Young visionary Stephen Arinitwe knows all too well the struggles children in Uganda face on a daily basis. However, rather than feel self-pity, Arinitwe decided to start his own business with the main purpose of giving the children of his homeland both hope and purpose.
“I was not inspired to start with something good. What inspired me was a bad situation, but as an entrepreneur, problems and challenges are a source of opportunities…” Arinitwe is the founding member and CEO of Aristeph Entrepreneurs Center East Africa (ASTEC E.A), a social enterprise that was started in the year 2008 and fully registered in September 2011. Arinitwe established ASTEC because he felt that he could contribute towards helping the young people in Uganda develop their future. Together with his staff, Arinitwe trains youth on how to make a variety of products from local materials including paper bags, candles, and soap detergents.
In 2008, Stephen went through the JA Company Program where he not only learned how businesses function, he also learned soft skills that have been instrumental to his success; such as brainstorming, consensus building, critical reading, gathering and organizing information, group and self-assessment, interpreting production inventory, oral and written communication.
So far, his project has trained over 5,000 people. With their newly acquired skills, youth are able to pay their school fees, take care of their families and eventually establish their own companies. “We have a problem in Uganda. Parents have failed to provide career guidance to their children. They have also failed to get a right way to mentor their children. I said to myself, I can do something to help these children earn a living.” Arinitwe continues: “I think the unemployment related challenges and problems being faced by many Ugandans is one of the biggest obstacles limiting the growth and the development of our country. Our country’s education teaching methodology is more theoretical than practical.”
Throughout its over 30-year history in Africa, JA has successfully developed programs that build entrepreneurial skills through real-world business experiences. In collaboration with schools, technical/vocational centers and other partners, JA Africa aims to augment the traditional academic, vocational or technical training for both in school and out of school youth with life skills, business training and mentorship, that encourages the youth to use innovative thinking, develop positive financial attitudes and explore and enhance their career aspirations. Through a variety of hands-on activities young people will develop a better understanding of their role and potential participation in a worldwide economy.