I AM not one of those Ugandans dismayed that billionaire (in United States dollar terms) Jack Ma visited Kenya and Rwanda but skipped Uganda. Dismay is a little too light a word for the feeling I got when the news broke that he was going to go right over and past us.
My bad feeling was more over the fact that he came along WITH 38 other Chinese billionaires and all of them did not stop over in Uganda or even mention the country as they flew over us.
One angry young lady this week ranted at me over the very idea that as Jack Ma made his decision to visit East Africa he must surely have looked at the map of the region and must have noticed Uganda on it.
“Not only that, he must have flown over Uganda to get to Kigali, and then he flew over us again to get from Kigali to Nairobi. It takes at least one hour to fly across Uganda. Is it possible that he did not once look out of the window and wonder what is going on down there?”
Her anger was amusing to witness, as were the comments on a few WhatsApp groups where people were indignant over Jack Ma leaving Uganda off his East African itinerary.
“Really, why is Uganda always being left out of these things? Zuckerberg, Obama, Ma…why do we only get musicians and politicians??!” wrote one aggrieved Ugandan.
I am not unhappy about the visits by musicians and politicians because they also bring a certain level of value. But the fact that these 39 billionaires swung by and didn’t stop over in Uganda was really irksome.
As the miffed young lady stated, as he was going to Kigali, Rwanda he and his 38 billionaire friends most probably flew right over Uganda. Being accomplished persons there is no way they could have ignored the entire stretch of country over which their plane flew. Then, on their way backwards to Nairobi, Kenya, they did the trip again and so must be aware of our existence.
That’s why I think it can’t be easy to be in charge of trade and investment in Uganda right now. The people in charge of those dockets, including the foreign service staff in countries where people like Jack Ma operate, are probably being asked uncomfortable questions over why they didn’t ensure that the 39 Chinese billionaires come to Uganda. Read this: http://edition.cnn.com/2017/07/21/africa/jack-ma-kenya-visit/index.html
All employees of the Uganda Investment Authority, Uganda Export Promotion Board, Private Sector Foundation, Ministries to do with things like Finance, Investment, Trade, Tourism, Agriculture and so on and so forth, must be kicking themselves. Read this: http://www.theeastafrican.co.ke/business/China-Jack-Ma-market-Kenya-abroad/2560-4025556-hwgewfz/index.html
I genuinely sympathize with them because when people read those tens of thousands of stories on the internet about Jack Ma and 38 other billionaires visiting both countries on either side of Uganda, they must look askance at all these officials. Read this: https://ecommerceguide.com/news/jack-ma-visits-east-africa-inspire-next-generation-african-ecommerce-leaders/
Besides the fact that the Ma’s could have spent a few of their hard earned Dollars and Yuan within this economy, if the 39 billionaires had gone to the National Parks, stopped to eat a Rolex, or toured our cultural sites, they would have brought these to the attention of more than a billion Chinese people.
If Jack Ma and his 38 billionaire pals had engaged with 39 (or 390) brilliant, energetic, young Ugandan entrepreneurs, then imagine how much kickstart those kids would receive and then inject into the economy! Read this: https://www.cio.co.ke/news/on-his-first-ever-visit-to-africa-jack-ma-set-to-visit-kenya/
The fact that the speeches he has made have already gone viral on our social media and project the countries he visited in a very positive and favourable light.
Uganda should learn the value of these interactions and visits, basing on the learnings provided by the likes of Jack Ma. Every time we get these billionaires visiting or hanging around, our image out there changes significantly.
The inspiration he gave to hundreds of youths in Rwanda and Kenya will be felt in those economies in days and weeks to come – not years – while ours over here… (insert an optimistic conclusion here). Read this: http://www.focac.org/eng/zxxx/t1479529.htm
His life story on its own is inspiring in ways that should change the tone of many of our frustrated youth here. Read this: https://www.theafricandream.net/alibaba-founder-jack-ma-asias-richest-man-visit-east-africa/
We all have a role to play in getting people like Jack Ma here, just as we have a role to play in making their visits make sense. The government official who is supposed to spend time and effort inviting the Jack Ma’s and encouraging them to visit is as important to the process as the random Ugandan posting positive comments about the country that might land in Jack Ma’s google alerts inbox.
This guy, if you are still blank as to why he is important, is currently the richest person in Asia and the 14th richest person in the world, with a net worth of US$41.8 billion, as of June 2017.
It is said that his company, Ali Baba, is worth more than Facebook and processes more transactions than eBay and Amazon combined. (I did not verify this). alibaba.com is with more than US$231billion on its own.
During his visit to Kenya, Ma announced a US$10million fund for African Young Entrepreneurs – out of his own pocket. Plus, he kick started an initiative to work with UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade and Development), to which he is an advisor, to take 200 budding African businesspeople to China to learn hands-on from alibaba.com. Read this: http://unctad.org/en/pages/newsdetails.aspx?OriginalVersionID=1525.
PLUS, he wants “to roll out a partnership with African universities to teach internet technology, artificial intelligence and e-commerce.”
As a country we are doing business with hundreds or perhaps thousands of Chinese people, all aimed at national development and wealth creation, but whose combined wealth and influence in the world of business and entrepreneurship might not be as serious as Jack Ma’s.
Why does Uganda always get left out? Because you and I and those government officials who are responsible for bringing such people here are NOT doing out jobs right.