Set up innovation centres to fight youth unemployment (Daily Monitor (Uganda))

Following the President’s remarks that appeared in an article in Daily Monitor of July 21 titled, “Museveni to send unemployed graduates back to school”, and the numerous discussions about unemployed graduates, government must establish innovation centres/business incubators in all sub-counties in Uganda as a way of reducing youth unemployment.
Business incubation is a process enacted by business incubators, angels and venture capital organisations in order to facilitate the entrepreneurial process (Hackett and Dilts, 2004).

Young entrepreneurs are supported at the innovation centres in all questions surrounding the foundation of their businesses and at the same time are provided with an excellent framework with regard to infrastructure and services. This ideal framework provides business founders with the best possible conditions for quick and successful growth. Particularly at the classic incubation centres, young entrepreneurs remain only for a limited period of time until they have grown sufficiently to compete on the market, leaving behind them a place for new companies to find their way to a successful start.

Globally, the National Business Incubation Association based in USA (NBIA) serves more than 2,100 members in more than 60 nations, in German Association of Innovation, Technology and Business Incubation Centre, in Canada the Canadian Association of Business Incubation. In UK the ENB network and many more. I guess by now, you too have mustered the unemployment ‘song’ titled “Uganda’s unemployed graduates”, part of the song goes like this “More than 400,000 Ugandans graduate each year to compete for the only existing 20,000 jobs on the Ugandan market.”
Business incubators can help turn this situation upside down.
More than 80-90 per cent of the new businesses started each year fail worldwide within the first five years of operation (Aertset al, 2007).

Research published by Virgin Entrepreneur shows that Uganda is the best entrepreneurial country in the world surprisingly surpassing USA, UK and other developed countries. I appreciate the efforts in the country but I also want to say that we have not done enough. If such entrepreneurial results are happening without much intervention by government, private sector players including media houses and private universities, what is likely to happen if for example entrepreneurship becomes compulsory in schools? I imagine that if innovation centres, business incubators or acceleration centres exist at all universities and every sub county, much would be achieved.

In this day and age, a university without an incubation centre/ acceleration centre or innovation centre belongs somewhere else. In fact, we are getting tired of graduates with papers, rather, we need more graduates with products and services to offer to the market and this is what the incubator would help achieve.

After graduating with a certificate or degree, the graduate would then join an incubator or innovation centre where he or she would graduate with a product or service to the market. We need more of entrepreneurship education which equips students with the additional knowledge, attributes and capabilities required to apply these abilities in the context of setting up a new venture or business.
I imagine a situation where Uganda Communications Commission demands that a percentage of all the programing by radios and TV must be entrepreneurial in nature. If only 5 per cent of all the programing on all TV’s and radios was entrepreneurial, Uganda would be miles ahead.

Churches and mosques should set up innovation centres and business incubation centres where youth can start and grow their ideas. Entrepreneurial challenges in schools and the private sector spear heading or sponsoring such entrepreneurial challenges.
Ugandan youth and the rest of Africa have entrepreneurial ideas but what they lack is nurturing. It is always difficult to find a person who is ready to listen to young people and offer advice. Secondly, there are no designated places where youth can walk in and talk to experts about their entrepreneurial ventures or if a young person finds himself in a problematic position while doing businesses and all they need is technical advice it would be very tough for one to get such advice.

Young entrepreneurs are in a gamepark like situation where survival for the fittest is the order of the day. Not many young people have the right emotional intelligence to handle the daily business challenges and this is one of the reasons why many give up at the slightest failure. And many wish to start but the courage to begin and courage to endure is not in them. This can only be achieved by having innovation/incubation centres.

Government programmes such as Skilling Uganda, Youth Livelihood Programme are aimed at producing job creators rather than job seekers, which is good. The challenge comes in when the businesses are created and the entrepreneurs lack the knowledge and skill to sustain them.

Mr Nsereko Kayongo is an entrepreneur and a founding member of Uganda Youth Business Innovation and Incubation Centre.


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