Grow Movement’s $100 job creation in Uganda

Joseph Byarugaba, owner of Empire Coffee Dryers in Uganda, is among those who have benefited from Grow Movement’s volunteer consulting service targeting entrepreneurs. Photo by: Grow Movement

The SME sector is a major source of job creation and income across Africa. But challenges such as inadequate technical and managerial skills, low standards for local products, lack of finance skills for business start-ups and lack of vision and experience often threaten fledgling businesses as they look to grow and expand.

In its first two years since being founded by London fund manager Chris Coghlan in 2009, Grow Movement has helped create 100 jobs in Uganda, where small and medium-size enterprises contribute 75 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. Each job created cost $100 in central Ugandan overheads, a cost base 30 times cheaper than conventional expatriate development consultants.

Grow Movement measures itself against three key objectives to support the fight against poverty: job creation, improving the economic performance of SMEs, and building capacity to successfully run and grow a business. By using mobile and internet platforms, Grow Movement consultants and Ugandan entrepreneurs are able to collaborate and share knowledge without the burden of heavy time commitments or cost.

The 37 participating entrepreneurs and small businesses reported an average increase in profits of 20 percent (6 percent median increase) in real terms in an 18.7 percent inflationary environment. They have all confirmed that their Grow Movement consultants were a significant influence on these outcomes.

The results demonstrate that Grow Movement, which is staffed by 102 volunteer consultants from 29 countries, has successfully created a new model for international consultancy.

In response to these results, the Uganda Minister of State for Privatization Aston Kajara recognized the work of Grow Movement in a speech attended by the head of the European Union delegation in Uganda, as part of the work of partners led by Enterprise Uganda with Ugandan entrepreneurs.

In a relatively short time, these results have shown that there is an emerging new model for international development that can dramatically reduce overhead costs while at the same time increase local impact. In times where institutions such as the U.K. Department for International Development are promoting the use of innovation and technologies to support pro-poor strategies and guarantee value for money, examples like Grow demonstrate that it is possible.

Grow Movement currently has one full-time employee, Kampala-based project manager Violet Busingye, who is responsible for coordinating the recruitment and participation of local businesses. Busingye is already training a second project manager, Steiner Kagwira, who will help Grow Movement continue to expand into new countries including Nigeria, Kenya, Rwanda and Malawi.

The minister’s speech was part of the Global Entrepreneurship Week in Uganda, where Violet also addressed an audience of a few hundred entrepreneurs about Grow Movement’s work. As a result, 125 entrepreneurs have applied to be part of it.

Learn more about Grow Movement, and about careers in SME development.

The views in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect Devex's editorial views.

About the author

  • Melissa Nobile

    Melissa is an international development practitioner with more than eight years of experience in policy analysis, consultancy and business development for governments, donors and international NGOs. She has been the director and currently is a technical/strategic adviser to Grow Movement.