During African Population Conferences, a day is always dedicated to the Host Country to organise events with emphasis on thematic areas of relevance to the country and other African countries. The Uganda Day events took place on Wednesday, 20 November 2019. The day’s events commenced with an opening ceremony which featured welcome remarks from the Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe as well as the Chairperson of the National Organising Committee of the 8th APC and Director General of Uganda’s National Population Council, Dr. Jotham Musinguzi. The Hon. Minister of State for Finance, Planning and Economic Development, David Bahati and the Right. Hon. Speaker of Parliament of Uganda, Rebecca Alitwala Kadaga presented the opening statements. The keynote address was presented by the Minister of State for Lands, Housing and Urban Development, Chris Baryomunsi while Dr. Fred Wabire-Mangen of Makerere University was the chair of the opening ceremony programmes. Three other sessions organised on this day focused on thematic areas of Population and Development, Young People, and Statistics. A Uganda Day debate panel titled Harnessing Youth Development Potential in Africa: Have We Failed? was the last session for the Uganda Day programme of events. The Uganda Day events took place from 9:00am to 4:00pm while other conference sessions for the day started at 2:00pm. Uganda Day culminated in a well-attended official reception/dinner gala which featured diverse Ugandan cuisine and exciting performances by dance troupes.
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Secondary School Dropouts a Dominant Force in Uganda’s Informal Sector
Research conducted by a team led by Salmon Mugoda a Member of Faculty, Department of Economic Theory and Analysis, School of Economics, Makerere University has brought to light evidence of a strong entrepreneurial spirit among secondary school dropouts than any other level of education. Findings further revealed that this dominance is driven by two key factors, namely; wanting to take advantage of an existing business opportunity and failure to find employment in the formal sector.
These findings are contained in the first publication under the project titled: “Understanding the dynamics of the informal sector in Uganda” funded by the Government of Uganda through the Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF). The Open Access article, The portrait of Uganda’s informal sector: What main obstacles do the sector face?, was published in Cogent Economics & Finance, Volume 8 Issue 1, and is accessible at: https://doi.org/10.1080/23322039.2020.1843255.
Other embers of the project team include; Stephen Esaku-Adjunct Faculty, Kyambogo University (Soroti Campus), Rose Kibuka Nakimu-Faculty Member, Department of Economic Theory and Analysis, School of Economics, Makerere University and Assoc. Prof. Edward Bbaale-Dean School of Economics and Director EfD-Mak Centre, Makerere University.
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The Role of E-commerce in Commercializing Entrepreneurship Ventures at Mak
E-commerce, the process of buying and selling goods using the internet, is a great facilitator of trade. Owing to the reduced cost of doing business – in most some cases there is no need for a physical shop, increased efficiency – orders and stock are easily tracked, and increased access to geographically distant markets, E-commerce has become a game changer for businesses that have adopted it. Unfortunately, student entrepreneurs at Makerere University have not been keen to make the most of this avenue of doing business.
According to a team of researchers led by Dr. Hellen Namawejje from the Department of
Statistical Methods and Actuarial Science, College of Business and Management Sciences (CoBAMS), less than 10% of the business enterprises exhibited at the 2018 Annual Students’ Entrepreneurship Expo organized by the College were using pure e-commerce. With partial e-commerce, goods and services are sold through internet, but hand-delivered to customers while with pure e-commerce, all the process involved are digital.
The team, with funding from the Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF), therefore sought to understand this low uptake through a study titled “Commercializing of Entrepreneurship Ventures using E-Commerce: Evidence from Makerere University, Uganda”. Other members of the research team were; Dr. Proscovia Katumba-Department of Marketing
and Management, CoBAMS, Dr. Patricia Ndugga-Department of Population Studies, CoBAMS, Mr. Augustine Ssekyondwa, Directorate of E-Government Services, National Information Technology Authority-Uganda (NITA-U) and Dr. Isaac Shinyekwa-Economic Policy Research Centre (EPRC).
Speaking at the dissemination event held in the CoBAMS Conference Room and virtually on Thursday 17th December, 2020, members of the Mak-RIF Grants Management Committee (GMC) in attendance thanked Government of Uganda for the generous funding that enabled the research team to conduct studies that can help address youth unemployment in Uganda. They equally paid tribute to the Chairperson GMC, Prof. William Bazeyo for his negotiation skills that influenced the Government to allocate the funding.
“With 70% of youth in Uganda currently unemployed, this study will be of great assistance in addressing this pertinent issue,” remarked Dr. John Mutenyo, a GMC Member. “I urge you to disseminate these findings widely so that the youth can know that there are other avenues through which they can get employment” he added.
Dr. Mutenyo reminded the audience that the call for RIF 3 (the third round of Mak-RIF funding) will go out early next year and urged them to prepare good proposals that can attract Government funding especially in research areas that address NDP III (the Third National Development Plan) and the SDGs.
“Entrepreneurship and E-commerce are currently big players in the economy of any country in the world. I believe that these findings are not going to end here but will be taken down to potential users and hopefully help them. This will boost the impact that we ought to see from these research funds” added Dr. Isa Kabenge, another GMC member.
When it comes to understanding business ventures, it is always advisable to hear from an established practitioner. E-commerce ought not to be the exception. Delivering a brief keynote address, Makerere University alumnus and Founder, Xente Tech Limited, Mr. Allan Rwakatungu paid tribute to his alma mater and the research team in particular for taking steps to bring more Ugandans into the digital economy.
Xente is a platform founded in 2016 with a vision to make every person and business join the digital economy. “The opportunities out there are immense, not only for users of the platforms but also for entrepreneurs who are able to harness them” shared Mr. Rwakatungu.
Taking an example of Jumia, he noted that although the company controls less than 3% of the total retail market in Africa, it is worth billions of US dollars. “To show you what that actually means, the percentage covered by Alibaba is about 25%, and when you look at the size of the Chinese market, the opportunities for growth are immense” he added.
According to Wikipedia, the Alibaba Group recorded a net income of US$ 19.82 Billion in 2020 and had over 117,000 employees as at 31st March 2020.
Addressing participants, the Dean School of Business, CoBAMS-Dr. Godfrey Akileng observed that the current disruptions occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic have provided us all with an opportunity to rethink how we can better manage and do business. “Those who will not embrace international electronic payment systems will struggle as the pandemic continues to sustain itself.”
He added that the mix of entrepreneurship and e-commerce presents students of business with an opportunity to reflect further on the contribution of these areas to development. “Uganda is considered among top ten most enterprising countries in the world but unfortunately, the demise of these business startups is very high. I hope this research will help us illustrate how e-commerce can find a lasting solution in terms of sustainability of these firms.”
Giving an overview of the project, Dr. Prossy Katumba identified absence of delivery infrastructure and secure payment methods as two major barriers to the wider acceptance of E-commerce in Africa. “Several countries lack an organized physical address system, and cash on delivery is the main payment method that online merchants such as Jumia, SafeBoda, Café Javas, Xente among others must deal with.”
She added that the entrepreneurship course offered to all undergraduate students at the Schools of Economics and Business, CoBAMS as well as Masters of Business Administration (MBA) and Masters of Economic Policy and Management students equips them with skills that enable learners to start their own enterprises.
“We have some success stories that have come out of this entrepreneurship course such as Dalausi Juice in Wandegeya, which has become a must-have at high-end parties” shared Dr. Katumba. “This thriving business was birthed out of a simple coursework idea” she added.
Dr. Katumba equally made mention of Andrew Mupuya, who as a result of his course work in entrepreneurship went into the production of recycled paper, “and has as a result won many awards from various international organizations and been featured on CNN – we encourage our students to start small and grow their ideas into a formidable business,” she explained.
Presenting the findings, the Principal Investigator-Dr. Namawejje shared that 796 out of 1,320 students that took part in the 2018 Entrepreneurship Expo were surveyed. 47% of these were female while 53% were male. 77% of participants were below the age of 24 while 23% were aged 24 years and above. In terms of origin, 38% of participants were from the Western region, while 32% were from Central, 16% from Eastern, 8% from Northern and 6% either from other regions or of different nationalities.
Technology is an essential driver of e-commerce uptake. 88% of the 796 respondents used smart phones, while 52% used laptops, 4% used either desktops or tablets and 9% had no device to use. The high percentages recorded in the use of smart phones and laptops could imply that some respondents used more than one device.
Additional drivers of E-commerce uptake reported included; the Annual Students’ Entrepreneurship Expo that enabled budding entrepreneurs to practice what they had learnt in class and a regulatory environment that was conducive to doing business online – there are no restrictions imposed on entrepreneurs who posted their products and services on various platforms. The natural shift of businesses online due to the COVID-19 pandemic was also another driver of e-commerce uptake by both entrepreneurs and customers.
The findings further revealed that entrepreneurs employed three main models of E-commerce; Business to Customer (B2C), Business to Business (B2B) and Business to Government (B2G). At 80%, B2C had the largest share while B2G was understandably at only 1%. “Owing to the capital intensive nature of doing business with Government, we did not expect the B2G model to feature prominently in our findings” explained Dr. Namawejje.
At 95%, the use of Social Media Platforms dominated the channels employed by students to reach their customers. This was followed by Websites at 21%, Email at 18%, Mobile Short Codes (SMS Codes) at 4%, Word of Mouth at 1.8% and Making Calls at 0.8%. Platforms such as Facebook have already taken advantage of this trend by introducing Facebook Shops – enabling businesses to create online stores on Facebook and Instagram free of charge.
Despite the availability of free options for entrepreneurs to easily embrace e-commerce, it became apparent to the research team that some barriers were impeding this. The lack of e-commerce knowledge topped this list with 73% of entrepreneurs citing it. This was followed by the high cost of internet at 67%, Lack of access to gadgets at 54% and Poor Internet connections at 49%. Trust and cyber security issues were cited by 45% of respondents while Conservatism among community members accounted for 20%.
To help boost the commercialization of entrepreneurship ventures using e-commerce, the research team made the following recommendations at policy level;
- Government should provide subsidized or free Internet to Makerere University to enable students easily utilise online platforms for generating and nurturing entrepreneurship ideas and projects.
- Taxes on e-commerce enablers such as Internet and smart phones should be reduced as a way of attracting business enterprises especially the start-ups to take up e-commerce in their operations.
- Government should support building of e-commerce infrastructure at Makerere University since it’s a Government institution.
The dissemination event was moderated by Dr. Anthony Tibaingana from the School of Statistics and Planning, who last week disseminated his findings on “The impact of Skilling the Youth and Women in Household Enterprise Start-Up and Performance in Uganda”.
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Skilling for Entrepreneurship more Impactful among Females with Secondary Education
According to research conducted by a team from the College of Business and Management Sciences (CoBAMS), Makerere University and partners, entrepreneurs with secondary education were more likely (69%) to start new businesses after skilling compared to those with either primary or post-secondary education. Additionally, 70% of female entrepreneurs started one business after attending a skilling programme compared to 30% of their male counterparts. The findings were revealed at a research dissemination event held on Friday 11th December 2020 at CoBAMS and hosted live on ZOOM.
The research team led by Dr. Anthony Tibaingana was also made up of Dr. Faisal Buyinza, Mr. Emmanuel Ssemuyaga and Ms. Catherine Tumusiime from CoBAMS. Mr. Ronnie Mulongo from the Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU) and Ms. Rita Atukwasa from the Institute for Social Transformation (IST) completed the team. The research which focused on exploring “The Impact of Skilling the Youth and Women in Household Enterprise Start-Up and Performance in Uganda” was funded by the Government of Uganda under the Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF).
The data that informed these findings was collected by the research team through surveys and face-to-face interviews in the districts of Kampala, Mukono and Wakiso where skilling Uganda programmes under PSFU, Enterprise Uganda, Uganda Industrial Research Institute and The Africa Institute for Strategic Animal Resource Services and Development (AFRISA) are implemented. The study that began in December 2019 successfully concluded in August 2020 despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting Government guidelines that imposed a lock down and other mitigation measures.
The study objectives were to; identify the methods used in transferring skills, evaluate the contribution of skilling to the start-up of businesses, examine how the training is influencing the performance of existing businesses and examine the strategic interventions on start-ups and performance. Anchored on National Development Plan III (NDP III)’s goal “To Increase Average Household Incomes and Improve the Quality of Life of Ugandans”, the study was also conducted in line with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1-No Poverty, 8-Decent Work and Economic Growth and 9-Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure.
Presenting some of the findings on selected determinants of start-up, Dr. Tibaingana shared that the per annum average profit for start-ups in the study areas was approximately UGX 276,000 with a maximum of UGX 8 Million reported. “This tells us that much as they are small, these start-ups are making some degree of profit and if they are well supported, they can become bigger and support the Government in its Vision 2040.”
Regarding proprietorship, the results showed that while the majority of businesses (61%) were solely owned, only a dismal number (1%) were registered as Private Limited Companies while partnerships accounted for 29%. The average age of business owners was 32.6 years while the maximum reported age was 72 years.
On a rather good note for the Government and implementing agencies, 92% of respondents attributed the source of their business ideas to the skilling programmes. Buoyed by this finding, Dr. Tibaingana said, “The Government needs to invest more money into skilling because it is helping us to get more business ideas.”
Delving deeper into the skills acquired during training by education level, the findings revealed that entrepreneurs with secondary dominated the skills acquisition. 59% of them acquired business creation skills, 58% acquired production skills, 51% marketing skills and 50% business management skills. Only 14%, 21%, 17% and 25% of entrepreneurs with primary education acquired the same skills respectively. The skill type reported as most acquired by those with post-secondary education was marketing at 32% while the least acquired was production at 21%.
Skilling methods play an important role in any learning endeavour. The stakes are even higher in an era where start-up capital is hard to find; the methods must guarantee knowledge acquisition and retention if start-ups are to make it past their second year of existence. Thankfully, role play was the most used method at 56% followed by the lecture at 27% and practical at 17%.
At the end of the dissemination, the research team made some policy recommendations. These included;
- Government measures aimed at easing business registration, access to external start-up capital and business training should be encouraged to promote investment in enterprises that are starting up.
- Skilling centres should be spread throughout the country so that entrepreneurs in rural areas can also benefit.
- Training syllabus should be developed to accommodate a calibrated training for all.
- Training materials should be made available to aid the practical method which is critical in skilling
- Business partnerships and limited companies should be encouraged to enhance big start-up businesses as potential sources of gainful employment and enterprise performance.
On behalf of the Principal Dr. Eria Hisali, the Deputy Principal CoBAMS, Dr. Bruno Yawe thanked Dr. Tibaingana, Dr. Buyinza and the research team for conducting the study on an important aspect of Uganda’s education sector. He equally thanked Mak-RIF for sponsoring the study and in a special way thanked Dr. Godfrey Akileng, the Dean School of Business, CoBAMS for providing the leadership that has enabled research to thrive.
Representing Mak-RIF, Dr. John Mutenyo a Member of the Grants Management Committee (GMC) commended Prof. William Bazeyo for his efforts in ensuring that the University secured funding from the Government to specifically support research and innovations. He equally appealed to Dr. Tibaingana and the research team to write more proposals when the next call is advertised.
Article by Public Relations Office
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