Fellow Q&A with Ambrose Onapa

Please briefly introduce yourself and what led you to the Resolution Project

Ambrose Onapa

My name is Ambrose Onapa, and I am currently in my final year at Makerere University pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Telecommunications Engineering. I’m co-founder and team lead for TAL Youth Uganda, a venture which aims to empower disadvantaged people in Akokoro, Apac, Northern Uganda by turning surplus crops into baked goods while employing mainly young people, especially young women. 

I witnessed a lot of young people facing difficulties after dropping out of school early  and having to deal with unemployment and other related problems, which caused them a lot of havoc and suffering. We thought (and still think) that instead of these young people not contributing anything to society, they can be an important resource for the development of communities. We share a common belief that entrepreneurship is a major way of empowering communities, ending hunger, eradicating poverty, and ensuring equality.

Our idea was “what we could do with what we had” in contributing to the community transformation. We realized that we could contribute to economically empowering young people, especially girls, who have dropped out of school.

Please briefly introduce your venture

TAL Youth Uganda is a social venture in Akokoro, Apac, Northern empowering disadvantaged people, especially youth and women. TAL buys surplus sweet potatoes from local farmers and turns them into bakery products while employing youth with emphasis on employing women. 

TAL established a bakery plant, recruited a handful of young people within the first seven months. In total we have also brought in over twenty young people, teaching them bakery skills and other business leadership skills, with two more people being trained in transportation of products to the market.

Since winning the Resolution Project Fellowship, TAL has participated in several entrepreneurship programs and awards, and won several of them including: The Fishbowl Global Challenge grand prize in 2023 and the UNDP Youth Ideathon, StartHub Africa, and Kampala Innovation Awards all in 2021  

Where are you currently finding inspiration and joy?

As Mastercard Foundation scholars, we strongly believe in giving back to the community. Having received mentorship, empowerment, and encouragement from the Scholars Program cultivated our desire to pursue entrepreneurship.

What role do young leaders play in the world today?

As a young leader with exceptional communication skills and a track record of inclusivity and collaboration, you can play a significant role in today’s world. 

Young leaders have a unique perspective, a willingness to innovate, and a desire to create positive change. With passion for self-improvement, learning, and community-based change initiatives, you can inspire and motivate others to do the same. 

As an effective mobilizer and problem solver, you can find creative and strategic solutions to complex issues. Additionally, your leadership potential and commitment to giving back to your community make you well-suited to be a role model for others. 

By mentoring, coaching, and supporting others, you can help create a new generation of young leaders who are committed to making a difference in the world.

What inspired you to start your social entrepreneurship journey?

The high rate of school dropouts and the resulting lack of opportunities for young people in Akokoro, Apac is what inspired me to embark on my entrepreneurship journey. Seeing the limited options available to those who are unable to continue their education, and the negative consequences that can arise as a result, motivated me to find a way to create opportunities for myself and others. 

By starting my own business, I hoped to not only create a better future for myself but also to provide employment and economic opportunities for those in my community who may have otherwise been left behind.

How has the Resolution Fellowship impacted you directly and your venture?

Resolution Project is one of the golden platforms to make a difference in my community and the world at large. I was eternally grateful for the opportunity and continue looking forward to receiving more mentorship, support, and networking with like-minded people from different areas of the world. 

I‘m still learning how to best benefit the community, and gaining competence and courage to impart social positive change to the community.

The Fellowship has helped me to develop the ability to motivate and encourage others. This has endowed me with great managing skills for my venture’s future. The fellowship has improved my communication skills as I am interacting with people of different backgrounds or environments during community engagement events and pitching sessions.

Resolution Project enabled us to transform our ideas into meaningful action in an experienced and feasible approach. Therefore, I have all the reasons to be a proud Resolution Fellow.

Can you tell us how your venture has directly impacted those whom you aim to serve? How has Resolution contributed to this impact?

The support from the Resolution Project has enabled us to establish an efficient bakery. 

We are aiming at using locally sourced materials to the extent possible. The support enabled us to recruit three young people to our team (doubling our original employee number,) train over twenty young people, and employ more women and young people in the production and marketing chain, benefiting ten farmers in Akokoro, Apac, Northern Uganda in the period of a year. 

Given that the modern world’s challenges are very complex, varied, and interconnected, they cannot be solved by individuals alone on their ‘islands’ but rather through greater collaboration, critical thinking, and learning from others. This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity presented to us by Resolution Project. 

The mentorship from Resolution Project enables us to constantly evaluate and explore more opportunities to further develop our business.

What do you think is preventing more young people like you from launching their own venture? 

The world of business involves taking risks, and young people may be apprehensive to embark on such a journey due to their fear of failure. The prospect of losing their investment or being subjected to public scrutiny in the event of failure may be a daunting thought for them.

Starting a successful business often demands a considerable amount of capital, which may not be readily available to young entrepreneurs. However, lack of funds should not be a hindrance to pursuing your venture, as you can start small with little or no financial investment. With determination and hard work, someone may eventually recognize the potential of your idea and provide you with the necessary capital to grow and establish a thriving business.

Young people may encounter barriers in accessing networks and resources necessary to establish and develop their ventures. This can hinder their ability to secure funding, attract customers, or expand their business, as they may not have the connections or resources required to achieve these objectives.

Overall, these are just a few potential factors that could be preventing more young people from launching their own ventures. However, with the right support and resources, young entrepreneurs can overcome these challenges and succeed in the world of business.

What advice would you give to other young leaders who are looking to start their first social venture?

The biggest challenge is starting. We as TAL Youth Uganda team would like to encourage a young person out there to get up and chase their dream. There will be storms, there will be negative energy — pay a deaf ear to them all, and keep chasing your dream. 

Things won’t get done just by sitting down and thinking about it, but by doing something each day inline with what your goal is. 

One day, you will wake up, present your idea to an investor, and they will support it because you’ve already started and the venture is promising.