Entrepreneurship, self-employment are not for everyone

Brian Mukalazi

What you need to know:

Sarah’s story reminds us that entrepreneurship and self-employment are not a guaranteed path to success and ultimately not for everyone

Meet Sarah Atim (not real name), a 38-year-old Kampala-based accountant. Sarah had long been regarded as a star performer in her field and for years, she had been a dedicated and skilled accountant at a prominent accountancy firm, helping businesses navigate complex financial terrain. Her colleagues admired her precision, clients trusted her with financial secrets, and her friends often sought her valuable advice when it came to financial matters. She was a success in the world of traditional employment, and her future seemed bright. However, as the years rolled by, an entrepreneurial itch began to gnaw at Sarah’s conscience. She started dreaming of a world where she could be her own boss, set her own work hours, and take control of her financial destiny. After years of diligent work, she believed she had accumulated enough savings to start her own accounting firm.

Her fascination with entrepreneurship and self-employment was undeniable. Sarah envisioned herself as a successful entrepreneur, setting up her office, employing lots of people, attracting clients, and building a brand that would stand the test of time.

With the encouragement of friends, Sarah made the momentous decision. She handed in her resignation letter, marking the end of her successful career in the firm.

As she embarked on her journey into self-employment, friends and family celebrated her courage, and they had no doubt that she was on a path to greatness. Indeed, Sarah began her entrepreneurial journey with high hopes. Yet, as fate would have it, the road to self-employment was not as smooth as she had envisioned. She quickly realized that self-employment required more than just having some cash and a dream. The challenges piled up day-on-day right from finding and retaining clients, managing finances to attracting the right people.

Despite her work and dedication, Sarah’s venture struggled to gain traction. Her savings dwindled, and the financial stress mounted. She soon found herself yearning for the stability, structure, and steady paycheck she had left behind. The reality was stark: Self-employment was not the ideal fit for her. The cheering crowd that had once encouraged her to pursue her dreams was now witnessing her struggles and was helpless. But Sarah’s story is not one of defeat. She made the brave decision of candidly reassessing her path and soon returned to traditional employment, where she thrived once again as a qualified accountant.

Sarah’s story reminds us that entrepreneurship and self-employment are not a guaranteed path to success and ultimately NOT for everyone. Business success takes much more than just money and good brains; it requires a deep understanding of other skills such as leadership, management, strategic planning, and innovation. And in many cases, it is based on sheer luck!

In the United States, it is estimated that only six percent of the population is self-employed while the larger majority is employed. In Uganda, it’s now a routine for government officials and other ‘experts’, whenever addressing youth and unemployment issues, to advocate for entrepreneurship and self-employment. But we find this quite troubling since majority of these people have held onto their formal, well-paying jobs for ages and have not started any real businesses themselves.

In our opinion, the solutions of unemployment and economic development do not necessarily rest on self-employment. As a country, we should take on big, meaningful projects. We should build factories and businesses large enough to create sufficient jobs for the majority of working-class citizens, who will, in turn, contribute positively to the growth of our nation. We have the potential to do this!

Mr Mukalazi is the CEO, Talis Consults Ltd.