go for that matching grant facility, but first read the small print!


You’ve got to focus on the “Matching” part and put in some cash of your own. Photo by Simon Kaheru.

THE first time I heard about the Matching Grant Facility* was at the end of a breathless tirade by one of my Non-Executive Directors who was at risk of a heart attack because a potential investor from Denmark had just pulled out after six months of discussions, negotiations and due diligence.

We had done everything within our powers except win their full confidence – our financials were perfect, our audits were clear, our operations had been streamlined and our processes were documented and simplified.

But the Groom left us standing at the Altar with a bouquet of flowers. Luckily for us, we didn’t have a throng of invited guests seated quietly behind us humming along to the celebratory hymns and remarking on our wedding dress – but we were still warm in the cheek with the feeling of being jilted.

So when this Director fell upon the announcement that we were eligible for the Matching Grant Facility of the CEDP (Competitiveness Enterprise Development Programme) of the Government of Uganda and the International Development Association (IDA) of the World Bank he almost lost his mind.

We could have easily joined him because of all the abbreviations involved and the nervous tick he developed between his discovery and the time he burst into the office to tell us about it.

We calmed him down after a while and went to the internet to establish how eligible we were and what we could do to qualify and, indeed, there was a lot right down our aisle: Management Training (we needed that); Marketing support (who couldn’t do with more of that, including the giants in this economy?); Record keeping (that was always a sore thorn even as we courted the Danish runaway Groom); Finance (are you kidding me?!). The list was even longer, and included the Acquisition of Quality Certification Systems; Business Plan Preparation; and Production Techniques.

We spent hour upon hour brainstorming before focusing on the “Matching” part of the MGF.

That was the game-changer. We hadn’t spent so much time, effort and even money on the Danish potential investor because we were doing extremely well and wanted to share profits with anyone else. The business was difficult at the time and we were in dire straits.

So this option of a Grant appeared to be a rich potential husband stepping up to take over.

Not at all, the documentation said. This was a business partner seeking to bring in resources to MATCH what we had but for our benefit – purely for our own benefit.

We dropped the idea, as a business, but I have since kept a keen eye on the Facility because I suspected it would generally be successful in some cases and it would be important to either stay or become eligible for enough time to put an enterprise on the shelf to enjoy this relationship.

The path to eligibility is not easy but every religion advises us daily to avoid the easy paths because they lead to ruin – and life proves this in every field we attempt.

From the simple things like ensuring your business is properly registered and maintains clear records and complies with tax and pension requirements, besides all the other statutory regulations out there, we learn that there is value in toeing the line.

The line items that the Matching Grant Facility supports make a radical change to one’s business regardless of how simple they appear on the surface.

Today I work for a company involved in producing and distributing beverages, and one of our main advantages is our strict adherence to quality, processes and structure.

Back then, in my private company and working with friends in the Small, Medium Enterprise struggle, even without applying for the CEDP MGF of the PSFU under the WB* (that arrangement of abbreviations always tickles me!) we benefitted.

See, we studied those documents for so long and so seriously that we began to adhere to some of the requirements because they were obviously important to people who were interested in developing SMEs like we were.

And it paid off in many ways!

At some point we discussed over lively refreshments how much more it would have paid if we HAD gone ahead and applied after making all those changes – but by then our boat had sailed…or, to stick with the analogy, the Priest had gone and the rings had been returned.

There were other businesses that benefitted, and I have watched them carefully ever since.

Close to 300 (284, to be near-exact) Small and Medium Scale Enterprises have benefitted from this fund, with US$2million dished out amongst them, which means US$4million (a rough estimate) has been injected into these businesses in a manner designed to grow private enterprise in Uganda!

Speaking to the people inside the organisations last month gave me even more accurate figures: “The MGF has to-date re-imbursed 107 activities in Agribusiness with grants of US$627,970; 39 activities under Fisheris with US$192,149; 52 activities under ICT/BPO (Information Communication Technologies/Business Process Outsourcing) with US$657,161; and 101 activities in Tourism worth US$501,872,” wrote one official.

Did you notice the use of the word “re-imburse” there?

That was the last straw that broke our camel’s back when we were considering the MGF in those old days of mine. But now that I know, believe me I am planning to accumulate the necessary funds in advance so I can one day successfully apply for the Matching Grant Facility and spur business forward at a much faster pace than I ever could on my own.

Who says private sector is impossible to manouevre? Only people who don’t read the small print.

*The Matching Grant Facility (MGF) is a component of the Competitiveness and Enterprise Development Project (CEDP) , financed by Government of Uganda/ World Bank and implemented by the Private Sector Foundation of Uganda (PSFU).

it’s not witchcraft, Uganda is blessed…gifted by nature!


Maggie, Conrad, Simon & Reynado next to the trophy
Coca-Cola officials welcome the FIFA World Cup Trophy and prepare to take it off the jet onto the tarmac at Entebbe International Airport.From Left: Maggie Kigozi, Conrad van Niekerk, Simon Kaheru & Reinaldo Padua

IF I write or speak about anything other than the FIFA World Cup Trophy this week I will be cheating an entire country – Uganda. We may not have won the actual Trophy yet, but we certainly came top when it came to displaying passion, discipline, orderliness and relating love to the sport called football.

These little victories count on their own, even though the bigger ones like winning the actual Tournament and bringing that Trophy home would weigh way more in value than its dollar equivalent on the open market.

First of all, I won’t mention Coca-Cola too much in this so that I avoid a conflict of interest around my regular employment and this apparent public service and because by now you all know for sure who is ferrying that Trophy around the World.

If I hadn’t had a link to the company I would certainly have been in the running to join the social media “influencers” who went to South Africa to ride along with the Trophy on its dedicated plane.

It wasn’t necessary – I got to bask in the glory of the trophy right here in the warm and wet tropical climes of Uganda – starting on the plane that ferried it here. More importantly, as the President happily said when he was unveiling the Trophy and sending it off on its merry tour of the Pearl of Africa, everybody in the world saw and enjoyed the beauty of Uganda because of this Trophy.

From my close proximity vantage point I can confirm that the excitement in Uganda outshone that in most other countries. At the Kampala Serena Hotel I was tickled to see a lady bringing her children in their school uniform to take photographs next to the pull-up banners set up for the evening event. She had gone through loads of traffic to do this, and had no intention of asking for tickets to the event. They took their photographs and left for home – happy and excited to have been part of this in some small way!

Felicity George, the FIFA Partnerships Manager, said this quite clearly to us when she arrived at the Company Plant in Namanve. She was quite taken aback to see so many staff wearing their Uganda Cranes t-shirts and lining up in an orderly manner to take their photographs with the Trophy.

She spoke to a few of them and they were quite clear about their love for their country and the sport we call Football. She was impressed – out of all the countries she has visited on the Trophy Tour, she said, only Ugandans turned up in their national football colours!

We did well there all through, Ugandans – right from Entebbe Airport and on the roadside.

Taking the Trophy to the Plant for the company staff to enjoy its presence was a touch apart from what happened everywhere else in the world; more heart-tingling was the procedure the Managing Director insisted on – giving priority to the staff of Plastic Recycling Industries and Rwenzori Bottling Company first, and ensuring no hierarchical methods were used to manage the queues.

All through, the FIFA Security chaps in charge of the Trophy were thoroughly excited by the traditional dancers and their varied display of dances. One of them, on the second day, asked me why the dress and dances were so different and gave me the opportunity to explain how many cultures we had in Uganda and part of our history.

The FIFA World Cup Twitter account has about six million followers, and the World Cup itself was viewed, in 2014, by more than three billion (3,000,000,000) people! Imagine if just one percent of those, following this trophy, took up an increased interest in Uganda’s cultures?

The realisation that the Trophy Tour had turned so many eyeballs onto Uganda for those two days caused one fellow at State House to quip, “Eh! How many other things can we bring to Uganda so that we do this?!”

He got the point quite quickly when he noted how excited everyone was at all levels to take photographs with the Trophy.

President Museveni himself walked into the room so early that he took most by surprise, and then gave the Trophy and its attendants so much time and prominence that there was a full photo session on the stairs of State House for the staff and media to enjoy – which HE set up on his own.

Those staff and media, and all other Ugandans who took photographs with the Trophy, number close to ten thousand or so people. Now, if each of us uploaded our photographs to the internet with a positive comment about the country and an inviting message, imagine how much support that would give to the efforts of the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) and the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA).

Even our Uganda Managing Director, Conrad van Niekerk, was taken aback at the energy levels generated by the Trophy. He was Managing Director in Ghana back in 2010 and when the Trophy visited that country he didn’t see them exhibiting such celebratory measures or turning out in national colours even if THEY WERE PARTICIPATING IN THE WORLD CUP FINALS!

“Uganda is simply amazing!” he kept remarking, at every step of the Tour.

If we all tell our tale of how marvelous Uganda was – even during those two days – believe me the benefits would be mind-blowing. The FIFA crew declared us to be blessed, for instance, because they could not understand how their plane left Cape Town an hour late but managed to land in Entebbe earlier than scheduled!

Then, every time the weather seemed set to destroy the events here, everything just went on smoothly; on one day when the trophy was at Century Bottling Company and being set up a drizzle started and clouds formed to the backdrop of climatically induced rumbling but everything changed as soon as the EmCee announced Conrad’s welcoming speech.

The clouds seemed to draw back as he walked up centre and raised the microphone to his mouth, and the EmCee laughed and accused someone there of engaging in witchcraft.

It’s not witchcraft. Uganda is blessed. We are gifted. By Nature.

perseverance: apply for everything all the time


LAST year I met a most amazing fellow who chose to settle in Uganda after getting here by way of more work, money and experience than the vast majority of us will ever know, living an existence that the vast majority of us almost cannot stand.

Paul Anderson would confuse the average Ugandan. When I met him he was dressed as casually as a backpacker and toting the type of bag and envelopes that make most be-suited, neck-tied Ugandans roll their eyes and look the other way to avert requests for jobs and other favours.

A few minutes into our conversation I began to notice that he was quite different, and probed further. His story is really, really long and fascinating – including the millions of United States dollars he has made over time versus the choice he has made to live a life that costs a couple hundred dollars a month in various parts of Uganda that many of you struggle to avoid.

His entire life story is not the subject of what triggered these particular thoughts; there was one bit of our discussion that morning that returned to me last week when a young lady I admire posted a tweet that deserves a lot of attention.

Paul Anderson is an author and philosopher, having studied life in a very deep manner. I am still on standby to get involved in one of his projects, and left him that day with many thoughts bouncing about in my head.

One of these was his astonishment at the lack of energy among some of our youth and the need to make them realise it.

In one example, he told me of an otherwise intelligent and seemingly capable young lady he met who was in despair at having failed to secure a job a couple of years after completing her university degree. She had studied a banking-related course and was eager to work in a bank at some level.

Paul asked her how many applications she had put out and her response was, something like, “About six.”

“In two years?”

She confirmed so. See, she explained, the banks she applied to were simply not responding or giving her the job(s), and the others hadn’t advertised any.

He was unsympathetic. She could have applied to three times that same number and still didn’t deserve sympathy, he said.

If she really wanted to work in a commercial bank, he told her, what she needed to do was to list all the commercial banks and financial institutions in Uganda and then apply to ALL of them. After doing so, she needed to run a time-table and visit each and every one of the banks to secure personal audience with a manager and ask for a job.

“With a degree in hand, the right attitude and the right amount of persistence, even if nobody offered her a job they wouldn’t chase her off outright,” he reasoned. After that, he said, she needed to write them a follow-up email, wait a few months, and then go back to ask again.

With all the commercial banks in Uganda, she needed to pester them consistently using her time table until one of them gave in and offered her something – anything!

That approach has stayed on my mind for a while and I believe it could work more times than fail – especially since it involves slogging until success is achieved. Just two weeks ago I wrote the big word “Perseverance” on the blackboard of a classroom of wide-eyed eight-year olds, then explained it to them.

Hence my stop-and-think-hard-then-applaud-loudly reaction last week when @Kemi_stry – full name Kemiyondo Coutinho – tweeted:

“I apply for something every week. Yup. Every week. Now think of how many things I announce that I have actually gotten. I hustle for more than I receive. As it should be. You never know which one is the door. So keep trying that key in all of them.”

No wonder, I thought to myself, she does so well.

I have only met her properly once, in circumstances I cannot go into right now and trust she won’t ever tell anyone about (Madamoiselle/Madame/Boss – PLEASE DO NOT!), but I have interacted with her online for a long, enjoyable time.

She is in the business of Creative Arts and Entrepreneurship and is on a roll right now. Last week, her short film “Kyenvu” won the Best Narrative Short Film Award at the Pan African Film & Arts Festival 2018!

She is teaching the world the meaning of the Luganda word “kyenvu” (google it!) – which puts Luganda up there on the list of languages being used globally to describe colours and emotions and milkshake flavours. I have proof – the word now exists on http://www.imdb.com, the website where all movies of note get listed.

Thanks to @Kemi_stry and her team, there is a whole cast of Ugandan names up on that site as well, together with Ugandans who produce, direct and score movies to global standards!

I haven’t yet watched “Kyenvu” but I can tell that it tackles important themes squarely – sexual harassment – and raises one’s attention to subliminal ones – such as race issues in our settings.

I am not surprised that “Kyenvu” is winning awards because @Kemi_stry is that type of go-get-em person. Once, in the past, we had a very short conversation about her joining the national broadcast system. The discussion was understandably very, very short due to the candid but positive approach we both seem to take most times.

She went her merry, determined way, persevered, and today, in the age of the “Black Panther”, she has the world at her feet and is choosing what colour to make it.

farewell, lyrical soldier #RIPMowzeyRadio #RIPMozeyRadio #RIPMoseRadio #RIPMosesRadio


AS usual, I am playing a Radio and Weasel song.

Today it’s for a very, very sad reason and I am playing every single one of their songs that I have in my collections – legal and pirated alike. It is going to take me hours, they have so many!

I even found myself going back to Facebook to post a message to my wall rather than rely on my weekly auto-posts from this blog.

#RIPMowzey FB Update

(The wrong things about this death are so obvious I don’t feel like getting into them here and now.)

It’s been more than a decade since these young men burst into our ear drums to get our feet shuffling, hips swaying and mouths twisting in pretence that we could actually say those lyrics the way they did.

It didn’t matter what song they belted out, it HIT. I can almost trace events and people over the past ten or so years by what Moses Radio & Weasel (oba Mowzey & Weasel) song I was listening or dancing to at the time.

And that’s another thing about the Goodlyfe Crew that bugged me and I had made a note to one day fix – their atrocious spellings. It always irked me that they were not at all bothered by the spellings that came up around them – Mose and Moze and Moses or Weasle and Weasel and Wizzo…

I liked them so much I ignored that and always stayed true to the beat.

I was living and working briefly in Germany when they dropped Zuena while that other Nigerian guy had a similar sounding tune rolling at the same time, but my choice between the two was quite simple to make because of phrases like, “Ku lukalala abakwegomba, Zuena ndi namba emu; ku counter y’omutima gwange gw’ali mu namba emu! I miss you, you, you should get some time ne twogerangamu. Lin’ekkomera bwonsibidde temuli kalungi n’akamu!”

To this day, I have Bread and Butter on ALL my gym and jogging playlists – and I thank those boys for that melody buli daily.

“Sweet, baby olinga butter ku mugaati; olinga enkuba etonya ekiro ku mabaati!” <— hands up if you have ever used that to tune someone?

Radio Hand Up
(Borrowed from djkanji.com)

Shortly after that Radio used the word, “dinisa” and my stomach developed butterflies of nostalgia. People don’t talk like that any more!

Speaking of tuning, did you hear Dudu and those bits that will hands-down melt the hardest of hearts?

I hear, “Come let’s go dancing in the rain; my Dudu! Dudu, your like the air that I breathe! Dudu, you’re like water, Dudu you’re my life…!”

Then: “…Something about your face that can never be forgotten…you de make me feel defeated!”

Get Amaaso and try it out on your love interest then report back here to tell me.

“Ag’amaaso? Ag’amaaso go gali nsuul’ekiggwo! Amaaso go gankuba ng’omugo. Bw’enebaka ndoota ng’amaaso go gegamez’omuddo! Olulala nakulaba nga ntambula ne nneetega…”

I mean!

In Kuku: “Girl I’m singing this song about you; got something I’ve been wanting to tell you: njagala kuwandika linya lyo ku pillow; njagala kuwandika linya lyo ku njuba!”

Try singing that while dancing and there is no way the rhythm will elude you, walahi!

And by the time you break out into: “You are sweeter than Kuku! You’re the salt in my soup-u! Girl, you are sweeter than Kuku!” your deal is sealed for sure – think of the red hearts in their video of this song and just smile at his cheeky look as the lyrics flow out.

Even in real life he was cheeky, and funny – the few times I interacted with him. I only saw him once in the daylight, so you can imagine how merry everyone was (in my experience) around him.

In every one of their songs with romantic lyrics he had the fun, naughty and catchy lines and outshone his partner but there was never a hint of bad blood all through the years.

It certainly helped that he had this voice that conveyed the electricity flowing through his wire thin body, opposite Weasel’s gruff voice and buff-ish look. The name Radio made absolute sense when he started singing like that.

If you’ve ever made a dance mixtape or played a party you know full well the impact of punching in a Radio & Weasel intro to make the dancefloor know they are coming up.

The entire house normally goes electric, frantic, frenzied and in dance paka chini kesho subuhi mode.

“People are you ready?” as in Magnetic is enough to make people lose their minds in agreement – any day, any where…except today. We were not ready for Moze Radio to go like this.

The Goodlyfe duo had it going for them, wabula. Uganda Telecom used them for just Talk and Talk and people thought MTN was finished!

“They will talk but they can’t do the walk. Like Michael Jackson I’m a master of my moonwalk…” he sang, reminding me of how sad we felt when MJ went.

“Ebyange byenkola Mukama yandagilila! N’amanyi saffuna ago manyi gabalwanyisa Kambikwase… kambikwase… Almighty!”

Now he’s gone to the Almighty, joining his brother AK47, with whom they did Jah Guide

At some point I even hoped they would get a national medal of sorts for putting Uganda on a very good map – https://skaheru.com/2013/07/07/radio-weasel-jotham-musinguzi-you-are-true-ugandan-heroes/

Their reach went far and wide – they ruled Kenyan dancefloors with all their songs even before Amani teamed up with them on Kiboko Changu; I danced to them in Zambia on many a night even before they had met General Ozzy to redo Potential.

Speaking of which, that boy had Potential that actualised itself but wasn’t fully capitalised by the time he left. Moze Radio should have gone on making even old men such as myself aspire to insert Luga-flow into our normal conversations, pull dance strokes we can’t explain to people who know us well, and shake our heads at the wit and cheek in his lyrics.

In Ability he sung, “Olina ability; kozesa opportunity! ‘coz opportunity comes once in a lifetime!”

He certainly had many opportunities but they’ve all gone because of a Kiduula – another catchy tune with some eerily prophetic lyrics that he could have heeded in life to avoid this painful departure.

And it’s really painful because we all knew that there was more coming from the duo – surprisingly catchy tunes that don’t sound too different from the last ones but that are quite distinct thanks to Producer Washington (who was reportedly with him on that fateful night) and the entire Swangz Avenue crew.

Every year that they released something new it was refreshing – Nakudata to Ntunga through to Bikoola. I honestly assumed they would be doing it Neera, n’eera and it’s painful to realise that they aren’t.

The year of Bwondekawo, we we laughed and applauded and danced equally in amazement that they had come up with that tune with that exact phraseology – and the next time I saw it was at the junction of Kaguta Road leading to Rushere: “Mzee Bwogeza notulekawo, tujja kwekola ekintu!

No-one gave Radio that warning. And he’s gone.

Rest In Peace, lyrical soldier!

Moze Salute

we all need to be bleeding hearts for blood – #GiveBloodUG


2018-01-07-PHOTO-00042721
Blood donors should all be declared heroes. (Photo by Simon Kaheru)

A COUPLE of weeks ago I was back at the Nakasero Blood Bank – the Uganda Blood Transfusion Services – to make whatever little contribution I could in a dire situation.

The family of the highly respectable lawyer, Gerald Kakuba, were looking for blood group O- so he could undergo surgery. He lived a long and well-accomplished life, impacting very many other lives in a way that made us all proud to have had any link to him in life.

Sadly, he passed on and we celebrated his life and departure in fitting form.

Nevertheless, a bad taste lingered on with the thought that if we had had enough O- in supply he could have gone on a little longer. The taste got worse when we heard that he had been an avid blood donor from early on in his childhood.

While standing in the compound making calls and sending mobilisation messages, I was hit by deja vu. Pausing for thought brought the reason to me quite clearly:

Exactly a year ago we were in exactly this same position for another friendly parent and all the elements were the same: no Blood Group (or Type) O-; surgery pending; frantic mobilisation; kind, helpful but hapless staff at the UBTS lamenting a ‘national blood shortage crisis’…

A year had gone by and almost nothing had changed – besides the fact that people would die, perhaps.

The issue with Blood Group O-, we always get told, is that it is quite rare and yet is the universal donor type – which means that Blood Group O- is compatible with all other Groups.

See, Group A+ is compatible with two other Groups; A- with four; B+ with two; B- with four: O+ with four; AB+ with only one; AB- with two; and O- with ALL EIGHT. 

blood-group-chart-images_11

So people with Blood Group O- carry the most selfless or generous blood type, yet they can only receive blood from Blood Group O-.

The logistics of medical blood use complicate matters a little bit here because donated blood will only stand usable for 35 days – and if Blood Group O- has been banked and any other Blood Type need arises, then the rare blood type will be put to use.

That means that even if all the pitifully few people in Blood Group O- continually donate their own blood in case their own need it, there will always be a high chance that it will be used up by somebody else.

UNLESS the rest of us who belong to the common Blood Groups pile up stocks of our own blood so we don’t use up the Blood Group O- one.

It may appear straightforward but it isn’t so in implementation. See, nothing is changing. Last week the NSSF people ran their (apparently annual) blood drive and collected just over 4,000 units of blood – same number as last year, same time.

Last year the ‘blood shortage crisis’ was attributed to children being on holiday and therefore collections being lower, because most collection drives target schools and schoolchildren. Same thing now.

Also, knowledgeable people said, during the holiday season more blood is used up because people do more life-threatening things and hospitals work harder at keeping them alive.

Year in, year out.

And annoyingly, regarding those life-threatening things we do, more of us out there will tell you what our favourite drinks are yet we have no clue what Blood Group we belong to!

Why don’t we learn, change, do things properly?

Luckily for some of us – those who DO find blood or need it when it is in supply – the passion, anxiety and earnestness of the people at UBTS hasn’t changed either. But neither has their tendency to wring their hands, ask for more help and hope for the best.

But nothing’s changing for the better.

In the process of our collection efforts last week, we established a WhatsApp Group for Blood Group O- people and we hope to keep growing it so we have a donation roster that will keep the Bank in a continuous, reliable supply of the stuff.

It is a hopeful, optimistic, yet very small intervention. A more serious one would be for ALL our organisations to keep track of all our Blood Groups (or Types) and ensure we ALL get onto the roster for donation.

For NSSF to be in the headlines over blood donation with 4,000 units (applause, applause!) while the entire Civil Service has more than 300,000 employees working there and NOT being seen donating should be considered irritating, if not outright shameful.

We ALL need to be bleeding hearts about this, before our hearts need that blood and stop pumping because it isn’t available in the bank.