At 18 years old, Bolis Joseph Agany was the youngest participant of the Entrepreneurship Training Workshop held in Aweil. At the closing ceremony, when his name was called to receive his certificate, he received the loudest cheers and round of applause of the 71 successful candidates.
“I am the youngest at this training but people have been encouraging me throughout. They have been telling me, ‘don’t give up, don’t surrender’. It’s made me happier, to receive the support and to follow through with the whole six days,” he said.
Bolis began getting a feel for business when he started his small airtime-selling operation in 2016, when he was just 16 years old. Bolis was compelled to start his businesses so young due to the challenging circumstances facing young people in South Sudan.
“I’m in school, and I need to pay school fees. My parents work but they did not always receive their salary at the end of the month. That was affecting me, as I was in school and needed to sit for examinations. I didn’t want to be delayed so I went to seek out a business so I could pay my school fees on time,” he said.
At the time, Bolis was able to get a small personal loan to get started.
“I use my profits to pay for my school fees. I started paying my own school fees in Senior 1, and I am now in Senior 3,” he said proudly.
Bolis said he heard about the workshops from around town and decided to apply so he could get more ideas to inspire and develop his businesses. He plans to continue selling airtime and petrol, because he says the market for both in Aweil is particularly strong.
“The most important concepts I learned about [during the training] were quality and commitment. Having a better quality than others will get you more customers. With commitment, being there every day and being disciplined, will help you grow,” said Bolis. He also mentioned the need to set competitive prices and ways to grow customer loyalty.
Within the workshop itself, Bolis was able to sell airtime to his fellow trainees and make a profit.
“I feel happy. I look forward to the future. For example, from 2016 until now, I have seen my body [physically] change. In five years from now, how much will it change further? Now here, as we have learned, my business can do the same. I will not stay like this, I will change and I’m now proud because I know my business will be growing,” said Bolis.
For now, Bolis occasionally employs his younger brother to help with his business. But according to his new plan, he aspires to one day have employees.
“I’m sure of that, I want to employ people,” he said with a laugh.
The Entrepreneurship Training Workshop was funded by the Government of Japan and is part of UNDP’s efforts to restore livelihood and productive capacities as part of an integrated recovery and resilience response. The programme was facilitated by master trainers from EMPRETEC Mauritius.
It was the first of ongoing UNDP-supported entrepreneurship trainings to be held in Northern Bahr el Ghazal. The latest cohort from Aweil join previously trained entrepreneurs in Juba and Gbudue State.