Okay, so this was unexpected.
The East African nation once under the dictatorship of Idi Amin has been confirmed as the most entrepreneurial country on Earth. As South African Trilby Rajina writes, we “rarely associate the term entrepreneur with the corner shop owner, the fruit and veg seller or the person selling knick knacks at a local street market, but by definition, that’s exactly what they are. An entrepreneur is someone who starts a business taking on some form of financial risk, and financial risk is all relative.”
In other words, you don’t need to start up a flashy tech business or multinational corporation to be defined as an “entrepreneur” – simply taking the initiative to embark on your own private endeavour is just as worthy of the term. And Uganda is heaving with these microbusinesses; fresh food purveyors, trinket-sellers, cobblers, honey makers, hand crafted furniture merchants and many more can be found all over the land-locked republic. So many, in fact, that in excess of a quarter of the country’s working population are working for themselves.
Whilst a high level of unemployment is a key driver for Uganda’s entrepreneurial spirit, there are other, more positive, facilitating influences at play here. Prodigiously successful training and support programmes set up by the government and a raft of Ugandan NGOs are also creating an environment particularly fertile for new entrepreneurs. The installation of fibre optic cables in Kampala, Uganda’s cities and even rural villages is helping the country come online, opening up a world of resources – which Ugandans are exploiting with creative flair and ingenuity.
The research, carried out by Approved Index, measures entrepreneurship as the percentage of an adult population who own or co-own a business that has paid salaries for three or more months – but less than 42. While many might think a country like the US would top this list, Approved Index’s analysis shows that it is typically developing countries who display the highest ratio of business-starting individuals.
Indeed, Italy, France and Japan, all countries among the most developed on the planet, make up three of the five least entrepreneurial nations.
This is perhaps explained by the pervasiveness and attitude towards social responsibility of big corporations in the western world, compared to that in the Global South. Whilst in the west, the majority of jobs are provided by big business chains and service sector corporations, the same opportunities are not as plentiful in developing nations because companies are under less pressure to employ native citizens in their operations.
In the case of Uganda, the country’s population has stepped up to fill this void with initiative and zeal – qualities with which the world should soon become well acquainted when talking about the East African republic.