Uganda, An Entrepreneur’s Canvas: How Ugandans are Molding and Painting the Future
The starving artist does not starve in Uganda, or at least they don’t have to if they are an entrepreneur.
I didn’t expect to stumble upon art as a way to improve economic development in the Bottom of the Pyramid (BOP) during CHOGM. But, as I’ve learned while traveling in Africa, there are pleasant surprises everyday.
“Vision is the ability to see what the naked eyes can’t see about the future.” These are the words of David Ssegawa, who received the Faidika Na BBC (Prosper with BBC) Young Entrepreneur Award at the Commonwealth Youth Forum earlier this week.
A native of Kampala, 22 year old David Ssegawa won $2,000 and a new lap-top for his vision to create a candle making factory. Ssegawa intends to start his business by purchasing a machine that can melt and mold wax, rent an office space for 3 months and bring on an associate to help him. He says his company will “benefit local communities across Uganda” that are not connected to the grid.
But, there are already candles in Uganda, right? “At present, candles are imported from China,” David recently explained to BBC, “but I want to launch a business which will make them locally and bring savings and benefits to the local community.”
David’s approach is ambitious, but incremental. With new found partnerships and networks developed during the Commonwealth Youth Forum they could help to “light-up Uganda.” Now, I don’t necessarily believe that this is the silver-bullet idea to light-up Africa; however, I do believe that David’s idea is one that is more than what the “naked eye” can see.
For example, David could turn his vision (with additional resources) into a full-fledged candle making business. Scented, colored, large, small, all kinds of shapes and sizes of candles that can be sold locally, regionally, and internationally. A home-grown, youth driven Ugandan Candle Factory.
This idea makes sense because anyone who has been to Uganda knows that talented artisans span every corner of the country. Artisans range from textiles and fashion designers, to mask-makers and wood-carvers, to sculptors, painters, and seamstresses. Candle makers would be another notch in the belt.
Let’s say on the low-end that these uniquely Ugandan candles are sold for 20,000 USH ($10 US) at the Buganda Road Market or National Theater Market in Kampala. Tourists flock to these sites to find new and different crafts to take home to friends and family. After the sale a portion goes back to David, a portion goes to his company, and portion could be used toward the purchase of additional wax melting and molding machines. The machines can then be loaned to semi off-the-grid rural communities (Note: someone reading this must have the technical skills to develop a solar powered wax molding machine). People in the community are then taught by David or his associates on:
• How to use and maintain the machine (and possibly in new ways)
• How to market the candles
• Basic management/ledger book skills
• And brainstorming meetings that tap into the creative spirit to develop new product lines
From what I could tell, David’s entrepreneurial, can-do spirit will “light-up Uganda and Ugandans.” He has the benefit of being in the CHOGM spotlight, has seed-money in his pocket and a new lap-top (Note to David: consider purchasing a web camera, a low cost cell phone or digital camera with video recording capabilities and YouTube your business!)
He is well-positioned to turn his vision into a powerful social business venture, and I look forward to hearing more about his success.