Concepts such as innovation, business idea, material resources or cost estimates are no longer new to the 250 participants in the training that ENGIM organised in the framework of the project “Limiting the Impact of COVID-19. A 3x6 Approach”, supported by the Government of Japan and partially funded by UNDP Guinea-Bissau through the project “Blue Economy as a Catalyst to Green Recovery”. The training is framed within the second phase of an intervention which aims to support livelihood diversification and employment in a neighbourhood heavily affected by the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
With a view to providing business advice and technical support to entrepreneurs and to guide their choices ensuring viability, 10 facilitators were responsible for addressing business and market-related content. 34-year-old Neuza Nancassa Mendonça was one of them. She holds a degree in Finance and Accounting, and she was trained by ENGIM on Managing and Planning Business Idea. “At the beginning we did a market study in three main sectors: agriculture, fishing, and transport. We worked on the ground with different entrepreneurs to find out how their business were actually working in a real context in Bissau, so during the training we used the examples from them to orientate the trainees and better lead them to their business ideas”, she explains.
Now the training is over and once the businesses are up and running, Neuza and her colleagues will accompany a set of 30 entrepreneurs each. The idea is that beneficiaries such as Laura or Suncar receive guidance and follow-up for the start-up of their micro-enterprises. Like most of the participants in the project, they both are vulnerable people with a complicated personal context for whom the project is providing an opportunity to learn and start from scratch. The profile of young people without a job and without the financial possibility to continue studying before the start of the project is a constant and this is also the case for Laura José Siga. She is 20 years old and lives in Plubá with her older sisters. Her family’s financial situation prevented her from attending university once she finished high school, so her dream of becoming a teacher was temporarily put on hold.
“A friend passed me the information about the project and now it can help me out of need and not to depend economically on anyone”, she says. Her business idea is to buy and sell fish and chicken, “because in my community it is not easy to find these products because it is a bit far away, and this will make it easier for people to buy”. This is one of the 11 business related to the blue economy to emerge at this stage of the project, and to take it forward she will put into practice all the theoretical knowledge she gained during the training. “Most of the trainees arrived without understanding the difference between entrepreneurship and trading and without differentiating between expenses and income. But they eventually managed to follow the lessons, to do the exercises and activities at home and with the group”, Neuza explains.
Often the success of a business depends on the community in which it is established and that is the reason why Suncar Nhanrú, 28-year-old from QG neighbourhood, chose a bakery as her business idea. “There is not any bakery in my area and people need bread”. Three new bakeries in three different communities will be opening in Bissau in the framework of the project, but the most common business ideas identified during the training have been sale of groceries, sale of clothes, sale of fish and processing of natural products. These small enterprises will help many families cope with the economic ravages of the pandemic. “If each of us manages to employ two or three people in the long-term, we will be contributing to poverty alleviation and it will help reduce crime in the neighbourhoods”, Suncar reflects. Her expectations for the future are to keep working in the business that is starting up so that one day she will be able to continue her studies. As in Laura's case, financial difficulties thwarted her ambition to go to university. “I have been inactive for three years and this project came at a great moment, it encouraged me a lot. I don’t want to stop; I want to move forward”.
In the coming months, the livelihood diversification that will allow people like Laura and Suncar to continue moving forward will become a reality and the green economic recovery that UNDP Guinea-Bissau aims to achieve in the country will be a step closer.