I think it goes for everyone when I say that today was a culturally intense experience. We had a day packed with entrepreneurship, matoke, batik paintings, crowded marketplaces, martyrs, and Chinese food. Sounds like a mix, right? Well, it all came together quite nicely.
We started out our day at 8:30 with a bus ride to MUBS to meet up with the Ugandan students. We enjoyed a breakfast of toast, juice/coffee/tea, cereal, and fruit. Conversation with our Ugandan peers has proven to be the best way to start the morning. After a quick bite to eat, we headed over to the Protea Hotel, owned by the extremely successful entrepreneur, Patrick Bitature.
To us, illegally transporting sugarcane from Kenya to Uganda to sell to neighbors would not be a good start in the world of entrepreneurship, but Patrick Bitature took the world head on with this entrance. After realizing that "where there is a need, you can provide a service," Mr. Bitature moved on to selling shoes, electronics, owning parts of the Money Transfer Network (MTN), and finally owning several luxury hotels in Uganda. Although the beginning was tough with multiple loan denials, today he has realized that being who he wants to be is the most important attitude to maintain. His presentation discussed grabbing opportunities, creating a strong business base, the importance of entrepreneurship in a country, and how to be a successful entrepreneur among other corresponding topics.
He had a great analogy when it comes to getting ahead and becoming a successful entrepreneur. "You almost get out of the cockroach jar, but then you are pulled back down. Getting out of the jar isn't the success, helping your economy is." A successful entrepreneur caters to the economy. He or she attempts at creating a sustainable process for future development. Mr. Bitature has given out micro-loans to many Ugandans. Not only does this help create a stronger economy, but the presence of a loan tax creates a professional habit among small business.
When it comes to Uganda, three percent of the population is made up of entrepreneurs. Mr. Bitature believes that every country's population should house at least 2-3 percent of entrepreneurs. Uganda is a developing country, and Mr. Bitature discussed many issues preventing entrepreneurial practices within the country:
· poor/weak value system
· lack of creativity
· absence of a savings culture, more focused on instant gratification
· absence of institutional memory/generation transition
· absence of contractual committment
· lack of preparation, tax is never factored in to business plans
· hostile media environment
When these aspects are worked upon, more small loans ($100-200) can be given out, and these entrepreneurs can grow to own and contribute to larger markets, thus creating a more sustainable means of business and economy. In the words of Mr. Bitature, in a world of globalization, you have to “adapt or die.” Finding a stability that allows the flexibility to improve as a country is the success in entrepreneurship.
After all of this food for thought, our stomachs quickly found themselves empty, and we headed back to MUBS for a lunch at the canteen. We enjoyed a traditional mashed plantain dish, matoke, and fish among many other things. A student also came over to sell his gorgeous batik art. We headed over to the Owino Market after filling up, and none of us had any clue just how chaotic it would be.
The bus dropped us off on the edge of the market, and after fighting our way through the traffic mess without injuries we headed off into the marketplace—which is supposed to hold up to 50,000 people—in our groups. There are products everywhere—clothing, food, electronics, books, and shoes among other things. It’s a sensory overload. There are people calling out prices, products, and “muzungu” (white person), in an attempt to get you to their items. Despite the nickname, everyone is very inviting, especially if you reply to his or her calls and hold a quick conversation. I quickly learned a few phrases—“odiatia”: How are you and “jendi”: I’m fine. I was also asked how Obama was quite a few times—like we’re best friends, or something. The most shocking thing to me was the variety of goods at the market. You can find a live chicken in one area, and Converse All-Stars twenty feet away. And the prices are incredible—for Americans, at least. Sustainably, this market is a prime example of the practice. The food that is sold at the market comes directly from the fields—with no interference from pesticides or other chemicals. Grown food in place of produced food sets the path for a very sustainable country that will always have access to food—as long as the know how to grow it.
Our last stop of the day was to the Uganda Martyr Shrine. This holy area is the place in which 14 of 22 Ugandan martyrs were burned alive because of the resistance to adhere to the laws disabling religious conversion. The building is gorgeous. The cone-like structure consisted of maple wood on the inside and copper on the outside showcasing a large cross. The overall image was to be one of a hut. Besides the building itself, the structure expanded out to a lake with an additional platform surround by water for larger congregations. This area will be used on Martyr’s Day (June 3). Judges, the president, MPs, elected officials, Ugandan citizens, and believers from far away will congregate to celebrate and remember the suffering and mission of the martyrs. People walk from as far as Kenya to be at the martyr shrine on June 3. They walk instead of driving, because the wish to pay tribute to the martyrs suffering. Speaking sustainably, when people have a strong belief, it gives them trust and faith to answer the “unknowns.” This helps create community, and with community comes unity.
We ended the day at Fang Fang Chinese Restaurant to enjoy some food closer to our American diets. Although exhausted, we had some great conversation before heading back to Red Chilli for the night.