picture: An authentic traditional Market in Uganda, the hub for informal trade Nakasero Market photo by Olive Nakiyemba / © Culture Trip
I come from Uganda - the Pearl of Africa-, and like in many countries in this part of the world, the informal sector plays a key role in our economy. According to a report released by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in 2018 up-to 85.8% of the African population are employed in the informal sector. With not a shred of doubt in my mind, I know the informal economy produces some of the best innovative and flexible methods and approaches of handling challenges that businesses face, even though it is not well documented. These industries produce the highest number of business disrupters and entrepreneurial geniuses due to the latitude they have to operate autonomously outside the known bureaucratic governance structures.
Hunting for a suitable model
I am very lucky to have worked in both the informal and formal sector of this economy. Informally, I have worked with agricultural producers, middlemen, traders and vendors. I also had the opportunity to work formally in the fields of humanitarian and development work in the region. My experience in the informal sector motivated me to search for a model that would make the sector more sustainable and scalable as well as build legacy businesses without necessarily challenging their originalities and structures.
The quest drove me to the German “Mittelstand”, the SME economic unit in Germany consisting of mostly family businesses. I was attracted to how they organise themselves - especially in the face of global economic challenges -, how they ensure quality output that places them at the top of their industries globally despite their small size, and how they manage to stay for generations with the business passed from one generation to another without losing their authenticity. For this, I decided to do an MBA in Small Enterprise Promotion and Training in Leipzig University.
The Resourceful Humans (RH) Way
Resourceful Humans supports companies to transform into network organisation. The RH-way ensures that everyone in the company is responsible for the overall performance of the company. As a result, organisations are less hierarchical and focus everyone on contributing to the customers need. The work culture is that autonomy and leader-to-leader relationships at work encourage pro-activeness among workers and increase productivity and customer satisfaction, because the person with the best skills (or better: skalls) applies and takes leadership for the task at hand, not leading based on hierarchy.
In practice that means that I need to be absolutely clear about our common goal so I can come up with how and what I will do to contribute to that goal. How I do it and with whom I do it is totally up to me. This approach is totally different to my previous formal work experiences. I have the freedom to set my targets and decide on what time of the day, or which day of the week and where from I want to do that task. With the existing coordinating tools in the company, I am also responsible to make sure that my team are in the know of what I am working on and its status to ensure transparency amongst us.
Coming home with the kill.
In this approach I think I have found my answer in the quest on what is needed to elevate the informal economy so active in Uganda. The stumbling block to formalisation (that brings more labour and social security) is the stifling effect of hierarchies and the way larger entities take responsibility - and therefore drive and creativeness - from each person working within it. The RH-Way of building networked organisations made up of self-driven and responsible individuals is an amazing opportunity for informal sector players to leap-frog even ahead of the big cats in the market.