going to inspect aeroplane gloveboxes? avoid the wandegeya mechanic’s syndrome.


Uganda Airlines Plane
Image taken from https://www.ch-aviation.com/

A FEW Mondays ago we were laughing at a newspaper story titled, ‘MPs to visit manufacturers of Uganda Airlines planes in Canada’.

My laughter started right at the headline, then dissipated after the first paragraph when I realised that this was, indeed, the case.

The Committee Chair, Eng. Sekitooleko Kafeero, was even quoted as saying they were going to “assess if the passenger planes meet the specifications laid out in the manufacturing contract with government at the time of procurement” and to “assess value for money before the planes are delivered to Uganda”.

He even said that his honourable colleagues would be checking “if the designs conform to the industry standards and evidence of due care to the passengers.”

Confused Nick Young

Don’t be speechless.

One Coca-Cola Beverages Africa unit in Uganda last year invested US$8million in a new manufacturing line and has this year put another US$13million in another. That company invests about US$10million a year in equipment, all of which adheres to the oft-used phrase ‘state-of-the-art’. These investments are highly significant for the company, it’s staff, and the government.

See, as a result of the investments the company will churn out more products and thus aim at higher profits at the end of the year; the staff will therefore earn more money in bonuses and salaries assured over the years; and the government will collect more in taxes.

The significance of that equipment that company procures cannot be underplayed in any way.

Now, the cost of the aeroplanes might be higher than the cost of the manufacturing lines and other equipment the beverage company buys, but I do not recall any instance in which a company official had to fly out to the country of manufacture to ‘inspect production’.

In fact, at all the private companies I have been employed at, the need has never arisen for the ‘political leaders’ of the company to conduct technical inspections at manufacturing companies.

Inspection does happen, but if it is necessary it is conducted by the technical staff. And here I write “if it does happen” because most of these private companies make arrangements for the acceptance of all equipment – and goods and products – ONLY when they have been received and found to be working.

Perhaps our Members of Parliament on this Committee who are heading out to inspect aeroplane manufacture are being super-patriotic and extra-zealous. We should give them a round of applause.

They are going out there to ensure that everything that should be done during the process of manufacture is actually done. All wheels in the right place; steering wheel fixed firm; hosepipe functional and clean…it actually reminds me of my days going to Wandegeya garages and fuel stations to ‘service the car’.

My peers and I spent many Saturdays sitting around in dusty, oil-stained garage yards claiming we were servicing vehicles while chatting idly by as the mechanics busied themselves around.

Few of us ever ascertained whether the ‘brand new’ second-hand part the mechanic brought in and showed you was actually the one that went into the motor vehicle.

At their level, those Wandegeya mechanics worked out how to keep our minds at peace and any suspicions at bay. At points they would declare in dismay at the doomed situation they found on opening the bonnet, before telling you they would do their best to fix it.

After the work was done at a much lower cost than initially feared, we would pay up with relief and even tip the guys some extra for “saving” us money.

Kumbe…

Tricked

The more advanced mechanics started making it comfortable for us to sit around on the side at a distance that ensured we didn’t interfere with their work or get to see too much. They provided chairs and sodas or more, and we’d immerse ourselves in other pursuits till the cars were done.

That memory alone should help the Members of Parliament who are going on this trip. Don’t get to Canada and get the mechanic’s treatment – being bamboozled by plush hotels and nearby bars, restaurants and shopping malls, or great company that keeps you in conversation by the side away from checking that the aeroplane glove box is properly lined.

And as they prepare to go there should be another consideration: The Committee has 29 members and would be accompanied by at least one clerk – so 30 people would travel on this inspection. Average travel allowance (government) being US$700 a night, let’s estimate this to be at US$500 because Parliament is frugal.

That would be, for seven nights (two days travel either way with three days being enough to walk round a plane and poke about its innards), a total of US$105,000 if the entire Committee were to undertake this trip. That is without counting out-of-pocket, lunch and dinner, and warm clothing allowances or the cost of air tickets paid to ANOTHER airline altogether.

Without quibbling over what percentage that is of the cost of one aircraft, might the honourable legislators want to consider keeping that money and using it to fly on the actual planes themselves when the airline starts service, so they Buy Uganda to Build Uganda?

leathered up – the Ugandan way in Uganda by Uganda


I AM such a leather enthusiast that I can almost recall every genuine leather product I have owned since I was a child – which explains why I tend to keep shoes for longer than some people keep friends.

One of my most prized purchases is a rawhide-cover notebook with a popular clothing brand name that still sits in my desk drawer and accompanies me on some of my outings.

At the time I bought it, in the 1990s, the only Ugandan leather I could come across was so raw it was either wrapped around live meat walking through fields of grass or in steaming stinking piles at a yard in Kampala ready for export. Technically we couldn’t even call it leather.

When I later got involved in the Jua Kali sector by virtue of my employment at the time I spent months and months sifting through products made of cloth, cowhorn, metal, beads, soapstone and very, very few that were made of leather.

In many cases the leather ones were of the synthetic variety that didn’t seem to be linked to our cows here in Uganda.

But, slowly, we started seeing genuine leather products cropping up more and more, and priced just high enough to make one believe that they were, indeed, made in Uganda.

The leather industry picked up steam quickly after that but I just couldn’t get my hands onto any of it.

Until last year, at the Nairobi International Convention Centre, where I was attending the 20th anniversary of the East African Business Council and walked down a gauntlet of stalls offering wares made in the EAC. This was a much improved arrangement from the Jua Kali exhibitions of old.

Back then we would take up space on yards in places like the UMA Showgrounds and the KCCA field, then have the artisans pitch makeshift tents (and shacks) out of which to display and sell their products.

Here, there was more method and we felt like we were walking through ‘proper’ shops. It was impressive and comfortable, and I kept stopping wherever there were leather products, and collected the flyers and business cards of the artisans that made them. Most were from Kenya, which was good because this was the EAC and I was quite ready to support all my people.

At the end of the alley, right under the hot sun, were two young ladies who looked a little bit familiar and were quite lively in their presentation. Their products stood out more than the rest so I spent a bit more time gathering up their details.

The company or brand name ‘NaRoho’ was in Kiswahili and it was only after many minutes of chatting that I noticed that the products were actually branded ‘NaRoho Uganda’.

The young ladies, to my pleasure, revealed themselves to be Ugandan – but I had to suppress that nationalism for the wider objective for which I had crossed the border – we were East African.

So I waited till I was back home before making contact with one of them – Isabel Agol – and placing orders for things made out of Ugandan leather in Uganda by a Ugandan.

Isabel surprised me even more. Within a couple of months, I was toting around a bespoke leather laptop bag, a leather-bound notebook, and a credit card wallet all priced so affordably I couldn’t believe I had to travel all the way to Nairobi before meeting her.

Here she is working on my brand new, genuine leather steering wheel cover just a couple of weeks ago – made by her right here in Kampala, Uganda!


Once again, she did a fantastic job there!

She’s on my speed dial right now, and is making more leather products for me as I wonder what other precious products made here that I am missing out on.

For now, it’s a better thought than trying to work out why we went all those years watching those steaming, stinking piles of hides and skins in the yards in Kampala being sent to other countries where they underwent processes that resulted in expensive products coming back for us to fail to afford.

we must be nuts for not seeing these nuts


BACK when I was in an overly-publicised position in the Executive of Government, I was convinced to ‘walk the talk’ and start planting things in the ground as proof that agriculture works.

Not too far away from where I settled then is where Robert Kabushenga has made a well-publicised and genuinely admirable success of his Rugyeyo Farm.

For some reason I cannot recall, I planted cashew nut seeds in a line, hoping to form an avenue of trees, and then forgot about them. They eventually grew into impressive giants and occasionally dropped some nuts that I presume are enjoyed in some form by the people and livestock in residence.

Even though I have a daily habit of snacking on a pack of mixed nuts that include the cashews as honourable members, I honestly forgot about my trees until I was in Arusha for the East African Community Heads of State Summit some days ago.

My own ‘trail mix’ made of nuts, soya, chilli and this and that (Photo by Simon Kaheru)

One morning at breakfast the conversation turned to Tanzania’s cashew nut problem. The evening before that, after checking into my hotel, I had walked to a nearby supermarket and bought up some packs of the stuff for personal consumption and was looking forward to my snacking weeks ahead.

The crop in Tanzania has been a major source of agricultural revenue for years. Towards the end of last year, President John Pombe Magufuli issued strict instructions that none of the 200,000 tonnes of cashews from the season could be bought by private players. Only the army was allowed to buy and process cashews, then store them for export at the “right” price.

Tanzania’s crop reportedly brings in about US$500million a year, making it possibly the top forex earner there.

We talked through the issue and I learnt quite a bit then tightened my tie and hopped over to the East African Business Council offices, with my fellow Board Members, to officially launch the new location.

The Chief Guest was the Rt. Hon. Al-Hajj Kirunda Kivejinja, accompanied by a suitably heavy team of Security and Trade Ministers and Permanent Secretaries.

The most important person in the room, however, turned out to be a young man who had shaken our hands and moved to the back of the room quietly along with all the other unnamed persons holding cameras and file folders.

Shortly into the meeting the young fellow was introduced to us with his raison d’etre, and when EABC Board Chairman Nick Nesbitt stood up to speak he declared, singling me out: “Simon, are we nuts?!”

See, the young fellow, Brian Mutembei, was Chief Executive of a little-known Kenyan firm called Indopower Solutions, and had just the day before signed a contract with the Tanzanian government committing to buy cashew nuts worth US$160,000!

Forget about the value for a minute here.

The issue that Nick was exclaiming about, and that hit me square in the middle of my forehead, was that this young fellow and his team of entrepreneurs had IDENTIFIED AN OPPORTUNITY where the rest of us were simply chewing nuts.

Indeed, we surely had to be nuts! Even throughout the discussion about the cashew nut problem that morning the thought hadn’t occurred that I could put together a few people and offer to buy some of those nuts for sale in Uganda, taking advantage of our EAC status.

And that was the crux of our presence in Arusha that week – how to ensure that phrases like “The EAC integration will be people-based and private-sector led” were turned into reality.

There are thousands of other such opportunities staring us right in the face in this region but, sadly, we simply aren’t taking seeing them, let along taking advantage of them to create wealth from top (entrepreneurs and processors like Mutembei) to bottom (the farmers who grow the crops, for instance).

Where are these opportunities? In the newspapers, on social media platforms, in government office notice boards and meetings, announced at public events though embedded within sometimes boring speeches….and so on and so forth.

But we don’t see them. Instead, we tend to see the sensational, seemingly-exciting and honestly time-wasting flotsam that keeps the majority of us in a state of despair, despondency and doom about the future of this country, region and continent.

We are the wrong type of nuts!

somebody please counsel, educate or investigate these three characters


THERE are three people this week that need to be counselled, educated or investigated:

One is a 74-year old American lady resident of a United States village called Hooper, in Fremont, Nebraska; the other a Ugandan Pastor called Jimmy Mwanga of a Church called ‘Glory Rescue’ in Luuka, Busoga; and the third an online journalist called Tammy Real-McKeighan, also in Hooper.

The three caught my attention because of an online story about how “Donna Kriete is putting faith and art together for a cause,” as the first sentence read, before telling us how this lady was selling artwork to fund the church activities of Pastor Mwanga.

I am a Christian myself, and have watched the new types of churches grow and multiply over the years so I am not at all surprised by the activities of Pastor Mwanga and Donna Kriete. In fact, her monies and those of others like her could count well towards our foreign exchange inflows as a country.

I also can’t hold anything against Pastor Mwanga for finding a way to earn a living or even grow his church using these funds.

From the story online and a reading of his Facebook page, this Pastor is doing God’s work. The online story says, for instance, that: “Mwanga…was told in a dream to start a church in an area where Muslims lived and a place where witchcraft is practiced.”

This is the type of stuff that some Christians like to read.

But what we don’t like to read, and where my hackles were raised, was when Donna Kriete said: “When you go to Uganda, it’s like you’re stepping into Bible times,” adding that ‘there is no electricity where Mwanga now has two churches.’

Mind you, this Ms. Kriete came to Uganda in 2014 – the same year that the Uganda National Bureau of Statistics published this 57-page report on Luuka District (alone). In this report, available online so that characters like the journalist who half-assed that story could do some fact-checking, UBOS reports that 20% of Ugandans in Luuka use electricity for lighting.

Not only that, looking through the Facebook page of Pastor Mwanga’s Glory Rescue Ministry you can see lots of microphones and loudspeakers being put to use. Using firewood, perhaps, like in Bible times?

Those simple observations made me wonder what type of Bible Ms. Kriete reads in Nebraska that made her feel like being in Uganda is like “stepping into Bible times”.

Did this woman come to Uganda on a donkey or via an aeroplane that landed at Entebbe International Airport? Is she FROM the Bible times herself and did she undergo some deja vu when she got here?

It wasn’t confusing reading that simplistically drafted article, it was annoying. Moreso because it wasn’t written up as a casual blog post by Ms. Kriete the philanthropic artist whose childhood dream, the story says, was to be a missionary in Africa. It was a report by a journalist!

Reading the article you find it obvious that it is targeting either dim-witted people who can’t use google or dim-witted people who still believe that Africa is a jungle teeming with savages in need of civilisation.

The journalist, Ms. Tammy Real-McKeighan, seems to genuinely quote Kriete without sarcasm saying: “(Mwanga) is interested in bringing the good news to people who’ve never heard it.”

In Luuka? 28 kilometres from Iganga on the highway? 118 kilometres from Kampala?

At the point where they were talking about children having asthma and malaria, I felt that someone should make an internet for people such as Kriete and Real-McKeighan and their readers in America so that the likes of me, myself and I never get to read such things again.

At Mwanga’s Church, “Kriete met a girl named Spae who had asthma and couldn’t attend school until she was healed.”

And the journalist, Ms. Real-McKeighan, actually wrote: ‘Some might wonder why miracles occur there.’ and then published Kriete’s considered opinion that: “I think they’re desperate. They don’t have the money or the medical technology that we have here. And they just believe God and heal them and many are healed.”

Putting aside your incredulous look and the feeling that someone should be slapped in the face, wouldn’t that suggest that venturing into technology and medicine being so difficult it might be better for there to be more desperate people in the world so we just pursue vast miracle healing of diseases?

How are the authorities in the United States not arresting Kriete for something? Are they off duty because of the government shutdown?

Counselled – so they get proper legal advice; Educated – so their minds are opened to the realities of 2019 in the real world; or investigated for outright fraud because nobody can be so stupid as to fly an aeroplane into a country and drive a vehicle along tarmac roads for 200kms then say it’s ‘Bible times’.

2019: new year, new plan – no resolutions

Featured2019: new year, new plan – no resolutions

I HAVE made New Year’s Resolutions before, like an ordinary person, and broken them before, like an ordinary person.

I didn’t stop making Resolutions out of some weakness or inner strength. I just felt that too many years of these attempts needed a new approach, and so far it’s working better than the past.

My fail points, as an ordinary person, were numerous: the Resolutions themselves were difficult because they were simplistic; the process was doomed because it was scheduled yet impulsive; keeping these Resolutions was near-impossible because they were just statements with the most unrealistic timelines.

New Year’s Resolutions always reminded me of the Uganda Cranes player back in the 1990s who told my brother how their coach at the time would show up during the half-time break and tell them, while clapping one hand into the other: “Yongera mu amaanyi!” (‘Put in more energy!’)

This went on game after game and they kept losing game after game till one day they mutinied and asked him: “Naye tuwongere mu amaanyi tutya?!” (‘Exactly WTF are we supposed to do and how?!’)

See, bila mupango the ordinary person always stands little chance of getting anything done. Hence the definition of ‘implementation’ as “the process of putting a decision or plan into effect; execution.”

The ‘plan’ with New Year’s Resolutions always seemed to be: “Say words. Do things.”

Most chaps who said, “I will Drink less alcohol in the New Year” or words to that effect found themselves back down the same road.

Week One was always easy because when you are coming out of the holiday season you automatically imbibe less alcohol. There are fewer parties, there is less money, work has resumed and inconveniences alcoholic pursuits, and so on and so forth.

But if you haven’t computed how much alcohol you drank last year, you can’t tell whether the amount you are drinking in the New Year is “less”.

“I will Stop drinking alcohol” has its own issues.

I knew a guy called Daudi who pushed the envelope for about two months then found himself being sent in one general direction. Because of his new non-alcoholic schedule he started spending more time at home.

(I personally know this to be dangerous to one’s mental health if one is unprepared for it, but that’s another story that involves a meeting called by my domestic staff demanding my absence.)

See, Daudi, for instance, would find himself doing unnecessary things and getting stuck at one conclusion. One day he tackled a bouquet of flowers that had been placed in a large see-through vase of water filled only halfway.

He couldn’t walk me through the thinking process that suggested this was a problem. But eventually found he had to wipe a table and mop the floor, only to face an irate wife who couldn’t believe the flower arrangement she was taking to some bridal shower had been destroyed.

As she told him off he had one thought running through his mind: “Or I go to the bar?”

Some days later, something made him try out D-I-Y and he chose to paint part of a verandah wall. As he was buying up materials he was mentally patting himself on the back with thoughts like: “Kale, that could have been three beers.” and “Imagine! There I would have bought two Coconuts (Waragi ones)!”

Hours into the project, however, he began to appreciate the different professions that exist out there. His paint wouldn’t stick to the wall and the colour looked different from the one in the Pinterest photo. He broke down and called a painter who slapped him in the brain by asking, “Did you sand the walls?”

What was that, even?

As expected, he hung up with the thought: “Or I go to the bar?”

But he had to clean up before attempting to leave, and as he did so he found mournful thoughts in his head such as: “Kale, that could have been three beers!” and “Imagine! There I could have bought two Coconuts!”

Yeah, like any ordinary person, he was in the bar before long, appreciating the bartender’s professionalism.

If only he’d planned it, I explained, he would have stood a chance. He should have replaced his alcohol with another pursuit or set of pursuits – including flower arrangements and wall-painting, but gone at them systematically.

“See, you didn’t just go to a bar and start drinking large amounts of alcohol,” I explained to him, “It took a while for you to learn how to drink, what not to drink, how to deal with mixing alcohol and what not to mix, and dealing with the hangovers, right?”

Of course.

So, logic would have it, his plan required him to first learn the alcohol replacement activities before engaging in them – all of which would have taken enough time for him to be weaned off the alcohol consumption and being in a bar situation.

Bila mupango, nothing will happen. You need a plan in order to implement.

So all those statements that people keep making fwaaa will go nowhere and will do so very slowly because a year is LOOOONG!

And the idea behind a plan is to borrow a leaf from companies or corporate entities. None of them goes into business with the objective of “Making a profit”. <— say something like that during a job interview and you’ve failed.

Those organisations – the successful ones – go into their business year with a clear profit objective and specific targets, with plans of how to achieve them, which they employ people to carry out with frequent checks along the way to ensure they are on track.

The specificity of the targets companies set for themselves will not accept, for instance, an objective (Resolution) like: “I will Go to the Gym.” because there is no clear end result of that.

If your resolution is to go to the gym you could drive there every single day and without setting one foot out of your car, drive on to a bar nearby to find a frustrated paint-splattered Daudi.

The person who sets out to “Go to the Gym AND WORKOUT at least Two Times A Week” is more likely to attract the attention of serious people.

Companies will set targets which will be cascaded to their staff in a way that everybody gets their own individual targets that they must perform certain tasks (aka ‘work’) to achieve.

You could do the same – if your objective (again – Resolution) is to read one book from start to end every month throughout the year, in order to develop your mind and establish a book reading habit, then your spouse should be tasked with ensuring you have a fresh book every month, and the children must leave you alone for one hour every evening to do your reading as they do their homework.

These companies then ensure that they have serious managers who, in most cases, are incentivised differently from staff. The roles of the managers are many but include keeping an eye on targets, making sure the staff stay on track in the right direction so that company objectives are met, and motivating the staff.

As an individual you might not hire a manager but you could get what a close friend of mine calls an ‘Accountability Partner’ – a person who keeps you accountable, on track and somehow motivated. By the way money is not, apparently, motivation; but if you are motivated by money then give your Accountability Partner money to give you if you stay on track.

That”s like placing a bet on yourself to hit your target. I know a guy called Okello (not really but it doesn’t matter) who quit smoking because he wagered Ushs500,000 at The Junction Bar in Ntinda one night that he would do so. The guys at The Junction Bar are so widespread and have a vibrant WhatsApp group so there are few places Okello can go to and sneak a cigarette.

To make matters worse, they told his wife about the wager and added her to the supervision list. I say ‘matters worse’ because should he risk Ushs500,000 leaving their household she will kill him that day; and she has been fighting hard to make him quit smoking so…

…Okello has about 100 Accountability Partners for his no smoking objective.

The list of possibilities in implementing your New Year’s Resolutions is long and, for me, exciting because of the planning element. This year I’ve been asked to share my personal plan but my Accountability Partners (the family – who also had to do the same) are the only ones getting the actual plan in full.

The rest of you can take this as a glimpse into what someone’s 2019 could look like if they chose to plan their ‘Resolutions’. The last slide indicates some of the routines a person following this plan would have to follow.

A plan without routines makes you an aimless adult – and that’s an insult.