In the Ugandan capital Kampala, the OVO club exists exactly one year this month. "This could be the best business club in Uganda", says chairman Douglas Karugaba, CEO of Innovex.
In Uganda a new Sustech4Africa took place end 2020, a selection procedure for promising starters and growers organized by Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs (OVO). For Björn Macauter, general manager at OVO, it was an opportunity to get to know the new projects, but also to meet again with the participants of the previous editions. Since last year they are united in the OVO club of Uganda. "All participants of Sustech4Africa automatically become members. The new generation counts 36 members," says Macauter.
President of the club is Douglas Karugaba, an alumnus of the first SusTech4Africa. He obtained funding from OVO for his company Innovex, which develops electricity meters and software for monitoring solar energy systems. "Before the corona crisis, we met every second Tuesday of the month or visited one of the members to see, for example, which systems or processes are being used. Now we meet online, which makes it easier to invite a sales & marketing specialist, for example," says Karugaba.
Learning from each other
According to Karugaba, the main goal of the club is the entrepreneurs learning from each other. "One month someone discusses what has helped with recruitment, a big challenge here in Uganda. The other month we can talk about the search for funding. Another time someone from outside, like Youssef from OVO, comes to talk about accounting or the modeling of prospects".
"The entrepreneurs often have the same problems and face the same challenges. Whoever finds a solution can share it with the others through the club," says Macauter. "In the beginning, a project is coached by the Belgian volunteers of OVO, but over time they will have to coach each other. In this way the entrepreneurs can lift each other to a higher level".
The club also offers the entrepreneurs room to indicate what is not going well. "They don't always dare to tell us about their problems immediately. That's why sometimes these only surface when it's too late", Macauter knows. "The exchange of experiences and solutions is therefore the most important aspect of the club.
In addition, the club also provides its members with opportunities. "During a meeting we can exchange ideas. And with the new recruits, there will also be a lot of new opportunities for collaboration," says Karugaba. Entrepreneurs, for example, can become customers from each other.
"We noticed that there was a lack of spontaneous cross-fertilization," Macauter picks up. "We therefore really encourage the members of the club to look for collaborations. When it comes to sales, for example, Macauter thinks there's a lot to gain for the entrepreneurs. "We notice that they often don't take enough initiative. Selling is a real challenge for most of them".
Macauter hopes that the club will lead to more spontaneous collaborations. That is also in the interests of OVO itself. "We have learned that we need to focus on the entire value chain. For example, you can help farmers with savings like Akaboxi does, but it remains a problem if they don't get their products to market. So we, too, can increase our impact by setting up collaborations between different projects and thus cover the whole chain".
Barely one year old, the club is already ready to take an important step towards further professionalization. Macauter: "In consultation with the entrepreneurs, we will hire someone to coordinate the club, structure the activities and prepare the content of the meetings by, among other things, looking for good practices and extending company visits".
"Through the collaboration with OVO and its volunteers in Belgium, the club actually relies on two organizations that share the same goal. That makes this club unique compared to other business clubs here in Uganda", concludes Karugaba. "I really believe that this potential could become the best business club in Uganda.”
Text: Jasper Vekeman