Finnish business leader trains Ugandan entrepreneurs

With Finnish development aid policy in turmoil, one businesswoman has nonetheless been inspired to train Ugandan bosses in water management technology and water-free restroom facilities. Some of the entrepreneurs may make their living with the information they glean from their training.

Ugandalaisia vieraita kiinnosti erityisesti Suomen puhtaus ja tuotteiden hajuttomuus. Image: Joona Haarala / Yle

Three entrepreneurs from the East African country of Uganda say they are ecstatic about the training they are receiving at the Biolan factory in Eura. The men scribble lengthy notes while Product Development Chief Hannamaija Fontell describes how Finnish companies produce desiccants from dry toilets.

Julius Musiimenta from the Kampala-based Margherita Industries has nothing but praise for Fontell's expertise.

"We have noticed that these products have no undesirable odours at all," Musiimenta says. "They work well for Finns and this is a revelation we want to bring back to our home country."

The Ugandan entrepreneurs are visiting Finland as part of Unicef Finland's Uniwash project, which develops water and sanitation solutions for North Ugandan schoolchildren. Six enterprises in total were chosen to take part in the initiative.

Project Manager for Unicef Finland, Saara Festadius, explains that poor hygiene and a lack of clean water in schools results in widespread illness and absences.

Worry over underprivileged girls as inspiration

Improving the social conditions of women was what incited Fontell to join Uniwash. She has visited Uganda three times already with technical and commercial wisdom to spare.

"This is also a great way for us to gain insight into the African markets," she says.

Biolan says that the company is involved first and foremost for reasons of goodwill. In the long run, developing collaborations with international organisations can also breed demand for technological orders in catastrophe zones and other hard-put areas.

Ugandan developers on their own

Fontell says that Uganda does not have the necessary subcontracting networks for developing hygiene solutions. Entrepreneurs are left to their own devices.

"Maybe these organisations can find each other now and supplement one another's businesses," she says.

For Unicef Finland, the Uniwash project is crucial because it serves as a response to the criticism on ineffectuality that development organisations constantly face. The Ugandan project is funded by Finland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Other partners include the Aalto University, the University of Helsinki and Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda.

The Finnish government will allegedly be chopping the country's development funding by a whopping 30-40 percent.