Promoting Entrepreneurship, Small Businesses and Self-Employment in South Sudan

Jan 12, 2017

A participant of the entrepreneurship and enterprise development programme show proudly the certificate obtained after finalize the training. ©UNDP

In June 2016, UNDP launched a national entrepreneurship and enterprise development programme to train current and aspiring young entrepreneurs. By the end of the year, 110 men and women participated in the programme, drawn from a wide-ranging selection of business sectors including vegetable and poultry farming, printing and photocopying, hairdressing, logistics, IT services, engineering, construction, transportation, and public services. The trainings were facilitated by master trainers from EMPRETEC Ghana Foundation, an Africa-wide Centre of Excellence which uses tried and tested approaches to entrepreneurship development tailored to country-specific contexts.

The innovative and highly successful EMPRETEC model, developed by UNCTAD using Harvard-based methodology, comprises of a series of ten key “Personal Entrepreneurial Competencies” represented by thirty behaviors that characterize successful entrepreneurs worldwide. UNDP’s programme is the first to use the EMPRETEC model in South Sudan, and its tested methods augment the effectiveness of the trainings by focusing on tested strategies to improve the success rate of new entrepreneurs.

“The most important thing I learned [from the Entrepreneurship Training Workshop] was about information seeking, and how they taught us how to seek information about our businesses,” said Martha Abari Bartholomew, who owns a retail shop selling general food items in the Munuki neighborhood of Juba. “It’s always good to seek information on competitors and other areas of business so you are aware of what will happen tomorrow. And if you plan to improve your business and take it to the next level, what can you do now so that you reach the goal you are setting?”

Ms. Bartholomew was part of the first cohort of trainees to complete the two-week Entrepreneurship Training Workshop in July and says the knowledge she gained has improved the performance of her small enterprise.  

Micro-, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are an essential component of any growing and dynamic economy. In studies from a broad range of countries, these businesses are found to be a driver of economic growth, wealth creation and employment in economies both large and small.

Unemployment remains unacceptably high in South Sudan in the absence of a vibrant private sector. Over 90% of youth, who constitute an overwhelming majority of the country’s population, are without formal employment.

The impact of a robust and healthy SME sector goes beyond wage creation – as such businesses generate a broader ecosystem of employment and opportunities for poor, low-skilled workers and have broader social impacts, such as access to health care, improved housing, and education. By providing viable income-generating alternatives to armed or criminal activities, entrepreneurship and enterprise development can contribute to sustainable peace in communities affected by conflict.

IMG_6959The Japanese Ambassador to South Sudan, H.E. Kiya Masahiko hands a special awards to one of the trainers.

Yet functioning ecosystems need catalysts, and UNDP’s Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development Programme aims to cultivate these agents of change from the pool of entrepreneurship trainees themselves. In November and December, the first cohort of trainees for an additional Business Development Services courses received instruction as part of the programme.

These participants comprise of successful trainees of the original Entrepreneurship Training Workshops.

The aim of the Business Development Services trainings is to equip pro-active and successful South Sudanese business owners with the knowledge and skills to serve as business mentors and advisors to their fellow entrepreneurial countrymen.

“A lot of businesses fail in the first two years. Actually, we find about 70% of businesses are unsuccessful across the board, more often than not because of lack of guidance,” said Kwabena Dankyi Darfoor, a senior trainer from EMPRETEC Ghana Foundation. “[New business owners] tend make a lot of mistakes. Sometimes they run too fast, or run too slow. They fail to seize opportunities and fail to anticipate challenges.”

Mr. Darfoor cited the support systems that exist in countries with high rates of successful entrepreneurial activity.

“All young entrepreneurs in very developed countries have mentors who visit their workplace, who share ideas, and encourage them. They have business support systems and centers,” he says. “A lot of programs just offer training with few results. Then we ask ourselves why people are not making use of these trainings? You can conduct 10 trainings and always see the same faces attending, and yet you go to their businesses and they haven’t made much progress.”

The EMPRETEC experience shows that measurable improvement of the micro-, small, and medium enterprises participating in the program are tied directly to both the trainings and implementation efforts in the marketplace. The business mentors and advisors who train through the program are meant to help these business owners succeed by providing guidance and support.

“UNDP cannot train all of South Sudan. But if we, as individuals, go back to the communities and cause that change, we will have a better country, a better South Sudan. For the country to reach a better status, we must have a good environment of entrepreneurship – entrepreneurs are the ones who will build this nation,” said Ms. Bartholomew, who became one of the newest Business Development Services trainees after completing the initial entrepreneurship training.

She is especially motivated to expand her newfound business advisory capacities, both voluntarily, and eventually, as a paid service.

“As a group here we have agreed among ourselves to open a social network group on Facebook to contain the advisory team that is growing from this training,” continued Ms. Bartholomew. “But as for me, I am already taking the steps and I’m making sure I am training people wherever I am. I will be visiting people. I am already arranging [with my classmate in this training] to start moving to businesspeople we know to start offering our services teaching them how to better manage their finance, marketing, and business administration.”

The pilot phase of UNDP’s Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development programme aims to provide further training of 70 individuals, like Ms. Bartholomew, in Business Development Services in order to serve as business advisors.

As the programme progresses, UNDP will continue to work together with the Ministry of Trade and Industry, and other partners towards the establishment of a national Enterprise Development Centre. This hub will house business advisors, as well as other programmes and services, designed to further support and develop successful entrepreneurs in the country.