I want to sincerely apologize for the delay on this post. I feel privileged to share with everyone what I found to be one of the most exciting days on our journey in Uganda. Patrick Bitature is one of very few educated entrepreneurs in Uganda. He has an outstanding network of professionals and an impressive resume that goes on for pages. He can easily be referred to as the Richard Branson of Uganda with his entrepreneurial endeavors ranging from telecommunications, radio and the hotel hospitality industry, to an extensive real-estate portfolio and everything in-between. He currently sits as the Chairman Board of Directors of Uganda Investment authority otherwise known as UIA. He shared with us the importance of entrepreneurship in Uganda and its impact on sustainable development, as well as unleashing the burning desire to turn dreams into a reality.
One of the repeating messages that Mr. Bitature brought forward was that power is knowledge and the importance of firsthand experience. A great quote he utilized went something like, “We can never learn solely from books and internet, it’s when we share and learn from one another, that we truly find something fantastic.” I have had the opportunity to attend several dozen professional speakers and seminars dealing with entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial success and they all seem to deal with basic principles like setting goals, managing overhead, paying attention to cash flows and being truly passionate about your idea. Mr. Bitature touched on all of the above, but something made him very different. Mr. Bitature expressed a passion for mankind. He believes that success is best shared. For example, it was really moving to hear of the efforts he makes to his employees. He expressed how he pays some of the best wages in Uganda and hires some of the most talented people from all around the world to work for and run his companies. It is evident the man has financial security and even expressed the idea that if an employee needed a new home, and it was in his means, he would build them a home. He expressed that only so much is learned in school and that real life stories and relationships with people are what matter most.
When it comes to entrepreneurship as a figure of sustainable development he expressed the challenges and opportunities that Uganda faces. It is easy to notice that with an unemployment rate of 60% job opportunities are scare. Speaking with some of the MUBS students there seemed to be an almost universal importance in being a job creator. Just driving down the roads it seems like everyone is just hanging out, and Mr. Bitature outlined this as a problem. The Ugandan culture is extremely laid back, he expressed the need to manage and respect time and until this happens, times will remain tough. Corruption also takes its tole on entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs in Uganda need to be people of honor and integrity and learn from them now according to Birature. Finances are also an issue as lenders in Uganda charge extraordinarily high interest rates.
On the other hand for a young entrepreneur in Uganda, time is on ones side. Everything in one way or another comes down to business and the more we understand, the better off we are. Labor is very cheap in Uganda, but according to Bitature, giving someone a decent wage allows people to feel useful and build self-esteem. Entrepreneurship in Uganda is taking advantage of bountiful opportunity, harnessing creativity and the talents of others and achieving a common goal. Mr. Bitature finished his presentation with a very encouraging figure. He made the point that if Uganda could get just three percent of its population to become entrepreneurs that would mean that there is the potential of 1,120,000 entrepreneurs in the country. If each one of these entrepreneurs employed just 10 people, that would create 11,200,000 jobs. To me this spoke volumes on the importance of entrepreneurship in Uganda.
I ask everyone to consider the rewards of becoming an entrepreneur in Uganda. Identifying and tapping into an area that you are passionate about and the country needs will not only bring financial success, but better a nation. When it comes to sustainable development entrepreneurs are key. There is a very small private sector and very large public sector in Uganda. Entrepreneurship plays a key role in bridging that gap. Doing so creates jobs, decreases unemployment, and thus starts a domino effect. Just imagine what could happen if you started a company in Uganda that paid a wage that could afford a worker to build a house. Many of us I am sure have heard that when you build a house you both directly and indirectly employ 30 others. From plumbers and electricians to masons and carpenters, all those people need there materials from somewhere. Unfortunately right now many of those materials are imported (perhaps an area to look at getting into). Excessive demand in a building supply market if brought to Uganda only brings more jobs and more of a private sector. I am sure many are getting the picture and it’s that private sector/public sector gap that we must work towards bridging. While in my opinion it is the entrepreneur who will reap the most reward, consider the many people’s lives that you will also be enriching. Entrepreneurship is extremely powerful and Mr. Patrick Bitature was a great reminder of that. Like he said, “Capital should never be a problem; it should be a burning desire within that will drive you to your dreams.”
Perhaps this post has not come too late when we consider all of the small businesses and firms we have been able to experience throughout our journey. I ask for everyone to submit some feedback as to their thoughts on entrepreneurship and small business in Uganda. In particular, I ask whether or not you as an individual ever consider starting a business in Uganda? If so, what motivates you to do so? If not, what are your hindrances? In addition, in what capacities do you think entrepreneurship plays a role in sustainable development, and what reached out to you most about Mr. Bitatures presentation? I look very forward to receiving some great feedback, and as we reach the final days of journey ask that you keep your eyes and ears open to entrepreneurial opportunities in Uganda.