Written by Chris
Community improvements in the rural areas of developing countries are frequently left up to the members of that village or town. Nowhere is this more true than in rural East Africa.
In Uganda, Kenya, and Tanzania, young girls and boys are being empowered to build micro and small businesses that provide a positive impact for their communities.
In Africa, “MSMEs” (micro, small, and medium enterprises) provide an estimated 80% of jobs. This is high even compared to other developing nations.
As we recognize micro, small, and medium enterprise day this Monday, June 27th, we celebrate these businesses. While cultural pressures and a lack of access to traditional financing can make these businesses fragile, they provide a means for their owners and employees to create a better future.
A brief history of Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise Day
Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprise Day was officially recognized by the UN General Assembly in April 2017 as part of the 2030 Sustainable Development agenda. Small and medium-sized enterprises account for a whopping 70% of employment worldwide. With approximately 600 million jobs needed by 2030 to absorb a growing global workforce, the development of this sector is crucial for the sustainability and growth of all countries.
East African youth forge strong communities through entrepreneurship
In East Africa, the entrepreneurial spirit is strong among young women, but there are major hurdles they must overcome.
In the wake of a global pandemic that adversely affected each and every economy, the economies of developing nations were hit hardest. An er studying COVID-19’s effects on businesses found that female owned small businesses were 27% more likely to not survive the pandemic when compared male owned SMBs.
The micro enterprises launched by African girls and youth typically employ family members or use them as mentors. Any of the modest profits gained go to help provide for the family’s needs while the business itself lives as an example of hard work and success for others.
The young women and men entrepreneurs associated with Asante Africa Foundation are resilient.
To celebrate Micro Small and Medium Enterprise Day 2022, we are showcasing some young entrepreneurs whose businesses are changing not only their lives, but the lives of their families and communities.
Be Her Guest
It’s been theorized that first born girls run the world. Maureen is a prime example of that. First born in a family of five, she graduated secondary school and couldn’t wait to apply her ambition and the life skills she knew to start a business.
Maureen used the leadership skills she acquired at Asante Africa’s LEI program (Leadership & Entrepreneurship Incubator) together with a small loan from relatives to open a modest hotel in her community. Her aunt, another entrepreneur, serves as her role model, mentoring Maureen not just on business but how to succeed in life.
Her business has faced its share of challenges, like water shortages and lack of quality furniture, which have hindered her day to day operations. But with resilience she’s managed to save enough for a water tank and plans to refurbish the hotel furniture as well. She’s even been able to employ a few people, and make some profit which she is reinvesting to expand her business.
A Paper Bag Business Becomes a Point of Pride
Mirembe was inspired to create a start up business following an LEI summit whose theme was Youth Economic Empowerment. But the question she faced was what kind of business?
It occurred to her that she always had a passion for the way people looked so elegant coming out of a market or a mall carrying a beautiful bag. Immediately, she had the idea to start manufacturing paper bags as a business.
She started by watching YouTube videos but needed hands-on training. That’s when a friend connected her with someone who knew how to make them. It turned out to be an old friend of hers with her own bag business. She offered to teach Mirembe out of her office free of charge.
Soon Mirembe started making her own paper bags from home. By putting up her personal savings she was able to acquire the paper material and glue. She started selling the bags to small supermarkets, bakeries, drug stores, and potato chip makers.
Next year she hopes to supply larger companies and pharmacies, while creating custom bags for wedding parties and introduction ceremonies. Manufacturing bags has been a life altering experience for Mirembe and her family. Now she can pay for the basic necessities of home, while also teaching her siblings the bag making process as part of her growing team.
Baked Goods Giving Rise to a Dream
While pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer science, Sebuuma keeps busy with an entrepreneurial pursuit of baking and pastries.
He first learned about baking in high school and has since baked cakes, bread, samosas, chapati and more. Sebuuma saved the money he earned early on to start his small business in a friend’s garage.
At first he bought a few cake frames and tools. His modest oven made use of sand and charcoal in a charcoal stove to bake a single cake at a time. In time, he was able to use money he’d saved to construct a traditional oven, further increasing his productivity. Fast forward to 2022 and his new oven has transformed his productivity, allowing him to bake up to 5 cakes at once, in less time.
The result has been ideal, as Sebuuma’s business has grown to supply shops with cakes and delicious Ugandan daddies (bite-sized sweet, fried flour cubes). In turn, he’s repaying the community by training and paying a few friends who in turn help out whenever he gets large orders.
This Micro Small and Medium Enterprise Day, support a local micro or small business in your community and help sustain a vital part of the economy.
You can also donate to support programs like Asante Africa’s LEI. The LEI program focuses on empowering young people with the leadership and entrepreneurial lessons needed to help achieve their dreams and sustain their communities.