Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The Challenges of using #Skype in #Malawi for #Entrepreneur training

Skype has been critical to our volunteer consultancy training across Uganda, Rwanda and Malawi. It enables us to reach a wider audience as it is a free service. In Rwanda and Uganda approximately 50% of our entrepreneurs conduct their calls over Skype.

In Malawi only 10% of our clients are having consultancy via Skype. This unfortunately  has a knock on effect to the number of volunteers we have willing to work with our Malawian clients.  After interviewing with our team many volunteers ask for a client who uses Skype. This means we have a back log of entrepreneurs needing assistance. .

So why would we have such a variance across our three countries? Skype is still a relatively new technology for many of our entrepreneurs; however this is still not the major problem. Many of our clients do not have their own lap tops so head to internet cafes. With long queues, expensive transport to get there and the cost of using these facilities mean that it is very difficult to increase the usage of Skype. Clients are invited to our office to use the spare equipment  however we are often closed in the evenings and the weekends.

So what are our solutions? Skype is offering a great opportunity for our clients yet we are not able to maximise on this. Firstly our Malawi team headed by Sophie Kumwanje will start to open accounts with our clients during the interview process and demonstrate how to use it. They will then discuss options such as friends and family who may have lap top access locally.

The bigger challenge comes with asking for additional investment from volunteers. Committing 36 hours across 6 months is significant, to then ask our volunteers to pay for the cost of calls (the cost of calling for an hour call can vary from £5 to £10) can at times feel we are asking too much. Nonetheless we are passionate about what we do. On average we create 3 jobs for each project we work on. That is 3 people with a new future able to provide for their network in an empowered way. Is that a worth while investment of what is a bottle of wine per week for 12 weeks? We think so!

Monday, 17 February 2014

#Uganda #volunteer consultant talks about #economic growth

Recently The Harvard Centre for International Development published a paper on 'How Uganda should Grow'. Here a volunteer consultant for Grow Movement Uganda, Charles Okwalinga,  studies and challenges the report as a member  of the Ugandan Diaspora.

'I shall not attempt to offer a technical view point, I am not that equipped, neither will I attempt to follow point by point, to avoid a risk of being seen to be just challenging or discrediting the paper, but I will give my lay views , most importantly as should be seen by the ordinary person, both  those needing to understand simply what must be done to input, but also the interpreters to those being sought for engagement in Uganda or Ugandan Diaspora.

Indeed, there is significant overcrowding in rural areas with over four people per hectare of arable land;

That observation is simply skewed or not accurate at all. The mobility that has happened in Rural Uganda to make it look like there is overcrowding is simply around the issues of land ownership, whereby many household find it easier to sell off pieces of land to get immediate income and crowd onto smaller homesteads to survive. Buganda may be the only such example of ‘’shortage of  land but also in isolated districts rather that overall.  Driving across all regions of Uganda evidently shows there is still a lot of unoccupied land idle and fertile.

More needs to be done to urbanize Ugandan cities by increasing their economic activities so as to attract more labour and related infrastructure and institutions.

This is for sure a careless remark or suggestion to say the least. The current urbanisation of cities is desperate and counter productive as it is breeding both skills destruction and ruining economic activity potential. In my travels in east and west and central regional cities, the majority of the urbanised people especially the young ones are all of low economic output. Even those seemingly holding jobs are really not significantly economically productive. The majority of activity is low income enterprise activities. The volume of people trying to sell low value items is overwhelming and the women trying to involve in the food sector is both crude and also overwhelming. Those people could be better engaged away from the urban areas. The critical problem about this urbanisation is that they are not their looking for Jobs per say, they are looking for any form of income and much of the activity cannot be regular economic activity you could progress....

On the contrary for the rural land argument:
.. Improving productivity per worker generally leads to less employment per hectare; and  with a constant supply of arable land, this means less agricultural employment overall.
The whole definition and understanding of the rural activities need a fundamental change of view points. The report addresses rural activity like it is employment set up which it is not, so you cannot even use productivity as much of the activity is not measurable in that sense.
The major misleading concept that is true in practice and misunderstood in analysis is SUBSISTENCE activity,, (grow or produce enough to survive on for that season and possibly sell the little extra for basic needs)
I have been long having the view that , that word in it self has been more damaging in forming mindsets than we realise. Even as we deliberated in the Agribusiness international conference to bring the understanding of commercial involvement to Agriculture, there are still two negative holding factors in Uganda 1. The country’s ministry of Agriculture still holds its top objective for the country as ‘’to produce enough food for evry citizen to live on and ,ost for that one season. 2. The biggest hurdle evn for multi million dollar investment ideas is how to ;;engage the small holder farmers ‘’ who largely are thinking ‘’Subsistence’’ not enterprise , business, export, processing and so forth.. that is the real challenge.

More over the report mentiones the used to be key exports of coffee, tea and cotton.... the latter being really obsolete in Uganda as we speak.. (I may be wrong). The point is the key crops simply available to be made commercial crops and in every house hold and could evoke global demand are not referred to at all namely Maize, beans, millet, cassava, peas.rice and so on. Similarly for poutry, I was shocked to learn that Uganda imports chicken from abroad for normal demand.
Again the word I have struggled with, that has skewed the mindset of productivity is the use of ‘’FOODCROPS and CASHCROPS...Why is groundnuts or millet called thus and inevitably the cash value is undermined or not considered...
In simple terms Rural life works like individual enterprises and even the hiring of your neighbour is a challenge.. The strategy should be considering to make those ‘’enterprises’’ formal, progressive and economically viable to increase GDP not just the life on individuals. There has to be a national agenda to Agriculture in the business and enterprise sense and key success targets set for example the homestead obligation to supporting education and health in the local areas thru their own economic initiatives..
May I hasten to add a concept I recently saw in a new light, that of ‘’Illiterate economics’’ going on in the rural areas, the economic activity carried out by those that cannot read or write articulately or not at all. I entered to mainstream education through that , my mother , never gone to school but brewed local beer and did simple market trading to raise fees... The desperate measure is not necessary to teach them to read or write but to improve their margins and economic activity that can be sustainable and progressed to increasing investment. The point of access to funding or financing could be a key capture point to deliver such support and target.

Overall, it is certainly true that there is great potential to improve output and productivity in agriculture in Uganda. However, this will lower the demand for labor, not raise it. Moreover, this will occur in an environment of rapid population growth, further emphasizing the need for non-agricultural employment.
Again that statement is skewed from misunderstanding what ‘’improving output ‘’ would refer to. Right now I am looking at potential projects one looking at the commercial fish farming in the water basins around lake Kyoga that would empower 1000+ fishermen households... and another of diary production in Soroti empowering also 1000+ household.. If  such take off and we include processing and adding value and all the value chain involved in secondary economic activities, how can that be lower demand for labour, or rather enterprise?
The challenge for Uganda is therefore to create productive jobs in other sectors to absorb the labor released from agriculture and that generated by population growth. This increased demand for food will need to come from non-farmer households, from  industrial use within Uganda, and from accessing new agricultural markets in the region and beyond.
Increasing productivity in other sectors cannot be easier , cheaper and viable more that agriculture sector especially in Uganda given all the blessings of ‘’nature’’, not even the oil boom. The recent Global analysis also indicate agribusiness being $$trillion industry in Subsaharan Africa and only 10% of that would take care of Uganda total GDP per capita targets. We can afford to avoid the ‘’petrol wars’’
There are a number of issues I could raise on Opportunities for diversification and complexity analysis which are actually not so complicated or even diverse but i will say a bit about this
There is a suggestion of the sophistication or labour intensive industrialisation, but I believe Uganda simply needs the simplicity of the matters already happening.
The country is already rife with enterprise activity, and most of the forms of economic activity are expressed that way. The strategy needs to simply address how most of these activities can be formalised , supported, progressed and  advanced with modern technologies and opportunities. Agriculture and commercialisation of the rural activity by improving processing and adding value then accessing regional and international markets would be the most straight forward.
Industrialisation and manufacturing or construction are really on the same boat and would need similar strategy.  My key concern is on Education, not just academic, but innovative creative and skill loaded approach. Together with skills we need to educate in manner as to raise strong sector leadership in graduates, passionate to solve problems and remain in good character and integrity, considering themselves as elite of society and bearers of the mantles to drive development and progress.

Lastly for now I will just mention about Constraints.
I would not put limited access to finance as feature at all for the reason there is a lot of that , now and increasing... but the outcry in every meeting, convention s and debate are these:
Lack of adequate infrastructure to drive or sustain meaningful economic activates, and this closely linked with weak institutional governance which is closely linked with prevalent corruption and undermining of processes in a lot of sectors.
I would go back to my point of education, and a kind of education, and would mention here the model of Mentoring or similar support as very effective. I hope in my comments the points can stand out as what is really a way forward for Uganda to grow!'' 

Saturday, 8 February 2014

Sharing #entrepreneur experiences at Grow Movement offices #Uganda

At Grow Movement we have started to build out community feel for both our volunteer consultants and clients. We have now started running quarterly meetings in London for volunteers and across our operational countries . Here Grace and Joshua talk about their experience of the first Kampala meeting...

Grow Movement Uganda had their first quarterly meeting this year (2014) on the 31st January, 2014 at the Enterprise Uganda offices from 5:30PM to 8:00PM. It was moderated by Joshua Mwesige and Grace Akullo, the Grow Movement Uganda country managers. About 20 current and former Grow Movement beneficiaries were present and the highlights of the evening included: sharing experiences of past and present consultancies, networking amongst the beneficiaries and updates from the Grow Movement Uganda managers. 

It was an evening to celebrate how far Grow Movement has come and get to know our ever-increasing clientele with their corresponding volunteer consultants and to also note the impact of lives being positively changed by these interactions. The common word used by clients that evening was: GROWTH, and that’s what Grow Movement is all about!! Special thanks go out to all our Volunteer Consultants for their tireless yet generous and rewarding endeavors! 

Joshua Mwesige, the Grow Movement Uganda country manager speaks to the entrepreneurs.