Better together – Encouraging self-employment for the Youth
15 Feb 2016
Saturday meetings in Finland beside the glass of red wine have changed to Sunday meetings in All Saints Church with the local youth of Uganda. (Not as boring as it sounds.) Excel Hort Consult Ltd, EHC, a strategic partner to Shalin Finland which was mentioned in the previous blog post as well, is supporting local youth, and working closely with the Mbarara Youth Entrepreneurs Club, MYEC. The purpose of the co-operation is to help the youth to organize themselves and to establish their individual businesses. And of course, as an agribusiness company, to promote huge business potentials of agriculture. In Uganda, as well as in many other developing countries, agricultural practices are not seen very tempting and so youth rather run to seek the success from big cities, often with poor results.
Within the MYEC, there is a will, and of course a need, as many of them are recently graduated and unemployed, to establish businesses – to get employed. Unfortunately the will is not usually enough, but it is a powerful start which, with support and assistance, creates a base to build something big.
We started working with the MYEC in the end of November, when they were invited to our office and asked unexpectedly to present their own business ideas in order to get start up funding. There were ideas of selling phones or juice, many mentioned chickens, pigs and pineapples. Market researches had been done and everyone was convinced that there is a future for their business. However, I was not convinced. All of the ideas already exist, and in a large scale. There are no problems of finding a pineapple here with less than 50 cents, they are basically sold everywhere. The will and knowledge were there, but what was missing, was the spirit of innovation. For business to be sustainable, it must be able to develop in a changing environment as well as include something unique, something which beats the competitors now and in the future.
“If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old”
That’s the idea we are trying to encourage. To be able to innovate, to think out of the box and especially to express the ideas, one needs the feeling of security, and that’s one of our main challenges. To be able to create the trust, free relationship with the youth so they won’t be afraid of speaking out and sharing their thoughts; to become part of their group. Sunday meetings in a church are far from the free and bald sauna culture of Finland, where networking and connecting happens with a power of beer and nudity, and we have a lot to learn as well. But there are no problems in life, only challenges; and we are eager to find the solutions.
Work with the youth is based on the idea of participatory and everything is planned together with the club. They are sharing their weaknesses and we do our best to organize trainings to develop the skills they think are necessary to succeed in the business world. There is no comparison among the youth; we rather want to support everyone to find their own special skills. Some of the trainings are organized together with the members who feel they have something to teach for the others and everyone is encouraged to find their competencies. Every human has some special talent; it just needs to be found. One can share experience on computer softwares, another on project writing or public speaking. I can encourage them to dream big and not be afraid of having the craziest ideas, that’s something I’m good at. (Often leads to amazing adventures, which you can have a peak from this blog post). All of the competencies are important and together those talents can work towards a common goal, the employment of all.
The co-operation with the youth continues through trainings and individual support, as well as collective endeavors. EHC has also provided five acres of its land under the responsibility of the club to foster agribusiness incubation and to enable them to practically implement their ideas. Regarding to the challenges of finding start up funding, trough the SACCO of EHC, the club members are able to get affordable financial support. All the assets are there, what is needed is motivation and hard work.
(Hope the more general change will also happen through the presidential elections of this week, #timeforchange #oneugandaonepeople)