Last Sunday during a chat about various irritations Uganda presents on so many levels, Peter Kagwa suggested that as a country we should go on a management retreat.
The ‘Management Retreat’ is a corporate tool commonly used to allow a team to re-assess and strategise over an issue in a fresh atmosphere of openness and deep introspection. Sometimes teams go on annual scheduled retreats at points such as the start of the year, and other times retreats are conducted over an issue if it is major enough to significantly threaten performance.
The Retreat as a beginning to solving a major national problem is much better than an earlier suggestion made by a young lady friend of mine irritated by everybody on the road between her home and workplace: “All Ugandans should just go and sit in a corner and first think about their lives!” she screamed.
Peter’s arrival at this solution was the result of years of frustration as an Events Manager with a keen eye for detail and perfection, but was exclaimed because we had spent fifteen minutes talking about the Westgate Mall in Nairobi and comparing it to Forest Mall here in Lugogo.
I have been to Westgate and need not go into the detail of its finishing and function. I could depress you all further by talking about the Levy Mall in Lusaka, Zambia – built by their pension funds body and named after former President Levy Mwanawasa. The Malls in Zambia irritate me a little bit because they are only opened to the public after full completion, they are fully occupied, properly equipped, and they are clean and neat.
Forest Mall, in comparison, is a dump – and we will talk about the others later.
I am not afraid to say this because it is true, and my lawyers trust that I cannot be sued by a half-complete building that is masquerading as a Mall.
A little of my negative feeling about this Mall is memories of pressure from the need to visit the toilet when I used to go to the Patisserie at the end. This Patisserie opened up some time last year without toilets or washrooms and has confidently gone on serving tea, coffee and food without these amenities in place. The first couple of times I went over they said “under construction” and “ready next week” and then it just became embarrassing.
Like an idiot, the third time I actually held back from asking them when they planned to open the loos, and bought a couple of things to take away instead, then I realized that doing so was actually financing the backwardness involved in having a restaurant without washrooms.
The annoyance at this place starts right at the gate where askaris pretend to search cars while actually asking for “water” and calling you “boss” and “sir”. Essentially, a terrorist is charged just Ushs500 in cash to drive in with a car bomb and gets to be called “sir” while going through.
When walking into Forest Mall itself, by the way, you have the option of walking in through the right hand side where the askaris will run a probe down your side, or a little to the left of them where they will either ignore or smile at you walking in.
It’s uncanny! Sometimes you imagine that there is a secret search mechanism that relays x-ray images to a room on the top floor of the building where high-level security agents in black uniforms sit watching computer screens. But on the top floor there is nothing but building materials being patiently put together to create the top floor!
The food at the very popular café downstairs – Simba – is very popular but sadly, I will be missing it till the disorganization is sorted out.
Should Kagwa have his way, I’m nominating the owner of this mall for a prime seat in one of the first buses heading for the retreat. Not in any of the front seats – those are for the city planners.