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  • Writer's pictureBuba K Touray

Commentary: Accentuate factors contributing to the reduced success of micro businesses in Gunjur - Buba K Touray

Indirectly related to the topic, nonetheless worth reflecting on is the current high rate of youth unemployment which is growing at an alarming rate and has recently caught the attention of some concerned stakeholders in the community. Notwithstanding youth unemployment is a growing global problem, as it currently affects some developed and mammoth countries such as the United States, the U.K., and France.


Despite lack of available employment opportunities overseas, associated crimes such as irregular migration is a consequence which is growing in the majority of the least developed countries, including The Gambia. The magnitude of the effects of under-employment differs from one country to another. In the case of the small rural coastal settlement of Gunjur in the West Coast Region, this problem is exacerbating the growing trend of irregular migration in the community as seen over the last years. The coastal settlement of Gunjur was spotlighted by several local news outlets and generated disagreeable news headlines as the Town was identified as a popular departure route for irregular migrants. Certainly, young people who are believed to be economically disengaged are vulnerable as they are more likely to undertake this journey. Oftentimes this category of youth population can be easily trapped by the people smugglers or their agents. Recent evidence shows the trend is increasing. To curb youth unemployment while mitigating associated related crimes will require well-coordinated and collaborative efforts and interventions such as promoting and encouraging entrepreneurship in the community.


Business industry in Gunjur (Surface review)


Over the past decades the business industry and the retail sector have been predominantly controlled by foreign nationals residing in the community. A large proportion of the business community in Gunjur are different foreign nationals including Guineans, Mauritanians, and Senegalese. At the community level the foreign business community were supportive to one another as they successfully established powerful networks. Presumably they are less in capacity than a trade union in term of size, but they are very influential in bargaining, as they are highly effective in protecting and promoting the best interest and well-being of the members. The said network has further capability in controlling the industry particularly when it comes to setting the prices for certain products in the community. This is not a criticism of their presence in the community as they are contributing significantly towards the development of the local economy.

Recently this narrative is changing rapidly as many young people are aspiring to venture into micro-businesses and petty trades such as retailers, fashion, food industry, printing, stationery, and provision of services including mobile repairs and hairdressing. The trend is promising and is expected to rise in the near future provided that the young entrepreneurs receive additional required support such as sustainable Business Education, start-up capital, as well as motivation from the community.


Starting a Business in Gunjur


Starting a Business or maintaining current existing ones in the community is not as easy as one might think. As some of the requirements mentioned above are not easy to come by the process can be time-consuming as it involves a significant amount of work and effort in completing the required steps. Usually, the initial preparation starts at an individual level which may possibly involve undertaking some research to produce a realistic business plan. Raising required start-up capital which usually comes in the form of grants, loans, assets or personal savings and other sources will follow, and then searching for a strategic location for the business. Additionally undertaking paperwork and ensuring that other obligations are fulfilled is essential before or shortly after starting a business. This may include obtaining a certificate of trading or license, business registration and registration for paying taxes to the GRA .

However, the case may be different for young people wanting to start petty trading or micro-business such as a corner shop or canteen. Despite the nature of a micro-business, this process may also require having a solid or robust business idea in place. Presumably this process is easier to start assuming that the required amount of capital is raised, having a strategic location and completed paperwork including single window business registration or certificate of trading from the local administrative councils.


Firsthand information gathered from recently concluded chats with some of the aspiring young potential entrepreneurs revealed that many of them with a strong desire to undertake business are thwarted as they could not raise the required start-up capitals. Most of them were fresh graduates from 12 grade and some dropouts but with the intention to venture into micro-businesses and related income generating activities in the community. Some of them have credible business ideas that can easily translate into achievable actions for creating wealth and self-employment opportunities.


Unfortunately, a great majority of the young entrepreneurs who are currently doing active business in the community have registered declining success since most of them failed either at their initial or growing stage, and few of them will survive to reach the maturity stage for expanding their business. There are several factors that currently are contributing toward this including some external factors that are beyond their control such as price instability, inflation, frequent border closure, political uncertainties in some Ecowas member countries, the depreciation of the local currency against widely tradable major currencies namely US Dollar, British Pound, and Euro. Possibly other underlying factors may include the high cost of electricity as the tariff went up and high transportation costs. Despite there being some micro businesses that are currently doing well in the community, approximately the ratio for this is 1:18 as observed during this research.


After producing a credible, realistic, and achievable business plan, the successful implementation of the ideas into actions is essential in order to yield the expected outcomes. This stage is crucial and oftentimes becomes too complicated for the young entrepreneurs as it will require a lot of effort, monitoring and constantly revisiting the key elements of the initial business plan. Certainly, this is one of the major challenges that a handful of young entrepreneurs are struggling with as observed during my recently concluded interviews in the community.

This is not always their fault as most of them lack basic business skills and knowledge not only in writing but also implementing a robust business plan into action to achieve the desired results. This is a contributing factor that adversely hampers the success of micro businesses run by the young entrepreneurs, including some of those that are actively doing business, as most of them operate randomly without a proper business plan. Oftentimes those that have a proper business plan at the initial stage of operation will fail to re-evaluate their plans after some time forgetting that the business environment keeps changing rapidly with unexpected threats that might require urgent attention. Undoubtedly most young entrepreneurs are less likely to revisit their original business plan to review and make necessary amendments for new changes to effectively manage the consequences of those changes. Of course, not all changes are bad for your business, as certain changes may be positive and can be seen as potential opportunities for business but only if noticed them quickly.

Apparently, few of the young entrepreneurs consider undertaking monthly, quarterly, and annual assessments of their planned Business activities. Without the mindset to ‘’plan – do - review and revise’’ your business plan this increases the risk for the business, of course contributing to the slowed growth or making losses, potentially forcing them completely out of business.

Noticeably access to required funding and capital to either start-up a new micro-business or expanding an existing micro businesses has always been problematic for both the existing and aspiring entrepreneurs in the community. This is another potential barrier preventing many young entrepreneurs from engaging in business activities in the community, and a contributing factor that contributes to the declining success of many micro businesses operating in the community. Despite this, there are several limited institutions that are providing funding opportunities for young entrepreneurs either in the form of soft loans or grants. Again, the chances for accessing these funds are limited for many young aspiring entrepreneurs as the process is not straightforward.


Accessing loan facilities from the commercial banks and some Micro–Financial Institutions might be too costly and difficult, almost becoming impossible for most of the young people, particularly those aged between 18-35 years. The process is cumbersome and extremely bureaucratic coupled with tendering a solid and valuable collateral security and a reliable guarantor as well as further commitment to pay a high interest rate which is usually payable within a shorter period. The current national interest rates stands at 17% at the time of writing this article, in addition the applicants have to pay for the administrative and related costs which differ from one commercial bank to another.


Several other local and international charities and NGOs operating in the community and beyond also provide competitive funding opportunities for a small number of young entrepreneurs mostly in the form of grants or significantly low interest rates. Taking out a loan should only be done if you are absolutely sure your business will be able to make the repayments on time. If not, you will loose the collateral or your guarantor will need to make the repayments. This can leave you in a worse situation than you started in.

Inadequate business knowledge / education, such as personal and practical skills is another common factor that is slowing the progress of many micro businesses in the community. Business education is not properly taught in our school curriculum, unfortunately those that were less privileged and so unable to go to school might not learn useful business skills in most case resulting in a failure to applying essential business skills such as basic record keeping to track cash coming in and out daily in their business operation; basic accounting and book-keeping skills, failure to provide or keep receipts or invoices, mindset on saving and the separation of business earning from personal income surely has led to reduced growth of several micro business operating in the community. Additionally, the advantages of having a strategic location, trusted customers, reliable suppliers as well as providing products or services that are in high demand are just not enough. As an entrepreneur you should adhere to the core values and personal skills such as discipline, honesty, trust, respect, and have a high level of integrity since the aforementioned constitute a strong pillar of running a micro business. Having strong resilience to recover quickly from the shocks, constantly reviewing SWOT analysis to mitigate threats, improving on weakness, increasing strengths while adjusting to the new opportunities must be done more regularly.


Business registration will serve as a great advantage. To be officially recognized by the authorities you are more likely to be able to participate in the bidding process, and possibly win bigger contracts than if you are not registered.


Please remember paying taxes when they are due is key as tax avoidance is considered a serious crime and could potentially ruin your business. As a responsible business entrepreneur, it is mandatory to equip yourself with knowledge of the local tax laws. Possibly you should consult GRA and the Local Administrative Council to receive more guidance on this. Even though many people hate paying taxes, paying taxes is a sign of success for your business. Only successful businesses are asked to pay taxes if and when their annual earnings or return reaches levels that attract paying taxes.

Avoid taking an unplanned loan without a proper business investment plan as this might not be very helpful for Micro Business since loan repayments could be costly when the payment is due. Probably you want to always maintain a healthier cash flow for your business to start planning your next investment. Additionally consider taking insurance for your business to insure against potential risks such as burglary, fire, and unexpected shocks. This will assist you to mitigate certain risks. Of course, some will argue that the local insurance companies are not effective in making fair compensation, but again with insurance you can have a case to argue at the court better than with nothing. As an entrepreneur you should be creative and learn to do things differently to be more innovative. As well you may invest in technology but only if it will be useful to your business. Technology is evolving fast, and you do not want to be left behind, especially if your competitors are making best use of it.

Effective time management is another fundamental factor contributing to the reduced success and slowing growth of many micro businesses operating in the community. In fact, this is identified as a general issue, the case should not be the same for the young entrepreneur. Despite having some degree of flexibility for opening or closing, perhaps consistency is important in business and it requires maintaining regular operating hours as this will help you to retain both the existing customers while attracting new potential customers. Having the resilience to quickly respond, adjust and recover from unexpected shocks as they are likely to happen since some of them are outside of your control. For instance, the recent ongoing demolition exercise undertaken by The National Road Clearance Task force in the community. Failure in reporting certain unexpected shocks on time could potentially retard the success of your micro business. Unfortunately, as noticed over the past years, most young entrepreneurs in the community lack these skills.

CONCLUSION


The significantly retarded growth of micro-businesses in the community has some consequences for the creation of wealth and employment opportunities. This article identified a few out of many contributing factors and provides some tangible solutions to this problem that are something worth thinking about. This summary article only reviewed the basic surface of some of these factors in the context of identifying the key contributing factors responsible for the decreasing growth of micro-Businesses in the community. However, the article does not provide direct or promising solutions or answers to this problem. My intention here is to suggest ways that may be more helpful for the aspiring and existing young entrepreneurs in the community of Gunjur. I am suggesting providing some additional support to both existing and aspiring young local entrepreneurs in the community could yield better desired outcomes for the community in terms of new employment and wealth creation. Recently the community has witnessed an increasing number of young local entrepreneurs in the community. Hopefully adding a new set of young entrepreneurs to the list of already successful existing entrepreneurs will curb the high rate of youth unemployment.

Author: Buba K Touray

Master : P.P.M


Editors note: Views expressed herein are those of the author and does not necessarily represent the views of Gunjuronline.com. Got an opinion article for publication? send it to us at news@gunjuronline.com

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