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New country director sets the bar high for Trias in Uganda
We need to be recognised nationally as the development agency for small-scale entrepreneurs. These are the words of Januario Ntungwa (52), the new country director for Trias Uganda.
You have been a microfinance advisor at Trias for eight years. Was country director the next step in your career plan?
Ntungwa: I knew my job here at Trias inside out. So I had been reflecting on whether to take a step up in the hierarchy of our team. But with our flat organisational structure this is not easy. And then suddenly, this opportunity fell into my lap when our current director Paul Allertz decided to take a step back. From August 1st, I will help steer Trias Uganda in the direction that the team indicates. This is a new challenge for me and one I am very much looking forward to.
You don’t lack experience.
Indeed, I had numerous years of experience in the financial sector before I joined Trias. My first employer was the second largest banking institution in Uganda, where I worked my way up to become a member of the executive committee. Then I joined a microfinance institution, which was unknown when I arrived as its CEO and I grew the company to become the largest rural microfinance institution in Uganda.
Why did you decide to join Trias’ local team in Uganda?
At one point, I started to ask myself where I could make the most meaningful contribution to society. In a bank, the personal impact is relatively small because you are in a large structure. I felt like here at Trias Uganda I could do more for the many people who unfortunately still live in poverty.
What is the biggest challenge for Uganda?
In no other country in the world is the proportion of young people in the total population as high as in Uganda. 56% of the population is under the age of 18, 75% is under 30. And the youth unemployment rate is around 85%. It’s inconceivable.
A blessing in disguise is that the unemployed young people in Uganda are full of energy.
Can young people not find jobs in agriculture?
It is true that the agricultural sector is the largest employer in Uganda. Over 80% of the active population works in agriculture. But unfortunately this sector is also the least popular with young people and so they focus their attention on the remaining 20% of the labour market. It is logical that most of them end up without a job.
What can Trias Uganda do?
A blessing in disguise is that unemployed young people are full of energy. There is no lack of motivation to set up their own business. The thing they are missing are the skills required to run a business.
Are you still happy with your decision to join Trias eight years ago?
When I arrived at Trias, we worked with three microfinance institutions that nobody knew about. Today they are three of the top ten microfinance actors in Uganda. The same applies to the three farmers’ organisations that we have worked with in last 8 years: they are recognised as the most successful member-based organisations in their field. That is a fabulous achievement we can be proud of.
What is your ambition as the new country director?
Everything can always be improved, so we have to perform better with regards to efficiency, effectiveness and impact. So far our team has less experience in strengthening entrepreneurship; I want us to be as successful in this area as we are in microfinance and agriculture. We set the bar very high for ourselves. The Ugandan start-up entrepreneurs can count on that.