here are some of the opportunities that were in this year’s State of the Nation address #EconomicsUG


Museveni State of the Nation from www.dispatch.ug.jpg
Photo from http://www.dispatch.ug

OVER the years, I’ve picked up this highly useful fact from various successful Asian and Asian-Ugandan businessmen operating happily in Uganda: EVERY time there is a political or national event, they pay close attention to what the speech-makers are saying.

When it’s the President, they pay extra-special heed to the details of what he says and they thereafter follow up by making additional inquiries and investigations with the relevant offices.

One of them told me this as he was explaining why his father had invested in the first level of successful industry back in 1988, after two years of closely following this new NRM/A government all the way from London, in the United Kingdom. The young man himself was showing me round an investment project of his own that had built on his father’s success but fed off the plans the government kept announcing and dropping hints at.

That’s why, after last year’s End of Year address by the President to the Republic of Uganda, I wrote this – https://skaheru.com/2018/01/06/aligning-our-personal-objectives-with-our-national-ones/.

This week we listened to President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni delivering another State of the Nation address – Uganda’s Chief Executive Officer’s report to the Annual General Meeting of shareholders.

I listened carefully to the event, paying attention to possible opportunities that even the smallest-scale businessman, entrepreneur or speculator could take advantage of and plan for.

They stand out quite well – paragraph by paragraph – #OpportunityUG – and just in case you haven’t read it or seen them, here are the ones I suspect might be useful:

“…we now have tarmac roads to almost all the corners of Uganda: Nimule; Oraba; Musingo; Vurra; Lwakhakha soon; Malaba; Busia; Busuunga, beyond Bundibugyo; Mpondwe; Mutukula; Muroongo on the Kagyera river; Mirama hill; Katuna; Cyanika and Bunagana.  Radiating from Kampala, tarmac roads are now connecting all those points. The distance between Cyanika and Oraba is 1,048Kms (655miles), all of it connected by a tarmac road, from Kisoro district to Koboko…”

When a road is built with tarmac, the value of the land adjacent and in the towns that it connects tends to rise. If you check for the most recently built road you might find some land available either for sale or lease and snatch it up before its value rises.

Besides that, there are additional opportunities along such roads – such as establishing rest-stops, motels, shopping centres, fuel stations, and other enterprises that will take advantage of the increased traffic.

“farmers will use more irrigation. In the coming financial year, the Government will work on the following irrigation schemes using the government budget:

  • Doho phase II in Butalejja district;
  • Mubuku phase II in Kasese district;
  • Wadelai in Nebbi district;
  • Tochi in Oyam district;
  • Ngenge in Oyam district;
  • Atari (Bulambuli and Kween);
  • Katete in Kanungu district;
  • Kawumu in Luwero district;
  • Amagoro (Tororo district);
  • Nabigaga (Kamuli district);
  • Rwimi (Kasese and Kabarole district);
  • Nyimur (Lamwo);
  • Musamya (Kayunga);
  • Kibimba (Gomba);
  • Kabuyanda (Isingiro);
  • Matanda (Isingiro); and
  • Igogero-Naigombwa (Iganga and Bugiri).

In order to roll-out a global irrigation system for the whole country, we are encouraging industrialists to set up assembly or manufacturing plants for solar-powered water pumps. Some of these pumps and water conveyance systems, will be used in government funded irrigation schemes. Others, however, will be used by the farmers at their own cost. I encourage all the capable farmers to, at their own cost, go  into irrigation.

We shouldn’t need the President himself to “encourage capable farmers” to go into irrigation. If you were planning to go into farming or agriculture, go and check where these irrigation projects are and set up your own project right there. Check what the application processes are and go for those!

But besides the irrigation project itself, check what elements go into the irrigation and solar-powered water pump manufacturing and see if you can supply or manufacture one of those components.

At the very least, if you don’t plan to invest, go and find a quick course to do in irrigation and solar-powered systems so that when these factories set up here you are marginally more marketable than the person next to you.

“With the building of our phosphate fertilizer plant in Tororo, Uganda, which at 2.5kgs per hectare has one of the lowest rates of fertilizer use, will now stir itself up to use more fertilizers. We are looking for an additional investor to blend the phosphates with nitrogen and potassium in order to formulate NPK (Nitrogen, phosphates and potassium). With the use of NPK, production will go up by 30%.  With higher rates of agricultural growth, the overall rate of growth will go up.”

Fertilisers are going to be taken seriously next year? First of all, the factory in question is in Tororo – what will the logistics be like? Normally transport goes from Tororo to Kampala and then from there to the rest of the country – so how about investing in a route that goes from Tororo direct to Gulu via Lira and capturing all the farmers that side?

Also, there must be an opportunity in this fertiliser trade that you can explore by even studying mixes and becoming an expert or consultant in its application and use – therefore turning all the farmers seeking fertilisers into your direct clients while also taking on the Fertiliser Plant itself.

I would like to single-out the sector of construction.  This grew by 12.5% annually. This is not surprising given the respective efforts of the government and the private sector in the areas of road and houses construction.”

The construction sector is growing by 12.5% annually? What will happen this coming year? Can we go for something there as well? Even if it’s not investing in hardware, is there a component that we can replace with something cheaper and yet equally efficient? What about the real estate brokers dealing in this growing sector – can we find better methods and corner the market?

The opportunities in construction are myriad, as it were, mushrooming each day the way apartment blocks do. Think of gardening and landscaping, and interior decoration, and auxiliary products and services.

If you have no investment capital to set up something big, how about teaming up with some pals and forming a cleaning service targeting just one set of these apartment blocks that keep cropping up…? That list goes on and on and on.

“I told you how rich Ugandans and other Africans are, already. In the case of Uganda, we spend about US dollars 7 billion a year in terms of imports. Importing what? Importing the shoes, clothes, carpets, textiles, furniture units, pharmaceuticals, electronic equipments, perfumes, soaps, wines, cars, pikipikis (motorcycles), etc etc…

We import so much? How about finding some of these items and their value, then picking up local ones and improving their quality even post-manufacture and then doing some import replacement?

That might now work for the perfumes, but even nonsense like second-hand clothing could provide an opportunity. A t-shirt with the Macdonalds logo on it could be spruced up with some kitenge bits to replace Maconalds and go for a neat margin well over and above the opened-bale price.

4,525 girls have already been assisted to engage in: knitting, shoe-making, weaving, tailoring, bakery and embroidery, while 6 groups have been assisted in furniture-making and 10 in welding.

Great opportunity there! Where are all these girls? Are they employed somewhere and each running their own business? If not, how about getting the list of the very best of them and investing in an outfit that will employ their services, skills and talents?

A handful of these girls could actually implement that little idea above of getting second-hand t-shirts and refitting them so they are fresh, Ugandan designs.

They even studied baking? If you take the marketing component and find a friend to handle packaging, you can be rolling in sweet money within a very short time of embarking on a project with these girls!

In the coming days, the Minister of Finance will announce the financial support we intend to give to the groups that wish to join the manufacturing in the form of the enhanced micro-finance efforts and the Innovation in addition to the Women Fund, the Youth Fund and Operation Wealth Creation Fund.

The ‘coming days’ that H.E. the President was referring to is the June 14 Reading of the National Budget.

If you don’t pay attention as THAT is being presented, and only focus on political statements (by yourself as well as by the politicians) please don’t blame anyone for your despondency thereafter.

doing business in Uganda is getting easier – thanks to #HakunaMchezo


EVERY year we celebrate a little when the ‘Doing Business’ and ‘Global Entrepreneurship’ indexes and surveys are released, because Uganda gets favourable mentions.

Today on the World Bank Ease of Doing Business Index we rank 115 out of 190 countries – up from 116 in 2016 and 135 in 2014. That is progress (though we were at 106 in 2008). But on the Global Entrepreneurship Index 2017, Uganda is 127 out of 138 countries, down from 123 last year.

These statistical tools are quite different from the research that ranks Uganda top entrepreneurial country in the world. The Global Entrepreneurship Index hints at that position by stating somewhere in its report that in sub-Saharan Africa the one thing we excel at is our “startup skills”, where we are at par with South Africa.

In 2015 (again!) Uganda was named “the most entrepreneurial country in the world by approvedindex.co.uk basing on a survey that defined Entrepreneurship as “the percentage of an adult population who own (or co-own) a new business and has paid salaries or wages for at least three (3) months.”

In that survey, China ranked 11, the United Kingdom 33, and the United States 37. The LEAST entrepreneurial countries that year were Suriname, Puerto Rico, ITALY, JAPAN and FRANCE… (Germany was 12th least entrepreneurial, India 15th.)

The survey stated that “developing nations breed far more entrepreneurs than the west. When unemployment is high and the economy is weaker, people are forced to start small businesses to provide for themselves and their families.

(Their blog post on this is here: http://blog.approvedindex.co.uk/2015/06/25/map-entrepreneurship-around-the-world/)

Of course, considering that in Uganda we all, at one point or another, have a second, third or umpteenth venture running at any time ‘t’, we would rank highly in such a survey.

But how many of our ‘businesses’ actually fit the conventional definitions the economists use and understand? I certainly can’t answer that, but the economists have an educated way of working round it using a Prosperity Index that measures many more factors “encapsulating the Economy, Entrepreneurship & Opportunity, Governance, Education, Health, Safety & Security, Personal Freedom and Social Capital as sub-indices.

That is the Legatum Prosperity Index that kicks us off the list and swings the top to European countries (http://www.worldatlas.com/articles/countries-with-the-most-opportunity-in-the-world.html). So let’s ignore it for now, oba?

Measuring the Ease of Doing Business is important because economies grow better and faster when their private sectors thrive, so whereas we may be top at entrepreneurship, we need to make it easier to DO business so that the enterprises we launch keep running on sustainably and profitably beyond just three (3) months. In this year of #HakunaMchezo, we need to focus on such indicators and respond to them so that the economy swings upwards.

Talking about this last Saturday with one of the key people charged with making our private sector work successfully, I noted that he kept using the word “results” during our conversation. Everything about his office came back to that word, and hearing it so often gave me comfort that Bemanya Twebaze, Registrar General at the Uganda

bemanya-twebaze
Registrar General Bemanya Twebaze

Registration Services Bureau, is #HakunaMchezo.

I had already noted, personally, the changes in that office since he took over.

Back when I was a young newsman the Registrar of Companies was a nightmare venue. It was the ultimate government office. It was a graveyard. Work went there to die; it was tended by sullen gravediggers working in tandem with bodysnatchers vandalising coffin files and desecrating everything.

I discovered quite quickly in those days why many stories circumvented simple details such as who owned what company – getting that information out of the Registry was impossible if you didn’t have petty cash for it, but it was also unethical to engage in corruption to pursue a story most likely about corruption.

Those days are long gone, as the indexes keep stating.

Walking into their headquarters on George Street this week I noticed a truck with loudspeakers mounted on the top of it, all properly branded “URSB” in that bright and jolly way that marks a big difference from its past.

img_1789
The URSB Truck (Photo: Simon Kaheru)

I thought it was for making field announcements by way of noise pollution. I was wrong. I was in the presence of a ground-breaking innovation. This truck had arrived minutes before me, and has been developed by the team at URSB for use in the field to register businesses anywhere in Uganda.

It opens up into a mini-office so that the URSB staff can park it anywhere and register your business, upload the information onto the servers, and print out your Certificate on the spot. #HakunaMchezo. It is fitted with a computer and printer, safes (for the certificates and other valuables), internet access (to reach the server), a generator with lighting (so they can work even into the night) and the loudspeakers are linked to a bluetooth amplifier (less cabling).

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Mercy Kyomugasho-Kainobwisho strikes a pose next to the Mobile Registration Truck (Photo: Simon Kaheru)

Don’t waste time imagining how quickly we will move up the indexes with that one innovation in place, because it should be on the road even as you read this.

That innovation aside, when I got upstairs I found a host of energetic youth circulating around scanners, computers and other electronic gadgets on the brightly lit half of the floor, flanking the second half darkened by immobile cardboard boxes – coffins of paperwork being brought to life by technology.


“Hello children!” my chaperone, the even more energetic Mercy Kyomugasho-Kainobwisho, chirped as we walked in, to which the children laughed and responded brightly like this is a day-to-day occurrence. Government offices are rarely this way in most countries. More importantly though, this is the Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) being implemented as announced in July last year.

About 500,000 paper files are being made digital so they are accessible by way of computers and mobile phones. The project is on track because there is #HakunaMchezo. No disgruntled staff issuing whistleblower reports about it. No investigations putting a halt to the work. No court orders. Nobody asking for money around it. All staff are on board with it. It is working.

That digitisation will make this information an incredible resource. Imagine how much faster your bank loan applications will run just because they can log on to a system to confirm your records, your Tax Identification Number, your land ownership status, and so on and so forth? Or any of the other transactions that take forever to happen.

And that’s without considering that all this paperwork, before this project, cost you and I a vast amount of money in rent occupying an entire floor of a commercial building in central Kampala. #HakunaMchezo. That money is now going to be put to better use elsewhere.

A few floors down, the other workflows were in progress with remarkable differences – during the lunch hour, moreover. Finding an electronic ticketing system like the one used by international airlines was surprising. It made for such orderliness that it was disorienting.

I was almost dizzy when I got to the One Stop Shop I found on the first floor of the building. The entire floor is open except for a Board Room, and sectioned off to accommodate all the abbreviations that would intimidate a business starting up: KCCA, UIA, NSSF, URA, NIRA, NEMA, URSB (Kampala Capital City Authority, Uganda Investment Authority, National Social Security Fund, Uganda Revenue Authority, National Identification & Registration Authority, National Environment Management Authority).


There is even a desk area for officers who will help link you up with any local government in Uganda for information your business might need without you loading airtime or fuelling up your car – all the way to Zombo.

With all this, how can we fail to climb higher on the global indexes this year?

Plus, we already have a One Stop Shop similar to this at the Uganda Investment Authority on Twed Plaza, who are yet to take up their desk space at the URSB but will certainly do so before its official launch.

If we continue with #HakunaMchezo then each and every one of the abbreviations above should open a One Stop Shop at their premises. Then, every district should open one up as well – in fact, the Ministry of ICT & National Guidance Minister, Frank Tumwebaze, last year announced that the Post Office buildings would be turned to this purpose. #HakunaMchezo.

For that private sector to thrive it should have fewer obstacles in its way – especially non-essential obstacles such as filling out forms, finding an elusive government officer to place a stamp on the forms once you’ve filled them in, or getting the forms to move from one window to the next relevant one.

The World Bank definition of their index says: “A high ease of doing business ranking means the regulatory environment is more conducive to the starting and operation of a local firm.”

We will certainly climb higher up that list this year, if everyone takes up the #HakunaMchezo the way the URSB has done at all levels with clearly visible results.

shiyaya-easter-2017-flyer

promoting and buying Ugandan: we need to walk our talk


Ladies and gentlemen, we have to start walking our talk.

The Friday before last, the Uganda Communications Commission hosted us to the Annual Communications Innovation Awards (ACIA) 2014 themed ‘ICT Innovation for National Development’.

I skipped lunch that day, for an unrelated reason, eventually changed into one of my nice Ugandan-made shirts, and made my way to the exhibition preceding the main event. I was full of hope because an innovation I was involved in had been nominated for an award.

A sharp kick of hunger stopped me short at a supermarket where I proceeded to implement this difficult personal policy of buying Ugandan if the item available is of a quality approaching close-to the imported equivalent I needed. My pals laugh at me but I always explain that, for instance, Uganda does not make Land Rovers so my choice of car is left untouched.

This time all I wanted was a small packet of crisps to tide me by till dinner. I was clearly not going to buy the ones in see-through kaveera because while walking through a slum with a well-meaning Pastor some years ago, I found out how those are made. He was showing me round his labour of love slum project when we turned a sharp corner and almost fell over a little boy engaged in some public toilet activity. This, a few metres from a woman, presumably his mother, deep frying crisps in a pan on a sigiri next to a small table with the buveera awaiting to be filled. 

Health and safety issues aside, I generally don’t eat too many crisps but on this day found a brand called Emondi, that stood as proudly on those shelves as the Tropical Heat and Pringles ranges did. I swiped them and drove to the exhibition, and by the time I had arrived had only managed to chew through a couple of handfuls and to this day cannot understand why they were so tasteless in packaging so promising.

Walking through the exhibition, however, lifted my spirits and distracted me from the hunger as I quickly browsed the Ugandan offerings of innovation in ICT and gained hope once again that not all is lost. Sticking with the theme, the keynote speaker was not some imported talent or celebrity, but a Ugandan working at Microsoft in a senior capacity – Ivan Lumala.

I pulled at my Ugandan-made collar a little bit and applauded the fellow for being what he was and representing me wherever he goes. All seemed to flow smoothly – except for some flies in the honey: Ignoring the suggestion at my table that the Serena Kampala had imported waiting staff from Kenya for the night, I applauded lead entertainer Myko Ouma for his fantastic guitar work but stopped short when I realised that his repertoire consisted of Sade, Jonathan Butler, Phil Collins…WHY? 

ImageBut that was not as bad as the performance of a one Eddie Kenzo (pictured being a pain on the stage elsewhere) whose Sitya Loss presented some infants gyrating on-stage in a disturbingly adult manner. As I said, go Ugandan only if the item is of a quality good enough.   

Someone at my table laughed at my murmuring and asked me if the menu was even Ugandan; and I made a resolution there and then to suggest that all government events when I am ever put in charge would promote strictly national offerings!

As-if to goad the ire within us at that point, the award nomination call-ups began and the music played when nominations were called up was…South African. Pan Africa, you say?

Okay, a quick Google search using the phrase ‘buy South African procurement rules’ returns the top result “General Procurement Guidelines -2 from the Republic of South Africa Treasury Department ” which contained the simply written paragraph:

“The government has implemented the Preferential Procurement Policy Framework Act as the foundation on which all procurement activities are to be based. Its aim is to:   (a) advance development of SMMEs and HDIs; …(d) promote local enterprises in specific provinces, in a particular region, in a specific local authority, or in rural areas; and (e) support the local product.

I don’t expect Eddie Kenzo’s music to ever play at a South African national or government event.

Another quick Google search with the phrase ‘buy Ugandan procurement rules’ got me to the Public Procurement Disposal of Public Assets Act two clicks later where the twelve (12) mentions of “local” referred to ‘Local Government’ except for three occasions in 59B. (Reservation schemes) that read ‘local expertise’,’local communities’ and ‘local organisations’.

Reservation schemes? Read the Act and work it out – but obviously it’s easier for the South Africans to buy and promote local.