Changemaker: Francis Ekii
Uganda’s demographic statistics show that citizens between the ages of 13 and 19 make up about 5 million of Uganda’s population of over 30 million (Uganda Bureau of Statistics), making it one of the youngest populations in the world. There are also over 3,000 schools in Uganda. These figures demonstrate the significance of youth as a potential force for change in the community, and as a potential catalyst for national development and prosperity. Unfortunately, Uganda’s education system does not develop students into innovative problem solvers as less than 30% of these schools offer opportunities for students to be entrepreneurial.
As in many African countries, poverty is a major challenge which is inextricably linked with other social issues such as unemployment, HIV/AIDS, hunger, disease and poor sanitation, and illiteracy among others. Young Entrepreneurs Challenge was founded with the belief that young people can play a key role in addressing these entrenched social and economic issues. However, in order to reach their full potential as agents of positive change, these high potential young leaders have to be empowered to begin solving pressing problems at the local level at their schools and surrounding communities.
Our theory for creating change is built on three pillars; Discover, Develop and Deliver. The discover stage involves identifying some of the most promising individuals in high schools within and around Kampala (Uganda’s capital city). This is done through our highly competitive and strict selection process where applicants have to articulate a need/challenge that they have identified in their community and a feasible solution to this pressing need.
At the core of the Discover process is also offering support and guidance to these uprising entrepreneurial leaders to discover who they are as individuals. Through a self-leadership course on proactivity, emotional intelligence among other components of our unique course participants are able to ascertain what their passions are, their strengths and weaknesses, knowledge that ultimately prepares them to think about how they can make a contribution to the development and prosperity of their community.
This year we are working on building a strong network of successful professionals, leaders and entrepreneurs in Uganda that shall play a key role in developing the innate entrepreneurial potential of our participants. This goal is part of our plan to strengthen our mentorship program. Alongside our entrepreneurial leadership workshops, the mentorship program is a key feature of our develop stage that helps the uprising young entrepreneurs develop their passions into feasible ideas that tackle some of the most pressing challenges in their communities.
Finally, the deliver stage involves launching projects or businesses that offer opportunities for the young entrepreneurs to further develop their leadership and entrepreneurial skills as well as create measurable impact in their communities through their projects. One of our young entrepreneurs, Rachael Achieng is currently running a lab-rat project that supplies low cost rats to over three schools in Kampala. This was a result of attending our inaugural ideas competition and workshops and seed funding she received from YEC.
Since we started in 2010 we have trained over 150 high-school students and continue to grow that figure. I am really excited about the preparations for this year’s edition of our programs and looking forward to reporting back some amazing achievements and developments from the exceptional young Ugandans we are working with.
- Francis, Global Changemaker from Uganda