INTERVIEW | “Mentorship is the Best Way to Give Back to Society”
A Mentor’s Journey on the High Flyers Program in Northern Uganda
Commercial enterprises are known to be a vital aspect of national economic growth and development. A report by “Research Journali” states that in northern Uganda, training and development is more influential in commercial enterprise development than financial resources.
ICCO Cooperation’s High Flyers program in Nebbi district employs a mentorship approach that links young agripreneurs to successful entrepreneurs. To harness their business management knowledge, skills and ethics, and supports them in the establishment of successful, sustainable small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
Moses Okwonga is an accomplished businessman, whose multi-pronged agribusiness enterprise started in Nebbi district and grew to cover most parts of Uganda. With over 20 years of experience under his belt, Moses partnered with the High Flyers program to fulfil its mentorship mandate in 2019.
In the interview below, he shares about his motivation and experience with the program so far:
What motivated you to join the High Flyers mentorship program?
I started farming when I was 25 years old, and just fresh from the university. I had been engaged in mainstream work with a non-governmental organization, and I already had drive to start a business of my own. Over twenty years later, here I am with properties both in Nebbi district and other districts, and most importantly, confident that young people are able to do anything that they put their minds towards. Unfortunately there are so many idle and purposeless youth in my home district, so it was really inspiring to be able to partner with a project that seeks out young people with dreams, and helps them to make them a reality.
What is your role as a mentor?
Since I joined the mentorship programme in 2019, I have taken two young farmers under my wing. I have had regular face to face sessions with them, sometimes in a closed room setting, where we share experiences in business and I pass along knowledge and tips to help improve their business models. Other times we have practical sessions in their gardens where I offer practical tips to guide their farming practices. My mentees also call me on the phone whenever they need extra support outside our meetings, and we have developed a relationship of trust that is helping us grow in business together.
How is the mentorship experience so far?
I have mentored agripreneurs in the past because I am passionate about building business. I think that having them under the umbrella of a well intentioned project like High Flyers meets a crucial need in this community that has been missing from other similar projects, that is, the hands-on mentorship. The fact that we as mentors received a training that clearly outlined our terms and enabled us to interact and share experiences showed a serious commitment to ensuring high quality support for entrepreneurs. Also, since I started mentoring my group of agripreneurs, I have been motivated by constant questions and inquiries, to read more, try out new practices and grow alongside my mentees.
What is your vision for this mentorship role?
This mentorship is part of my overall goal to give back to the community that raised me and made me what I have become. I would love to help develop a network of strong young farmers in our (northern) region that would make the most out of the several business opportunities that exist along the agricultural value chains. Throughout my years of mentorship with other organizations, I have been able to help young people to start up savings groups and taught them how to make business plans. It is a worthwhile experience for both the young people and mentors to strengthen their networks and joint skills to develop the nation.
About the High Flyers Program
With support from Youth Business International and Argidius Foundation, ICCO Cooperation is implementing the High Flyers program in northern Uganda from 2019 to 2021, with the aim of assuring, accelerating and enhancing young entrepreneurs’ successful transition from micro enterprises to small businesses and establish a secure pathway to growth from the often precarious early stages.