Unhappy with the way people in her city of Abidjan in Cote D'Ivoire wash their clothes, 24-year-old Ella Atteba has been keen on starting a community laundry business in her hometown. Yet, only after a trip to the VIT University in Vellore she has been in a better position to consolidate her business plan.
“I need to be clear about how much funds I require to set up my business and I have to survey the market to make a note of similar businesses that already exist,” she said, counting off the order of priorities on her fingers.
Ms. Ella is part of a group of 24 African nationals hailing from four West African countries — Cote D'Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia and Sierre Leone — who are at the VIT campus to undergo a three-month training programme which began on January 18. The ‘Youth Entrepreneurship Skills Development Initiative', a joint venture between VIT and United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), is an initiative intended to augment youth employment opportunities in the Mano River Union (MRU) countries through relevant training and skills development programmes.
Since Africa is rapidly leaving behind its colonial past and moving towards capitalism, such initiatives will help create wealth and assets, feel participants. “Since we are a post-conflict area, we need a lot more business to be established. This will help the country grow faster,” said Stalin Kaidbey who is training as a resource person to take back skills to his hometown in Liberia. “West Africa should see more investments as seen in South and East Africa.”
Others are there to fulfil a more altruistic objective and find solutions to real problems such as malnutrition that plagues their country. “I run a food processing business to supplement food for infants,” revealed Binto Diallo from Guinea. “My mission is to fight hunger as in my country there is a high prevalence of malnutrition. The objective is to reduce this and provide safe and healthy food,” she said.
As for Emmaneul Boone Waydon, a 27-year-old from Liberia, India's advancements in milk production will help him gain some pointers to set up his business in soya milk production. “I want to grow soya beans and extract milk to enhance the ability of infants,” he said.
The objective is to help the participants come up with bankable business models and help them work on implementing them, observed A. Balachandran, general manager, Technology Business Incubator at VIT. “We will follow up with them even after they return to their countries and provide any support they require,” he said.
They may have had to look up the location of Vellore on the Internet but once they reached the expansive lawns of VIT, the twenty four Africans, were happy to hone their entrepreneurial skills in a beautiful campus.