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South Sudan Refugees Dream Big, Start Enterprises In Uganda

South Sudan refugees in Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement in Western Uganda are visualizing enterprises that will transform their lives, thanks to a series of life skills training by Enabel, the development agency of the Belgian government, URN reports.

The training, conducted from May to August 2018 was followed by one month apprenticeship, through which 360 trainees were equipped with skills in entrepreneurship, vocational skills and micro enterprise management. The beneficiaries comprise 70 percent refugees and 30 percent of refugee hosting community residents.

Christine Karungi, the manager of the Skills Development Fund at Enabel told Uganda Radio Network that the training targets 4,400 beneficiaries before 2020. She said that in the first round, which is going on in refugees hosting communities, 1,500 beneficiaries are being trained.

Karungi says they are currently scrutinizing applications for the second round of training that is expected to start early 2019. The project has an instant training component which has so far benefited 300 people.

The same training is being replicated in other refugee hosting districts in northern Uganda, where it is supported by the European Union Emergency Trust Fund with a grant worth Euros 2.6 million.

The training in Kiryandongo camp was contracted to BRAC. Nakate Christine, the project coordinator at Kiryandongo BRAC office says beneficiaries were trained in bakery, catering, hair dressing, tailoring, motor vehicle repairs and electronics.

Nakate says that the trainees impressed everywhere they went for industrial training while those who decided to set up small enterprises have started on a high notch by implementing amazing initiatives even before they receive start up tools.

Although the immediate need for refugees is basic needs that guarantee their survival, Karungi said Enabel focuses on equipping them with skills, the nexus between humanitarian aid and development. She said skilling is what enables refugees to start working, earn money and put food on the table on their own.

Karungi said that refugees are trained to join the labour market or start their own micro enterprises while trainees who don’t get absorbed in the labour market are supported with startup tools they need to start working independently. Refugees who start their own micro enterprises are further skilled in entrepreneurship.

This is a path that most South Sudan refugees in Kiryandongo refugee settlement camp have decided to take. Optimism is threaded in the mind of these refugees. They have started with borrowed capital or rented equipment but dream of growing their enterprises.

24-year-old Martha Arembo is among those who have started on a high notch. She acquired a two million loan from BRAC, to buy a sewing machine and started a business in Bweyale Town along the Kampala-Gulu highway. This town is located 10 kilometres from the refugee settlement camp.

Arembo is now renting a room at 150,000 Shilling a month, from which she is running her business. When her colleagues, who missed the initial training sessions, approached her for help, she acquired a second sewing machine, which she uses to train them.

She has two learners who pay her Uganda 50,000 Shilling a month. At the end of the first month in business, Arembo says she saved 300,000 Shilling and expects things to get better in the coming months.

Joseph Asu, another refugee who benefited from the training has started making chapatti and doughnuts in the refugees’ camps. Asu borrowed 300,000 Shilling to start a business riding on the bakery skills he had attained from the skilling project.

He makes a profit of about 10,000 Shillings per day and spends 3,000 Shilling on supporting his family. Asu says the training was a life changer because he didn’t know anything when he enrolled and he plans to start a fully-fledged bakery.

Taban Samuel, a refugee who has equally benefited from the training is renting a sewing machine at 2,000 Shillings per day. “Where I did industrial training, they wanted to employ me and I refused. I said let me go because I knew someone had a machine and was not using it. I pay 2,000 for it and make about 3,000 profits per day,” he told URN.

Taban says he will use the saving to buy his own machine in coming months.  Taban’s most exciting task was a contract to make uniforms for 15 school children last month.

“People who had been seeing me going for training gave me that job. And I had to do it in two days. I went to town and hired and good machine because this is slow. I was making each uniform at 4,000. I got that money. People here believe in me and they are giving me work,” he says.



Richard Kamya
Richard is a Digital Communication Specialist and an Entrepreneur

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