BLOG| UNDP’s Point of View: Programme Analyst at the Human Development and Inclusive Growth Unit, David Deng MakerMay 8, 2017
David Deng Maker is a Programme Analyst with UNDP’s Human Development and Inclusive Growth Unit. He has an integral role in the implementation of our pilot Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development project, launched last June. The project has so far trained 110 men and women in entrepreneurship skills and business development advisory services.
What is unique about the Entrepreneurship and Enterprise Development project?
David: The unique aspect of this initiative is that it is a pioneering pilot initiative and a unique partnership between the Ministry of Labour, EMPRETEC and UNDP to coach, mentor and equip women and youth with the tools to earn sustainable incomes and create a life of opportunities for themselves. It targets entrepreneurial-minded people—both aspiring and practicing. It is set to transform the mindset of trainees and ensure that they acquire attitudes and behaviors that characterize successful entrepreneurs. It beats logic to talk of entrepreneurship in the current context of South Sudan marred with security uncertainty, lack of initial capital, moribund economy and bouts of famine. However, this initiative is designed to work against that reality: lift-up aspiring entrepreneurs and give them hope by sharpening their business management skills through business formalization process to gain certain level of success and restore their lives by earning incomes. Continued provision of business advisory services to business entities is expected to keep businesses on course thereby holding back drivers for failure.
Why do you think it is important to encourage and support entrepreneurship right now in South Sudan?
David: Entrepreneurship is more crucial when the economy is in doldrums because opportunities with established firms and formal sector employment are virtually non-existent. We are targeting youth and women as necessity-driven entrepreneurs who are compelled to get involved in entrepreneurship because there is no other work available. South Sudan is a young country with more than 70% of the population classified as youth. Encouraging them to venture more into productive and profit-making activities will make them far better off as opposed to remaining idle in the face of deteriorating economy and unemployment. This way, the programme will inject into them sense of creativity and help revitalize local economy.
What other similar activities, to promote economic well-being or recovery, is your team involved with?
David: Our other efforts revolve around restoration of livelihoods lost in the immediate aftermath of the conflict. This is being realized through the construction of community markets that enable small scale businesses and community members to succeed, as well as provide daily sustenance and maintain basic levels of livelihoods. The aim is to support communities through providing them with tools to cope with current shocks brought about by mass displacement and loss of productive assets. Besides rolling out the entrepreneurship development programme, the team has constructed a community market and vocational training centre in Aweil. We’ve equipped the centre with basic vocational training tools and ICT equipment. To complement the community market, we are also looking to deliver sustainable livelihood skills trainings. We are also about to launch a joint programme on recovery and stabilization with UNICEF, FAO, WFP and UNDP as partners in Northern Bahr el Ghazal, a region which is especially impacted by current food insecurity. Another vocational training centre is planned in Bentiu as part of recovery efforts to give youth much-needed skills to pursue livelihoods.
What would you love to see in terms of the long-term vision of success for the project, and for the entrepreneurship and/or business environment in South Sudan?
David: As I mentioned, this is a pilot and has so far produced concrete results which need sustaining in the long-run. Securing more resources to ensure scalability and establishment of an entrepreneurship development centre to serve as an idea hub for hatching and generating business ideas is an effort worth investing in. We are envisioning this centre training more entrepreneurs (both aspiring and established), as well as retraining and building the institutional capacity to design and implement entrepreneurship development initiatives to support the country’s vision of accelerating economic growth.
Once in place, the centre will develop special relationships with financial institutions that shall allow the centre to recommend micro, small and medium clients for financial support. The centre could opt to operate as semi-independent entity or be run by a related government institution to provide a sense of ownership. At the same time, close attention will be required to check hurdles that stand in the way of start-ups and to take corrective actions to check the current high costs of doing business in South Sudan.
What makes you proud of this project?
David: It’s encouraging to think that in an environment where all and sundry look up to the government for jobs, necessity-driven entrepreneurs will emerge and timely support from development entities, like UNDP, are geared towards realizing the potential of initiatives like this programme. Additionally, the resilience exhibited so far by entrepreneurs is assuring and an indication that determined entrepreneurs can be propped up and supported to put a dent in the very high rates of poverty here. The success of the programme we have witnessed so far is an eye opener because most people do not put serious value on entrepreneurship. Continuing this initiative means a slow introduction of entrepreneurial culture among South Sudanese which will have multiplier economic effects.