The first batch of 21 trainees under the Joint UNIDO/AGFUND Entrepreneurship Development and Investment Training Programme completed the ‘classroom component’ last month. The four-week training was hosted by ECOBANK, one of the strategic partners of the programme, at their Head Quarters at Lightfoot Boston Street
The prime function of the programme is to stimulate the emergence /growth of
new and existing enterprises that produce goods and services for trade, provide employment and income generation, thereby contributing to poverty alleviation overall economic growth.
The training programme covered a number of major topics, including Self Assessment/Entrepreneurial competencies, marketing skills, promoting products and services, market surveys, financial skills, legal environment and the preparation of Business Plans. Participants will also receive individualized one-on-one counselling with the counsellors to address the specific needs of each individual business. This is the difference about the UNIDO Programme.
After the classroom training, each participant is expected to prepare a business plan. This would establish the right steps to access required financing, start a new business and also enhance growth. Training does not end with handing over of certificates, but participants are nurtured from infancy to maturity particularly in the first three years where businesses are known to fail.
Facilitators from diverse backgrounds, including from Sierra Leone’s leading academic institution (IPAM), private consultancies, Ministry of Trade and Industry and Sierra Leone Investment Export Promotion Agency participated. Participants were given the opportunity to meet successful local entrepreneurs and corporate specialists who provided useful information and motivation to participants.
Antonia Caramba-Coker, the business counsellor and coordinator for the project, noted that ‘many of the participants already have micro and small business experience and good business ideas they are capable of implementing’. She also highlighted some of the limitations and constraints business start ups would likely face in a country where lending institutions are reluctant to support start ups or have limited or non micro finance facilities.
UNIDO has partnered with The Arab Gulf Fund to establish a Bank for Innovation and Partnership in Sierra Leone to help alleviate some of these problems faced by entrepreneurs in our society by the end of 2009.
UNIDO programmes in Sierra Leone also include the establishment and support of Growth Centres in Northern, Eastern and Southern provinces in partnership with the Ministry of Trade and Industry, as well as partnership with the Ministry of Energy and Power to facilitate the construction of mini-hydro power stations for domestic/social and industrial purposes.