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The 'Pearl' of Africa: A nation of entrepreneurs

BREAKING BAGS: Makerere Business School student Theresa (right)

DUBBED THE ‘Pearl of Africa’ by Britain’s great wartime leader Winston Churchill, Uganda has long been known for its breath-taking sights having been voted the world’s best tourist location in 2012 by the Lonely Planet.

The landlocked east African country is said to be visited by one million tourists annually and as the nation celebrate its 53rd year of Independence (today, Oct.9), one of the youngest African nations is also being celebrated as the most entrepreneurial country in the world.

Home to 37.6 million people, nearly half of whom are under the age of 14, research by Approved Index shows that the nation that has been devastated by dictatorships over the years tops the ranking of the world’s most enterprising countries.

According to the research, 28 per cent of Uganda’s adult population have started businesses in the last three and half years, which is almost twice as high as any other country in the world. Thailand comes in second place with 16.7 per cent, and Brazil in third with 13.8 per cent. 

Uganda continues to record remarkable economic growth with the World Bank reporting GDP growth of 6.6 per cent in 2014, and is said to be one of the 10 fastest growing economies in Africa.

Trilby Rajna, one of the researchers involved in the Approved Index, said: “In countries where the economy is poorer, or where unemployment rates are high, citizens turn to starting their own small businesses where they see opportunity.”

It’s estimated that 77 per cent of Ugandans are below the age of 30, and 64 per cent of those who are aged 18-30, are unemployed.

But from the harsh conditions a growing population of entrepreneurial figures has emerged who are creating a livelihood from their skill set and benefitting from the improvements to technological infrastructure that is connecting even the most remote areas to the rest of the world.

Flying the flag for Uganda across the pond, two young creatives spoke to The Voice to share their Independence Day messages.

Critically acclaimed poet George Mpanga, better known as George the Poet, said: “Uganda is a beautiful country with a rich history, built on great achievements by great Kingdoms. I urge my Ugandan brothers and sisters at home and worldwide to apply their talents, resources and opportunities to the development of our nation.”

The 24-year-old, who has been hailed for his socially conscious poetry, spent a gap year in Uganda before heading to university.

He added: “A recent study found Uganda to be the most entrepreneurial country in the world, and we are the leading African nation in the microcredit economic movement.


“As well as a sound heritage, we have a vibrant youth culture, with two Ugandan artists having been nominated for prestigious BET Awards this year alone, and more in previous years. Let's continue to fly the flag and make our people proud."

Also sharing his Independence Day message to Uganda is Dee Kartier, more popularly known as one third of the comedic collective ‘Mandem on the Wall’.

FAMILY MATTERS: Dee Kartier of Mandem on the Wall

Kartier was born in Uganda and came to London at the age of three. While his time there may have been short the 27-year-old who frequently visits shared that the nation taught him the value of community.

“In Uganda there isn’t really any such thing as ‘family friend’ or even ‘neighbour.’ Everyone is an aunt, an uncle, a cousin. That’s how things go. You can always count on that community for support.”

FLYING THE FLAG: George Mpanga urges fellow young Ugandans to make contributions

While growing up on British soil, Kartier explained his Ugandan identity was forged in his household, which gave him a renewed sense of responsibility.

“I definitely feel like I have to represent for Uganda. You can count the number of us in the public eye in the UK on one hand. When I was coming up I’d look around for other Ugandans especially as a comedian working the urban circuit and there would be no other Ugandan comics who I could model myself from or look to. I hope that I’ve put something in place for younger Ugandan’s to look up to.”

Nodding to the enterprising nature of his birth country, Kartier added: “We really are all-round creative people, I remember holidays going back to Uganda and watching locals basically make something out of nothing. I admire that quality.”

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