t deny yourself social life because you never know what will happen tomorrow. Try to forget the trauma that you are a refugee,” she added.

Mr Ismail Ibrahim Ali Mohammed, the leader of the Somali community, said they will use the skills and knowledge gained to change their economic narrative and tap into opportunities available in Uganda.

“Today marks not just the end of our academic endeavours but the commencement of a thrilling adventure in the world of innovation, risk-taking, and leadership,” Ali Mohammed said.

He added: “In the realm of business, we are not merely graduates: we are architects of our destinies, builders of enterprises, and visionaries of change. The skills we have acquired here from financial acumen to strategic thinking, serve as the foundation for the challenges that lie ahead.”

Be collaborative

Ali Mohammed tipped the graduates to collaborate and network with one another in embarking on the new journey of business.

“Cultivate relationships, seek diverse perspectives, and never underestimate the power of a strong team. In the interconnected world, collaboration fuels innovation and propels us towards collective success,” he said.

“As business entrepreneurs, our actions reverberate beyond profit margins; they shape communities, influence economies, and leave lasting legacies. Strive for success not only in financial terms but also in the positive impact you bring to the world.”

In the past

This is the second time Makerere University is offering training to refugees in entrepreneurial skills, with the first cohort having graduated in 2021/2022 financial year from which more than  300 people were trained.