Ugandan’s Top Business Prize

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All 10 own and operate enterprises that have benefited from the business development services of the EMPRETEC Centers. Their enterprises range from small handicrafts to garments manufacture and food processing, and also managing hotels and running web portals.

[International: Business]


A Ugandan joined nine other women from around the world as recipients of a top entrepreneurial award.
Sapphira Nyabunwa won second prize in the EMPRETEC program entrepreneurial excellence award that is part of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), headquartered in Geneva.
Jordan’s Sana Burgan won the top honor. Others awarded were: Augustine Hammond (Ghana, Third Prize), Torrado Elba Rosa (Argentina), Léa Edith Medji Dédé (Benin), Paola Borges Barcellos Tucunduva (Brazil), Messeret Belihu (Ethiopia), Pauly Apea-Kubi (Ghana), Irene Bacchus (Guyana) and Emelda Nyasha Nyamupingidz (Zimbabwe).

All 10 own and operate enterprises that have benefited from the business development services of the EMPRETEC Centers. Their enterprises range from small handicrafts to garments manufacture and food processing, and also managing hotels and running web portals.

Success did not come easy. They had to overcome red tape, secure bank loans, and convince employees, suppliers and customers that they have a product or service of value.

Plus there were unexpected hardships: fire destroyed Paola Tucunduva’s laundry but she rebuilt it and now has 235 employees in Brazil. And there were barriers to entry: “I registered as a supplier for the CWC Cricket World Cup,” says Irene Bacchus who makes craft souvenirs in Guyana. “However, during the event my products did not get promoted. Marketing of the products could only be done through a franchise holder.”

And difficulties in getting foreign currency: “Venturing outside my local market boundaries enabled me to get the foreign currency I need for the raw materials,” says Emelda Nyamupingidz, a producer of candles and polish in Harare. “I have not allowed the current hardships in Zimbabwe to be a deterrent but instead I see it as a challenge.” 

Quick thinking is a factor in their success: “I borrowed $100,000 from a bank to acquire machinery to produce towards satisfying an export order,” says Pauly Apea-Kubi, a fruit processor in Ghana. But the processing took long and the order was cancelled. “I was left with a product but the market had been taken away and I had a loan to repay. I quickly found customers in the local market for the product that was originally for export.” She now exports to Senegal, the U.K. and the U.S.

Staying ahead of the competition is also important: “My idea is an entrepreneurial idea and it has been copied by another company. This has affected me a great deal by decreasing my client base and lowering my income,” says First Prize winner Sana Burgan who launched the first web portal in Jordan to help patients wanting to travel to Jordan for medical treatment. “To solve this problem, I promoted new offers to attract customers to my business and I stayed in business outlasting my rivals that finally closed their business leaving me the only company offering these medical information services.”

The businesses have social value: Second Prize winner Sapphira Nyabunwa’s laundry in Kampala employs youth, including the disadvantaged and school dropouts. Léa Medji Dédé plans to engage 20 handicapped people on her sales force for marketing the juice she produces from the natural baobab grown in Benin.

Vision and ambition are most important: “My vision is to establish a Fashion Design Finishing School in Accra. This is to bridge the gap that exists between the existing basis/intermediate level institutional training and the huge career and job opportunities that the international market offers,” says Third Prize winner Augustine Hammond. She should know: her garment company, Jem Afrik Creations, grew from one worker to 50, with subcontracts and representatives in the U.S., the Caribbean and Southern Africa.

The EMPRETEC Centers help promising entrepreneurs build their business skills and set up enterprises. The name Empretec is a Spanish acronym for emprendedores (entrepreneurs) and tecnología (technology). The brainchild of UN staffer Julian Gomez, it was first initiated in Argentina in 1988.

EMPRETEC Centers operate in 27 countries, and in some countries, like Brazil and Nigeria, there are more than one. The program assists more than 80,000 entrepreneurs.

The Women in Business Award, managed by Fiorina Mugione, Chief of UNCTAD’s Enterprise Policies and Capacity Building Section, was overseen by technical experts and a panel of judges (12 women and 8 men, of whom I am one).  

The top three winners received travel grants to visit R&D institutions or to use for training, seminars or networking events. The awards are provided by UNCTAD and the African Technology Development Forum.

One of the aims of the award is to promote awareness among women of the rewards of entrepreneurship. "Women participants in the EMPRETEC training programs are highly motivated and successful but make up only 30 percent of the entrants," says Fiorina Mugione. "We would like to see this award as a boost for women." 

For more information on the Women in Business Award and the 2008 winners, visit their website:


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