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 Irene Nandyose, a business administration graduate from Makerere University Kampala loved knitting and crocheting during her free time on campus. And it is through this exercise that a business idea was hatched.

But the business idea was only implemented in 2020 following training under the MTN Uganda Youth Skilling Program which aims at equipping young people with entrepreneurial skills. She co-founded the Candid Craft Card, an online craft marketing platform, as a source of her livelihood.

“I am a self-taught crotchetier and I got the courage to do this as a business upon attending the MTN Youth Skilling Program because I have always wanted to commercialize it and make money out of it,” she said.

“The training was engaging. We were equipped with numerous entrepreneurial skills starting with idea generation, screening, concept development, product development and, finally, commercialization,” she said.

“We were also equipped with other skills such as digital marketing and e-business so that we could market and sale our products online, cyber security to avert incidences of possible fraud and communication to ease our communication with our customers.”

Nandyose, who produces children’s and swimming wear, sweaters, and handbags, says the training equipped her with digital, communication, and networking skills needed to nurture and grow Candid Craft Card.

She said a sweater goes for Shs 50,000, handbags Shs 45,000, swimming customs for ladies Shs 35,000, and children’s clothes at Shs 25,000 each.

“I also embraced online marketing for our products to reach out to customers who would not have been reached at the time due to the coronavirus pandemic,” she said.

Nandyose says she has been able to train other girls in her neighbourhood on how to make crafts as well as market their products online. She revealed that three of her trainees are now earning a living out of making crafts.

“I recommend MTN Youth Skilling Program to other youths since it is inclusive and looks at youth as people who need to gain the skills and take them further,” she said.

She added: “I would like to thank MTN Foundation for the opportunity they have given us as a youth. I am so grateful that they took it upon themselves to implement this project and they have done a good job. I am so thankful for everything they have done.”

Bruno Oluka, the team leader at Ubunifu Systems that implemented the project, said he believes the skills acquired are very essential for the youth to run their businesses.

“This has been one of a kind opportunity and I believe the skills acquired should be able to help participants in their lives and that of their communities.”

Bryan Mbasa, senior manager at MTN Uganda Foundation said they are proud of the success recorded in the course of implementing the program that has not only empowered the youths but transformed their lives.

“The youths constitute the largest percentage of our population and there’s a need to equip them with the necessary skills required in this 21st century to thrive and contribute to this economy,” he said.

MTN Foundation Uganda launched its Youth Skilling Program under the foundation arm of youth empowerment in 2020 benefiting at least 100 out of 1,993 youth who submitted applications in preparation for the evolving digital world in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The program implemented in partnership with Ubunifu systems, a software development firm based in Uganda, involved three phases including the International Certificate of Digital Literacy which is recognized in various countries around the world.

The second phase centred on technical skilling which included finance, accounting, human resources, and sales among others, and the final phase covered incubation and pitching. MTN Uganda has over the years committed to integrating the youth into its programs so as empower them economically.

Last month, MTN Foundation in partnership with the Ministry of ICT & National Guidance, The National ICT Innovation Hub, Centenary Technology Services, Refactory, MUBS Entrepreneurship Innovation, and Incubation Centre, as well as MTN’s Fintech subsidiary, MTN MoMo Uganda Limited, launched a nationwide youth-centred economic empowerment initiative dubbed the MTN ACE.

The application for those interested in the program is now ongoing via https://www.mtn.co.ug/impact/mtn-ace/

MTN ACE initiative brings to the public three MTN Foundation programs that include; the MTN ACE Tech program which focuses on upskilling the youth interested in tech-related innovations under which MTN has also equipped the national ICT hub with state-of-the-art equipment to allow innovators to prototype and incubate their ideas into a feasible business.

The second program is the MTN ACE Career program that seeks to empower fresh graduates with workplace skills and internship placement, and the third program is the MTN ACE Skills program that is tailor-made for the youths who are in or out of school to equip them with entrepreneurial skills.

The MTN foundation has earmarked UGX 1.5 billion towards this initiative this year in line with the corporate social responsibility agenda to boost the livelihoods of the communities in which MTN operates.

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