Damali Ssali, an MBA graduate from France’s Grenoble École de Management, has her finger firmly on the pulse of Uganda’s entrepreneurial prospects. She has her sights set on starting up her own business in Africa — a venture capital fund supporting Ugandan entrepreneurs. And Uganda is a good place for aspiring entrepreneurs to be. Last year, the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor ranked African nation as the most entrepreneurial country in the world; nearly 30% of the adult population were registered as new business owners. Damali believes that one reason why so many native Ugandans have turned to entrepreneurship is a damaging lack of access to inexpensive trade. Working at Kampala-based TradeMark East Africa (TMEA), she liaises with both public and private sector organizations to improve an inefficient trade network. The aim: for the region to trade itself out of poverty and unemployment. Previously, Damali worked as a finance manager for UK-based KIDS charity and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, before relocating to France for her MBA. What are your future plans? I would like to start up a venture capital fund that provides seed capital to Ugandan entrepreneurs who may have innovative business ideas but lack the capital to start or expand. I live in the most entrepreneurial country in the world. So I suppose I’m in the right place! Why has Uganda become such a thriving start-up hub? Aside from the obstacles to inexpensive trade, a long period of economic stability has fostered a positive environment for start-ups. Uganda is a natural logistics hub, neighboring markets in DR Congo and South Sudan, which are more accessible now after years of political instability. It’s also home to one of the youngest populations in the world. The internet has enabled the transfer of money and services to every part of the country, creating opportunities for young risk-takers. What problems does an ineffective trade system pose to East Africa? The situation is such that an imported drug is 70% more expensive for an East African than for a European; purely due to an inefficient trade and transport system. For the same reasons, Ugandan coffee on a European supermarket shelf is for example 40% more expensive than Brazilian coffee. The product is uncompetitive and the extra 40% does not pass back to Ugandan coffee farmers. How are you currently working to improve trade in East Africa? The TMEA are working to improve physical and soft infrastructure at Kenya’s Mombasa port and Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam port — the gateways to East Africa. We are also working on linking the various trade agencies in Uganda to a single electronic portal that will enable Uganda traders to log standardized trade documents. Which industries are likely to take off in the region? The extractives industry is certainly going to take off. Gas and other mineral deposits are particularly crucial in Tanzania, and the oil industry is taking off in Uganda and Kenya following substantial oil discoveries. What advice do you have for MBAs looking to work there? Africa is made up of 44 countries within eight economic regions, each with its own unique competitive advantage. Conduct your own research and be informed about the industries and sectors that are expanding in the location that you are interested in. Leverage your existing social networks and register with the professional bodies in your region of interest. Recruiters often advertise with these bodies, which contact suitable candidates from their databases. How have you profited from your MBA experience at Grenoble École de Management? The MBA equipped me with the tools and skills to function in any role. It widened my career options and broadened my understanding of all business sectors. Grenoble is consistently and justifiably ranked as one of the most innovative business schools. The city [of the same name] is home to some of the most innovative French companies. As if that’s not enough, it’s also a holiday town. At the weekend you can squeeze in some skiing in the French Alps or easily drive over to Nice, Monaco or even Venice!

…Africa. We are also working on linking the various trade agencies in Uganda to a single electronic portal that will enable Uganda traders to log standardized trade documents. Which industries…

Africa lags behind in the international trade of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) goods earning just a small percentage from the lucrative sector. The continent’s share of the USD 2.1 trillion in 2017 remained negligible despite the demand for electronic components used in Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices driving the value of trade in international ICT goods in 2017. According to figures released by UNCTAD, trade in ICT goods grew slightly faster than merchandise trade representing 13.4 per cent of the total in 2017. The Global ICT Trade Indicators. Africa still lags behind importing more than it exports. The global market however shrunk from the 16.1 per cent high during the dot-com boom in 2000 but it remained the highest in two years. By comparison, in 2017 machinery and transport equipment accounted for 37 per cent and food for 8 per cent of merchandise imports. “This is the first time that global ICT goods imports have rebounded since 2014, showing a good 6 per cent annual growth and bringing a reprieve to the past two years of decline,” Shamika Sirimanne, Director of the Technology and Logistics Division at UNCTAD, said. Among ICT products, trade in electronic components continued to expand with an annual growth rate of 8 per cent – just below that of computers and consumer electronics (9 per cent) – and it shows long-term, steady growth. “The expansion of electronic components, which are the basic building blocks of electronic circuits and semiconductors, reflects the fact that more and more products and activities are going digital worldwide. Much of this trend can be associated with the advent of the IoT, which has witnessed unprecedented growth since 2015. This trend may be further accentuated in the coming years.” Sirimanne said. While China is by far the largest exporter of ICT goods, the Republic of Korea boasted the highest growth rate among the top 10 exporters in 2017. Exports also grew significantly for all the other top ten exporters, except for the United States. The market share of the top 10 exporters was about 86 per cent in 2017. Meanwhile, the United States is the top importer followed closely by China and Hong Kong (China). Mexico was the only economy among the top 10 where ICT goods imports did not grow in 2017. The share of intra-industry trade remains high in this sector, with interdependence between the big Asian, North American and European players, and the top importers typically also feature among the top exporters of ICT goods. ICT goods imports to developed economies showed 10 per cent annual growth while ICT goods imports to economies in transition in South East Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States grew by 29 per cent. This growth is significantly more than in developing economies – 3 per cent – while in the 47 Least Developed Countries they dropped by a hefty 30 per cent. In 2017, Eastern Asia accentuated its role as the leading export hub, while Africa, Southern and Western Asia all saw significant declines. However, at 54 per cent market share, developing economies import more than developed economies because they have a more significant role in assembling ICT goods and so import significantly more electronic components. Developing countries also show a stronger preference for communication equipment over computers and peripherals, in line with the implementation of mobile-first strategies. On the other hand, the shopping basket is more balanced between the different ICT product categories in developed economies.

released by UNCTAD, trade in ICT goods grew slightly faster than merchandise trade representing 13.4 per cent of the total in 2017. The Global ICT Trade Indicators. Africa still lags…