Diageo CEO Ivan Menezes in Uganda: his pearls of wisdom on day one here

Ivan Menezes, CEO of Diageo plc. - Photo by Simon Kaheru
Ivan Menezes, CEO of Diageo plc. – Photo by Simon Kaheru

The fact that the Global Chief Executive Officer of Diageo plc. is in Uganda should not be treated lightly by any measure, and I am duty-bound to share the following with you.

Ultimately, I have transcribed the comments he made on Friday at the residence of the British High Commissioner to Uganda, Alison Blackburne, who hosted a cocktail in his honour.

If you know protocol you will understand why she did this and how important he therefore is as an individual, even though he is not British by origin. You see, Diageo is a British company, and as the head of the company he is more or less entitled to that kind of near-royal, and state-like treatment.

Menezes was cornered to deliver ‘Words of Wisdom’ to those present, mostly top-notch Ugandan business leaders and influencers, besides those at work at the event in one way or another.

He did so quite neatly, and I won’t force you to take the lessons and thoughts I did; instead, read for yourself and take what you will, regardless of how big or small your own business enterprise (or employer) is:

Alternatively, you can catch the full recording here: https://soundcloud.com/simon-kaheru/speeches-at-ivan-menezes

It starts with the UK High Commissioner stating why Uganda is such a superb destination for tourism and investment, and Menezes himself declaring why he chose Uganda as a holiday destination, and ends just after the Minister of State for Industry, Dr. James Shinyabulo Mutende, begins his own set of remarks, but that was a result of a recording snafu.


Ivan Menezes:

I am thrilled to be here. This has been one of my dreams – to visit Uganda. I am delighted because I get here before my family, so I can brag that I got to Uganda before them!

A few words on Diageo and how we view East Africa and Uganda:

The future of our company is going to be determined to a huge extent by Africa. We are very privileged because we have an amazing history, tradition and business in this region. Within Africa, East Africa is a real jewel for us, and within East Africa, Uganda is an amazing market for us.

We’ve been here a long time. Bell Lager was introduced in 1950 and is an absolute jewel of a brand. It’s the market leader in the premium beer market. Another jewel, my personal favourite, is Uganda Waragi, UG, and we are celebrating 50 years of UG.

So when I think about our business here, we have an amazing tradition, long heritage, strong commitment to this beautiful country. We have been investing here substantially in the last few years and we will continue to invest.

Someone asked me in Singapore yesterday, ‘What is it that concerns or worries you?’

I have been in business 34-35 years, worked all over the world, seen all the ups and downs, seen companies and corporations, and economies develop and grow.

I think we are at a point in time in the world where business has a huge role to play in building its reputation around building for the long term, building a business in a sustainable way and being a force for good in society.

The days of just coming, making money satisfying your shareholders, and that’s what you are about, I am convinced, are over. You will get no trust, no respect, and you will be out of business if your model is all about just making money

And at Diageo I am proud we passionately believe that, ‘Yes! We have got to perform and do well’, but we have to earn trust and respect from communities and stakeholders at large where we operate.

I can use what we are doing in Uganda to bring this to life. I take a lot of inspiration from the direction we are setting in a market like this.
The starting point is that it’s really important to have good values and codes of conduct in organisations. In today’s world there are so many pressures and so many places you can take short cuts.

But I am proud that the culture we building across the company – we have about 36,000 people around the world – is that ‘Do business the right way, there is no right way to do a wrong thing.’

It doesn’t matter if you can’t get your business done because we will be around, just like Bell has been around for 65 years; Johnnie Walker has been around since 1820. We have faced revolutions, we have faced famines, we have faced World Wars, and we are still around.

That’s what I say to my colleagues in the business: ‘Always do things the right way; never feel under short-term pressure to cut corners. Live your values.’

There are four or five things I am proud of our team at Uganda for. It is not about our business performance which is strong and continues to grow.

The first is the impact we can and will have on having alcohol play a more positive role in society, and indeed reducing the harm that alcohol plays in society. Underage drinking and drink driving are real in Uganda.

People ask me, ‘Can you have a successful business and reduce misuse of alcohol?’ And the answer for me is that there is no trade-off. We are here to build a sustainable business; we are a strong company with good talent. We can be a force for having alcohol play a responsible, positive role in society through some of the programmes Nyimpini (Mabunda – Uganda Breweries Managing Director) and team are doing around drink driving and underage drinking.

We have got to stop underage drinking; i know we can’t eliminate it but we have to play a force to really reduce it. Responsible drinking is really an important element for me.

The other component is what are doing around local sourcing of raw materials. It wasn’t too long ago we had been importing most of our cereals and grain; now 70% of our cereal requirements come through small farmers here in Uganda.

We are working with 17,000 farmers in Uganda.

From grain to bottle we want to build value chains that will enrich local communities!

If you asked me five or ten years ago could I ever see this happen, I would have probably say I couldn’t imagine we would have gotten this far. Today, 70% of our needs come through local materials.

We have a programme called Water of Life in Africa, which is all about providing drinking water to communities and people who don’t have clean water.

Nyimpini and the team here last year did well. ONE MILLION Ugandans got access to water because of the work that our team did here, in one year!

I was astounded!

On average every year we have been doing about 400,000 people a year but last year we did a million in Uganda These water programmes are essential but are just an example of how business in the future needs to build sustainability.

We are in the top five of the tax contributors and I hope we can get back to the top three or two but we have other industries ahead of us.
When I look at the contribution we make to the exchequer and indirectly to the economy – we employ over 300 directly at the brewery and about 500 total employees, but the multiplicative effect of this employment is far, far greater.

The final thing I would say is that we really want to be one of the star employers in Uganda. A company that grows talent, exports talent, provides a great place to work, provides an opportunity to learn, builds skills, provides good economic support to individuals and talent in this country.

We have had great success in exporting wonderful people in this country to other parts of Diageo and I hope we can continue to make Uganda a great source of talent for the company.

I don’t know how wise this wisdom is but we are a lot more than selling beer and making profits; that stuff is boring, quite frankly. It is!
Because I think our impact needs to be much bigger because I always say that the only job I have is to come in and make a brand like this greater when I leave

The only way that happens is if you truly build a sustainable businesses and your contribution goes much beyond the economic value you create for your shareholders; it’s about how you do that sustainably.

That’s my ‘pearl of wisdom’ in the pearl of Africa!

fifteen new year’s resolution guides for 2015

I AM not always keen on New Year’s Resolutions because I find they don’t always work for people like me.
People like me who felt deprived of something or the other in their childhood, broke free at a certain point and there was nothing, not even good, common sense, that was going to stop us from catching up.
We did everything we couldn’t do as children and yet thought was “fun” or “cool”, and we went overboard.
Once we found ourselves swimming in the lake of life we floundered, and got deeper and deeper into rivers and sometimes the ocean of all the vices we had suddenly discovered.
People like me are also easily distracted, even before you throw in work, family, the wider family, Twitter, Instagram Facebook, the side-job, social work, pals, TV entertainment and downloads…and so on and so forth.
So for us to commit to big time life-changes kick-starting from one date and then sticking to them for a whole year is really hard.
It doesn’t even work if people like me tend to forget the pledges we make to ourselves, then set calendar reminders and get spouses to nag us constantly as reminder tactics. Life only conspires to remind us of these resolutions some time in December when it dawns on us that we have to make resolutions again for the coming year.
So this year I am going at it differently; I am choosing 15 different things to do throughout 2015 that will be easy to implement, easy to measure, and also make changes to my life and the lives of many other people besides.
The tactic is quite simple: choose small things that are easy to do, clearly measurable, and that make a big difference not just to self, but to many other people as well.
That last bit of the big difference to other people means that it is harder to make a personal, single-minded decision to just drop whatever life-changing action you chose. You can decide to resume drinking, for instance, because dammit the hangover is yours anyway, right?
But if you commit to giving an orphanage a certain number of packets of milk every month you can’t just stop doing so because you will be depriving all those little children of a pleasure and benefit that they wouldn’t have had in the first place if you hadn’t started doing it.
And the resolution points are quite simple to arrive at – for instance:
1. Consult one global expert on a key issue every day – not always by talking to them, but by reading their blogs and articles, Ted Talkswatching their TED Talks, reading their books. This is every easy to do and only takes up about five to ten minutes of one’s time every day. Other People Element? Commit to sharing one lesson per day to people who will take you to task for it.
2. Read at least one article every day on exercise and fitness – See how idea number one works so easily? I thought this one up by way of consulting a global expert in a TED Talk. Meanwhile, it’s easier to read about exercise and fitness than to start out actually going to the gym or hitting the road with running shoes, and reading will make me more likely to exercise…eventually.
Other People Element? Share the article with people you know also need the drive or who might be useful as in 11. below
3. Watch a comedy or read something humorous for thirty minutes every day – which will, without a doubt, make one more pleasant company to be around.
Other People Element? The people that you interact with will definitely be the winners here.
4. Thank an individual every day for something they have done – which may sound mushy, but if you do this you will probably close the year with 365 more people with a positive disposition towards you than before. Make sure the persons you than are not necessarily friends or relatives and this works even more wonders (and, of course, it can’t be the same person every day). If I do this I will maintain maintain a list of all the people I thank and the things I am thankful to them for.
Other People Element? That individual (or those individuals) that you thank will be the winners, for sure!
5. Water my plants at least once every single day without My Petuniasfail, provided I am at home – which has the additional pull of making you go home every day…not that I don’t but you know what I mean.
Other People Element? Your housemates (read family if you live with your family).
6. Plant 50 trees a month in both Wakiso and Hoima – or wherever you come from and wherever you live, so that you hit this mark one way or another. The number could be one, five, ten, fifty or a thousand – just choose one that you will make happen.
Other People Element? Of course, the people that you hire or employ to manage those trees.
7. Buy at least ten (10) goats between now and December 2015 – another simple resolution and one that only requires you to put aside the equivalent of one goat’s purchase cost every month starting January. And to put aside land for the goats to graze. And the salary of a goatherd. And…well, this could easily become more and more complicated, but after achieving the goal, if you mix up the genders appropriately, then you can sit back and watch the herd growing month on month.
Other People Element? The goat-herd…
8. Donate 20 packets of milk (or something) to an orphanage or children’s home every month – very easy to do, especially if the orphanage or children’s home is along your daily route home or to work. A packet of milk is, about Ushs3,000 at most so it’s like stopping for a little fuel every single day. Alternatively, you could pay a milk supply place near the orphanage/home and make arrangements for people from that place to collect the milk when they want it. You could replace milk with cereal or a tray of eggs or anything that you’d want your own children to have on a regular without thinking about it, and change the lives of some vulnerable, disadvantaged little ones who have never thought their prayers would be answered in this way.
Other People Element? Too obvious to go into now.
9. Bless a child every day – not like in 8. above; I mean just say a prayer over a child every single day. It could be your child, or my child, or a child you’ve seen on the news. By saying a prayer or whispering to that little one the words, “God bless you”, you are being an angel for real. And all you have to do is to say those three words. The positive wishes and energy alone should suffice to make a difference somewhere in the atmosphere. Don’t go to their beds if they’re not your real children, just say the prayer and go to sleep.
Other People Element? All those little children you bless.
10. Each day, take or serve one less of any food item – this is easier than dieting but must make a difference provided you don’t compensate by taking more of another food item. If you’re a coffee guy, throw in one less spoon of sugar in at least one mug of coffee. If it’s biscuits and you normally scoop up a handful, do the scoop then put back one biscuit. Order for one sausage instead of two. Refuse to eat that other sumbusa during the meeting. Just one food item per day. Or per meal. You will be surprised how much of a habit this becomes across the board, and how much weight control you actually achieve. Just don’t compensate…
Other People Element? This one is tough, but if you’re married then it’s obvious that your significant other should be the main beneficiary.
11. Identify my desired circle of influence and take position – adopted from this simple and very sensible article shared with me by one of my brothers just this week. If I want to be a good piano player, I’ve got to start hanging out with good piano players; if I want to be a good gardener, I’ve got to start hanging out with good gardeners; likewise for anything else I hope to achieve. Some of what they have got must rub off on me.
The bit of that article (see link above) that really grips you is the one that goes:

If you hang around five confident people, you will be the sixth.

If you hang around five intelligent people, you will be the sixth.

If you hang around five millionaires, you will be the sixth.

If you hang around five idiots, you will be the sixth.

If you hang around five broke people, you will be the sixth.

It’s inevitable.

Other People Element? All the people that associate with you in whatever way are the beneficiaries here, also because you become the type of person that THEY also eventually latch on to.
12. Exercise the mind – and this can be done in a variety of ways; do a crossword puzzle, or Sudoku, or a quick quiz, or try to recall the minute details of a long ago event such as that Bukuku the gatekeeper story…something that makes the mind strain a little bit. You will be grateful when you’re 75 and still able to recall details that the 15 year olds running this country then will find amazing – like the events of 1986.
Other People Element? Believe me, the more you sharpen your mind the better company you become for more and more people, which you don’t notice until it just hits you. And when you one day show too much of an interest in stuff like Zaro (is that how she spells it?) they will remind you.
13. Focus on creating one long-term, special gift for someone later this year – and this doesn’t need to go to the most special person in your life, but to someone who will realise what effort First Aid Kityou put into that gift and will be all the more touched by it. Plant a small tree, for instance, or a pot of tomatoes or spices or herbs; or stock up a First Aid box over the next six months with a wide range of medicines, salves, plasters and bandages. – even spending Ushs3,000 a month could stock up a very well populated first aid box that could save lives.
Other People Element? You’re joking, right?
14. ‘Invest’ something small into the village every month – this matters very greatly especially if you live in the city, and is linked closely to 6, 7 and probably 8 above. The amounts that city dwellers in Uganda spend on ordinary stuff every day could create miracles in most upcountry settings. That lunch time buffet of Ushs15,000 could drop Orange or Mango seedlings into ten homesteads in your village and make you appear to be an aspiring Member of Parliament (MP), yet you’d be changing the nutritional situations of some people as well as providing them a kind of income arrangement. Of course, you’ve got to appropriate your intervention to your particular village and what goes on there, so use your brain (see number 12 above). In order not to attract the wrath of your MP, this being a campaign year, you could use them and make this part of your campaign contribution to them, and maybe even rally other city-dwelling villagemates to do the same so that many of you make a massive difference overall, together.
Other People Element? All the people who take that investment seriously will certainly stand to benefit, as will the MP who headlines your initiative.
15. Building on 14. above, what about mobilising your family – right away so that each of you in the family, for instance, puts aside just Ushs10,000 per month beginning January, aiming at a big Christmas gift for your local health centre or school or something. Think about all the people you spent Christmas time with in the village and consider how much you’d collect if each of you put aside just Ushs10,000 a month from now to December, and then choose something worth that amount of money as your Family Christmas Gift.
If you can mobilise the entire family then they won’t feel shy fuelling up to go to the village with boxes of cornflakes and packs of sausages in coolers, with your own first aid boxes (like in 13. above) that are possibly more stocked than the local dispensary…
Other People Element? Again, you’re joking asking this, right?
Note: I am NOT doing all the above…or not saying that I am going to do it all. These are guides to stuff YOU could do quite simply and still make a difference to your life as well as the lives of other people.
It’s almost a resolution itself to drop the habit of making those boring, normal, selfish, non-functional New Year’s Resolutions that nobody ever really keeps, or that few people care about anyway, for ones that are simple, measurable, and have an impact on other people rather than ourselves.

dancing with my daughter

The Luther Vandross song, ‘Dance With My Father’ has made my eyes moist every time I have heard it play since my first daughter came forth into this world, right into my very hands; and that’s when I truly began understanding why my wife always got maudlin over it.

This evening it will play at the Serena and my daughters will still be too young to join me on that type of dance floor but I will dance with them at home in tandem with the charity event at the Serena, because of two hundred and two (202) daughters of other people.

The first two of those 202 are part of the organisers of the event; two girls who are fascinating representatives of Ugandan youths, like the ‘40 Days and 40 Smiles Foundation‘ kids who are slowly by slowly one tweet and Facebook post at a time building up and equipping a school for disadvantaged children in Luwero.

In my days as a youth, not many of us spent too much time outside of bars, nightclubs, and other such light-hearted, light-headed pursuits; if you only read the newspapers, watched TV and kept a distance from projects such as today’s dance, you’d think the same of today’s youth. Alternatively, you’d believe that they spend all their time queuing up for sacks of cash, attending rallies with government ministers talking about rape, or hopping about saying, “Tusaba gavumenti etuyambe.” (“We are asking the government to help us.”).

These latter youth are despicable, annoying, and yet get all the attention from the government and media.

Yet there are the serious ones like the ones organising this Father-Daughter Dance; when one called me to ask for help I almost dismissed her down the path of myriad organisers of beauty contests, award ceremonies and other catchphrase fundraisers; but this is December, the month of good cheer, so I let her talk some more over the phone as I dispatched emails.

One thing led to another and eventually there were two of them puzzling me with their eager, sober vim and vigour, and almost making me choke on my breakfast as they explained their concept. They’re inviting fathers to take their daughters out to a polite dance to help them bond, because too many men aren’t ‘involved’ in their little girls’ lives, which leaves many girls open to the machinations of young men when they eventually cross their paths.

My struggle with the food was not because of that – I already consider men who leave their daughters to be raised generally by women to be as stupid as farmers that rely on rainfall for good crops without weeding, fertiliser and so on and so forth. Or, put more simply, motor vehicle operators who use only one driving gear and expect to go long distances; the analogies abound, all leading to one word about their intelligence.

These girls confounded me; one of them had began this journey back in secondary school, changing the ‘ABC’ (Abstain, Be Faithful, use a Condom) anti-HIV/AIDS campaign concept to ‘Abstain, Be Faithful, focus on your Career’ because she felt it resonated better with her peers; and ran anti-HIV/AIDS awareness events as a student, using music and dance because, again, it was their language; and, on finishing school, joined up with a group of others to start up a Non-Governmental Organisation.

Registered? Yes. The Haven Anti-AIDS Foundation.

Then, because of the jiggers stories and one group mate having originated from Busoga, the group decided to go over and check it out, and eventually found themselves involved in supporting a school – Seven Hills Primary School, in Buikwe. I looked incredulous as they told me they used pocket money, earnings and savings to make weekly trips to Jinja to do their charitable works.

I couldn’t help interject to re-confirm their ages (both less than 25) when they arrived at the 200 other girls who are the focus of today’s event:

After a number of visits to the school, run by a rather committed community member there, these youngsters realised that besides the great amount of need amongst pupils there due to poverty, there was a deeper problem that affected the girls in Buikwe. The girls there all started school late, and so were beginning menstruation while in the lower primary school classes; because they are so poor, though, they have neither sanitary pads nor underwear, and so miss about a week of school every month. That leads to them generally performing much worse than the boys, besides locking them down to do housework or hang about their homes a bit extra as tends to happen.

The combination results in their poor examination results proving to their backward or misguided parents that they aren’t good enough for education, and they therefore get married off as soon as the schooling adventure ends. Or, as also happens, they get caught up in relationships on the village that get them knocked up and they end up married or otherwise but with no further education in sight.

Worse, because the school is in such dire need, there is no space on the curriculum or structure for a female counsellor to speak with the girls about the facts of life, and they don’t get that at home either.

And so besides the bonding opportunity for father’s and their girls this evening, the proceeds from today’s Father-Daughter-Dance will go towards buying a year’s supply of sanitary pads and underwear for 200 girls in Seven Hills Primary School in Buikwe, and take counsellors over to talk to the girls on occasion.

The story doesn’t end just like that; the cost of keeping each of these 200 girls in school by way of pads and panties, at a rate of about Ushs2,000 per panty and Ushs2,000 per pack of pads, for twelve (12) panties a year and two (2) packs of pads per month, is Ushs96,000. Per girl. That’s less than two crates of beer, four boxes of corn flakes, lunch for two at the Serena, a Saturday family jaunt anywhere in the city
I know people who lose that in change every time their clothes go for washing or dry cleaning.

And we go on with our lives unaware.

While these two young ladies and their friends spend their pocket money and savings driving to Buikwe every other weekend to interact with those 200 young girls and try to give them a better chance at life. Actually, not just their pocket money; one of them quit her job two months ago (earning Ushs2million monthly) to focus on this NGO because she believes that organising events such as today’s will be more meaningful than just coasting through life as a trendy Kampala-ite.

Every so often I meet youngsters who restore my faith in the future of this country, and I throw my little in with them just in case I have in the past made anyone lose faith in us.

So I’ll be dancing to my own carefully prepared soundtrack at home, but I am sending sanitary pads and panties for a couple of Buikwe girls whose fathers can neither imagine dancing with them nor afford to buy them the essentials of life. And I’ll toast to the two girls who brought me into this initiative, and to their own fathers, who passed on long ago and won’t be dancing with their own daughters this evening, but should be proud of what they are doing for many, many other fathers and daughters; Jamilah Mayanja and Agnes Ninsiima, may you live long!

using social media to over-run poverty

The reason social media is important is because it is having a major impact on the way we live our lives – even here in Uganda.

Social media is not just Facebook and Twitter even though those are two of the most popularly known platforms in Uganda. It’s what we do with those platforms and many more, and how we use them to relate with each other.

Last weekend I interacted with some Rotarians over this, and one of them said quite resolutely that he simply did not have any time for or interest in Facebook. Two minutes later, after he heard that there were 1million Ugandans on Facebook alone today and that he could reach them in some way or another for his benefit, he changed his mind.

Another Rotarian perked up more when he heard about crowdsourcing – which is really an old concept that has just become much more powerful because of social media. It’s harnessing the power of numbers to achieve a goal or task quicker – and most Ugandans would recognise this through a fund-raiser.

A couple of months ago the Rotary Club organised a charity run to raise funds for the Cancer Institute. Lots of resources were expended over many weeks to get this done and eventually a good many people with big public names and heavy corporate and government jobs responded to the letters and newspaper ads, turned up and about Ushs100million was raised.

Good. That’s what Rotary is about – service about self, contributing to social causes and networking among well-heeled and influential people to do this.

A month after that, a small group of youths started mobilising amongst themselves for a charity to raise funds to build a dormitory for some school in Luwero. After a couple of weeks of tweeting and Facebooking about their event, code-named #Hoops4Grace4, the youths pitched a tent in a field on Lugogo By-Pass, sold home-made juice, t-shirts and wristbands, and played some basketball – all in all raising Ushs8million.

None of these youths is the usual big-name type and all of them threw a few shillings into the kitty to get to the Ushs8million.

I’m not following the lines of the Bible story about the donations by the rich man and the poor widow, instead, I was fascinated that a small group of little known youths with no corporate, church or political backing whatsoever had deviated from the path of consuming alcohol, partying hard and general recalcitrance, to collect money for some school in Luweero.

I rounded up the ringleaders and demanded an explanation, and they hit me with more shocking news – they all had ordinary jobs doing ordinary things, and this was just a side thing they had gotten into. Plus, they had identified a serious need at that Luweero school (the name doesn’t matter because there are many of these around us) and decided to address it themselves.

These kids had even mobilised their friends to go down to the school and physically do some work there, and all done via Twitter, Facebook and their mobile phones!

And while I was interrogating them, I was a bit dazzled by the sparkle in their faces as they said things like, “We felt that, surely WE can also do something” and “We thought that maybe we could make a small contribution”.

Their small contribution will certainly result in a dormitory building in Luweero because this week, as Uganda celebrates 51 years of Independence, these youths are mobilising again – campaigning among their friends and contacts to either buy a bag of cement (about Ushs30,000) or a brick (Ushs500) for the cause.

Just that – harnessing the power of the crowd by getting each of us to buy one bag of cement or one brick and turning that into a dormitory.

In 2011, the Arab Spring revolutions used Social Media to mobilise protests that eventually overran entire governments; here, today, if these efforts catch on perhaps some of our youths might be using Social Media to mobilise and
overrun poverty and shortfalls in social services?

We should certainly hope so.

And we should hope that the next generation of our societal managers is drawn from these types of eager, socially aware, and technologically networked Ugandan youths.