By Titus Kakembo
KAMPALA – Nigerian billionaire Tony Elumela was amazed by some 45 youthful Ugandan aspiring entrepreneurs in Kampala, including ambitious farmers who have not been crippled by lack of capital to get started.
“True to what President Barack Obama told Kenyans [on his recent trip to Nairobi], the next big thing is Africa and the onus is upon you to seize the prevailing opportunities,” stressed Elumela.
“Your brains are boiling with ideas.” Do not weep because you have no job, create jobs instead.”
The Nigerian tycoon said further: “God has endowed us with a good climate. Exploit the social media to tell your success story for other Africans to emulate. Banks are not going to drop their lending rates to suit your preference. See how best you can use their services.
“You are the engines of growth.”
Governments in Africa should include entrepreneurship lessons in education, recommended Elumela.
Through the Tony Elumelu Entrepreneurship Programme (TEEP), the West African rich man targets creating 10,000 startups across Africa in the next decade.
Perminder Vir, the CEO of Elumela Foundation, explained that the symposium at Serena Hotel Kampala was a follow-up of 45 young entrepreneurs earlier selected in different parts of Uganda to participate in a three-month boot camp in Lagos, Nigeria.
“Each walked away with $5,000 (about sh17m) which they had to invest and tell their own story,” said Perminder.
‘The market is there’
Challenged by Elumelu to tell their real-life stories, the budding but ambitious investors proved that there is so much untapped potential – ranging from ICT, trade, agriculture etc – in the economy.
One benefactor started a coffee shop in Kampala and expects to open ten others across the country.
But Joel Cherop from Kapchorwa attracted the attention of the participants with his tale. “I embarked on onion farming with a vengeance,” he revealed.
“I am using one acre of land but expect to become a millionaire soon. Instead of depending on rain I am going to apply irrigation. The target is to exploit the resources in our midst to capacity.
“The market is there and I expect to mint more than sh500m. I am selling the idea to the community I live amidst back home in Kapchorwa,” said Cherop.
“I am aiming at abolishing the service of middle men. Soon we will add value to our produce as President Museveni has always called upon the citizens.”
Cherop is one of the winners and a celebrated farmer profiled by Harvest Money, a popular pullout on farming published in the New Vision newspaper.
He and other winners travelled to The Netherlands, courtesy of the Holland government and Vision Group.
“It is before you travel that you take all you have for granted,” testified Cherop.
“Given the soil, weather and manpower, poverty should become a luxury no Ugandan can afford today. Not after I saw farmers growing spices in water where there is no soil. It is time we stopped taking nature for granted,” he urged.
No room for poverty
The farmer said he wants to harvest throughout the year.
“If our ancestors depended on rain for their welfare, we ought to do better in this ICT era of connectivity. The market is there in Uganda, South Sudan and DR Congo. Onions go for sh3,000 a kilogram when the market is not flooded.”
Having acquired ten acres of land, Cherop is going to start harvesting all year round. And he invited Tony Elumelu to be present during the official launch of his project. “
What I saw in The Netherlands can be replicated here where we have good soils, water and sunshine. In my home , poverty, famine and malnutrition for have no place,” he added.