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Makerere promotes entrepreneurship among students

Five years ago, the law, engineering and medical schools of Makerere made their name for problem solving training. But as CHRISTOPHER TUSIIME found recently, the move is spreading to other parts of the university. 

The chief coordinator of Operation Wealth Creation (OWC), Gen Salim Saleh, has pledged to continue supporting innovations at Makerere University in order to nurture upcoming entrepreneurs.

Speaking on his behalf, the deputy OWC chief coordinator, Lt Gen Charles Angina, said they were proud to be associated with innovations in Makerere University.

“The OWC fraternity commends the university for your efforts. You give us confidence that the future is brighter than others say,” Lt Gen Angina said. “I urge you students to be better people in the country and produce unique products than those on the market.”

L-R: Prof WIlliam Bazeyo, Lt Gen Charles Angina, Prof Elia Hisali, Winner Jeannette, the winner and Dr Umar Kakumba, display the dummy cheque for To App

Lt Gen Angina was speaking at the second Entrepreneurship Students expo organised by the college of Business and Management Sciences (Cobams) at the university’s Freedom Square, on October 27, 2017. He added that OWC would continue to support innovations across the country.

The acting deputy vice chancellor for Finance and Administration, Prof William Bazeyo, revealed that the university management would set up an innovation fund to support students, whose ideas would be found viable. He represented the vice chancellor, Prof Barnabas Nawangwe.

“Makerere University has big potential and the raw materials, the brains are here … if we were doing this [exhibition] every week, it would be an amazing place,” he said.

On behalf of the university management, Prof Bazeyo pledged to support the best five innovators at the expo. He also requested Cobams to consider holding the student exhibition twice a year to be able to track improvements.

Cobams principal Dr Eria Hisali assured the students that success was possible as long as they partnered good sponsors. He explained that the exhibition was intended to help fight unemployment in the country.

“On many occasions, we have seen a number of graduates moving from door to door looking for jobs. The main cause of this is students lacking the entrepreneurial skills; seeing this students' exhibition, I’m impressed,” Hisali said.

The dean of the school of Business, Dr Umar Kakumba, commended the students for their innovations and explained that the expo under the theme, MAK has talent, was about nurturing an enterprising mind. The college would continue working with various business partners to help students create an impact in their communities.

Speaking on the sidelines of the expo, Dr Peter Turyakira, the Cobams head of department of Marketing and Management, explained that the college had introduced theory to the students, who are then encouraged to put the ideas into practice. Dr Turyakira emphasized the need for a practical approach to learning at Makerere University.

He added that the programme would enable students to become job creators rather than job seekers. “As coursework, we have decided that they should demonstrate what they have learned rather than repeating what they have been told,” he said.

Students display briquettes as part of their innovation

The exhibition saw over 1,000 students showcasing various products, ranging from eco packaging materials, charcoal stoves, cakes, processed jam, honey, fruit shakes to juices and bushera (millet porridge), candles, and briquettes, among other products.    

There were other presentations by public entities such as OWC, Uganda Revenue Authority and Pride Microfinance. Dr Turyakira explained that the move would eventually culminate into an entrepreneurship centre, to train students in how to start, manage and maintain their business ideas.

“Whether you are an engineer, or a doctor, you need entrepreneur skills … how do you start a business, how do you sustain it?” he asked.

He explained that the department hoped to encourage students to find ways of sustaining their businesses and end the adage that Uganda is the deathbed for many small-scale businesses.

The expo featured students drawn from various programmes, such as the Bachelor of Business Administration, Bachelor of Commerce, Bachelor of Development Economics, bachelor of Arts in Economics, as well as the Master of Business Administration, Master of Economic Policy and Management.  

The exhibitors, who were organised in groups of five to ten, were evaluated on their performances during the exhibition.

A team of facilitators from Cobams evaluated the 145 business ideas/innovations presented during the expo. The best five were set aside for recognition.

The best five included To App, a software developer, who earned the Shs 1m, for an application that monitors how students can obtain orientation and other information on where they can find their classes.

The second place, claiming a cash prize of Shs 700,000, was captured by Agro Innovations, a student group that developed a solar dryer to limit post-harvest losses. This dryer is able to store energy, when the sun is not shining brightly.

In third place was Nkwatako Beverages, a group of postgraduate students, who received a Shs 500,000 cash prize for their efforts in wine making.

Other recognised efforts included producers of various organic jams and bread spreads as well as Esperanza Limited, who made a charcoal stove from anthill soil and grass.      

Among the many exhibitors was a group called Unique Candle Makers, who showcased new designs, including glass candles to limit fire outbreaks. The group is planning to make candles designed to repel mosquitoes, while leaving behind a good aroma. The move is aimed at reducing malaria in various homes.

Tusiime.chris20@gmail.com

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