Each of the winners walked away with sh10m worth of business support
The 10 winners of the Vision Group’s Pakasa Youth Awards competition 2015 were unveiled last night during a colourful ceremony held at the Kabira Country Club in Kampala.
The ceremony was graced by a number of dignitaries, including the ambassador of the Republic of Korea in Uganda, Park Jong-Dae. The Embassy of Republic of Korea is one of the sponsors of the award.
The winners are Denis Kasule (Kampala), Martin Kibirige (Wakiso), Charles Amaku (Koboko), Geoffrey Munyegera (Mayuge) and Grace Naluggwa (women’s category). Others are Ambrose Angulo (Lira), Samuel Isale (Soroti), Hazel Namuwaya (Women’s category) and Moses Kibirige (Gulu).
Each of the winners walked away with sh10m worth of business support and a plaque. The money was given by Ruparelia Foundation and Centum Group of Kenya. The winners will also go on an all-expenses paid trip to South Korea in September this year, courtesy of the Embassy of South Korea and the Korean International Cooperation Agency (KOICA).
Another 40 young entrepreneurs, who participated in the competitions, were each awarded a certificate in recognition of their contribution to innovation entrepreneurship and job creation in the country. According to the judges, the winners were selected basing on their creativity, networking and managerial skills, among other factors.
“The value of Pakasa cannot be underestimated. For it has inspired so many youth in the country to start businesses,” Maria Odido, the chief judge of the awards, said.
She added that they were impressed with most of the nominations which made the selection quite challenging.
“We looked at length of time in business because Uganda is a hard place to do business. So, with a business beyond three years, one would qualify to the next stage,” she explained.
The other critical characteristics, according to Odido, were viability, value addition, innovativeness, social impact, and compliance to tax payments for our winners.
Odido, who is an accomplished businesswoman, added that the special element about this particular award is recognition of young people who have used their own resources to create something rather than waiting for government for help.
Odido is the chief executive officer of Bee Natural Products Ltd and chairperson of Uganda Export Promotion Board. The other judges are Diana Nandagire Ntamu, the director of the Entrepreneurship Centre at Makerere University
Business School; John Walugembe, the executive director of Uganda Small Scale Industries Association; Jonathan Kivumbi, a senior entrepreneurship teacher and Andrew Muhimbise, a fund manager at RATS Network Investment Group.
Responding to the chief judge’s observation regarding the failure of women to participate, Vision Group’s chief executive officer, Robert Kabushenga, blamed the trend on the social perceptions which cut out gender roles, limiting women to certain aspects of economic participation.
“I think next year we should have a special category for women to inspire more female participants,” he said.
Kabushenga noted that youth unemployment is a social problem that needs to be responded to before it turns into a crisis.
“We (Vision Group) are in a privileged media position and we have a duty to condition the minds of young people to know that they are responsible for their future,” he explained.
Hope for Uganda
In his remarks, South Korean ambassador, Park Jong-Dae, noted that Uganda has everything it needs to be productive and all it needs is a mindset shift.
“With the right mindset, Ugandans can achieve much more than you have ever imagined,” Jong-Dae said.
Uganda, according to the ambassador, is a great tourist destination. This is therefore, a huge economic potential that can be exploited. But he noted the need to improve infrastructure to these sites since they are far out of the city.
According to Jong-Dae, the huge youth population is an asset to the country if it is well harnessed and empowered.
He said the philosophy of ‘self-help’ has been quite beneficial in South Korea and this is coupled with skills development, has catapulted the once-poor country into becoming one of the most developed countries in the world.
“A transformed Uganda is all that we want because for many of us, when we come here, we don’t want to go,” he added.
The South Korean Embassy will, according to the ambassador, support the Pakasa Youth Awards next year.
Vision Group’s editor-in-chief, Barbara Kaija, said the competition was started to show the youth that it is possible to create their own jobs. The challenge of youth population against the few available jobs, according to Kaija, is worrying but also a huge opportunity.
“Most of the stories here tonight are of youth who have surmounted the hurdles in their environment, set up their own business enterprises and they are now able to employ themselves and their peers,” she explained.
“The Pakasa Youth Awards have since proved successful by showing the wealth of entrepreneurs out in the communities because of which many can be inspired,” she said, calling on the winners to use their achievements and public exposure to help solve the problem of youth unemployment.
Kaija thanked the sponsors for the competition, namely, the Embassy of the Republic of Korea, who are providing the 10 winners a fully paid study tour to South Korea; the Ruperelia Foundation, which is providing sh50mtoward the prize money and the venue for the award ceremony; and Mr and Mrs. James Mworia, chief executive officer of Centum for the $13,000 toward the prizes.
She noted that Vision Group has invested enormously in the project in terms of editorial space and professional input.
In the six months from October 2015 to March 2016 – 171 youth profiles were profiled every Friday in Pakasa and the New Vision sister papers: Bukedde, Orumuri, Rupiny and Etop.
The profiles also featured on all Vision Group’s electronic platforms – televisions, radios and websites-during the competition.
What the winners said:
I have a lot of plans for my business and this sh10m is a major boost. I am very excited about the trip to South Korea because I know this will definitely change the way I do my own business.
I would like to engage entrepreneurs in South Korea and find out what they do that has made them better. This is a life changing opportunity.
The former street kid says his desire is to see his business prosper and benefit other street children. “I intend to use this money to acquire land and expand my gym business and with that more young people will be engaged.”
To some people, this might seem like very little money but you cannot imagine the difference it will make in my business.
I have been looking for operational capital because my processing machine is just redundant. I am very grateful for this award because it will set me in motion at a larger scale. The trip to South Korea is an opportunity to create an international network but also learn and share experiences.
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