March 16, 2016

SPARK organises enterprise summit in South Sudan

Juba Youth Summit
SPARK in collaboration with the Business Support Centre (BSC) organised an entrepreneurship summit in Juba, South Sudan on the weekend of February 27-28.  This year the summit focussed on the question, ‘How can South Sudanese entrepreneurs anticipate the ongoing economic crisis to become the leading suppliers of agricultural products and compete with neighbouring countries?”

The Summit drew many energetic young South Sudanese entrepreneurs from different parts of the country working in agri-business to explore, exchange and bench mark best practices in order to kick-start social enterprise in their country. It also acted as a platform to promote their businesses in order to lead the country away from a dependency on imports. For many young people it was also an opportunity to build networks to share ideas. The two days were packed with strategic brainstorming, work shopping, peer-learning and having a great time with like-minded innovative individuals.

Special guests

There were several special guests, including Garang Atem an economist and George Baca a successful agri-business entrepreneur. They spoke on the state of the country’s economy and starting an agri-business. The summit was moderated by Maalik Fahd, CEO of Teslat international a school which promotes economic independence by providing life changing hands-on skills that enables young east Africans to produce goods and services locally.

Maalik questioned the young entrepreneurs on what their highest production costs were and why. A heated debate followed which covered everything from labor to raw materials. Baca then asked the young entrepreneurs what they do to help open up their local markets. A range of creative initiatives were shared amongst the groups such as creating links with local hotels, building trade fairs and networks using local media such as the radio and competitive pricing arrangements. Bakka then shared his ideas on how the youth can access more finance to build their businesses. These included increasing financial literacy and how to build partnerships but also the power of saving and using savings groups was explored. Maalik further emphasised the importance of good packaging in product design and using preservatives, especially for those in the juice business which is a popular start-up idea at the moment.

Agri-business financing

Baca outlined what an agri-business was: a small to large scale enterprise that is involved in farming & rearing, processing, packaging and distribution. His own business Angel grew through equipment leasing and he encouraged the youth entrepreneurs to try and look at ways to add value to the market, and to not sit around and wait for hand-outs. The issue of poor bank relations was mentioned as a major obstacle. Economist Atem singled out further economic challenges businesses face such as the high inflation, devaluation and high border taxes. He advised young entrepreneurs to economize, save costs and manage and prepare for recovery in the future.

In the closing remarks the entrepreneurs were encouraged to use the online networks to share ideas including the Youth Now site and South Sudan’s BSC as well as a local

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