Working with Entrepreneurs in Uganda
Things have really taken a turn for the better the last two days. After first starting at a slower pace than I expected, I have gotten to meet up with three very inspiring, entrepreneurial, and loving people. Two of these people are contacts that Tinga Tinga made in 2007 when Dan and Dave first came to Uganda and are an excellent example of entrepreneurs in Uganda. Bob Ambrose is a communications consultant and part-time comedian who lives in Kampala. While I’m not positive that I picked up on most of his humor, I certainly picked up on his passion for his people and his desire to use communications to broadcast a message of hope to the Ugandans through radio, television, comedy, music, and literature. From an investing in entrepreneurs in Uganda standpoint, Bob is not what Tinga Tinga is looking to invest in, but he is still invaluable for his connecting ability and his supportive friendship.
One thing I love about the culture here is how friendly people are. Granted, I know that many are friendly simply because I am a mazungoo whom they think has lots of money. This is especially true when it comes to boda-boda drivers (boda’s are motorcycle taxis in Uganda and the most efficient way to get around the city), who pretend like they are my old time friends and then proceed to try to charge me twice as much as they would charge a Ugandan for the exact same trip. It is immensely frustrating. Yet, on the other hand, there are many Ugandans like Bob and his friend Amon Bwengye, whom I will talk about shortly, who genuinely accept you as a dear friend from the moment you meet them. They confide in you and simply love you in a very encouraging and refreshing way. I look forward to meeting more people like them.
Bob introduced me to his friend Amon Bwengye, who is an entrepreneur and visionary whom lives in Kampala and started a company called the Entrepreneurship Centre. He has noticed, as many others, that many Ugandan’s have a very poor understanding of business, work, and life. From a very young age, children are taught to simply go to school in order to get a job, have a wife and live a good life (sounds similar to the “American Dream” right?). Yet, there are not enough jobs in the country for this to occur, and many of the poor people are simply handicapped by crooked businessmen and opt to be thieves and crooks in order to simply survive in Uganda. Amon’s vision is to begin to change this mindset from the ground up by training a new generation of entrepreneurs in Uganda. He intends to use the Entrepreneurship Centre to create educational materials targeted to specific age groups to teach them responsible investing, business ethics, and entrepreneurship. He is so passionate about this business that he recently gave up a secure job as an employee of a missions organization to start doing his business full-time. As I listened to him talk about his business, I kept getting chills down my spine because my heart resonated with his vision. He has seen a very real need in his people and created a business to solve that problem (That’s interesting, isn’t this the same way almost every business starts? Someone sees a need and creates a way to fix this need). As a result, I am more than excited to see how the Entrepreneurship Centre grows as it matures into the vision he has for it.
The last person I had the privilege of meeting is Prince Sabena, who is a friend of one of my fellow students at Grove City College. He is in the start up phase of a tour/safari/cross-cultural experience business called Trinity Tours. The idea for the business came from his experience as a guide with a ministry based in Uganda, where he spent a number of years learning how to integrate cultures, how to provide excellent service, and time management skills. As he developed out of this job he noticed a niche in the market of providing cross-cultural experiences for students and foreigners who desire to really experience Uganda culture. While there are a multitude of safari companies in Kampala and Uganda, his stands in a specialized place and his experience has provided him with the framework to provide an excellent service to his customers. Yet, I consider him a visionary entrepreneur because his desires to use his business to teach his employees the same skills he acquired while working for the ministry. One thing that every American will quickly realize when they visit Uganda, is that time management and customer service pails in comparison to what we are used to at home. This is because many of the laborers have never been trained in business or have never treated their job as work and an opportunity to serve and better their life. Instead, many Ugandan’s seem to view jobs as simply a means to an end. It is a way to fill their pockets, not a way to glean fulfillment and joy. Yet, Prince sees his work as just the opposite. He stands among the few as one who has a holistic view of work and occupation. He loves the work he does and has even given up a few better paying and secure jobs in order to pursue this career in entrepreneurship. I, personally, think that he, like Amon, are the type of people Tinga Tinga desires to be aligned with in investments, friendships, and co-workers in impacting the future of Uganda.