By Peter Rutaremwa
According to recent research conducted by UK-based business-networking group-Approved Index, Uganda ranks first in the world for having the most entrepreneurs per capita.
Perhaps surprising to many is that the US ranks much lower down the list for the number of entrepreneurs in the country, coming in at 41st in the world, with 4.3% of their adult population being entrepreneurs. Similarly, Britain was ranked only 37th with 4.6% of their adult population being entrepreneurs.
Mr. President, a massive 28.1% of Ugandans are entrepreneurs and we need to have a Minister at the cabinet table that is dedicated to entrepreneurship and skill development, and not just Science and Technology.
We must create a specific door that deals day to day with entrepreneurial issues, also to put some urgency in the business registration processes, and in assisting start ups to get direct assistance when seeking investment and or other assistance from organizations such as Uganda Investment Authority, and the many that exist.
We have a Minister for Trade, Industry and Cooperatives but the needs of start-ups can be very different from those of large and established firms or giant multi-nationals. They deserve, and Uganda would benefit hugely from, a Minister at Cabinet level who can influence legislation to provide greater support for start-ups and raise awareness of the massive economic and social benefits these businesses bring.
Everywhere I go, I am hugely encouraged by the great business ideas, drive and determination of Ugandan entrepreneurs. But they also repeatedly tell me of the same frustrations and the same challenges they have faced and the difficulties they still have to contend with.
I am a strong believer in the book ‘Start-up Nation’ and believe that the growth of Skills and Entrepreneurship in Israel has a similar connect to Uganda. Israel, which until a few years back was questioned about its very existence today, has emerged strong with start-ups. Uganda probably needs a similar style of policy and growth. We have to take an example of Israel. If you look at the NASDAQ and stock exchanges across the world, and if you see the first 100 listed companies, at least 20 are from Israel entrepreneurs.
How does it happen in a country with such a miniscule population? It is because the state and institutions jointly enable their manpower. This entrepreneurial ability is what really matters in today’s time. The wealth of the nation can be created through manufacturing, mining, and other activities, but the highest addition to wealth can only be created through entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship has the power to change not only enterprises and employees but the whole country.
Mr. President, our start-up businesses and a new generation of Ugandan entrepreneurs are bringing billions of shillings into our economy, creating thousands of jobs and making a huge contribution to communities across Uganda. But there is so much more they can do with greater support at government level and appointing a Minister for that purpose would be a huge first step.
The writer is an Entrepreneurship Catalyst and Founder of the Uganda Young Entrepreneurs Academy