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?!
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 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.
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!
And 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!
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.