ignorance is NOT bliss, get out there and play YOUR part in wiping it out

For the record, that phrase “Ignorance is bliss” is NOT justification for one to remain ignorant in order to attain happiness.
I double checked it this week and found that it goes back hundreds of years into Europe (no surprises). But it was most famously used in a poem by an old english fellow called Thomas Gray (1716-1771), titled, ‘Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College’, which carries other lines that should be of interest.
I read the entire poem after encountering a concentration of incidences where people displayed ignorance quite blissfully, particularly about Uganda and the continent of Africa in general; and worse, many Ugandans and Africans respond with blissful ignorance to what is going on around us.
In Gray’s poem, the phrase actually reads, in full, “No more; where ignorance is bliss, ’Tis folly to be wise.”
But, wrote the poet Gray in the same poem, “Alas, regardless of their doom, The little victims play! No sense have they of ills to come, Nor care beyond today…”
That was because he is talking about how young children are so happy simply because they don’t know much of the world…yet.
My incidents these last couple of weeks in which people displayed such stark ignorance with bright bliss occurred mostly on the internet, which is dominated mostly by North Americans and Europeans (led by the President of Spain who invented #SpainIsNotUganda).
Many of them actually believe that this continent is just as it was back before the 1800s when the first white man arrived to deliver the savage from pestilence and death in the jungles. Their understanding of this continent is infantile, and most simplistic.
The internet queen of blissful ignorance had to be Jessica Tidwell, the wife of a missionary who came along with her husband to Kenya to save the savages.
Her blogpost ‘It Didn’t Happen Like I Thought It Would’ took our little world by storm because of her stated expectations and how they were not met.
“Today was going to be the day that I fell in love with Kenya,” she began, but after her narration ended with, “So, did I fall in love with Nairobi today? No. But I fell deeper in love with a God who uses all the things, including the safe and affluent, to change my heart.”
You see, she boarded a plane to Kenya expecting to land in the jungle amid welcoming emaciated, dancing savages warding off lions and diseases, but on that first day she found herself in a shopping mall just like any in her homeland, where fat people (including white Americans) were buying mayonnaise.
“My heart was prepared for dirt floors. For dirty laundry hanging everywhere. For kids that were half naked and covered in bug bites. People who couldn’t speak English,” the poor girl lamented.
The Kenyans, shame on them for disappointing her so vastly, eventually helped her with her mission and provided some poor Africans for her to help, and the rest of her other blog posts she returns to her normal mode where she says Africans selling their wares are “desperate” to make a sale, as if Walmart and Macy’s and all the American stores are NOT desperate to make sales when they advertise and market their wares.
Luckily for Kenyans, their society is quite quick to respond in these instances, and within a matter of hours they had converged on her blog and soundly told her (and any American who held similar ideas and was drawn to that blog) off for being so blissfully ignorant.
But those who do not respond to these people to educate them are somewhat as blissfully ignorant, and unfortunately the majority of us, Ugandans, are on that list of blissfully ignorant themselves.
The other incident online to which we did not respond was an article posted by Comedienne Judith Lucy of Australia who came to Uganda under an Action Aid programme a while back. The general article is alright, as usual, but my hackles rose when I read, “I never stopped feeling white and lucky while I was there. I never got the hang of squat toilets and despite the lashings of sun cream I basically got around looking like a beetroot and smelling of urine but I was also struck by similarities; I had conversations with women about boys and hair.”
Judity Lucy All Woman
Never got the hang of squat toilets? Okay, I sympathised with her on that one, but the conversations with women about boys and hair should not have been a surprise, since our women are as human as Australian women. If one went to a zoo and had conversations with female species there about anything, it would have been worth mentioning, but this?
Well, she went on, “I could talk about the woman who was set on fire or the one who had her back broken because she refused to have unprotected sex with her HIV-positive husband. It’s hard to really appreciate the suffering of these people when we are so removed from them in every way.”
What nonsense! A Google search about domestic violence in Australia revealed a paper published by the Parliament of Australia that actually reads, “We do know, however, that domestic violence in Australia is common and widespread. We know that a woman is more likely to be killed in her home by her male partner than anywhere else or by anyone else…”
That study quotes an Australian Bureau of Statistics survey done in 2005 (the most recent they have – http://www.domesticviolence.com.au/pages/domestic-violence-statistics.php) that found that: a) almost 500,000 Australian women reported they had been physically or sexually assaulted in the last 12 months; b) more than one million women in Australia had experienced physical or sexual assault by their male partners; and more.
The statistics for Uganda in 2007 put the figure of domestic violence victims between 60% and 70% in 2007, and in Australia it was about 64%.
(Take time off to read both:
Yet Madame Lucy there found that the domestic violence situation in Uganda is “so removed” from that of Australia!
This is where we are supposed to jump in with our comments, all Ugandans, to help rid these people of claims of ignorance, and shake them out of their ill-attained bliss.

In a third incident, an American was arrested for getting involved in some scam – NOT as a victim, but as a willing participant – which the internet announced as ‘Northern Michigan man used as accessory in Uganda Internet Scam’.

Very few of us responded to protest the labelling of the scam as “Ugandan”, allowing those who read it to think we have a national claim to whatever fraud it was, yet it involved a Ugandan woman AND an American man.

Making comments at the end of these articles and blogs is free and takes only a few seconds.

To quote another great man, besides Gray, “emancipate yourselves from mental slavery…” and go to the internet, read these articles and blogs, then make your comments so that the ignorant people cease to be blissfully so.

Of course, it would also help if we all did our jobs better so that there are fewer shacks, better hospitals, better roads, more serious education, and respectable leadership.

But in the time being, stop being silent; silence simply fuels this ignorant fairy tale of savages in the jungle dying violently of pestilence and disease.

For you and I ignorance is not bliss. Instead, think of the line, ‘The little victims play! No sense have they of ills to come, Nor care beyond today.’

a worthy story to share with all youth – in Uganda and beyond

We spend a lot of time listening to speeches in Uganda – which wouldn’t be bad at all if most of them were like the one below.

This isn’t the first time I’ve read Patrick Bitature’s speeches (including the one below) and certainly not the first time I’ve felt the urge to share them.

Enjoy reading this, but more importantly, share it with everybody you know who has not yet started out in the real world…and some who already have:



I will share with you my life story.

I was born into a reasonably well-off family. My parents worked for the EAC, so we had lived in Kenya and Tanzania. We had drivers and many privileges that I took for granted. We owned property, farms, buses, and cars.

When I was 13 my dad was brutally murdered by the Idi Amin regime. My Dad died at the age of 44, just as I began to really know him and admire him as my true hero. I really loved him so much. I was so devastated and shocked..…words cannot describe. It was the most heart wrenching experience.

Not only were we robbed of a father and bread winner. Everything material we had was taken overnight. All the material things we had were all gone in a flash. Taken.

Riches to rags doesn’t begin to describe what we went through. It was moments like these that I felt God had indeed forsaken us. Father Grimes of Namasagali college took me in with my siblings school fees or not for the next few years

The turning point in my life was about a year later, on the day when the family sat down on a mat, not a dining table, to have tea without Sugar for the first time. My mother insisted we just get used to it and drink the tea. Then my youngest brother started crying for Daddy. Then my mother who had 6 children by the age of 30 started crying too. Hysterically. And asking God to come and take us all. Then I felt a big lump in my throat.

That night I was on the Akamba Bus to Nairobi to look for some sugar. I returned the next day with a suitcase full of sugar – 15 kgs. I got the extra from concerned relatives that realised a 14-year old had come all the way to Kenya just for sugar. Traveling that far in those days was unheard of. It was like going to Syria today. Communication was hardly there. Crossing the border was scary but no one suspected a young kid to be smuggling sugar in a school suitcase. When I got back home there was so much delight and happiness. My mum hugged me. I automatically realized that I was no longer a boy. I had become a man. That one act had re-defined me. The neighbors heard on the grapevine that I had brought sugar and almost begged to buy some. So we sold them half, and got 4 times what it had cost. And I was on the bus back to Kenya for another suitcase of sugar…and so my career began.

Do you know what it is to live without a Door lock on the front of your house, or not to have a bathroom door that actually closed? That is the loss of Dignity. I had to restore our dignity, and family Self Esteem.

Do you really know the Importance of jobs to society?

After 6 years in senior school, and 3 years at Uni, if you then spend the next 3 years looking for a job, knocking at so many doors and walking till the soles of your shoes are gone. With your now tattered CV in your hand. Your self esteem will no doubt diminish.

I encourage many of you to go out there and start up a business that creates jobs.
We need young people who will find a creative idea or a solution to a problem, grab the opportunity, take the risk, and set aside or postpone the comforts of today by setting up a businesses that will provide jobs and profit for tomorrow.

Jobs are what allow people to feel useful and build their self-esteem.

Jobs make people productive members of the community.

Jobs make people feel they are worthy citizens.

It is you the youth of today that go into business with knowledge and skills that have the power to harness the creativity and talents of others to achieve a common good. To put labor, capital and other factors of production to work.

This should make Uganda more competitive and a useful member of the greater East African region.

Let me make it clear to you all: Job creation is a priority for any nation to move forward.

I say to you, get a job if that’s the best option open to you, for not everyone can start a business. Take the job and work as hard as you can. Learn everything these companies can teach you-and build a network of contacts and friends, then leave whilst you still have the energy!

If you dream of creating something great, do not let a 9-to-5 job – even a high-paying one – dull you into a complacent, comfortable life. Let that high-paying job propel you towards building a business for yourself instead.

Looking back, I have succeeded where many have failed mainly because of hard work, persistence, focus on my set of goals, discipline, honesty, taking responsibility for my life and believing that I could change my future.

It was a time of dog eats dog. No, even man eats dog. And I had to find a way to support myself and my family. You are beginning as Uganda’s oil is about to flow.

I started by selling sugar, then shirts then ladies dresses, then shoes, then a Night club, foreign exchange, then mobile phones and airtime.

Ever since, I have tried to provide a service or product that is needed by a customer for a fair return.

And I realised that I got a lot of satisfaction in providing the service or that product period. Making a profit was simply the bonus that followed most of the time.

I set up Simba Tours and Travel, Simba Forex Bureau, Simba Telecom Ug, Simba Telecom in Tz with Vodacom, Simba Telecom in Kenya with Safaricom, invested in property, Hotels, Energy generation, Farming, Micro Finance banking, Media, Insurance and transport.

Today I stand here before you with humility, as the Chairman UIA, Chairman of a listed company -Umeme, with thousands of Ugandan shareholders, an advisor to H.E. the President, Honorary counsel for Australia to Uganda.

But most importantly I employ over 1500 staff today.

It was only when I had gained more experience and built my reputation, that I could borrow money from the banks and get into serious property and bigger business.

That’s the Simba story. From selling 5 kilos of sugar to the neighbors to becoming the biggest mobile money and airtime dealer in Africa

When I had shown success in the smaller businesses, I was able to raise money in the capital markets-through IPOs like we did for New Vision, National Insurance Company and recently for Umeme. And I have managed to develop some complex, capital-intensive businesses like ElectroMaxx the power generating company.

It’s not been easy; it’s been slow, but sure. One day at a time, one brick at a time. You, however, have time on your side. Use it well. And don’t be afraid to make a few mistakes along the way.

From kindergarten through to university, you learn very few skills or attitudes that would ever help you start a business. Skills like sales, networking, creativity and being comfortable with failure or rejection.

In fact you are taught not to make any mistakes. Mistakes are the best teachers if you learn the lesson and don’t repeat them.

No business in the world happens without someone buying something. But most students learn very little about sales in school or university

Moreover, very few businesses get off the ground without a wide, vibrant network of advisers and mentors, potential customers and clients, quality vendors and valuable talent to employ.

You don’t learn how to network crouched over a desk studying for multiple-choice exams. You learn it outside the classroom, talking to fellow human beings face-to-face. I commend MUBS for their different approach to this crucial training, it’s begun to pay dividends..

I must now end by wishing all of you good luck and may you be the future that transforms our beloved motherland Uganda.


On Twitter, he is @patrickbitature.

it’s no wonder some of these youths are unemployed

I opened a joke book at random after a long time the other day and read the very appropriate quip: “We have enough youth – how about a fountain of smart?”
It was very appropriate because I had just turned to reading jokes to lighten my mood after reflecting on a brief but telling argument I had had with some youths.
The genesis was a photograph somebody tweeted, of four young Ugandans seated at a bus stop over a caption that suggested that they were unemployed and had no option but to start the day out early pondering what to do. Because each of the youths in the photo had ear phones plugged into their ears and presumably mobile phones at the other end, I was a little less sympathetic and said:
“With those phones? They should sell them and do agriculture. Send some to me. #unemployed”

Unemployed 1

You see, the week before, I had resumed work on a small agricultural project that kept getting frustrated by chaps who started out begging for work but eventually developed a complacency that made them incapable of even growing their own food for sustenance.
If there were some fellows sitting helpless at bus stops, and I had land sitting helpless and untilled, then the calculation was obvious.
As happens quickly these days, someone responded within minutes…
“ok now your joking right…which agriculture,   which land,   which money (from phones?) Be…”

Unemployed 2

We have learnt, on Social Media, to ignore irritating sentence construction and punctuation, so I let those aspects pass, but then somebody else launched in with:
“Doing Agric isn’t rewarding anymore. E.g, are you informed that a bunch of Antoine goes for just 2000 in the villages?”

Unemployed 3

The ‘Antoine’ must have been a typing error, but I considered that these fellows should have taken that information to conduct some trade by finding market for whatever Antoine is and making a neat profit off it
But they went on:

Unemployed 4

These submissions came from the twitter handle @UnemployedUG, and flabbergasted me. I have a separate set of thoughts about how the youth are generally supposed to be highly intelligent and useful, and I will share that when appropriate; remember these thoughts when I do.
I waded through social media tidbits to establish why this person (these people) believed they needed one acre, and why that acre would require so much money, but my search was as fruitless as their apparent thought processes.
“Why start with a one-acre farm? #inexplicable” I asked, and followed up in some irritation: “stop whining and start thinking.” Irritation because everywhere I look these days I find characters claiming to be youth needing help, and otherwise sensible people falling over themselves to accommodate them. It’s called mollycoddling, the way these so-called youths are given political attention in this country, and they are lapping it up like cats with mincemeat.

Unemployed 5
Unemployed 7

The ‘start thinking’ part was to get them to really think. Doing agriculture does not mean one must “start with” one acre. Every week the newspapers do a special pullout on agriculture that by now some of these youths should have come across.
Not the unemployed ones on Twitter, though.
“We’ve gone past that whinning phase. We; @UnemployedUG are thinking, thinking realistically not theoretically.” they wrote back. Then added, in response to my query about the one acre: “I used an acre because it’s a standard unit of land. Otherwise, you too know that 25m isn’t enough to even buy that piece of land.”

Unemployed 8 Unemployed 9

In danger of harming my forehead due to excessive frowning, I continued the discussion with, “again, think harder. It depends where you want to buy land.”
Unemployed 10
They explained their 25million-a-shilling-acre location preference thus: “Any serious entrepreneur would only establish where market can be accessed. There, land & other factors of prodn are that expensive.”
Unemployed 11
Thinking realistically, of course.
The discussion elsewhere, meanwhile, had some other youths agitating for jobs.
So I wrote, “Again: Send me some #unemployed youths please?”, and one @2017AfterM7 responded with, “address please…I have 10 if them.” (ignore the grammar).
One @BrianAtuheire joined in with, “how many do you need and which professions I have many tell me by Monday they will be on your office door.”
Unemployed 12 Unemployed 13
And I responded hopefully with, “IT, Agriculture & Comms. Send as many as poss. Only the competent will be employed if they pass.” and added, “Even if you have 1,000 I will only employ the competent ones.”.
One @doreen_twine also joined in to ask if she could come along, and @UnemployedUG piped up with, “How about the DM? We would like to meet and discuss it further with you?”
But one tweep, @Henriexxx, who seemed to know these pals quite well, said in exasperation: “and take this NO where…!”
She was correct.
Monday came and went.
None of them emailed me. None of them sent me a Direct Message. None of them sent me an SMS or WhatsApp. They didn’t even remember enough to tweet about it on the day.
Either they found jobs for their people and the unemployment problem was solved, or it’s no wonder those youths are unemployed, what with the way they operate.
And I am still recruiting, but only competent, serious people.