My name is Dorah Momanyi. I met Napoleon Heri Bahati Kajunju in March 2021 when I was relocating to Makerere University for a 5 months’ fellowship. Napoleon is a Congolese currently living in Uganda. My supervisor and some colleagues I had met in Uganda recommended me to him. I had limited funds and limited knowledge about Uganda, in the midst of Covid-19 and after a grueling University transition from a master’s student to a master’s graduate trying out entrepreneurship.
The fellowship contributed to the growth of my company in terms of introducing a new product. Yes, five months later, I was supposed to develop a perfect product. But the question was, how, where and what would my next steps be? and it was a different story. So I spent every other minute of my time in achieving the fellowship objectives, growing my startup and seeking for funds.
A call by RUFORUM for young entrepreneurs was almost closing. Kajunju was kind enough to share with me his success story, the RUFORUM scholarship application and I saw an opportunity, which I leveraged on. I met him severally and made late night calls, which he did not hesitate to answer just to help shape my proposal. Positively, this RUFORUM alumnus believed in my idea and the project’s long-term vision. He was working on indigenous crops value chain particularly, sorghum and Ugandan potatoes and we were at par in conversations. Being a reader of books, he had this global view of what donors seek for when they make a call. I have actually never filled the additional comments sections and he made me do that by illustrating the significance of my project. It was so selfless of him that even if we were competing for the same grant, Kajunju still put in efforts to see me coin a good proposal after all.
After we submitted our proposals, I remember him telling me, “let us meet in Benin“. Somehow, I knew he will be there but I prayed harder to be there too. Eight months later we actually met at Palais de Congres in Cotonou, Benin. While in Benin, I saw him helping other awardees in many ways to ensure that their presentations were ready and he ensured that their stay at the hotel was good and that they travelled safely. While I was being awarded the young RUFORUM Entrepreneurs’ award, he played a coordination role. To date, because of the support I received from RUFORUM and its alumni, our project works with 3 small holder farmers in the indigenous cereal value chain. We are working towards introducing our product portfolio in the mainstream market and we are increasing our revenue streams day by day. I am already benefiting from a range of applications shared through the alumni network platform.
I foresee an alumni network where an entrepreneur in Kenya (like my business iPoP Africa) is able to trade in individual countries with other RUFORUM young entrepreneurs using their brand name easing the difficulties of inter-country trade; a model and vision Kajunju suggested during the Triennial conference in Benin.
By Dorah Momanyi,
RUFORUM Young African Young Entrepreneur 2021