Youths Should Think Big, Start Small, Learn Fast [opinion]

I was recently invited to a youth entrepreneurship workshop to make a presentation on India’s opportunities for the Ugandan youth.

An interaction with these young minds leads one to believe that they possess a lot of potential, only needing a spark to rise they have tremendous ability and can contribute towards the development of Uganda. Yes, they wish to be empowered with the right training and skills, and to share their expertise in the best interest of the country.

Uganda, like many other developing countries, is experiencing a ‘youth bulge’. According to United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), about half of Uganda’s population is under 16 years of age. In other words, the country has an opportunity to benefit from the emerging ‘in-house resource’ – their dynamism, imagination and innovation could be used to transform this country’s economy and society.

During the course of my interactions with the students, I observed that they possess their own set of business ideas. An insight, then, into Uganda’s macro-economic fundamentals, opportunities and challenges could enable them to streamline their ideas into a focused plan of action and a futuristic roadmap.

For instance, take the agricultural sector, which forms the main stay of Uganda’s economy, offering employment opportunities to over 66 per cent of the workforce. Considering Uganda’s dependency on the production of fresh fruits and vegetables, the youth can contribute in value addition services, agri-business or commercial farming within this sector.

Moving a step further, an introduction of a Self Help Group (SHG) or Micro Finance Institution (MFI) at the village level, can render the possibility of generating self-sustainability in livelihoods. Similarly, the possibility of small-scale start-ups in manufacturing or service sectors can be explored in Uganda, against the background of their ever-rising demand.

Needless to mention, collaborations with Indian companies in fields such as engineering, research and development, information and communication technology and health care, etc, can also be considered. These, it ought to be pointed out, are fields in which India has growing expertise.

Being one of the largest source countries for Uganda’s imports, India offers extensive engagement opportunities in the sphere of education and skills, besides trade and investments.

The government of India offers scholarships and fellowships to Ugandans from the public and private sector to enable them to pursue undergraduate, graduate, post-graduate and research courses in India under ITEC, ICCR, CV Raman Fellowship and Special Agricultural Scholarship. India offers over 100 scholarships every year to Uganda under different schemes.

In 2013-14, over 140 Ugandan students travelled to India under these scholarships and training programmes. Today, an estimated 1,100 Ugandan students are studying in Indian universities over the last three years. In 2010, India set up a tele-education learning centre at Makerere University, under the Pan African e-Network.

The centre facilitates electronic means of learning through Indian universities without necessarily being physically present in India. Education institutions such as India’s Aptech, Sikkim Manipal University and Karnataka State Open University have even opened their centres in Uganda to promote international learning experiences.

Among other initiatives, India will be setting up a Food Processing Business Incubation Centre (FPBIC) in Uganda. The centre will provide support to local entrepreneurs to enhance their skills in food processing, to acquaint themselves with the latest technologies and equipments used in this industry and would also create additional jobs for the rural youth.

The Inter – Governmental Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) was signed between the two countries in June 2014. The MOU between ICRISAT Hyderabad and National Agricultural Research Laboratories (NARL) Kawanda to carry the project forward is expected to be signed soon.

The youth stand to benefit from all such initiatives. One should always remember that learning is a life-long process. What remains to be seen is how best they can employ the skills and knowledge gained in the process. After all, it is the extent of contributions made towards the betterment of the society that counts in the end. So, think big, start small and learn fast.

The author works with the High Commission of India in Uganda (accredited to Rwanda and Burundi). Views are personal.

Source : The Observer

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