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South Korea agency boosts entrepreneurship in Uganda

Wamibu (in a tie) pose for a photo with some of the conference participants. Photo taken by Julius Businge

Kampala, Uganda | Julius Businge | Data from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) indicates that 28% of Ugandan adults own or co-own a new business. It adds that 10% start new business and 60% of those that are started do not live to celebrate their first birthday.

Experts in this field say the high failure rate is attributed to challenges related to capital, corporate governance, markets, standards, competition, tax regimes, land policies and more.

It is largely because of the above reasons that officials from KOICA (Korea International Cooperation Agency) facilitated a two day entrepreneurship conference held in Ntinda, Kampala from Sept.18-19 to deliberate and expose some of the ways to manage a successful business.

The conference was attended by majority members of KOCU (KOICA Club of Uganda) and a few participants from civil society, private sector and learning institutions. Slightly over 100 participants took part in the two-day conference.

KOCU brings together individuals mainly from the public service that have ever visited South Korea to undertake studies and activities that connect to their work in the public service of Uganda. It has over 700 registered members, 90% of whom are civil servants.

In an interview with The Independent on the sidelines of day one of the conference, the Club’s President, Samuel Mpiira said it is important to expose entrepreneurship opportunities to public servants so they are able to survive with extra income they earn while working for government.

“You do not want to retire in government when you do not know how to run even a small business,” he said. He said as one retires from public service, it becomes important for them to find what to do so as to meet daily expenses.

The conference also aimed at building capacity of members in entrepreneurship development and mindset, supporting members to prepare and successfully implement retirement plans. It would also support members to identify relevant business ideas according to their financial status and environment in addition to empowering members to extend the program to workmates, family and communities they live and serve.

Mpiira said, this was the first entrepreneurship forum to be held for his members and a few invited participants.

“We will learn lessons from it…the next one will be better,” he said.

Beyond this, the Club is involved in several corporate social responsibility activities that mainly target health and sanitation, education and areas.

Speaking on behalf of the Minister of Trade Industry and Cooperatives, Michael Wamibu, the commissioner in charge of business development and quality assurance at the ministry, said that the government has put in place favorable legal and policy framework to support micro small and medium enterprises to start and grow because they are important for the economy.

He cited Buy Uganda Build Uganda Policy, the National trade policy, the National Accreditation Policy, The Cooperative Amendments Society Bill that was recently passed by Parliament and more. The ministry has a special directorate that was set up to handle queries from small businesses.

“Our doors are always open for you to come in and get support,”Wamibu said.

In addition, he said that supporting these businesses is critical because they serve as a foundation for industrial development. They also contribute to strengthening of the Ugandan local currency through exports in addition to narrowing down the country’s balance of payment deficit.

The challenge though, he said, some businesses remain scattered and informal and thus cannot be supported by the government.

He encouraged owners of businesses to work with Uganda Industrial Research Institute and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation to push for their business growth.

He also urged them to add value to the products so they can create more jobs to youth and women. Value addition, he said, would also help them earn more revenue on the goods/products once sold in the local and global markets.

According to data from Uganda Investment Authority, the Micro, Small, Medium, Enterprises employ slightly over 2.5 million people and account for approx.90% of the entire private sector. They generate over 80% of manufactured output and contributes 20% of the gross domestic product (GDP).

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