Still Pushing On: three key questions for ECT @ GDPU
- What do you need to set up a small business and keep it going?
- What do you need to run a sustainable small business in Gulu District, Northern Uganda, East Africa?
- What do you need succeed in a small business in that district if you are a person with disabilities?
These are some of the questions that the ‘Enhancing the Capacity at Gulu Disabled Persons Union; (ETC @ GDPU) project is starting to look at.
Where are we up to?
GDPU have come back with the first assessment of the nine existing business groups that were set up by students with disabilities under the Youth Development Programme in 2015. There are 4 x electronics repairs groups. 2 x hairdressers. 2 x Sweater weavers. 1 x motorcycle and bicycle repairs. The electronics groups seem to be the most financially successful, partly because they are based in the centre of town, although that has significant mobility and security issues.
Their businesses have been running for about two years, it seems that (most of) the groups share certain strengths:
- Good customer relations
- Viable businesses, in that there is a demand for their services in the area that they are working
- Many are able to diversify. So, for example many are able to carry out some small-scale farming alongside hairdressing.
- About half of the groups are able to make small savings from their earnings, typically about 200, 000 shillings a month per group (about £40). Having a financial cushion, however small, is vital to protect against ‘life events’. Average individual income is not easy to determine, given the lack of records (see below) but is somewhere around 66, 000 shillings a week or £14.50.
But, from the GDPU report it seems that all the groups share similar weaknesses:
- Keeping records is not built into their way of thinking, partly through poor literacy/ numeracy and self-confidence which…
- Makes it difficult for members to plan ahead and to find out where they are at the moment
- The planning methods they were taught under YDP are not suitable: too complex and text based for people who still struggle with reading and writing.
- Core skills need updating to satisfy the needs of customers
- Lack of suitable tools is holding back development, but there is no point members investing in tools until …
- Security is much better
- Group dynamics are stronger (in most cases these are poor), with theft and lack of trust between members holding back development.
- Groups need considerable support (in literacy/ numeracy and self-confidence) to apply for grants/ loans to help them invest in their future.
Now that we know how these nine groups are getting on and what their challenges are, the next step for the steering committee at GDPU is to choose three groups for the pilot phase of the project. These pilot groups, together with the project team, will then put together their own tailored programme for skills training, literacy/ numeracy, pyscho-social support and so on; exciting days.