13 May 2014

Uganda: SMEs to Benefit From Makerere's Agribusiness Centre

In January 2014, Makerere University agriculture student Peter Muhumuza, tickled by a newspaper article that highlighted the benefits of hibiscus flowers, decided to apply skills acquired in the lecture room to add value and sell the product on the market.

To raise start-up capital, Muhumuza convinced two colleagues to pool Shs 300,000. Since then, Muhumuza, a second-year student, started vending hibiscus tea in small sachets (100gm and 150gm) to selected customers around Kampala.

Muhumuza buys solar dried hibiscus flowers (each kilogramme costs Shs 15,000) from Mukono and Kayunga-based farmers. He uses the incubation lab facility at the university's food science department for further drying, sieving and packaging before sending it as a finished product to his clients.

Even though his business operations are small and rudimentary, Muhumuza says he has sold more than 30kg of hibiscus in the last three months. Priced between Shs 5,000 and Shs 10,000 per sachet, Muhumuza acknowledges that his hibiscus tea continues to draw overwhelming demand. He, however, says that he lacks capacity to supply in large quantities.

"We need serious support to expand in terms of production and improve on the quality of the product," Muhumuza says.

Muhumuza's pleas could soon be addressed following last Friday's launch of the Consortium for enhancing University Responsiveness to Agribusiness Development (CURAD) incubation centre at Kabanyolo.

The CURAD incubation centre, which is a public-private partnership venture, is expected to inspire and support Makerere University's agriculture students, like Muhumuza, to turn their agribusiness innovations into commercial ventures.

The incubation centre, built to a tune of about Shs 300m, was fully funded by Denmark's ministry of Foreign Affairs through DANIDA. Speaking after the launch of the centre, Makerere University's Professor Samuel Kyamanywa said that through the venture they would facilitate agriculture graduates financially and technologically to boost agribusiness entrepreneurship and job creation.

"The benefits of this centre will trickle down to expand small private and medium enterprises (SMEs)," he said.

For instance, Muhumuza, who was one of the exhibitors during the unveiling of the centre at Kabanyolo, expects to secure financial support for his business. Former finance minister Gerald Sendaula, who is CURAD's board chairman, assured the guests that the incubator would go a long way in producing young skilled agricultural entrepreneurs.

Joseph Nkandu, one of founding directors of CURAD, said the centre seeks to improve the efficiency of marketing, quality of the product and capturing more value-added products in ways that will increase returns on investments and create jobs.

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