Business Trendsetters Forum 2023: Business Leaders To Mentor Youth In Innovation And Sustainable Business Trends – CEO East Africa

Business Trendsetters Forum 2023: Business Leaders To Mentor Youth In Innovation And Sustainable Business Trends – CEO East Africa

Youths, innovators and startups will at this year’s Business Trendsetters Forum be mentored by key experts in various sectors to inspire them through a series of thematic sessions focusing on agriculture, ICT, tourism, and other sectors.

The Forum, a brainchild of Yvonne Mpanga, a business development consultant,  will take place on August 31, 2023, at Sheraton Kampala Hotel, under the theme: “Mindset Change Enabling Reinvention in Business”.

Pacesetters (speakers) at this year’s Forum are PSST Ramathan Ggoobi, Joel Aita of Joadah Consult, Lena Mirembe Pira of and Prof. Patrick Ogwang of Jena Herbals, the makers of the famous anti-Covid-19 herbal treatment, Covidex.

According to Mpanga, Ugandan businesses risk stunted growth if they do not embrace innovation as well as catch up with global trends. 

“Ugandan businesses cannot compete favourably if they do not embrace new innovations and trends of doing business,” she said.

For example, Mpanga explains that digital trends today encompass more than 60% of the world’s businesses.

Countries like Norway and Finland have more than 90% of their transactions cashless. This, according to Mpanga, means that Uganda and Africa must change how business transactions are done.

She emphasised that whether it is the agricultural industry, manufacturing, or the services industry, entrepreneurs need to be taught to be critical thinkers and innovators.

Inspiring a Uganda’s next generation of entrepreneurs

According to Quintin De Wet, one of the main supporters of the 4th Business Trendsetters Forum as well as the President and Director, of Solid Rock Life and Business, “the education system in Uganda does not train people to become entrepreneurs that innovate their own solutions.

“Rather, we train our people to implement other people’s ideas. And this creates a big gap that can only be filled by mentoring individuals and startup businesses through business incubation and financial literacy to empower them with the necessary skills to create innovative solutions and sustainable businesses,” he noted.

Through cross-mentorship programmes, Quintin De Wet said that Uganda’s next generation of entrepreneurs can be inspired, skilled and mentored to accelerate innovative ideas from the youth across the country.

Ibrahim Bbosa, the Assistant Commissioner, Public Affairs at the Uganda Revenue Authority said that despite being ranked one of the world’s most entrepreneurial countries, few Ugandan businesses leap from surviving to thriving.

Bbosa said this is because most do not do proper accounting records and fear delving into the innovative space of the unknown. 

“It is vital that startups keep records of their operations to be able to know the financial health of the business,” he said.

Youth Startup Academy Uganda’s Associate National Coordinator, Robert Okello said in order to trigger innovative culture and trendsetting, there is a need for business incubation and training programmes that connect young entrepreneurs to various sector experts to train them to be more innovative, original and sustainable.

“This way, we can help to de-risk medium small scale and micro enterprises (MSMEs) and create sustainable businesses that will foster economic development and reduce unemployment,” he said.

According to Robert Okello, this can also provide opportunities for businesses with informal structures to formalise and grow their potential to even bid for government contracts that could offer financial security and a path for international exposure.

Mpanga adds that innovation and setting trends can be an expensive venture before the trend is embraced but this should not be a deterrent to reinvention and recreation of commercially viable ideas or products.

She insists that taking risks coupled with discipline is a critical enabler to setting notable trends and business growth.

“This informs our vision to identify, recognise and promote innovative leaders who transform and continuously impact society in a meaningful and positive way,” she said.

Changing mindsets

Uganda hosts one of the largest numbers of young entrepreneurs in Africa. Innocent Kawooya, a committee member to the Business Trendsetter’s Forum, CEO HiPipo and the ideator of  The Digital Impact Awards and HiPipo Music Awards, insists that youth must be put at the centre of Uganda’s development agenda and their role must be promoted to support the country’s sustainable development.

Kawooya says that many training programs highlight starting up, but ignore growth or crucial activities that can sustain firms including business incubation, skilling and working on mindset, which is a key ingredient in eradication of poverty, promotion of sustainable development and creation of opportunities for empowerment.

Through equipping the youth with vocational skills, increasing the competitiveness of youth within the labour market, building capacities of national institutions to mainstream youth employment, and supporting youth led enterprises to pilot innovative ideas, he believes entrepreneur gaps can be closed to spur economic development.

Cynthia Mpanga, the Corporate Affairs Manager at Standard Chartered Bank, also voluntary Public relations advisor to the Business trendsetters,  says “Often it is an entrepreneur’s surrounding network that has the biggest potential to impact their future. So, we connect young business owners with industry mentors that have taken them through intensive business processes to shape their mindsets toward a more sustained way of running a business.”

“We have learned that you don’t just give businesses money as a way of building capacity. It’s not the most sustainable way, as most of these people come from families where they’ve never aspired to be entrepreneurs,” she said.

“Money comes in the last line of significance in business. What matters most is that innovation process and how it’s managed”, she added.

Flora Nkwenge, The Treasurer of the Business Trendsetters’ Forum, an entrepreneur and micro-finance specialist, says the fundamentals of entrepreneurship; like what problem the idea can solve, how to get the product to market, what the cost implications, profit or loss, etc, is key to creating sustainable businesses.

“Our education system makes us think that we’re never really meant to start our own enterprises. You hope that when you graduate, you get a job. However, there is a need for a co-curricular approach to education where students can be required to excel in theory but also actually go out there and create real products, test them, come up with prototypes and demonstrate them,” she said.

According to Nkwenge, only about 70% of future jobs have not been created. So how you prepare to be in the future market is critical to development.

She said the government together with the private sector needs to come in and to inspire and equip young people with skills that they’re going to need to start the next revolution of entrepreneurship.