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?

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