Meeting Enterprise Uganda
Kampala – Interview Eriab Kiiza
Recently I had the opportunity to meet with Eriab Kiiza, the Director of Training at Enterprise Uganda.
Enterprise Uganda is an institution designed to support the government in realizing its objective of promoting the development of SMEs to become the main vehicle for expanding production, providing sustainable jobs and enhancing economic growth.
Our vision is to be a centre of excellence for the creation and the nurturing of a globally competitive private sector in Uganda.
It was established under a framework of the UNDP Enterprise Africa regional initiative. A consortium of local and international donors including UNDP Uganda, Enterprise Africa, UNCTAD, Norway, Sweden and the Government of Uganda is promoting it. Its concept is based on UNCTAD’s Empretec Programme Model currently operating in 32 countries in Africa, Eastern Europe and Latin America. The Empretec model is designed as one-stop programme, which provides an integrated and comprehensive range of business support services for SMEs using a hands-on approach.
As an organization they are interested in promoting the growth and development of SMEs in both urban and rural Uganda. They serve a wide range of organizations and work across all sectors. Helping SMEs transition to technological platforms is an important component of their work. Specifically, part of their training and services aims to help developing companies streamline their administration and make the important conversion from paper to bytes. It was interesting to hear that SMEs at different stages in their development (and of varying size) are now making this transition. This seems to be a factor related to their ‘seriousness’ as an organization rather than something related to their size or turnover.
That said, the digitization process only makes sense when the enterprise has become large enough to generate a turnover able to cover the costs. As a result, the digitization process excludes micro enterprises who rely on mobile phone technology instead. This is something I will be looking at later and in far greater detail.
Although Enterprise Uganda does not yet work to provide services via mobile or Internet, the role of technology in entrepreneurship was highlighted. Specifically, technology can be used to do two things 1) either provide information 2) or the tools needed to streamline business. But technology aside, Eriab made clear that Internet and mobile only hold potential when there are certain skill sets and experience already in place. He explained, ‘It is not about a lack of information but rather a lack of capacity needed to use it.’ Too often we look to technology for solutions when in fact what we are talking about is a need to invest in human resource development. Only then can new tools be introduced, have some kind of significant meaning and thereby realize any kind of meaningful impact.
Needless to say, an important message to take forward!