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”.
Article by Public Relations Office
Makerere University to set up an agro-processing skilling hub in 2024
Makerere University in partnership with Promote Uganda Company Limited (PROUL) is set to establish an agro-processing skilling hub next year to expose students to agricultural machinery.
The hub that will be based at Makerere University main campus in Kampala will house agricultural machines that add value to agricultural products.
While unveiling the initiative on Thursday, November 23 during the opening day of the three-day 2nd Innovation and Agro-processing machine at Makerere University’s Freedom Square, Mr David Nsubuga, the Director for PROUL said many youths remain unemployed despite their academic qualifications and it is high time they embraced new technology to create more job opportunities for the graduates. He revealed that the university will be signing a memorandum of understanding with PROUL next week.
“On top of the courses students are studying, we are going to establish a skilling center where they can be exposed to the machines that add value to agricultural products. We believe that when they start buying and selling finished agricultural products, this, will start them on the journey of industrialists.” he noted
The Vice Chancellor, represented by his deputy Prof. Umar Kakumba, revealed that the university has student innovators who just need backup funds to transform the agricultural sector.
“They have innovated machinery that can do irrigation. We are partnering with Promote Uganda Limited to showcase some of the innovations and to be able to connect them to banks which can give them credit and be able to promote their machinery that they are producing including those that do a lot with production of finished goods.” He said in a message delivered by Prof Umar Kakumba, the Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of academics.
Student innovators of agricultural machinery are those pursuing degree programmes related to bioprocessing engineering, water resources engineering, dealing with mechanical engineering and students of business management sciences among others.
The 2nd innovation and Agro-processing machine expo is a three day exhibition that will run from Thursday, November 23 to Saturday, November 25.
Prof Kakumba understands 80 percent of Makerere graduates fail to get formal employment and revealed the need to inject money in such innovations to harness surging number of unemployed youth flooding the streets of Kampala looking for what to do saying, “Every year, higher institutions of learning and tertiary institutions produce about 150,000 students and yet government job slots are around 30,000 only which is a great blow to students who want white collar jobs,” he added
Mr Steven Byantwale Tibeijuka, the Director Crop Protection in the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Fisheries and Industries who represented the minister for Agriculture, Mr Frank Tumwebaze pledged on behalf of the government to support the skilling hub that will be established at Makerere University next year.
“I ask the University to put it into writing and address the letter to the minister, the government cannot fail to give you funds once everything is ready,” he pledged
Dr Cathy Mbidde, the manager of the Makerere University Innovation hub said the hub was established in August 2022 under the office of the Vice Chancellor to commercialise the innovations from basically research that the university does and their main goal is to create awareness of the agro-processing machinery.
She added: “When you look at the current Uganda National Development Plan III government’s agenda goal one is agri-industrialisation. As the University, yes we do research and teach but how do we work with the private sector to achieve that goal. We have students who have done research and discovered nutritional values but they don’t have the machinery and access.”
She believes this expo will act as an eye opener to young innovators to team up and purchase the agricultural machinery they need to start up small companies and food processing enterprises while still at the university.
According to her, every year Makerere University graduates around 13,000 students and they can’t find jobs anywhere so there is a need to come up with financing models through financing companies, Non-governmental organisations, and the government to help them to get machinery on credit.
Promote Uganda limited is a company that produces agricultural machinery and their partnership with the university is to introduce the idea of using machines to add value to agricultural products.
When many students graduate, they fail to get formal employment, and end up going to Arab countries where many have lost their lives.
Mr Nsubuga wants the skilling training on operation of agricultural machinery to be added to the students’ courses.
The skilling center will help students to become entrepreneurs and know how to utilise raw materials that are readily available from agriculture to make value added products. The expo is a cross-cutting student exhibition.
Mr Anthony Akandwanaho, a student from Busitema University, said had come to exhibit a day and night dryer invented by his lecturer.
“The machine uses solar thermal during the day to dry the products which it collects directly from the sun and transpires the heat to the products for drying and solar energy during the night,” he said
He noted that this machine dries products from both animal and plant types including meat, chicken, fruits and vegetables. And the maximum drying time for products is 24 hours, for those with higher moisture content like pineapples. However, for products like meat, it dries them within eight hours.
“The unique beauty with it is that you collect the water from the product and can be used for domestic purposes.” Mr Akandwanaho explained
The student also exhibited a chicken de-feathering machine which is able to rip all feathers from the chicken. The mode of operation is that you slaughter the chicken and soak it in warm water for about one minute and transfer the chicken to the machines and in 15 seconds, the feathers are all removed. Its production rate is three chicken per minute.
Some of the exhibited machinery include a garden sprayer, a maize mill, grain grinder stainless, potato slicer, electric chips cutter, vacuum sealer, food dryer, bone Shaw, meat cutter among others.
EfD Uganda Stakeholders Propose Sustainable use of Biomass
The Inclusive Green Economy program of the Environment for Development Initiative in Uganda on 17th November hosted stakeholders across the country’s sectors to get their perspectives on biomass transition to clean energy sources in Uganda.
Uganda’s IGE engagement specialists Dr. Peter Babyenda says this is one of the work plan item on on social inclusion where stakeholders were identified by IGE fellows during the 17th EfD Annual meeting in Ghana.
In a meeting held at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala, stakeholders gave the situation analysis of biomass use in the country, where they want to go, how to go there and who should take the country there.
“We found out that almost 90% of our households depend on biomass whether in rural areas or town. This is attributed to cultural issues where certain foods are believed to have good taste when cooked on firewood or charcoal, the fear to use electricity and gas that may result to shocks and fire explodes, inaccessibility to clean energy sources and affordability issues.”
The meeting resolved to primarily focus on behavioural change efforts of the sustainable use of biomass and gradual transitioning to clean energy sources.
’We concluded that for now we cannot say let us move to clean energy but go slowly go slowly on sustainable use of biomass by planting more trees so that instead of depending on natural forests, we depend on plantation forests, use energy saving stoves and those that can save users on effects of smoke and slowly move to clean energy sources by connecting households to electricity and make it affordable and make gas available at an affordable cost’´Babyenda said.
The meeting also proposed the need for more awareness creation about alternative energy sources such as biogas for schools and prisons.
Representing the Principal College of Business and Management Sciences, Dr. Yawe Bruno thanked Sida through the EfD Global hub at the University of Gothenburg for funding the IGE program and the EfD-Mak centre.
“The use of biomass in Uganda has persistently remained high. 80% use firewood and 13% charcoal for cooking but there is a proportion that use a combination of those two. This imposes great implication for household welfare.
Biomass usage affect our productivity, schooling of children, labour market participation especially by women and children. On health, the use of biomass especially firewood causes eye defects, breathing difficulties, snake bites, body dislocations and sexual abuse,” He explained.
Besides household effects, Yawe noted that reliance on biomass has effects on the environment.
Yawe reported that Uganda’s forest cover is being threatened by biomass usage reducing it from 24% in 1990 to less than 9% to date. Transiting to renewable and clean energy requires clear understanding of supply and demand relationship for both biomass and clean energy.
“We must know what drives the uptake and while many can afford gas and electricity, why are we insisting that we should have charcoal? Comparatively, a 6kg gas cylinder costs 60 thousand and today a bag of charcoal costs not less 70 thousand but some households find it cheaper which is expensive and because of the felling of trees, the quality of charcoal may not last more than a week,”
He challenged stakeholders to find out why the supply and demand for biomass is still high amidst detrimental effects and why the supply for clean energy is still low amidst numerous innovations.
Representing the Director EfD-Mak Center, the Dean, School of Economics Dr. Mike Okumu said many households are struggling to transition from firewood and charcoal due to socioeconomic characteristics that define them.
Okumu attributed the climate change effects to the household behaviours and enterprise behaviour and challenged stakeholders to find innovative ways of co-existing with the environment to enhance productivity and also feed communities
He congratulated the IGE engagement specialists for being intentional in identifying the participants taking into account that the majority and poorest population resides in the rural Uganda, and Uganda’s biggest population being the youth.
The meeting comprised specialists in environmental conservation, researchers in renewable energy specifically biomass energy, persons dealing in innovations in sustainable productivity, those working with rural energy transition and renewable energy through use of waste plants and animal residues and persons engaged in youth environmental initiative particularly agroforestry.
Okumu also congratulated the EfD-Mak centre for bringing on board collaborative partners from different Ministries, Departments and Agencies , the private sector and Civil Society organisations.
He expressed the centre’s commitment to engage in similar engagements for purposes of having a drive into a cleaner Uganda and mitigating climate change effects on Uganda’s economy and a drive to having persons making informed decisions towards a better climate sensitive Uganda.
Jane Anyango is the Communication Officer EfD Uganda
Researchers call for creating of fund to support industrial symbiosis for sustainable entrepreneurship
Government has been advised to create a fund to support Small and Medium Enterprises to implement symbiotic practices, which they say will foster sustainable development.
Dr. Saadat Kimuli Nakyejwe, the principal investigator, and Dr. Kasimu Sendawula from Makerere University Business School and the College of Business and Management Sciences at Makerere University, respectively, argued that if firms practice industrial symbiosis (working together to forge a mutually beneficial relationship), they are bound to grow. This symbiosis may take different forms, such as knowledge sharing, raw material sharing, and the sharing of machines and space, among other things.
Dr. Saadat said these mutually beneficial relations will result in more profitable businesses, conservation of the environment, reduction in production costs, and creation of jobs. Furthermore, he emphasized that industrial symbiosis can also lead to innovation and increased competitiveness within industries. By collaborating and leveraging each other’s resources, firms can develop new products and services that meet evolving market demands. Ultimately, this not only benefits individual businesses but also contributes to overall economic growth and sustainability.
Dr. Kasimu Sendawula, the Co-PI of the project, said there is a need to sensitize entrepreneurs about the benefits of industrial symbiosis, emphasizing that it can lead to cost savings through resource efficiency and waste reduction. Additionally, industrial symbiosis can foster a more circular economy by promoting the reuse and recycling of materials, reducing environmental impact, and promoting sustainable practices.
The research was looking at “Exploring the Potential of industrial Symbiosis as an Innovative strategy to foster sustainable Entrepreneurship in Micro and Small Enterprises in Uganda” a research funded by Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund.
The researchers also called for an amendment to the current Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise (MSMEs) policy so that it can address the environmental, social, and economic issues undermining the potential of MSMEs to undertake industrial symbiosis. By incorporating industrial symbiosis into the MSMEs policy, it can provide the necessary support and incentives for businesses to adopt sustainable practices. This would not only benefit the environment but also enhance the competitiveness and resilience of MSMEs in the long run. The team also called on the government to put in place a symbiotic fund to support organizations. This fund could provide financial resources and technical assistance to MSMEs interested in implementing industrial symbiosis initiatives. Additionally, the team suggested that the government should collaborate with industry associations and experts to develop training programs and knowledge-sharing platforms to help MSMEs navigate the challenges and opportunities of industrial symbiosis.
Ms. Nakalembe Betty, one of the entrepreneurs that participated in the research, shared with participants during the research dissemination on November 9, 2023, that she had successfully implemented an industrial symbiosis initiative in her textile business. She emphasized the importance of networking and building relationships with other businesses in order to identify potential symbiotic partnerships. Ms. Nakalembe also highlighted the positive impact that industrial symbiosis had on her business’s sustainability practices and overall profitability. She shared that since the training, she has been able to use the waste textile materials to make decorative materials, masks, and glass covers, among other products. This, she said, has reduced her waste disposal and also increased her income. Additionally, Ms. Nakalembe mentioned that through industrial symbiosis, she has been able to establish a network of suppliers and customers who are interested in sustainable products. This has not only expanded her market reach but also allowed her to contribute to the circular economy by promoting the reuse and repurposing of materials. As a result, her business has become more resilient and environmentally conscious, positioning her as a leader in sustainable practices within her industry.
Ms. Natayi Aisha, who is in charge of recycling at Luuka Plastics, also shared that the company recycles plastic and polynene bags in an effort to reduce waste and minimize their environmental impact. By implementing recycling practices, Luuka Plastics is able to divert plastic waste from landfills and give it a new life, reducing the need for virgin materials and conserving valuable resources. This not only benefits the environment but also creates a positive image for the company, attracting eco-conscious customers who appreciate their commitment to sustainability.
Mr. Galiwango Hamza, the Director of Industrial Parks at the Uganda Investment Authority, welcomed the recommendations of the research team, saying that industrial symbiosis aligns with Uganda’s goals of promoting sustainable industrial practices. He emphasized the importance of companies like Luuka Plastics in driving economic growth while minimizing environmental impact. Additionally, Mr. Hamza expressed his hope that other businesses would follow suit and adopt similar practices to contribute to a greener and more sustainable future for Uganda. Mr. Ezra Byakutangaza, from the Research and Innovation Fund of Makerere University, the funding agency, congratulated the researchers and also thanked the government for the continued funding of research and innovation.
- Dr. Saadat Kimuli Nakyejwe
- Dr. Sendawula Kasimu
- Ms. Shamirah Najjinda
- Eng. Dr. Ismail Kizza K.
General1 week ago
Dates for 74th Graduation Ceremony
General1 week ago
The 19th RUFORUM AGM in Yaoundé calls for consolidated efforts towards transforming higher agricultural & tertiary education to contribute to sustainable development & food security in Africa
Health2 weeks ago
MNCH e-Post Issue 121: Learning from Nsambya Hospital Human Milk Bank to inform national scale-up & save preterm babies
General2 weeks ago
Dr. Onoria, Members of Staff Appeals Tribunal Sworn In
Education1 week ago
Police approves new compulsory soft skills training course