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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Day Two: Entrepreneurship, the Owino Market, Martyrs and Chinese food

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.


  1. Great summary of P. Bitature - he is always very interesting, I wish I would have been in country in time to hear him this year. Do you think of the small shop owners you see (fruit stands owners etc.) as entrpreneurs also? Changing the saving culture and increased participation in the banking sector would help provide capital for more small microfinance loans. As you hear more speakers and see more of the country reflect back on his issues, which are easier or harder to address? What do your MUBS colleagues think about these issues?

  2. Wow! Sounds like you had a busy day---a definite case of sensory overload if I have ever read one. :) The "market" sounds interesting and challenging...could the cultural aspect of instant gratification have an impact on the market structure? As the economy in Uganda continues to grow and expand, what other market systems & structures might arise? Does the current system work well for most people? That is, how well do "consumers" get their needs met? Are there aspects of the market system which contribute to the vulnerability of some consumers? Who (what type of consumer/person) would be at a disadvantage in this market system? What would your MUBS colleagues think about the stereotypical "American mall"?

    *Dr. Adkins*

  3. During our tour of Owino market, Pamela gave us some insight into the lives of the shop owners we saw there. She told us how they got the imported goods from another person, rented the spot in the market and worked to compete with the other vendors. In that sense, @Tom Root, I was thinking of them as entrepreneurs.

    But putting their work in the context of Bitature's talk, I could quickly see all sorts of areas where they could grow and develop their business. We discussed a couple of times as a large group the real lack of diversity in the marketplaces we see- it's always the same fresh fruit, secondhand clothes and tourist crafts. Creativity was one trait Bitature really emphasized, and it's something the MUBS students have said they think would be beneficial as well.

    As far as their reaction to an American commercial shopping mall, I'd love to show them around and point out the special niche boutiques, the department stores and the crazy kiosks! I think they'd really appreciate the different merchandise available and could also offer some interesting feedback.

  4. Owino market was definitely one of the most overwhelming places I have ever visited, but I am extremely glad that we had the opportunity to do so. Although we have gone many places throughout our trip that most ordinary tourists would not have the privilege of visiting, Owino was the one place where we truly got a taste of life as a Ugandan. Instead of traveling in a huge group with chaperones, we entered the market in small groups with just a MUBS student as our guide. This allowed us to walk through the aisles of the market and interact with those who shop there on a daily basis. I really appreciated the chance to gain such an insight on one aspect of Ugandans' daily lives.
    Also, even though we clearly stick out as 'muzungus' everywhere we go, Owino market was the first time on the trip where I clearly felt like a minority and that all eyes were upon me. This was a drastic change for me having only been in the majority of the population my entire life, and I think it greatly benefited all of us to feel this way. I now have a small sense of what people in minority cultures in the United States go through every day, which is very important in working towards eliminating discrimination in society.

  5. The presentation from Patrick Bitature was one of my favorite parts of the trip. He is one of the most influential people in Uganda, as you can see his cell phone network, MTN, everywhere in Uganda. His presentations impacted every single person in the room, it did not matter what major you were. He told us his story and he became such a successful entrepreneur, and as students we were all very inspired by him. After the presentation I just wanted to go do something and make a change in the world.

    One of my favorite parts of the presentation was when he used the analogy that if there are two birds on a fence, and two decide to fly away, how many are still on the fence? This seemed very simple at first because a lot of us figured that the answer was zero. Then he told us that the correct answer was two. He talked about how there is a difference between deciding and actually executing that decision. He compared it to how many people say that they are going to start working out, but how many of them actually end up working out. This analogy really struck me and I think I will use it on my students one day in the classroom. I hope that just like me, they will be able to reflect on how often then just decide compared to execute.

  6. When looking back on this trip, the presentation by Patrick Bitature will continually stand out in my mind. It was refreshing to hear from such a smart businessman--a man who uses his First World knowledge to positively influence his Third World nation.

    As an entrepreneurial management major at Drake, I was thrilled when Mr. Bitature emphasized the importance of social entrepreneurship. This practice focuses entrepreneurial endeavors on creating social capital and furthering social and economic goals; as Mr. Bitature said, “doing good by yourself and your people as a byproduct.” As he stated, and as I have learned in my studies, an economy can see enormous benefits when business principles are integrated with social ventures.

    As an example, Grameen Bank, founded by Dr. Muhammad Yunus, is a social entrepreneurship endeavor that reverses the conventional banking system to focus on getting credit to the poorest of the poor who lack collateral in rural Bangladesh. While Dr. Yunus himself has made billions (which he has in large part donated back to the poor), he has also helped reduce poverty in rural Bangladesh through his microcredit institutions.

    If entrepreneurs in Uganda begin to practice social entrepreneurship, problems like poor sanitation, poverty, unclean drinking water, etc. could be reduced or solved while the founder benefits. Social entrepreneurship is a “win-win” and, I believe, an important concept for schools in Uganda to educate their students on.