By Prossy Nandudu
ABSENCE of mentoring programmes for businesses is the reason why many have failed to break even.
This is because people start without the help of mentors experienced in those areas to teach and guide them in basics to consider for the success of a particular business.
The observation was made by Alex Ariho, the coordinator of Universities, Businesses and Research in Agriculture Innovation (UniBRAIN), while presenting a paper titled fostering mentorship in Agribusiness innovations.
This was at a consultative mentorship workshop organized by the Pan African Agribusiness and Agro forestry Consortium (PanAAC) and UniBRAIN at Imperial Royal Golf Hotel in Entebbe.
During the mentorship process, a business owner is able to understand how to package his products, market, the relevance, alternative sources of capital to keep the business running, effective management among others, added Ariho’s presentation.
He further adds that in the process, the mentor is able to indentify mistakes in the business which is brought to the attention of the business owner for correction hence leading to the sustainability of the business.
To counter the trend, UniBRAIN and PanAAC are spearheading the mentorship programme in universities, targeting students with entrepreneurial ideas. This is because, African universities are not sufficiently able to meet the needs of the industry.
UniBRAIN was established to realize the African Union Commission initiative of investment in African agribusiness by breaking barriers and fostering collaboration between universities, business and research to produce graduates who are problem solvers.
“The absence of mentorship programmes in tertiary institutions has seen graduates who cannot find employment, while many small businesses lack staff with the education and skills needed to drive innovation,” he added.
Studies show that when university graduates do business, they create more jobs than those without a university education hence the need for mentoring.
The mentorship progamme will create a link across agricultural value chains – locally, nationally and regionally where by universities will be able to educate entrepreneurs who can tap the under-exploited potential in agriculture for growth, job creation and poverty reduction according to PanAAC.
However Dr.Chris Muyunda, a director at PanAAC asked stakeholders not to stop at mentoring students into business people but go an extra mile and find more finances that can be availed to them so they can run their businesses on their own at the end of the mentorship programme.
In Uganda, students are being mentored at various institutions which include AFri Banana, involved in the banana value chain and Consortium for enhancing University Responsiveness to Agribusiness Development (CURAD), looking at coffee.
Isaac Mugera and Omio, second year agricultural sciences students at Makerere University are being guided on a broiler project while Molly Allen is into coffee seedlings while Sam Turyatunga is into banana juice production and is being mentored at Afri banana.