”The purpose of this week is to make you business mentors, not business volunteers”

This is how our country manager, Herbert, welcomed us on Monday morning. The first week at ICS Entrepreneurship Programme with Challenges is an introduction to culture and business. Therefore, the next 5 working days are supposed to be intensive workshops and preparations for a placement in one of the Ugandan SMEs chosen by Challenges.

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There’s plenty of information we were given about living in Uganda, nevertheless, the one thing I’d like to share with you is work practices which seem to be completely different from the UK.

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Firstly, Ugandans in business have rather poor time management skills and, in contrast to Britons, don’t really stick to deadlines. It’s not rare that some business partners or even your own boss might be late 1 hour for a meeting, but it’s not always a case. Cultural differences play a crucial role but one cannot really generalise about every single Ugandan.

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Secondly, they prefer to work in a more hierarchical work environment than the British. Employees at a junior  level seek permission in much more cases than employees in the UK who have more latitude and initiative in their roles. Also, in contrast to most UK companies, CEOs or people at higher positions in SMEs don’t hesitate to answer phones during business meetings.

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Thirdly, there’s also a significant difference between Ugandan and UK business when it comes to the market research methods. In Uganda the market research is mainly direct; you go and speak to people about the business. In Britain, on the contrary, most companies if not all of them have their own websites so the online research is usually sufficient. This is the big gap in digitalisation which is going to shrink between developed and developing countries due to a rapid growth of the IT sector worldwide.

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