I wanted to briefly share some details from the training week that I found really shocking:
- 85% of government revenue in Ugandan comes from 10 large companies, none of which are actually Ugandan. They are multinational corporations, such as Unilever, Coca-Cola, and telecoms companies.
Which means that Uganda’s economy is really in someone else’s hands, and the currency is incredibly low in value. As more small and medium-sized enterprises develop, more income is created through taxes, and there is more security in diversity. Eventually, the whole country wants to be able to rely not on the will and whim of fat cats and decision-makers in offices in America or the UK, but rather on itself and it’s own businesses.
- Graduate unemployment is at a sky-high 85%!
Here, the government is the largest employer and provides high salaries, yet the public sector is too full to recruit anymore. Young people have to make their own work and create their own opportunities, so are pushed into entrepreneurship. I’m trying to imagine what I would do if I couldn’t get a job after university and had to start my own business from nothing, with no external funding or lending from banks, and limited knowledge of financial planning. I’d be in a pickle pretty sharpish! The entrepreneurship and the attitude towards creating your own opportunities in this country is remarkable, and inspiring.
- Yet, 90% of SMEs fail in the first year of business. That means only a tiny 10% of entrepreneurs are successful in setting up profitable businesses.
Coffee for Thought
Think about this: Ugandan’s largest export is coffee. The coffee is exported as beans. The coffee beans are manufactured externally, probably by a large corporation. All of the value is added in the manufacturing process. The coffee product is then imported back into Uganda. …So they import their own coffee?!
It reminds me of Ecuador, a country which grows vast amounts of cocoa. Yet, the only good chocolate you could find in Quito was from one extortionate shop designed for tourists. The rest was Oreos, Nestle, and other American sweets.
But if some of these young entrepreneurs could set up their own coffee manufacturing business, and run it successfully and sustainability, the trade would be kept inside the country, and Uganda’s beans would be a whole lot more valuable for Uganda itself, rather than all of their value being lost to the multinational middleman.
So where might we fit in to that? If we can help to skill up businesses so that they do not fail, whilst skilling ourselves up too (win-win!), we will ultimately contribute to long-term economic development in the local communities and the nation as a whole.