Embassy puts Uganda (and OVO) in the spotlight for more entrepreneurship

On Thursday 23 June, the Ugandan embassy was dedicated to entrepreneurship. Various OVO employees, coaches and entrepreneurs shared their experiences. And new collaborations were forged and existing partnerships strengthened.

Mirjam Blaak, Uganda's ambassador to Belgium, kicked off the evening. She pointed out the golden opportunities Uganda offers to entrepreneurs and investors: a young population (50% are under 18), the great entrepreneurial spirit, a climate that allows for three harvests a year and plenty of available farmland.

"Uganda is the most entrepreneurial country in the world," she stated. And with the highest ROI, it could even become the 'bread basket of Africa'. Of course, there are also challenges. The number of available jobs is too low, so many young people end up in the informal circuit. In addition, there is a great need for financing and management skills. And that is exactly what OVO's mission is. 
 

OVO is already present 

Chairman Luc Bonte and Managing Director Björn Macauter explained the vision of OVO: local entrepreneurship is a motor for more opportunities. That is why OVO selects and guides entrepreneurs in Africa. They receive coaching and sessions to optimise their business model and make it more sustainable - and ultimately, to get it ready for investment. 

With a tailored social loan, the entrepreneurs can then allow their business ideas to flourish. The loans range from EUR 5,000 to EUR 50,000 and fill a gap. The amounts requested by young entrepreneurs are too large for microfinance and too small for commercial banks.

Even after receiving their social loan, African businesses will continue to receive in-depth support in starting up or further developing their business. They also automatically join the OVO Entrepreneurs' Club, where knowledge sharing and cooperation are central. 

From soy to high tech

Hugo Van de Voorde, one of more than 150 OVO volunteers, came to talk about his experience as head coach of Soya Solutions Eastern Africa (SSEAL). The Ugandan company processes soybeans for food and sets up programmes to optimise the production capacity of small farmers. 
Hugo Van de Voorde: "The operation was running well, but corona made the engine sputter seriously. That is why we drew up a new business plan together. Today, SSEAL is ready for the next step. We want to introduce new types of soybeans that are better adapted to the climate, introduce good agricultural practices and especially finance them. In time, we want to support 20,000 farmers and improve their quality of life.
Subsequently, several Ugandan entrepreneurs spoke. One of them is David Tusubura. Together with a partner, he set up Innovex, a technology company that makes products which, among other things, allow remote control of solar panels.

Important financial partners


Besides coaching, financing is an essential pillar to stimulate entrepreneurship. In this context, Reginald Vossen, CEO of the Business Angels Network Vlaanderen (BAN) organisation, introduced the company. 
BAN is a platform where investors can make contact with young entrepreneurs looking for money. The organisation has more than 200 members. Reginald Vossen: "These 'business angels' have know-how, capital and they want to help young entrepreneurs. We also want to spread our wings outside Belgium. A close partnership with OVO fits in nicely with that."

Finally, Jean Van Wetter - director of Enabel, the Belgian development agency - signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with OVO. A first, because Enabel has never signed such an agreement with an NGO. 
Although the signing did not come as a surprise. "We are already working with OVO in several African countries," says Jean Van Wetter. "So this MOU is a logical consequence of concrete experiences in the field." Afterwards, the cooperation was topped off with a dinner. The menu featured - how could it be otherwise - typical Ugandan dishes. 

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