How an Entrepreneur Realized His Dream of Owning a Business: The Story of Bernard Wandera, A Beneficiary of The Local Skills Development For Youth Project in Uganda

Upskilling and reskilling
01.04.2021
The Eastern part of Uganda has the highest level of poverty in the country. With the outbreak of COVID-19 and measures taken to counter the spread of the pandemic, the problem of unemployment among the youth will further be compounded.

Bernard Wandera is the proud owner of 'Bernard Phone Dealers and Accessories' in Busia town in Eastern Uganda. The shelves in his shop are stacked with electronics such as phones and accessories, music systems and TVs.

Bernard sits behind a glass display full of phones that double as his work top. Like a doctor with surgical tools, Bernard’s skillfully works with screw drivers and improvised brushes to bring the phones back to life.

Seeking for survival across borders

The electronics on sale at Bernard's shop are sourced from Kenya since Busia town itself is a border town straddling the Eastern border of Uganda and Kenya. The vicinity of Busia town to Kenya has spurred numerous entrepreneurship ventures on both sides of the border.

In a region with high illiteracy and unemployment rates,  securing livelihood is a challenge for many out of school youth. To earn a living, most youth resort to transporting passengers or goods on bicycles (locally known as bod-boda) between Kenya and Uganda to earn a living.

According to a 2020 factsheet by Development Initiatives, the eastern part of the country has the highest level of poverty. With the outbreak of COVID-19 in 2020 and measures taken to counter the pandemic, the country’s economic growth prospects in the years ahead will be negatively affected, and so will prospects of livelihood for many individuals and households.

 

Finding the opportunity to achieve a dream

Bernard’s story as a young entrepreneur mirrors the journey of many Ugandan youths, with the only difference being that most don’t get the opportunity to accomplish as much in their prime.

In 2015, Bernard as a school dropout, started riding boda-boda so he could provide for himself and his pregnant girlfriend. Initially, the UGX 10,000 (CHF 3) he earned per day was enough to cover the basic their basic needs. But with the birth of his child, suddenly his earnings couldn’t cover their basic needs.

One day, as Bernard chatted with a passenger he was carrying he was told of a training in phone repair organized by Swisscontact. Bernard knew that he didn’t want to ride a bicycle carrying people all of his life so he asked and got the exact details of the Swisscontact project team. 

I forgot to ask for the transport fare, instead I inquired about how I could join, … I was anxious to learn since it was my dream to become a skilled technician”.

Bernard found out later that this life transforming project was the Local Skills Development for Youth (LSDY) project.

In its third phase (2017-2020), the LSDY project is implemented in 13 districts in eastern Uganda to raise 4,000 (450 entrepreneurs) young people aged 18-30 years sustainably out of poverty by increasing their competitiveness in the job market and improving their self-employment opportunities.

Bernard undertook training sessions in basic phone repair. The trainings covered phone repair basics such as phone power supply and screen systems, motherboards, capacitors and connectors.

Bernard says he enjoyed the training sessions very much because as he had realized, this was the opportunity for him to realize his dream. The trainings lasted for 3 months and were facilitated by experts working with the project.

"My world changed from the first day of attendance. I always came earliest and left the classroom last. I was dying to know more and more about phone repair because I was madly in love with electronics"

Upgraded into a business owner and an employer

Bernard’s at his phone shop along the Uganda-Kenya highway. On a good day he earns UGX 3,000,000 (CHF 726).

Bernard’s phone shop is situated in a busy part of the town along the Uganda-Kenya highway. On a good day, Bernard serves more than 30 customers and earns UGX 3,000,000 (CHF 726) from the sale of electronics and phone repairs.

Bernard Wandera (Right) with two of his employees who manage sales at the shop

Bernard’s currently employs 18 people. Two of his employees manage sales at the shop, while the others move around town selling phones and phone-accessories. Bernard says he was inspired to use this strategy to increase sales through the entrepreneurship training he received.

Bernard is grateful for the business advice and skills he received at the beginning, prompting him to set up a table on a shop verandah. He focused on providing quality repair work in order to build his customer base. From there he upgraded to selling feature phones and offering free repairs for the phones bought from his shop. Since then, his business has steadily grown.

Bernard is now happy that he earns most of his income from phone repairs and additional profit from electronics and phone sales. He has also bought two plots of land each worth UGX 12 million (CHF 2,905) and constructed house.

Bernard says he owes much to Swisscontact for helping him gain the knowledge in business and financial management and making him an entrepreneur.

The LSDY project is part of the Swisscontact Development Programme, which is financed by Green Leaves Education Foundation and private donors and co-financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.