Micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are the backbone of any economy. In Angola, people are determined to shift away from oil dependency, which currently constitutes nearly 94 per cent of foreign earnings.Although the Angolan economy grew an impressive 3.1 per cent in 2022, the World Bank attributed this growth primarily to improved oil revenues and enhanced economic management.
Recognizing the country's need to diversity its economy, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) is actively assisting the government in implementing an extensive Train for Trade II programme funded by the European Union and aimed at empowering thousands of Angolan entrepreneurs predominantly involved in MSMEs. Africa Renewal interviewed three successful small business owners to shed light on the key factors in their success and the prospects they see for their businesses and their country.
- Hirondino and Carolina: A love story in business
How a loving couple's hard work benefits society
Hirondino Garcia and his wife, Carolina, have a unique relationship that holds valuable lessons for new businesses, especially in Africa. They jointly manage several small businesses -- a fancy fast-food place, an entrepreneurship training center, real estate, a bakery, a farm, and a gym.
What makes their partnership work?
First, they complement each other well. Second, they keep their work separate from their family life. Third, they involve their employees in their business, which builds strong bonds and helps people improve their lives. Lastly, they contribute to society in several ways.
We each bring something different to the table.
Carolina explained: "We each bring something different to the table. My husband is bold and takes risks, while I'm more careful, and I work on the details."
Hirondino added, "She brings calmness and is good at managing."
Work stays at the office
Their journey started 38 years ago when they got married. Carolina, who studied management and economics, worked in the human resources and financial planning department of a company; and Hirondino was a TV producer.
Hirondino left his TV job, joined the national army, and then quit the military to start a travel agency. He asked Carolina to help him manage it after she lost her job. She used her skills and experience to improve business operations, and Hirondino used his connections to bring in clients.
Their biggest strength as business partners is their love for what they do. "We just do things with love," said Carolina. But working together as spouses has its challenges.
Carolina described her husband as "a very active man, a workaholic. There was a time when he'd come home and talk about business, but I told him, 'I'm your wife first, not just a business partner.' He understood. Work must stay at the office."
Hirondino agreed: "Bringing business home can harm our relationship."
Creating jobs can cultivate entrepreneurs
The Garcias also create jobs, helping their community grow. They have employed more than 40 direct employees and many support staff.
One of their secrets to success is treating their employees like family, that they are a part of their business. They also encourage their employees to start side businesses.
For example, one employee started a motorcycle delivery service, another began making yogurt, and both those entrepreneurs provide services and products for the couple's business. Their former employees continue to support them with good ideas.
Besides running their business, Hirondino and Carolina give back to their community. Every month in churches and hospitals, they provide meals to 600 people in need.
When COVID-19 hit in 2020, they organized famous singers in their country to produce a song that brought people together during tough times.
Successful entrepreneurs keep learning
Although the Garcias were already running their business portfolio, they decided to attend a 2018 entrepreneurship training, organized by UNCTAD in collaboration with the Angolan government and funded by the European Union. The Train for Trade II programme opened their eyes to new possibilities.
"It taught us more about running a business, encouraged us to start more businesses and to trust our employees with important tasks," Hirondino said.
The EU and UNCTAD selected the National Empretec Host Institution Prestígio-Liga de Empresários e Executivos de Angola, the training organization founded by the Garcias, to assist in implementing the Train for Trade II project. This initiative supports Angola in diversifying its economy by enhancing its productive capacities, including training entrepreneurs in contemporary business management skills.
Women can lead and succeed in business
Carolina's role as a capable manager shows that women can be strong leaders in business.
We have a duty to teach our children. In Africa, girls are very smart and dynamic. We just need to empower them.
Hirondino and Carolina have three children -- the eldest a female -- and they want to teach them to be entrepreneurs, too. They believe in the potential of girls to succeed in business, just like their employees who are mostly women.
"Our parents didn't teach us business skills, but we have a duty to teach our children," Hirondino said. "In Angola, as in other places in Africa, girls are very smart and dynamic. We just need to empower them."
They anticipate the future with enthusiasm. Their latest foray is a gym, the newest addition to their portfolio. They have ventured into agriculture, cultivating 1000 hectares of land, not only contributing to their country's food security but boosting their income.
In sum, Hirondino and Carolina's story is all about love, hard work, and the positive impact such a dedicated couple can have on their community and in business.