Sugar Crisis Presents Big Opportunity for Self-Employment [opinion]

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Byline: Maalik Fahd Kayondo

Aug 11, 2011 (The Monitor/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX) — In 2006, this writer with a manufacturing engineering background, introduced for the very first time in Uganda, a new system of vocational education focusing on alternative vocational skills.

Such skills were packaged to be all inclusive in nature, meaning, with no education, gender or age limits and acquired through a non formal training arrangement.

Despite short training durations (1 – 5 day) and communicating in indigenous languages, many Ugandans were still of the view that a candle, soap or sugar could only be made by an Asian or a European.

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To date, about 35,000 Ugandans have passed through this system. As a result, many have realised that we do have the potential to manufacture and out-compete imported products.

Many people have started producing products such as candles, soaps and detergents, cosmetics and confectioneries from home.

Joyce, in her 30s, a resident of Wobulenzi Town Council, has no formal education background but since 2007, she is practicing a chemistry-based project producing liquid soap, hair shampoo, hair relaxer and hair conditioner. In 2008, her husband abandoned his job to join the more productive wife’s project. Today, they have nothing much to worry about because they have built brand loyalty along Kampala – Luwero Road and as far as Entebbe.

Ms Grace Segujja of Kyalusowe, Masaka acquired bar soap making skills in 2008. With no formal education, she has beaten the odds by making her husband abandon his job to join her. They have been producing and selling a weekly average of 2,500 bars of soap though of recent they have put emphasis on the more productive bathing herbal soap.

The above two examples have two things in common; a focused mind set and commitment. Should such people get a chance of acquiring business management skills training in their mother tongue, they have the potential to grow into medium scale industrialists.

The biggest lesson from Grace and Joyce is that one does not have to wait for ideal conditions to start something. Get up now and start with the little you have.

Sugar crisis

Of recent, sugar has graduated from being a necessity to a luxury in many households. It is partly because Ugandans cannot ‘make hay while it shines.’

With abundant sugar canes grown in most parts of the country, the short cut to riches is within your reach now. Do not wait for ideal conditions, remember.

Starting out

Identify and migrate to a good source of sugar canes. Using the open pan non – sulphitation process, set up a mini sugar plant with 10 TCD (tons crushing per day).

With this, you will buy a sugar cane crusher at Shs5m, four boilers at Shs4m, holding tanks at Shs2m, filter equipment at Shs1m, a crystalliser at Shs2.5m and a centrifuge at Shs5m. With Shs19.5m sunk into the project, we set up a good shed plus other minor requirements.

At the current market price, we shall buy 10 tons of sugar canes at Shs600,000. After cleaning (say washing) and crushing the sugar canes, we get 7,000 litres of cane juice. Seated in the settling tanks, organic (natural) clarifiers are added to the juice prior to filtration.

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We shall close the day with 25 bags of organic sugar plus about 250kg of molasses. Selling at only Shs100,000 per 50kg bag, you will get Shs2,500,000. Taking off the cost of sugar canes (Shs600,000) and other costs like labour and utilities, you will retire with close to a million shillings.

Have you realised the potential in the sugar industry? Why would you buy a risky commuter taxi or own 10 boda bodas when the same money would be put to a more profitable investment?

Having 100 such mini sugar plants in Uganda would cost us Shs3b but delivering 3,000 direct employment opportunities and requiring 5,000 – 10,000 small scale farmers (average 5 acres) to produce and supply the required sugar canes.

The mini sugar plants would produce 30,000 tons of sugar per annum. The cost of sugar would be in control whereas on the export side, we would have more to offer to our neighbours.

Mr Kayondo is C.E.O/ Lead Consultant at Telesat International

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