“All of us who have been refugees knows what life is like, it’s about poverty, it’s about hunger, it’s about diseases, and I have always kept thinking I must contribute to the welfare of my community, I didn’t have anything,” said Matata Safi, an alumni of the 2022 International Visitors Leadership Program and manager of the Hagana Agro Processing Company.
The United States Embassy in Juba hosted Safi to tell others about his experience at the University of Juba event.
Safi, who started honey processing business in South Sudan in 2006 after returning from a refugee camp in Uganda, says the zeal for serving his community is the secret behind the success of his a company.
He said getting a startup capital was very difficult since he did not have sureties required by commercial banks in South.
“With the business people I remember sometimes did not have the money at hand, but they will say no problem we trust you. I will send my honey to you, sell, when you get the money send it back to me, he said
Safi says customers’ trust can be a huge asset in South Sudan. ‘’There is a lady called Jacqueline, she is in Maridi, she buys honey from there, I never met her, she has never seen me, she sends honey to Juba, I send her money back, and we have been trading like that for the last two years so it is about trust,” said Safi.
U.S. Embassy - Juba Public Affairs Officer Moulik Berkana says fellowship programs are available for South Sudanese interested in joining the business world.
“For the international visitor leadership program that each of them traveled on recently to the United States that actually requires nominations, that Matata mentioned that somebody at the embassy had nominated you, so we have a variety of exchange programs that we offer through the embassy,” said Berkana.
Meanwhile at the event, officials with the Food and Agriculture Organization, (FAO) the World Bank, the Netherlands ambassador to South Sudan and the national ministry of fisheries and livestock handed over a fish market started by a local women’s group Wate Na Kita to the Terekaka county authorities.
The women’s group also received the new technology Thiaroye Technique which is used for drying and smoking fish on a small-scale.
FAO country representative for South Sudan Meshack Malo said “We are here to see women who are preserving the fish in order to improve the shelf life."
Malo added "We are here to see the young people who are engaged in boat building so that to preserve the life span of the boat can be enhanced beyond the normal two years and we have also been able to have the hospitality of the women using a new, advanced methodology of fish drying that is healthier.”
Mary Malara, who heads the women’s group, said they are challenged by young men who compete with women during the peak fishing period on the River Nile.
“When we need the fish they do not want, but we still force ourselves we get that small amount, we get the groups to do the work so when we make a profit, every group saves 2,500 South Sudanese pounds,” Malara said.
Netherlands Ambassador to South Sudan Marjan Schippers said the resilience of the country’s entrepreneurs speaks for itself.
“That entrepreneurship is vital in every country, not only in the developed ones but even in countries like South Sudan or I should say just in countries like South Sudan. I think today really convinced me that we should continue to pay attention to entrepreneurship,” Schippers said, adding that peace and stability are necessary for entrepreneurship to thrive.