Background of the Study
As part of its ongoing mapping effort, Tedi conducted a small online research survey on September 20, 2020, to map out the existing and aspiring South Sudanese entrepreneurs focusing on aspirations, challenges, and opportunities available in their respective lines of business enterprises. As an entrepreneur support organization, Tedi aimed to understand the entrepreneurial ecosystem of South Sudan.
This was an important investment because without so, Tedi would not have had the initial assessment of the market necessary for responsive action. The research was guided by both qualitative and quantitative tools. We put forward critical questions to the target participants that we felt were important to understand the existing and aspiring entrepreneurs in South Sudan. Questions ranged from aspirations, motivations, challenges, and prospects for entrepreneurial growth in South Sudan.
Summary of the Findings
As an online based research, Tedi was very much interested to understand the localities of the participants. As expected, more than 90% of the participants were urban-based. This revealed the digital divide that is so visible in South Sudan.
- As an intervention that focuses on the women and youth, Tedi wanted to disaggregrate the data on sex. The result confirmed the existing data in the field that social entrepreneurship and or business in general is an activity that is gender neutral in South Sudan. The participants were sharply balanced although the female gender was clearly on the lead.
- Tedi posted about the entrepreneurs’ aspirations and motivations to do what they were doing. The idea here was to understand in depth the kind of businesses and enterprises that already existed in South Sudan and why. Answers ranged from social-based motivations to environmental – induced aspirations to personal needs/sole proprietorships. For example, one entrepreneur revealed: “I got motivated by the urge of making a difference in our society where few females are engaged in entrepreneurship” while another voice mentioned that “I do it because I want to create a brand that is locally made, like and proudly consumed by the South Sudanese.”
- We were also interested in the nature of their businesses/enterprises so as to give Tedi an intervening ground. Responses ranged from e-based business such as e-commerce, e-trading business entities to a pure social business that solves real social problems. As one participant described: “GYPAT is a bridge between the market and farmers. Farmers subscribe to our company and supply us with products that our company sells to the global markets.” Another one passionately revealed to Tedi: “Every morning I bake bread and cakes and distribute them to shops around my area for sales. Some are ordered by families who love them for breakfast.”
- Tedi then posted about the possible challenges each of these businesses/enterprises encounter on a daily basis. We were very interested in how these challenges could be made to opportunities. One of the biggest challenges they mentioned was lack of capital to scale and expand. This was expected owing to South Sudan’s tough war economy. The government rarely invests in small and medium enterprises in the country. Those that are resilient lack the peaceful environment they need to thrive.
- Tedi asked the participants what they would like us to do as an entrepreneur support venture. Suggestions ranged from the need to offer hard and soft skills to introducing a base for rising entrepreneurs to capacity-building, mentorship programs to capital acquisition and more. One entrepreneur boldly suggested: “Equip me with skills needed to run my business ideas and expand my business as well.” Another one said: “The one thing that really faces me hardly is fund mobilizing. Well Vision is lacking capital to run her operation.” Then an ambitious request: “Funds to start my real estate firm and expand my bakery, provide me with a network that could provide me partners and clients”
- We then asked them about a word of advice to fellow South Sudanese who were considering a venture into business/entrepreneurship. Business resilience is tough and we thought it was important to understand from these amazing entrepreneurs what kept them going. Tedi was not disappointed as one participant offered: “My advice is that be yourself and create your start up business instead of looking for jobs” while another revealed that: “No need to wait, if one has an idea, they need to start today, not tomorrow but today.”
- Finally, Tedi asked the big question: “If Tedi organizes entrepreneurship training for rising entrepreneurs, would this be something you would consider joining?” The response was overwhelming.
As a matter of conclusion, Tedi was able to draw three key things:
(i) the fundamental need to develop the existing entrepreneurs in areas of business development, capacity building and mentorship as well as inspiring the sleeping ones so they can too take charge and start off in this field.
(ii) the need to connect these entrepreneurs to the wider business/social enterprise network for growth and expansion as well as finding the necessary investors, donors and venture capitalists so these businesses are salvaged from collapse as a result of capital shortage.
(iii) finally, the need to bridge the digital divide in which case internet connectivity does only favor the urban-based businesses while denying the rural ones the chance to take part in this kind of research.