29 July 2019—More than 200 corporate leaders, financiers and entrepreneurs attended the Business Development Link event focusing on critical actions needed to harness the power of existing private sector, improve value chains and linkages, and uplift the rising generation of young business owners in South Sudan.
The Juba-based South Sudanese-owned firms and businesses met at Palm Africa Hotel on Thursday for the first-ever Business Development Link event, organized by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in collaboration with Good Vibes Business Network. The event was a milestone in UNDP’s Youth Employment and Empowerment Through Private Sector and Value Chain Development Project, conducted in partnership and with support from the Kingdom of the Netherlands.
The occasion was opened by H.E. Janet Alberda, the Ambassador of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and joined by the African Union (AU) Special Envoy on Youth H.E. Ms. Aya Chebbi, who was visiting South Sudan at the invitation of the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, to highlight the “1 Million by 2021” empowerment plan for young Africans through education, employment, entrepreneurship and engagement. The AU Special Envoy used the opportunity to also explain how the AU’s Centre of Excellence and Innovation can be leveraged to achieve more growth in South Sudan.
The event featured a panel discussion with perspectives from H.E. Ms. Chebbi; Hon. Simon A. Deng, Secretary-General of South Sudan Chamber of Commerce; Dr. Addis Abeba, Managing Director of Equity Bank; and Mr. Deng Kon, C.E.O. of Good Vibes Business Network. The discussion was framed around improving the business environment to encourage young entrepreneurs to succeed in South Sudan. The panelists spoke on their spheres of expertise, and what steps current and existing enterprises can take to usher in a new era of business opportunities for South Sudan.
Lacking access to finance was raised by several entrepreneurs as the main bottleneck to grow a business in South Sudan. A fora for policy discussions on finance opportunities was proposed to address this issue. UNDP, the Ambassador of the Netherlands and the AU Special Envoy all pledged continued support to youth empowerment and employment. HE Ambassador Alberda also highlighted the importance of public-private partnerships, and how these had spured innovation and progress in her own country.
Dr. Kamil Kamaluddeen, UNDP Resident Representative, stressed that business to business (B2B) linkages were vital for success, and that the relationships built at this event could open doors to new collaborations, as well as mentoring opportunities between start-ups and established enterprises. This event was starting in Juba, but would be taken to other targeted hubs of stability, such as Bor, Rumbek, Torit and Yambio.
In addition to the panel discussion and business presentation hall, Junub Open Space showcased five youth entrepreneurs, who delivered lightning pitches of their business concepts and plans for growth to the gathered attendees.