Adventures in Kampala

Adventures in Kampala

Over the last few weeks, I’ve made more trips into Kampala. Although it’s just about 14 miles from Mukono (where Uganda Christian University is located) to Kampala, because of the large amount of traffic on few main roads between the two places, it takes at least an hour, if not more, to get there. For those who don’t have a car, the standard transportation method is by taxi.

Taxis are 14 person vans that work a little like a bus route (point A to point B and back with ability to get off at a few places along the way). There is a driver and usually a conductor who manages the sliding door on one side and collects the fee from passengers as they get off, as well as, calling for more passengers whenever there is room (and at times, when there is not room!)

My first trip to Kampala other than just passing through, I was accompanied by a UCU friend, another lecturer at UCU. About 15 minutes into our ride after setting off from Mukono, we were pulled over by the traffic police who do random stops on major roads to check for brake lights, licenses, etc. Our driver handed his license to the police woman who had him get out, look at the tires…then we notice that as she turns to talk to another officer, our driver walks across the road and keeps walking away from our taxi! Apparently, he did not have the right credentials for that taxi so to avoid getting arrested, just walked away! All 14 passengers piled out and hopped in other taxis within a few minutes. That’s one way to do it!

 

Once in Kampala and along the way, there is often “jam” (or traffic), but while you putt along in the taxi, there are many people selling snacks and drinks along the road. The one I have enjoyed are the bunches of small bananas. They are sweeter than the larger bananas and a delicious snack for the journey. A more exotic option is cooked grasshoppers sold in large plastic buckets. I asked my friend if she liked them. She said, “Yes, but it’s better if you cook them yourself.” Who knows? Maybe one day I will try…

The “point B” of the journey to Kampala on the trips I have taken has been the old taxi park. It is an overwhelming place, but the system works! (I am borrowing the photos of the traffic and the old taxi park because having your phone out in town is not advisable.)

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free…

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free…

Mornings here during the week usually begin with greeting Paul who takes care of the garden outside our house. He is a joyful person who is always wearing a big smile. We prepare our coffee and sit down for a small breakfast of jam and toast (though Paul highly prefers his bread untoasted) and morning bible study (currently the book of Galatians). During our discussions, Paul often shares cultural insights that give me a better understanding of the Ugandan culture but also often sheds new light on part of scripture. For example, as we studied Galatians 5:1, Paul was able to share with us his experiences of training oxen with a yoke in his village.

“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1

He shared that early in the training, the ox goes this way and that and has to be trained to go straight in order to plow the fields. At times, the yoke is left on its neck overnight so that the ox can get used to it. When they finally submit to the yoke and the training, plowing with these 2 giant animals can be done with just one person quietly instructing, back and forth down the rows of the field. As he shared, Matthew 11:28-30 came to my mind.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Let us not be burdened again by a yoke of slavery, but by the grace of God through the cross, let us submit each day to His leadership in our lives, knowing it is an easy yoke and much lighter burden than we carry when we choose to go it alone!

P.s. The picture above is from a Friday morning when we treat ourselves to mandazi (a Ugandan doughnut).

(Photo of oxen borrowed from http://blog.peaceharvest.org/2009/10/third-post.html)

Pigs and Beans

Pigs and Beans

While I haven’t been able to meet with students yet to review business plans, our gardener, Paul, is a jack of many trades and took me up enthusiastically on my offer to put his business plans into spreadsheet form to help him make decisions about how best to grow them, etc. He is currently selling beans and also has plans to open a piggery. We spent a few days the other week discussing the inputs to the model for these businesses, building the models and reviewing them together. It was a fun experience to learn about new industries I had NO previous exposure to and to see Paul giggle at what seemed like silly questions I was asking – like “does 1 pig eat a kilo of feed each week or each day? – A week? No, a day!” “How much does a piglet cost?”

Seeing the excitement on his face as he took printouts of the different financial models we built with him to discuss with his brother and father in his village the next weekend made my week. It reminded me that God’s economy doesn’t work like our human economy. Blessing one person is just as important and valuable as blessing a multitude because our God is a personal God who loves each of us individually out of his glorious riches. I’m excited and hopeful to see where Paul’s business plans take him!

StartHub Africa – Final Pitch Event

StartHub Africa – Final Pitch Event

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, some of our UCU students participated in the StartHub Africa program for the last semester. The culmination of the program was the final pitch event in Kampala at International University of East Africa.

Our day began at 6 am when we left UCU campus in a 14 person van (a taxi) to get to Kampala by 7:30. Our early departure time was to avoid the “jam” (or traffic) that is a fact of life here on the main roads. Dressed for success with their prototypes in hand, our students were excited for the final day to have arrived, each hopeful that they would be winners of some prize money to further their businesses.

We were the first university to arrive, allowing each of our 5 groups to have prime locations for their “booths” for the fair. Location, location, location! The agenda for the day is shown here… although we operated on African time so it was not exactly as planned!

After the judges had visited each of the approximately 35 groups during the fair, the judges announced the 11 finalists, 2 groups from each of 5 industries and 1 voter selected finalist. UCU brought 5 groups, and 3 of our 5 were finalists and were able to make their 5-minute pitch on stage to the judges and all in attendance and answer 3 minutes of questions afterwards. We were so proud of each of our students who put their all into their businesses and also of the groups who presented very well.

When final results were in, one of our groups won! The business is a mobile app called “MyCents” which is intended to keep track of simple bookkeeping targeted at mini-business owners up to small business owners. The interface is user friendly for non-financial managers or owners and then has graphical depictions of sales, expenses, etc. There are many mini-businesses in Uganda, people selling chapati (similar to a pancake) on the side of the road, small retail storefronts selling food or bags, and others. Often people go out of business due to poor cash flow management. This group’s solution to that problem was to provide a way to easily monitor the progress of the business in order to make better strategic decisions. In an environment where personal computers may not be accessible to everyone but mobile phones are very common, this mobile app could have a great opportunity to make an impact. It will be exciting to see how far they can take their business!

StartHub Africa

StartHub Africa

One of the projects that the Entrepreneurship Faculty at UCU has been facilitating for interested students in all courses of study is StartHub Africa (fb.com/starthubafricaa).

The StartHub course involved approximately 11 lecture sessions presenting material to help student entrepreneurs develop business plans and create businesses using tools like the “Business Model Canvas” shown below. The UCU students have been meeting Saturday nights from 7 pm – 10 pm. Now, that’s dedication!

The StartHub course ends with a final competition for $5,000,000 UGshillings (about $1,400 USD) called the StartHub Africa Pitch Event. It will be held this Friday May 18th at International University of East Africa (IUEA) in Kampala. Guests will include students from all universities around Kampala, entrepreneurs, companies, investors, and the general public, and will come to see groups presenting new businesses from seven universities including International University of East Africa, Kampala International University, Kyambogo University, Ugandan Christian University, Ugandan Martyr’s University, Ndejje University, and Bugema University.

The event will begin with a business fair where the public and the judges can visit the booths of each team to learn about their business and ask questions. After lunch, the judges will select 9 teams, plus 1 selected by the public as a favorite, to present on stage a 3-minute pitch on their business to compete for the award money.

Last Friday, the faculty members helping with StartHub gathered with the students for an “Internal Pitch” to help them prepare for the final Pitch Event this Friday. Teams brought prototypes of their products and powerpoint presentations to explain their business and entice investors or the Pitch Event judges. Our students have come up with a variety of products including mixed fruit trays, a bakery business, a backpack manufacturing company (which has already made sales to some schools!), a mobile app for small business owners in all industries, and affordable home décor. I look forward to seeing how the students refine their businesses and presentations as we help them to prepare for the event on Friday. We will hope for a great outcome!