The participants after receiving their certificates
Participants of an intensive training workshop on entrepreneurial skills and business development are already generating value in new and existing businesses in Aweil, with profits surpassing 300,000 South Sudanese Pounds (SSP) in just 14 days.
Over 70 entrepreneurs completed the six-day programme, designed to catalyze the growth of innovative and locally competitive micro, small, and medium enterprises in Aweil. The training 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.
“Before this training I really did not approach my business with a plan. In this past week, I’ve learned how successful entrepreneurs act and how to apply those lessons. I now see opportunity all over instead of obstacles. I know the concept of initiative seeking, and how to approach someone with resources with a plan for how I will make a profit,” said James Ngor Ngor, 30, who made major revisions to his boda-boda business during the course of the workshop and saw a 400% increase in his daily revenue.
“I am now saving money every day and I have a plan for the future. In the coming year, my goal is to invest in three additional motorbikes as well as build a shop. This training taught me if you are a committed and persistent person, if you plan and break your plan into manageable chunks, you can achieve your goal,” said James.
UNDP received nearly 1,000 local applications to participate in the programme in Aweil. Interviews were conducted to make a highly-competitive selection of 80 local entrepreneurs (50% women) to attend two rounds of training held from 21 May to 5 June. Of those, 71 entrepreneurs (34 women, 37 men) attended and completed the required modules to receive official certificates of achievement.
The successful entrepreneurs celebrated their achievements with a closing ceremony on Tuesday at the Aweil Grand Hotel attended by the Aweil State Deputy Governor, and State Ministers of Finance and Public Service, Education, and Physical Infrastructure; members of the state assembly; members of the press; and representatives of UNDP.
“Through this training you have acquired knowledge and activated your talents. I’ve heard from the trainees that the experience has been so intensive you don’t sleep for days. We, as the state government, encourage your business initiatives in Aweil, we encourage your persistence and your goal setting. This training and your entrepreneurship shows that Aweil is a calm state and Aweil is a peaceful state,” said Aweil State Deputy Governor Hon. Stephen Chol Ajonga, during his keynote address at the closing ceremony.
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. The training has a special focus on unemployed youth and women in each location, and is meant to reflect the typical life on an entrepreneur for a week. Participants learned through lectures, role-playing, games, and practical modules.
The trainings were facilitated by entrepreneurship master trainers from EMPRETEC Mauritius. Using the EMPRETEC model of entrepreneurship development, the training helps entrepreneurs put their idea into action, spur behavior change and build their personal entrepreneurial skills.
“The curriculum we teach challenges people to get out of their comfort zone. Our vision is not only to have small businesses sprout in Aweil but we want to see these businesses grow, to build, to employ people, and to hopefully spread beyond Aweil, beyond the region, beyond South Sudan, and to become truly global,” said Irshad Bodheea, one of the main instructors of the Aweil Entrepreneurship Training Workshop and a master trainer from EMPRETEC Mauritius.
A core component of the training is the “Business Create Exercise”, which involves each participant launching and conducting a new business within the span of the six-day workshop itself. The participants are provided no additional capital to begin, and are required to independently identify opportunities, market gaps, and customers.
“I’ve learned that starting a business doesn’t necessarily require you to have money already, you can always find capital. I went home on the first day struggling to pick a business to create. Then, I looked at an old Indian cloth I owned with beads all over it. I took those beads and used local thread to make 15 new jewelry pieces out of that cloth. I started advertising here in the hall with participants and had a market immediately,” said Achol William Amoi. Through a combination of other business activities, Achol went on to generate over 60,000 SSP during the remaining five days of the training.
High performing candidates received an additional week of instruction in business advisory services, with the aim to use their new skills to support and grow a network of 75 additional entrepreneurial activities in and around Aweil. These advisors will continue to receive technical support and guidance from UNDP and EMPRETEC master trainers to achieve this goal.
The Entrepreneurship Training Workshop is one aspect of UNDP’s area-based response to building community-level resilience. It builds on and compliments ongoing UNDP activities in Aweil in areas like peacebuilding and community cohesion, access to justice and rule of law, and supporting economic activities and infrastructure to benefit women and youth.