Tech Pioneers of Uganda: era92 Creative is on a Mission to Employ 10,000 Youth

January 18, 2024 | | 0 Comments

era92 Creative

In the bustling streets of Kampala, Uganda, a revolution is underway, one that is reshaping the lives of young people through the power of creativity, design, and technology. This revolution is led by none other than Emmanuel Trinity Nsaabanye, the founder of era92 Creative, a social enterprise with a profound mission to end youth unemployment in Africa.

From Adversity to Opportunity

Trinity’s journey is nothing short of inspirational. His life, marked by early hardships in the Kosovo slums of Uganda, is a testament to resilience and the transformative power of opportunity. Abandoned and abused, he found himself at a crossroads – succumb to the harsh realities of street life or carve a new path. His choice? Embracing the latter through the gift of a computer. This simple yet life-changing tool opened up a world of possibilities, leading him to discover his passion for design and technology.

The Birth of era92 Creative

Trinity’s personal triumph became the catalyst for era92 Creative. Founded in 2014, the agency is more than just a creative enterprise; it’s a beacon of hope for the youth in Africa. With a focus on design, arts, and technology, era92 not only equips young people with marketable skills but also empowers them to transform their lives and communities.

The agency operates on a simple yet powerful premise: every purchase creates a job, every job makes an impact. This model has already seen remarkable success, with over 1,800 skilled jobs created and a goal to reach 10,000 jobs by 2025.

A Model for Social Change

What sets era92 apart is its holistic approach to youth empowerment. The agency recognizes that skill development is just one piece of the puzzle. To truly transform lives, they focus on character building, professional development, and mentorship. And most importantly, they provide the space for individuals to grow into their strengths and interests. This comprehensive model ensures that the youth not only gain skills but also develop the mindset and character needed to thrive in the professional world.

Era92’s services range from website development, graphic design, video editing, to social media management, catering to a wide array of clients globally. By outsourcing these services, clients not only get high-quality work but also contribute to a greater cause – providing opportunities and changing lives in Uganda.

The Ripple Effect of Empowerment

The impact of era92 extends beyond individual success stories. It’s about creating a sustainable cycle of empowerment and growth. Young people trained and employed by era92 go on to become role models and mentors in their communities, inspiring others to follow in their footsteps. This ripple effect is crucial in a continent where opportunity is not equally distributed.

The Future Vision

Looking ahead, era92 Creative is poised to expand its reach and deepen its impact. With the introduction of innovative training booths – digital classrooms set up in shipping containers – era92 aims to bring skills and opportunities directly to the slums and rural areas. This initiative is a game-changer, democratizing access to education and technology in the most underserved communities.

The story of era92 Creative and Emmanuel Trinity Nsaabanye is more than just a tale of overcoming adversity. It’s a powerful narrative of how creativity, technology, and social entrepreneurship can come together to create meaningful change. As era92 continues to grow and transform lives, it invites us all to be part of this journey. Whether through partnerships, outsourcing creative needs, or simply sharing their story, we can all contribute to this mission of empowering the youth in Africa. This story is a reminder that when given the right opportunities, young people can not only change their own lives but also become catalysts for change in their communities and beyond.

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Read Full Transcript

[00:00:12] Adam: Welcome to People Helping People, the podcast for social entrepreneurs who want to build a social impact business.

[00:00:19] Adam: I'm your host, Adam Morris, and today I'm thrilled to have on our guest Trinity, a social entrepreneur in Uganda on a mission to end youth unemployment. He has a powerful story to put in perspective what this all means, and I love what he's done to build up ERA 92. An agency that creates opportunity for youth in Africa through design, arts, and technology.

[00:00:37] Adam: So, Trinity, welcome on the podcast.

[00:00:42] Trinity: Adam, it's a pleasure being here.

[00:00:45] Adam: I Would love to hear the origin story of like how this began.

[00:00:48] Trinity: Yeah, this began way back in 1992. Um. Abused at the age of 17 and when she was abused, she got pregnant and she gave birth to me. But unfortunately, my dad denied, uh, to take care, the responsibility to take care of the child, which was me. And also her parents were tough, and they told her you need to go and find the father of the son.

[00:01:13] Trinity: So my mom was stuck in the middle and she really had to figure out a way to raise me, and she knew that maybe when she makes it to. Which is Kampala, Uganda, she would have a better life. And so she moved, you know, about two, three hours from the village until she made it to the city, until she got this culture shock about the city, that everything in the city during that time, it was a transactional thing in the villages.

[00:01:40] Trinity: People could, you know, you could grow food, you could do things, and she had no work and she had no skills and so that pushed her to be. Uh, to live on the streets for some time until she ended up in one of the worst slams called Kosovo, because that's where refugees and almost everyone could afford a living because you could get a house for maybe $5 a month and that could be achievable.

[00:02:03] Trinity: And so, but I remember my mom told me that, uh, she wanted to do everything to make sure that I get a good, a good and quality education, however much she didn't have the money. She really tried to do everything. In her own abilities to make sure that I have the right education. But that wasn't easy. And um, growing up in the slums called Kosovo, which was named after the Kosovo Russia, so many things were happening.

[00:02:27] Trinity: Witchcraft, crime killings, and stuff like that. And so the unfortunate thing that could happen for any young person in the slums, that if you do not join any formal education or you don't go to school, the typical thing that you end up doing is you becoming a thi. Being into trafficking, drugs and gangs.

[00:02:48] Trinity: And so unfortunately, after seven years of being out of school, my mom could only afford, you know, one meal a day. I ended up on the streets. So by the age of nine I was recruited to do one of the gang members with a gang called B 13. And we started just doing things, uh, as young boys, you know, stealing to survive, fighting to survive. And the sad thing, after joining the gang for six months, many of my friends were killed. Six of them got killed. But what these guys, uh, the guys who recruited us, what they normally did, they recruited more. So we did the same thing for four years. I was lucky enough to be rescued and to survive all this violence that was happening.

[00:03:34] Trinity: And how did I get rescued? It's a funny story. One of the missionaries who had come from Northern Ireland, they had come to be a school for three children. And when we were doing that, they were moving around the community and the local pastor told them, I need to take you to where some of these young people are hiding. And so they found us and we tried to run because we thought that maybe they're both Interpol International Police this time because the people are white and stuff like that. And so. Of the ladies who, who was part of the group, they said, no, no, no, no. We don't want to beat you, but would you please come?

[00:04:10] Trinity: And so they brought us up and one of the ladies asked me, what's one thing that I can give you? It never go back on the streets. And for me, that was a very life changing question. And I told her, if you give me a computer, I'll never go back on the streets. I was, I never thought that they would gimme a computer, but they, they, they want you to, their word.

[00:04:30] Trinity: So they decided to gimme a computer. So they gave me this machine. The next day they brought me to church and they invited us and many other people and many things changed. I have this computer, they gave us food, they promised us to take us back to school. Everything was in the right track. And when I put my hand on this computer, I started training myself to become a designer.

[00:04:55] Trinity: I was a very young, creative boy, and I was so passionate about craft, designing, video editing and stuff like that. So I started training myself on the internet during that time, and I was, I was doing that, I was also helping the local church and the local community with their graphic design needs. And I did that for about six, seven years. Coca-Cola used to organize these, uh, events in the, the slums, uh, talent shows. And they used to pick up young people. And so one night on this show, it was my breakthrough to overcome the poverty. I presented my work. And I was picked by one of the Coca-Cola agents, and I was given an opportunity to work at their marketing agents. And so in a nutshell, my life came from being on the streets, being part of the gang, overcome the grave, overcome the prisons jail, to sitting in one of the corporate offices in Uganda. And so I was being paid $300. My life was transformed in just a period of six months. But what started developing within me was this desire of a, you know, a burning need to make change in my community.

[00:06:07] Trinity: Because every year that was passing many of my young people who are even smarter than I, they never made a chance. They never got a chance to exercise their dreams, to fulfill their potential. And it started bugging me because I knew many of them by by name. I started developing a strong sense of responsibility to actually go back and do something about it.

[00:06:29] Trinity: So I quit my job and I went back and I started this company called ERA 92, mainly because I was born in 1992 and I knew that me surviving all this stuff was for a purpose, and that purpose was to help young people in the slums. So we started out with four young people, and over the years we've created over 1800 skilled jobs, and we have over 60 young people working full-time. So we on a mission right now actually to create 10,000 skilled jobs.

[00:06:57] Adam: 10,000 skill jobs.

[00:06:59] Trinity: Every purchase creates a job. Every purchase makes an impact.

[00:07:03] Adam: This is a cause dear to my heart. I, I run a work program locally for youth experiencing homelessness. And so seeing how this actually unfolds in other countries is very powerful for me.

[00:07:14] Adam: But I'd like to start with just what it's like and what the mindset is of somebody who's, you know, 12 years old, in the slums of Kosovo.

[00:07:24] Adam: Like, what's your outlook, on the world or, or how you think that you can be something.

[00:07:30] Trinity: it's one main thing that, uh, each one of us God us, created us with what we call aspiration. And the young people right now in Uganda or in my time here in Uganda, exposed, you know, they watch tv, they watch all these things, but the, the bad thing about that, that those things are so farfetched from them, have a match.

[00:07:51] Trinity: They're so close to them in the screens, on the internet. And so every young person that I've come across, they have this burning desire to become somebody.

[00:08:00] Adam: Hmm.

[00:08:01] Trinity: We have come up with this thing that brilliance is equally distributed, but opportunity is not because they're brilliant. They have the skills, they're smart, they have the work ethic, but they do not have the opportunity for them to exercise their dreams and become who they really want to be.

[00:08:18] Trinity: And to me, that has been, fertile ground for us when you're bringing our programs to, because they're yearning for it. And they're looking at it as a gateway or a doorway into their future.

[00:08:31] Adam: I would imagine too, you look around and the possibilities are, hey, you join a gang, or there's, there's work which will keep you trapped there. That anything that can break you free from, from that, is really worth fighting for.

[00:08:44] Trinity: Yeah.

[00:08:44] Adam: What was it like when you started ERA 92? What were the first projects like working with people that you knew from the slums.

[00:08:52] Trinity: Oh, wow. Yeah, that's a good question. Um, it was challenging in the first stages. We, we had this desire to run , a social enterprise. We really had no idea about social entrepreneurship and also what models are we gonna run. It's one of the things that I learned early on in my journey is that without profit, there is no impact. And so I had to first of all, figure out to run a sustainable, successful business for me to be able to create the job that I want to create. And so that was the very first thing that we seen. Like every time that we didn't make a purchase, we couldn't pay our bills. And so I realized that entering into social entrepreneurship, into the business of helping people, we also had to really work as business people because you're competing with the entire business world, right?

[00:09:42] Trinity: And so that's one thing, but also the mindset of the young people. Um, they were yearning the, they were hungry, but there were so many morals that really had to get outta them. And in the first place, or in the first years of our program, we just had training of the skills. We weren't training character, we weren't training morals, but those things developed later on.

[00:10:05] Trinity: Right now the program is working with a public speaking, time management, professionalism, interviews right now, we cover all those aspects, but in the early stages we're just giving them skills and then we are having these young people who are coming later at work, you know, they dunno how to to speak and stuff like that.

[00:10:22] Trinity: But over the time we've, enhanced our program and it has become this fully fledged program that is working on their young people.

[00:10:30] Adam: Well, I'd like that, just that acknowledgement that, hey, when you started, you had, you realized you had to be making money in order to make more impact, but also that you, you had to start with the basics of like teaching the skills and then you realized, hey, here's the other things that people need in order to change and grow.

[00:10:46] Adam: What's that journey like today for somebody who comes into the program?

[00:10:50] Trinity: Yeah. Today it's, it's a different, Recruiting for one year. So young person spends with us for one year in, in our program, but the first year, the first month of their program, we have the recruitment. We have the sorting of the young people, and then we have the orientation. The orientation takes one month at our campus, because we are starting to deal with the mindset, we're starting to dig into their aspirations.

[00:11:17] Trinity: We're starting to dig into what really motivates them, and we give them the freedom to actually cross in two different courses. Because that way we provide a playground, we are not providing, a structured service that, oh , we, we only can teach you sewing. That's what you have to come and learn, but you provide a playground where the young people actually provide us with what we actually have to think.

[00:11:40] Trinity: What do you want to learn and how do we match that with the marketplace? And so after the orientation, they've picked what they're passionate about. Because I know one thing. Once you spark into someone's aspirations, once you tap into that, you're not gonna do too much. People are being self-trained on the internet because they own their passion.

[00:11:59] Trinity: So once we tap the passion, the driver is going to be self, maintained rather than us pushing them into the program. So once we figure that out, then we go into the next step, which is training. They train for seven months. Intense, we provide them mentors that are going to work them with a journey for those seven months.

[00:12:16] Trinity: We provide them, workshops that are helping them to learn how to sell themselves, to learn how to present in an interview, to learn how to write emails. So we call that Elevate 360, whereby we have a 360 touch points on their life points. And so after that. you know, around August, uh, like after seven months, then we start preparing them for job placement.

[00:12:39] Trinity: And so here we are working with employment partners, where we are telling them, could you please hire our young people for , a paid internship? And typically they start from a hundred to $200, whereby we force them to pay them because we know that's gonna motivate them to enter into the marketplace.

[00:12:56] Trinity: One thing that we do to prepare our young people to provide value and create, fill a gap within a company so that they should not be easy to be let go by this company. And that has actually led to actually over 60% of our placements come from our internships. And so that has been a great success. So that's pretty much after that for those young people who have been smart after one year of graduation, they graduate.

[00:13:24] Trinity: They have skills, but they need a computer. We actually started a fund to provide them with startup loans to buy their first computer or their first camera to study a freelance journey. And so that has been the entire year of, you know, what it looks like for a young person to go through a program.

[00:13:40] Adam: And that seems like such a shift too. but also enough time to really change something that's ingrained.

[00:13:47] Adam: just from my experience, what I found is, is quite often you're growing up in an area where you have no access to opportunity, um, and you've come from difficult family situations, quite often your view of the world is, is one that has no hope or almost no aspirations that you can be something else.

[00:14:08] Trinity: Yep.

[00:14:08] Adam: So it sounds like, hey, you have a very structured program of giving them the skills and, and helping them develop. Do you find that there, there's like internal stories that they have to change about who they are and what they're capable of?

[00:14:21] Trinity: Yeah, we've had, uh, young people who studied web and they ended up in photography and uh, one of the things that we give them is that you are becoming lifelong learners. We actually tell them by. There could be an AI that will do whatever you're doing, but are you willing to learn and adapt to that new technology?

[00:14:42] Trinity: So that's what the main thing that we're giving these young people. You're not giving them the structured thing. This is what you've learned and this is what you're gonna be doing. No, it's like you are setting an agenda to become a lifelong learner, and that's that's the DNA of the Elevate program.

[00:14:57] Adam: And how many of these Elevate hubs do you have now?

[00:15:00] Trinity: We have three hubs around Uganda.

[00:15:03] Adam: Oh, very exciting. Awesome. And then ERA 92 itself is a creative agency and you provide creative and technology solutions. What are the services that eRA 92 provides.

[00:15:16] Trinity: We are providing, what we call creative subscriptions. And uh, we know right now most companies, at least even if it's a startup, they need a creative work within their company. So that's website development, graph designing, video editing, and type of social media management.

[00:15:32] Trinity: And so we realize that for startup companies, especially in the US and the uk, they struggle with hiring these people. Even getting in terms, it's quite hard. So we have these dedicated teams that we put together, and then we provide these ongoing creative, uh, support, for companies who are starting up.

[00:15:50] Trinity: And we've really found a sweet spot with working with social enterprises, non-profits, who don't have big budgets, right? So we give them a flat rate, you know, affordable, subscription that helps them, grow their impact. And that way we are also helping them expand their impact. At the same time, the profits from that work is helping us.

[00:16:08] Trinity: Great jobs here. So anything starting with the website development graph, designing, video editing, social media management, and other things that are being done on the internet. You know, some people just give us their podcasts to edit for them to clean their audio. Anything that you think that can be outsourced, in that creative space, we can actually do it for you.

[00:16:30] Adam: Oh, that's fantastic, are there some favorite projects , that you've worked on as a company?

[00:16:35] Trinity: Oh, yeah. Uh, we've worked on a lot of, rebrand, for many organizations. So, for example, if you find, a nonprofit, uh, that is just starting up before we actually work with you, we offer you, a rebrand, a refresh, and then we work one entire project to make sure that okay, these are the things that we're gonna be moving with you for the next three years of your work.

[00:16:55] Trinity: So we've done quite a number of projects, with big companies in the US and the uk and that has been really fulfilling for these young people to be part of.

[00:17:03] Adam: Now, you said you're on a mission to create 10,000 jobs by 2025, what's that look like and, and what do you need in order to get there?

[00:17:11] Trinity: So in order to get there, we have come up with this, training, booth called the Elevate Booth. So the program has come up with the elevated boot, and this is. Many to help us scale to other communities. One of the unique thing about the program is that we're not really targeting the well furnished areas because many programs have come to Africa to give trainings and skills.

[00:17:30] Trinity: Google Africa is doing that. You know, MasterCard is providing technology skills, but we are going where they've never been able to go. And those are the slums, the refugee settlements and stuff like that. And realized that the first time we took these things like Google, has its trainings online. If you do those, the young people in the slums, they're not gonna be able to access those things, right?

[00:17:52] Trinity: So we did the same thing. We took our classes online and we were getting these young people with laptops in their homes, and their moms are telling them, you go and learn. So they were really well off students that we started getting, and that wasn't our goal.

[00:18:07] Trinity: So we scrapped that and we came up with the Elevated Booth, which is a digital classroom that we put into a shipping container. Place into, in the middle of slums or in the middle of a refugee settlement, or a rural area where young people from that area have access to these first internet, computers and also life-changing digital skills.

[00:18:27] Adam: What does a booth actually look like?

[00:18:29] Trinity: You know, it's a shipping container for feet and it has two classrooms and, you know, 16 chairs. 16 chairs, plus a big screen with the computers. So what we mainly do, uh, our main center is the one that projects the trainings. So we don't hire individual trainers for each booth, but rather we have them done online.

[00:18:52] Trinity: The expresses online by the access through the booth, and that's the, the solution that we provided. So when that happened, now young people in Kosovo Tang slums can access young people in Kibera slums can access this. Training. So with that, we, we want to set up 15 of these in 15 regions across East Africa, and each one will be able to create 2000 jobs in the next five years. And if you do 2000 jobs times, I don't know, there'll be more than 10,003 jobs.

[00:19:27] Adam: Very cool. Awesome. And then it sounds like part of that job creation, it's not just all, Hey, let's grow ERA 92 to have a 10,000 person company, but you're, you're placing interns in other companies and building those relationships as well,

[00:19:40] Trinity: Yep. Yep.

[00:19:42] Adam: What have been some of the challenges that you faced as you are growing this model.

[00:19:47] Trinity: One of the challenges that I've faced growing this model is that, uh, the West, um, which is our target audience, still have a bad perception about Africa. They, they do not trust Africa. And, uh, you know that's true because some people did their things in the past. We have the the Nigerian prince, faking people and, scamming people, you know, that thing happened. But, um, we would love to the west to look at Africa, the way they look at India, because right now when you look, oh, where do you also your work? India, Philippines, and stuff like that.

[00:20:21] Trinity: And I believe that the struggle has been, oh, my website been done by young people in Africa. So there has been a trust issue with that. But for the people that have been able to get into our hands, they've been amazed by the quality of the work that they're getting.

[00:20:37] Adam: So there, there's this piece of changing that narrative of like, Hey, here's what this story means from working with you. And just these general stereotypical stories we have from the past, here's what we need to do in order to, to move those in order to create opportunity. If you invest in that and create the opportunity that goes away over time, right?

[00:20:58] Adam: So if you can, if you can create opportunity in the slums there, there is this huge, effect as time goes on of those people coming back and helping more people and really transforming that.

[00:21:09] Trinity: Yeah.

[00:21:09] Adam: That's really exciting about what you're doing . How has all this changed you as a person? Like you've been doing this for a while now.

[00:21:15] Trinity: yeah. I think it has given me fulfillment and it has given me a lifelong purpose. Um, today, Africa is one of the fastest growing, continents. We have one of the fastest growing population, but also the poorest. And to me that's a big gigantic. Problem to solve. And I know that I can't do it by my own, and it's gonna take other people.

[00:21:46] Trinity: It's gonna take other people like me, but at least I know that the time I'm here on Earth and the time I'm giving to do whatever I'm doing, I'm gonna dedicate that to the livelihood of young people across Africa. And I hope to see a lot of jobs, a lot of jobs, uncountable jobs created before I leave this earth. So to me, that's the purpose. It's a lifelong purpose that I've been grounded into, and it'll never live my life just because of the story that I've had of young people that have transformed their lives from the skills that we've given them. And so to me, I wanna do a millions of those jobs.

[00:22:25] Adam: That's really inspiring. I recently recorded a, a podcast with Levi from, Path, a global organization works largely in Africa, about a ethical storytelling toolkit that they developed, and I remember him telling me about how in the work that they're doing, there's quite often this narrative of people have to come in and they see themselves as almost saviors to, to solve a problem.

[00:22:49] Adam: And that it's really about changing the dialogue to say, Hey, how can we work with the people that we're serving?

[00:22:55] Trinity: Yeah. Yeah,

[00:22:55] Adam: To help them solve their problems. Like they, they're partners and they are the ones most closely connected to what they're experiencing, and so they know how to solve it.

[00:23:04] Adam: And, and so changing that, that whole dynamic of, a charity mindset to how do we develop solutions together?

[00:23:12] Adam: And I think what you've just shared is like a brilliant model for this one, because you understand it, but you're, you're not going in and, and being like, Hey, you know, here's, here's the money you need to. Get an education, you're like, Hey, come and learn with us and be empowered to learn what fits your aspirations.

[00:23:31] Trinity: Yeah.

[00:23:32] Trinity: Yeah.

[00:23:33] Adam: and I think that is just a very powerful point about what you're doing is you're not imposing something on it. You're working very closely with the very youth that you're looking to employ.

[00:23:43] Adam: How can people support you and make what you're doing a success?

[00:23:47] Trinity: yeah. We have this beautiful campaign called Give Work, so whoever that is listening in. They have work. It's what all these young people in Africa need. So just think about what you have, which work do you have that you need to send to someone to do it for you? And we are here to do it. So just check out www.era92 and, you'll be able to see a lot of ways that you can engage with us.

[00:24:16] Adam: Very awesome. And just once again, some of the services I, I heard you mention were the brand redesigns, , helping launch websites, maintain them, edit podcasts, video.

[00:24:27] Trinity: newsletters, social media, marketing, management, everything.

[00:24:32] Adam: So definitely everything in that creative domain. You mentioned technology as well, like are there certain technology projects that you work on?

[00:24:39] Trinity: Yes, We have a department that does more, technology, software development and stuff like that. That's more for in-house projects and also a few selected projects that we can work on every year because of our workload. Yes.

[00:24:51] Adam: Wonderful. . That is so cool. I love what, what you're doing. That's really great, and I appreciate you joining me today.

[00:24:58] Trinity: Yeah, it's a pleasure. Thank you for having me.

[00:25:01] Adam: So if you're listening, please go check out Please share this story with any social entrepreneurs or mission-based organizations, or anybody who is looking for assistance in, outsourced creative work, because especially if you have a mission, if you can use, the work that Trinity's doing in order to create that impact, that's just gonna have a great ripple effect in the future, and thank you so much for joining me. It's been such a pleasure hearing your story.

[00:25:27] Trinity: Thank you too, brother. God bless.

era92 Creative

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