introducing, one day, Simon the carpenter

I am this close (the index finger almost touching the second finger but with a very small ka-gap in-between) to investing in a roadside carpentry workshop.

I’m not planning on the type with shiny, Chinese imported furniture or second-hand stuff from Europe; neither am I pointing at those ones with furniture manufactured on uneven ground that wobble uncontrollably when you sit on the seats, or place drinks on the coffee table.

I’m probably going to target one near my residence, where I recently made a series of startling discoveries in the midst of a frustrating project I brought onto myself.

Fed up of dealing with artisans who have no sense of time, quality, reliability, dependability and all such other adjectives we somehow expect them to possess, I have this year sworn to engage in as many D-I-Y projects as possible. Considering how terribly wrong these artisans are at their jobs, I felt that even as a novice I could not do much worse.

An opportunity presented itself when we needed to install mosquito nets on the children’s beds, and received a range of quotes that would only have made sense if we had been directors in the Eutaw Construction Company of Uganda or something.

I walked over to a nearby roadside carpentry workshop and without disclosing the existence of beds to which I wanted to attach them, found a willing fellow to quote for just the bed poles I needed. He was a little confused at first but eventually got the point with my persistence.

The fellow, who I later learned was called Issa, agreed to a minimal cost per pole inclusive of the necessary screws, and scrawled the measurements I gave him onto a dirty slip of paper. The one caveat, I insisted, was that the bottom of the poles consisted of a flat panel rather than a thick block, so that it would be easy for me to affix them to whatever I needed.

He understood. I believed so because he nodded his head, repeated what I said a couple of times, and said in vernacular that he had understood. Then we agreed on delivery two days later, I paid up, and walked back home.

For two days I planned my mission carefully so that I would send the children off on some jaunt, then have the poles installed and nets draped so they would return to surprisingly refreshed nets of protection from mosquitoes. I even converted a couple of Christmas Light strings into decorative accessories by printing out nice little pictures of their favourite things and cello-taping them over the lights so they would glow above the nets.

On the appointed day, I was back at the workshop to pick up my bed poles, a little more excited than normally necessary, only to find that I had caught Issa quite unawares.

“Haaaa, boss!” he began, and my heart sunk. Cutting him to the short story, I discovered that he had finished the poles but there was a small problem.

Mbitutte kku machine e Luzira!” (I have taken them to the machine in Luzira!). Not being a carpenter, my interrogation into this machine was useless and I left with a promise that the poles would be ready the next day; and for four days I kept stopping by to be told about the machine, if I were lucky enough to catch Issa there.

One time I suspected he had seen me and ducked, judging by the looks of the other people at the workshop.

Eventually, I took time off to conduct a stake-out and accosted him. A little flustered, he recovered quickly enough to withstand a stern lecture about the need for seriousness, and then presented the bed poles but there was another problem.

Sukulyu zibuze!” (The screws cannot be found).

At this point I was happy to have the neatly made bed poles without the screws but then a young fellow nearby who had been watching all this walked up and asked what the problem was.

Mzee, nkulabye wanno emirundi miingi. Kizibu kyi?” (I’ve seen you here on many occasions. What’s the problem?”)

Cautiously worried that his politeness was a con, I hesitated a little but he then told me he was the owner of the workshop and could not stand the idea that I was an unhappy customer. My startling discoveries began there – this roadside workshop was not just a shack with piles of neatly organised timber! This proprietor, Yunus Kizito, explained the set up and how chaps like Issa are hired carpenters who also do work on the side, such as mine, but essentially work for Yunus and his outfit.

Angry at the poor customer service, he tongue-lashed Issa afresh and sent him off to find me my screws at no extra cost, whence I discovered more – the ‘machine’ that Issa had taken the poles to Luzira for was a drill. Just that – a drill; the same type I had at home for personal use. One I had bought at the Game store at little over Ushs100,000.

Disturbed that a workshop such as his lacked basic equipment, I quizzed further and he pointed right across the road at a furniture showroom full of imported pieces, explaining that there was no way he could accumulate the savings needed to invest when THAT neighbouring establishment was in business.

And yet, he revealed, a lot of that ‘imported’ furniture was actually made right here in Yunus’ roadside carpentry, for which he gets paid a fraction for his work!

I unleashed lugezi-gezi telling him to professionalise, regularise and get an investor and what not so he competes. In turn he showed me his business documents and receipts (no mis-spellings), and explained that the banks had rejected his request for a capital injection of Ushs2million for equipment. See, he had no security besides his timber and expertise, and, since he lives in constant fear that his roadside workshop would be raided by other authorities, no address to register.

All very valid – which is why I felt the need to invest. We would train Issa in customer service (he was fired before I left that evening), use my address for the bank loan, and then raise a locally manufactured challenge to the imported furniture businesses.

Plus: we already have a ‘machine’ – my electric drill at home.

a free entrepreneurship lead for Ugandan youth

THIS week I am providing a free but highly lucrative lead for the youth of Uganda seeking economic emancipation and finding frustration in pursuits a la “Tusaba Gavumenti Etuyambe”.

This is my contribution to the International Youth Day celebrations that have had President Yoweri Museveni these weeks past touring parts of the country meeting youths of different persuasions and dispensations. 

Never mind that the official International Youth Day fell on August 12; Uganda has the world’s largest population percentage of youth and therefore we should be allowed some leeway in celebrating the whippersnappers for longer than just that one day.

Ignore, also, the fact that this year’s global theme of the day was “Youth and Mental Health” – that had nothing to do with us.

We have focused on youth empowerment instead, which is much more urgent for our situation, and more relevant to our needs; and if anything, the one factor that probably affects the mental health of our youth here might be poverty – otherwise how would you explain the emergence of the ‘National Association of the Unemployed’?

Yes! The National Association of the Unemployed (NOU) is a genuinely existing organisation with structures consisting of “former students who are unemployed”, as one news story put it.

The Association’s spokesperson, one Doreen Nyanjura (remember this name for when this person is a Member of Parliament or Opposition Party leader in years to come!) was even quoted saying, “This government has intentionally made studying and degrees irrelevant. We have little or no hopes of finding something to do when we’re done with our studies. I don’t know how many of us really have the capacity to (become entrepreneurs)…”

This begs another treatise, to be delivered later, about how useless our education system in Uganda really is since we produce graduates who loudly and publicly believe that they spent twenty years ‘studying’ in order to be given jobs, rather than to apply themselves at solving problems, and changing society for the better.

So it is at the former point that my highly lucrative lead of the week comes in, and I hope that it single-handedly causes the death of this Association and its sympathisers everywhere:

On Tuesday this week I found myself in Wakiso District for the International Youth Day celebrations, as early as half past nine. Knowing full well that the Guest of Honour, the President himself, would likely not be there on the dot of any hour suggested as the time they expected him there, my posse and I stopped for breakfast at a roadside eatery named ‘Askarrah’ or something.

The lanky, heavily-vaselined (or was that Samona?) lady running the two-table, four-bench joint served us up tasty plates of steaming hot food, tea and coffee as we displaced two earlier patrons; she laughed when we asked her if she was going for the event to join thousands of others streaming past to get to the District Headquarters building on time.

She waved us off politely and I felt a little guilty at not tipping her but I knew that she would have chased us down to take our change with us, so we left her there peering at us through the doorway curtain, ignoring everybody who was walking past and making no attempt to opportunity into her eating joint.

Six hours later I thought about her again; not as an individual, which my wife would certainly not approve of, but her food and how if she had followed us with her two tables, four benches, sigiris and her kitchen team of perhaps just herself, she would have made a killing and we would not be suffering such pangs of gastronomic nostalgia! The one person who was making that killing was a fellow with a basket filled with small packs of plastic bags containing roasted groundnuts and sim-sim, which disappeared quickly in exchange for hard cash.

By the time the event ended, in the evening, we had been served a bottle of water or soda each – and I can’t speak for everyone there.

THIS IS OPPORTUNITY! Going by the media reports alone, the President probably addresses such gatherings and events about ten times a month, with massive numbers of euphoric attendants all dutifully gathered in place and kept in throngs by an attentive ring of stern security personnel.

That’s called a captive market.

The groups there normally include people such as myself, as well as other better-heeled members of society who always find reason to be in the vicinity of the President. In fact, there are some in that market who are always seeking political capital and could buy up a whole van of food to feed the thousands in order to impress them!

The Association of the Unemployed, and any other youth who is in need of profit, should simply turn all their efforts to providing mobile catering for these gatherings and, judging from the manner in which we snatched up those groundnuts and sim-sim packets, WE WILL PAY energetically!

It is amazing how much opportunity we let go by us yet it is obvious and ready. That day, the only people who really made those hours count profitably were the singers who went centre-stage before the President arrived and got thrown tips (okufuuwa), and the people selling NRM paraphernalia at the entrance, who long ago worked out that you can’t go wrong with the colour yellow at any state event.

Whereas the singers probably made enough money to pay their boda-boda or taxi fare or fuel costs back home, one of them literally had to go smiling to the bank because he even got kufuuwad by cheque – and Ushs1million at that!

The chap, Hassan Tyaba (I think) was the lousiest looking of the lot that day, 20140909_145434pitifully compared to the curvaceous and brightly-coloured Julie Angume and heavily-anchored Catherine Kusaasira, but one stanza into his vernacular, Ugandanised iliad the audience was on its feet.

He sung the story of the NRA/M and praises to the President that were miles apart from the “Museveni Abeewo” chorus the rest had taken on, and delivered such prose and meaning that he was forced back about fifteen times and attracted the Ushs1million cheque, US$500 in cash (yes – US Dollars) and perhaps another million in loose notes.

But then, we discovered, he was quite puzzled about what to do with the cheque because he did not have a bank account! And as Youth MP Patrick Nakabaale got about trying to hook the young man up with modernity, I observed that Centenary Bank had a banner erected right there in front of everyone…but this opportunity was clearly going right past them. 

Which then made me wonder: why don’t commercial banks and FMCGs and training institutions and sellers of agricultural inputs and equipment and more business people follow the President around to set up sales marketing kiosks wherever he has these thousands of people gathered, free of charge?

We all know that the crowds get to wait hours before the President ever shows up, so why don’t we take our commercial road shows there and turn opportunity into profitable reality? Wouldn’t that achieve even his own objective without having to hear “Tusaba Gavumenti Etuyambe”, and still deliver the kudos to him from both the commercial entities taking opportunity, and the people benefitting?

a public and probably sincere apology to engineer abraham byandala

Abraham Byandala

 

I Apologise To Engineer Abraham Byandala, Minister of Works and Transport in Uganda; I realise that I have been stupid and hereby regret my ways.

 
I have been waiting for Eng. Byandala to issue a clarification about the statements so far attributed to him in the Eutaw Construction case of the Katosi-Nyenga road in Mukono because they make him appear to be of diminished intellect, whereas judging from his position in society and past responsibilities, he is most certainly not.
 
In fact, I want to now apologise to Eng. Byandala because I am clearly the one who is stupid, as far as this issue is concerned.
 
Stupid because my understanding of things is so much at variance with the reasoning put forward by Eng. Byandala and the facts of the case as they have been presented by the media thus far; and since it looks as if arguing to the contrary will be more frustrating than I can bear, I concede and hereby hang up my intellectual gloves.
 
Stupid, I have checked, means, “lacking intelligence or common sense” and “dazed and unable to think clearly”.
 
I am, I re-iterate, stupid; because I meet both definitions in regard to the matter of Eng. Byandala and Eutaw Construction of Uganda: you see, I have failed to understand the logic behind his actions in the Eutaw matter, and find that his explanation as presented to his Parliamentary colleagues and the media, only dazed my befuddled mind and made me unable to think clearly.
 
Finding the initial story headlines alone too depressing to accept first time round, I went into a little denial and refused to read the stories in detail but eventually succumbed and came across those sentences of explanation quoted thus:
 
“The company directors met the President and Ssekandi in New York when he had gone to represent Uganda at the United Nations. Besides, the company had shown willingness to use its money and get paid later. So, I said, sign the contract, but continue with due diligence.” 
 
These words were attributed to Eng. Byandala, honourable member of parliament.
 
Due diligence, according to most explanations, involves investigations conducted prior to signing a contract or taking any particular act. In it’s most simplified format, due diligence is “first checking”.
 
This is where my confusion began, because – again perhaps due to my mind being so simple – I would expect that an engineer would know this and follow logic. I was first officially introduced to ‘Logic’ while studying mathematics; and I am of the belief, maybe mistaken, that mathematics is a base, essential subject for people who study Engineering.
 
Meanwhile, if my logic is faulty in determining myself to be stupid where Mr. Byandala’s statement makes sense, please blame it on my not having studied mathematics or even engineering the way he did.
 
One definition of Due Diligence even states that, “the theory behind due diligence holds that performing this type of investigation contributes significantly to informed decision making by enhancing the amount and quality of information available…”
 
Before releasing that money or signing the contract, for instance, someone could have googled Eutaw, even as far back as 2010.
 
When one does Google Eutaw the first four entries are to do with anything else before you get to Eutaw Construction. The top most entry is the Wikipedia one that states: “Eutaw (/ˈjuːtɔː/ yew-taw) is a city in Greene County, Alabama, United States. At the 2010 census the population was 2,934…” 
 
This is smaller, by population, than most villages in Uganda, but that’s not the point. The construction company is the fifth entry -www.eutawconstruction.com.
 
Nothing on their website points at the company ever having done work outside of the United States or even being interested in doing so.
 
Even the most basic first steps of due diligence would have taken the phone numbers off the site – as the media eventually did – to call and confirm that, indeed, Eutaw was in Uganda.
 
Google the names of the so-called Eutaw protagonists and you won’t find much about them on the internet either – which could raise suspicions over people managing million dollar contracts. One of them, Project Coordinator Steve Olvey, has a LinkedIn entry that outlines his duties and responsibilities on the project (titled ‘Mikono Project’ spelt like those people who make fake Chinese products) since October 2013.
 
Among his responsibilities was/is “marketing the road project to local media.” 
 
Before that, his profile says, he was Production Manager with one Avionics Interface for a year and one month, “…responsible for parts ordering and workflow management of cable assembly for the airline industry; created spreadsheets for invoice specific parts ordering and tracking…” And before that, he was ‘Operations Manager’ at Big Sky Tool Inc and Inventory Manager for The Home Depot in the US.
 
Due diligence aside, though, you should read the interview Mr. Byandala purportedly did with The Observer.
 
When, he says, suspicions arose about Eutaw, he consulted both the UNRA lawyer and the Attorney General of government “verbally”.
 
“I told him, ‘I have a small problem in my office…'” Just Ushs165 billion!
 
And, he went on, “‘Supposing we sign, will it be easy to terminate the contract?’ He said, ‘Yes, except, you can only do that in court and it may take long.’ Then I said: ‘What if we put a clause that in case we find that you are not genuine we automatically cancel the contract…?’ And he said: ‘That is enough.'”
 
Again, because I am so stupid I have never in my limited interaction with commerce dealt with any supplier, carpenter, plumber or even wheelbarrow pusher in such an intelligent manner.
 
I will continue typing out this apology while kneeling.
 
You see, Mr. Byandala is a bastion in the fight against corruption in Uganda. I have realized that he is a hero and should get a medal rather than suffer the amount of angry abuse I initially levelled at him for allowing our scarce resources to go to waste rather than into health and education.
 
(In any case, if the money had gone into an education system producing Engineers whose understanding of due diligence is so wanting…)
 
It was in this same interview that Mr. Byandala name dropped his cabinet colleagues and a few other people as being involved or behind Eutaw Uganda, and revealed that “all” insurance bonds for construction contracts are fake.
 
On top of that, he heroically named one Denis Ayo as being behind the fake contracts, “But you know Uganda, because of (his) connections, everything disappeared.”.
 
Interestingly, Mr. Byandala was guest of honour at an event a few months ago when Uganda joined CoST (the Construction Sector Transparency Initiative), which is supposed to increase transparency in the construction sector; so he doubtlessly is a champion of said transparency. 
 
I apologise to Mr. Byandala because for many years – even going back to the time he was in charge of roads or engineering or planning in Kampala under the old, ramshackled Kampala City Council, I have stupidly been campaigning for Uganda.
 
Like an idiot, I always say we have good people and good things going on in this country. I should have consulted him, a national leader and studied professional, for such all-enveloping blanket statements that discourage investment and trade with Uganda.
 
This, mind you, in spite of his comments made earlier in a ‘European Times’ interview of October 2012 where he said, “I would like international investors and partners to know that Uganda is now a great and safe place to do business, and that the government and private sector have a very productive working relationship here.”
 
In my foolishness, I even considered that he should resign from his position as Cabinet Minister since his wise and eminent statements alone could impact negatively on government funding!
 
I am so dense that I falsely reasoned that if he knew about said Denis Ayo and the fake insurance bonds as he stated in great detail to The Observer, he should NOT have told UNRA to sign before due diligence had been done on Eutaw.
 
Elsewhere, among the Byandala quotes are gems like: “In Cabinet, we discuss serious issues affecting the nation, not stupid things like this (Eutaw allegation)!”
 
There’s that word again: stupid. Like me – and most Ugandans who expected much, much better from Engineer Abraham James Byandala; and most of all, those who will be voting for him again come 2016.

a day well spent with Ugandan Youths – there IS hope!

I’m ticking today off as successful because I’ve spent a large part of it mingling with the right sort of Ugandan Youth.

Tell the truth – what image comes to mind when you read the phrase ‘Ugandan Youth‘? The truth! Tell the truth?!

uganda-youth

The first photograph on the list when I google for Ugandan Youth Images

Somebody’s dancing, right? Or has one hand raised doing something while the other cradles a drink? Or is shouting? 

Eh? Eh? Eh?

Well, the Ugandan Youth, much like any other nationality of Youth, can be found in different habitats – hostels and dormitories, nightclubs and bars, open plan offices and junior staff cubicles, dusty trading centres and hectic trade spots…they are everywhere.

They constitute possibly more than 77% of the population (until the census says otherwise) and therefore the vast majority of them can be quite annoying, irritating, irrelevant, and superfluous to any need or positive use that one can put them to.

But there are days like today that allow one to engage with enough of these boys and girls to give one hope that not all is lost.

I started off at the Hive Co-lab just below SMS Media offices, where I had agreed to moderate today’s edition of #256Talks – an ICT Developer community event at which these kids gather to do just that: talk. 

They talk officially about various industry and sector related things and use the opportunity to share experiences and learnings; and today’s session was about ‘Start-Up Myths’ (“We didn’t Fail, We are in Hibernation”).

Three young fellows turned up and shared their Start-Up experiences, but after I had talked about my own experience at SMS Media going back so many years that some of them were just beginning primary school when us guys were uploading our first SMS Keywords.

It only struck me this afternoon as I was talking that I am really much older than these fellows; not just because my shirt was extra-tight today or because of the deep-blue, striped suit I was clad in, but they couldn’t even fathom a time when there were mobile phones but no SMS messaging!

I cut short my story after a while and gave the floor over to them, and was heavily impressed with what I heard from these young, enthusiastic fellows.

Joseph KaizziJoseph Kaizzi (@jkaizzi – right in that picture on the left), of Thin Void, went first and told his story of moving from app to app, startup to startup, solution to solution. He’s still well within the youth bracket and sounds so, and I revealed to everyone how I had tried and failed to recruit him to work at SMS Media but that I was very, very happy that I hadn’t succeeded. That young fellow, it turns out, is mentoring many others – including some of the people he was on the panel with today!

This chap, as cosmopolitan as they come, has even come up with an app for those boda-boda chaps who people like me bear great ill-will towards whenever we are driving around any part of the country – and the app is in our local vernacular, too! Talk about local content (applause, applause!); plus he has been consistent in this trait all through his different ventures and enterprises.

Then came Donald Ntare Byamugisha (@Donald_Ntare), whose story is not strictly ICT-related but well-suited to the shared incubation space where we sat and the vastness of possibilities that Uganda offers to the youth who doesn’t get locked into party mode or #TusabaGavumentiEtuyambe. Donald Byamugisha

His education in BioChemistry and Management – an odd combination that President Yoweri Museveni would certainly be happy with, given his recent remarks a la Sciences vs. Arts – didn’t go to waste by getting him some job and placement in an obscure cubicle somewhere. At the start of this year, when I wrote a blog post about the lack of well-branded Ugandan detergents and soaps, I got an offer of free samples from Amagara Skin Care (to be delivered tomorrow, I am sure!) and today I pleasantly discovered that he was part of this locally-named initiative!

Joshua OkelloAnd after that came Joshua Okello (@joshuaokello – left, in the picture on the left there) of Cipher 256, whose website made me catch my breath and swear a small resolution that my own website guys, AdNotePlus, were going to have do some urgent and serious work on every site that I have a link to starting tomorrow!

Joshua started out on campus studying medicine but was quickly disillusioned because of the attitude of most medical workers he came into contact with, and went back to secondary school so he could return to do ICT-related courses.

He also had some major objectives when he joined the university, one of which was “to party”.

It paid off – the going back to secondary school part, not the partying – and he studied his ICT-related course but also became part of the team that created WinSenga and came 8th out of 72 entries into the Microsoft Imagine Cup challenge! 

More importantly, their solution could possibly save more lives than he would have if he had continued studying medicine…

Plus, they got a US$50,000 grant from Microsoft to continue with WinSenga development and he quit his job at Orange Uganda so he could focus on the app – but is paid about Ushs250,000 a month and DOES NOT PARTY UP THE US$50,000! Most other Ugandan youth, as we see in the newspapers every damn day…

Spending time with these guys was electrifying but I had to move to the next event, where I was even called “Guest Speaker” <— yeah, seriously!

The event – www.lamudi.co.ug was announcing the winner of their Lamudi Social Media Challenge; a supremely fun and engaging competition that I have somehow missed these couple of months past.

But more importantly – the entire outfit in Uganda is run by kids! Okay, again these are Ugandan Youth, but I call them kids because I have actually been in traffic with them as their parents drove them to and from schools right here in Kampala, and I was an adult!

Now, they are entrepreneurs, led by Shakib Nsubuga, running e-commerce websites that make absolute sense to anybody and everybody who has internet access under the Africa Internet Group banner, backed by Rocket Internet, an internet incubator that is a portent (positive, though) of tomorrow’s business trends:

JUMIA – for online shopping, already in Uganda

hellofood - for (cooked) food orders from serious restaurants, also already in Uganda 

kaymu – again, online shopping, ditto

AND: carmudi, easytaxi, JOVAGO & Lendico – soon to be launched in Uganda.

These kids, I was excited to note, had taken technology and applied it to everyday use to solve everyday problems. Their real estate solution, for instance, was going to save thousands of us from dealing with those smelly, unfocussed, time-wasting brokers whose minds are stuck in the 1980-1990 phase of kubuzabuza.

More than that, if I use their food ordering website rather than my usual system of sending clowns, I swear I will live longer as a result of decreased anxiety and apoplexy at getting pilao instead of prawns (Clarification: this has NOT happened – it just sounds like the type of mistake a clown would make – in any case, I am more likely to send out for pilao than for prawns).

As I said, these are the right kind of Ugandan youth to mingle with; youth who have grasped the programme by both hands, taken opportunity and squeezed benefit out of it, paid attention to what the world is actually doing, and downloaded the right torrents onto their hard drives in between drinks and parties.

There was no going home after that interaction – I HAD TO come to the office to post this in order to calm down otherwise I’d get there and harangue my maids and askari for aiming too low in life…so I’ll be doing that tomorrow instead, after daylight breaks.

‘Tupakasa’ – changing the slogan of the Ugandan youth from ‘Tuchakala’ and ‘Tusaba Gavumenti Etuyambe’

ONE of my favourite questions when meeting new, potential employees, workmates or professional associates is, “What’s your favourite TV programme?”

I don’t ask this in the spirit of my youth when it was followed up with an offer of video tape exchanges, but to establish what type of person I am about to engage in business or professional interaction with. Some confess to being addicts of thrill TV shows and others proclaim a love for comedy and music; all natural since TV is generally just light entertainment.

I’m forcing more and more of them, though, to go for business entertainment; programming that entertains while igniting one’s entrepreneurial spark. Business entertainment develops one’s business knowledge, sharpens one enterprise, inspires one to work and act better with ideas and business-related motivation.

I myself only discovered this part of life – not just TV – recently, otherwise I would have done many things very differently earlier in life. Last weekend presented a set of options as the Pakasa Forum took course at the same time as the Navio Daytime Rap concert just a kilometre apart from each other – one in a school auditorium, the other at a popular entertainment hangout. The irony of hearing that more young people went into a school auditorium than to a popular entertainment hangout during school holidays stuck with me for a while.

That morning, as I arrived at the venue – of the #Pakasa4 forum of course, I noticed that Panamera was right across the road and empty, then both tweeted and twittered lightly that some people might have spent the night at Panamera on the pretext of waiting up for #Pakasa4.

Of course there were none; all the faces I saw inside the auditorium from as early as 7:30am were avid, agog, and other such adjectives. By 8:30am the room was filling up steadily and I was gratified that I had made it – my mission was to be inspired, not by Uhuru alone, but by the youths in the room; young people hungry for inspiration in entrepreneurship and business, seeking networking opportunities, asking for knowledge, information, wisdom.

My hopes were well-met.

Even without speaking directly with many of them, I was happy to hear their views, ideas and frustrations well laid out; and overjoyed when a couple of them took to the microphone to tell us they had written books about one thing or another! One chap, Emmanuel Emodoi I heard his name pronounced as, was only twenty-six (26) years old and told us he had started out after school about a year ago with Ushs70,000 which he used to start up his own motor vehicle workshop (aka a garage).

“What?!” you mentally exclaim? So did I.

Ushs70,000 went into the premises and some motor oil, since he figured that what he needed most was good customer service and technical know how. Fast forward to #Pakasa4 and he has three (3 – SATU – TATU – ISAATU!) garages and might be going over to service a client in Nairobi, Kenya soon (NOT Uhuru Kenyatta, as far as we know).

How is that NOT inspiring, even for me?

I’ve used Ushs70,000 many times before on very many things that have not resulted in three garages employing thirty (30) people…and continue to do so.

I’m still considering a way to hunt him down so I test his method with even ten times that Ushs70,000 and see if I will have profitability to speak of a year down the road.

That’s the inspiration #Pakasa4 provided; rather than the ones who keep going on about inequality, unfairness and other ills of society.

Refreshing. 20140823_153105

So was the Kenyan President, whose ordinariness in conversation was more than balanced out by the intellectual connections he made in the room; another reason I was there – to hear a politician speak more than platitudes and pledges and promises.

I like politicians like CEOs – stressing good performance; showing urgency of delivery; expressing seriousness of purpose; placing focus on specific objectives; identifying reachable, measurable targets; paying attention to reputation; listening clearly rather than speaking loudly.

And I despair at the way, instead, some CEOs act like bad politicians – exaggerating their importance at all times, demanding for title recognition, comporting like lords, and wallowing in unaffordable excess.

 

Uhuru gave me hope that more corporate, middle-class fellows can join politics and be useful, positive, progressive, profitable, people-based, realistic, grounded…(insert more words here). Uhuru ticked all boxes as he interacted with the switched-on youth who were not drinking or doing drugs; or trying to get their photo into the papers; or rack up more Facebook likes and Twitter re-tweets; or get paid an attendance allowance.

One day, we can hope, our favourite CEOs of successful local, home-grown brands or a national President, might declare that they spent more time at such forums or watching business entertainment than at concerts, nightclubs and consuming mind-numbing thrill TV night after night.

And the youths that are the majority in this country will say ‘Tupakasa!’ instead of ‘Tuchakala‘ and ‘Tusaba Gavumenti Etuyambe‘.