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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Entrepreneurism 101

After a day packed with activities, we found ourselves at Protea Hotel Kampala, a 5-star hotel located in the upmarket suburb of Kololo. This hotel is owned by Mr. Patrick Bitature, a close friend of Drake University, and we were here to hear him speak of entrepreneurship.
Patrick Bitature is a Ugandan businessman, entrepreneur, and industrialist. He is one of the wealthiest people in Uganda, having a net worth in excess of $50 million. In 2012 Forbes magazine named Mr. Bitature one of five Ugandan multi-millionaires you should know.  Bitature is the founder and chairman of Simba Telecom, East Africa’s largest mobile phone retailer. He has expanded his businesses into broadcasting, electronics, insurance, banking, hotels, and resorts. He chairs the Uganda Investment Authority and Umeme, an energy distribution firm.
            Drake University’s relationship with Mr. Bitature has been through his facilitation of an “Entrepreneurship in Uganda” talk for Drake’s sustainable development seminar since the initiation of the program 8 years ago.
            Mr. Bitature gave a speech titled “How to Start a Successful Business.” He began by stressing the importance of seizing opportunities while you’re young and not being afraid to take risk. A theme of his talk was the idea that 20 is the new 30; there needs to be an effective way to form a connection between the youth and everyone else.
            Mr. Bitature commended us for taking the bold step of traveling to Africa. He believes that migration is the key to success, and the most successful people have become successful because they have been able to leave their comfort zone. I think we could all agree that coming to Uganda has placed us in some uncomfortable situations; however they are situations we are learning much from.
            Mr. Bitature’s presentation was mostly business-oriented. He talked about what it takes to become successful: motivation, application, the ability to say no, persistence, differentiation, the ability to take risk, and knowledge of how to SELL. He was very inspiring to listen to and even managed to work humor into his talk. He put a lot of emphasis on making profit. Hearing of his failures as well as his successes was interesting, especially since it is easy to assume that a man who has achieved so much hasn’t faced much rejection. Mr. Bitature has stayed very loyal to Uganda, donating enormous amounts of money every year to help his country and its development. His partnership with Drake University is something we treasure, so being able to meet with him was a great opportunity and allowed us to become acquainted with the man making our travel abroad experience possible.
            After the presentation we were welcomed to dinner at the hotel. I think all of us agreed the dessert selection was the highlight of the day. ;)
Students – How did you feel after hearing Mr. Bitature speak? Do you think entrepreneurship is the key to moving Uganda toward sustainability?  Which of the 3 tiers of sustainability is most easily achieved through entrepreneurship?


  1. Entrepreneurship is key towards sustainable development in any country including Uganda. Entrepreneurs create new jobs in many ways including jobs to sell their creation, creating products to compete and compliment theirs, and in other areas. Also, because of the new jobs, the country as a whole will have an increased GDP due to exporting, and the citizens will have an increased quality of living and pay more in taxes due to the increase of higher paying jobs. With the new tax revenue the government can support and create programs that maintain sustainability over the long-term. These programs could take place in areas such as health care, infrastructure development, education, and other essential areas any country needs to develop. For example, Mr. Bitature has created many jobs just in his hotel, and he has had a huge impact on Ugandans on many other levels to help support these key areas.

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  3. Something I found interesting about Mr Bitature's presentation was his opinion on the culture of Uganda. He encourages Ugandans to succeed in business so they can have TVs, cars, fancy clothes etc. However, he doesn't want to forget traditional culture. He had a very interesting opinion on social issues as well. He commented that as a Ugandan, he doesn't think gay people should be in public. He didn't care what they did in private, but didn't think public homosexuality is a good representation of Uganda. However, he did seem to fight for women's rights. He claimed that if every woman had a washing machine, they would be freed from the time consuming way of doing laundry now. Theoretically, washing machines would free woman to pursue other facets of their life: helping children with school, learning new skills, starting a business, etc. It is intriguing that he supports women but not gay people- definitely raises some thought!

  4. I have to credit Mr. Patrick Bitature for getting me here to Uganda today. He came and spoke at Drake last fall about his history as a businessman, the current economic state of Uganda, and the importance of entrepreneurship. At the conclusion of his presentation he briefly mentioned the service learning opportunity that Drake offered in the summer to study in Uganda, and I was instantly drawn to it. Aside from that, the meeting that we had with him on our trip was something I will never forget. As we gathered for our (AMAZING) dinner at Hotel Protea, I was called over by our professors to sit at their table where Patrick would soon join us. After calming myself down from the extreme nerves and excitement, Mr. Bitature made his way to our table and sat. We discussed my interest in entrepreneurship, possible internship opportunities within his company, and some of the great experiences during our visit in Uganda. I believe I can speak for a large number of students when I say that Mr. Bitature is a great public and motivational speaker, and the fact that he choses to visit with young people and live in Uganda today shows that he is more than just an extremely successful businessman. Patrick knows business and he knows the awesome potential within Uganda and all of the people who live here.

  5. When looking to the current state of development between nations like Uganda and Singapore, who achieved their independence from colonial rule in the same year, why is it that, despite starting the race at equal points, Singapore today has far surpassed their Ugandan counterparts in all areas of industry and economic gain? It is because, Singapore, unlike Uganda, has no lack of willing risktakers that seek to blaze their own trail and make a life for themselves outside of subsistence. This is the point that Mr. Bitature raised quite frequently during his speech and from what I have seen so far in Uganda, it is clear that he is not far off the mark. Uganda has plentiful natural resources - rich farmland, mountains, and the largest lake in Africa, however, little has been done to exploit these natural resources by Ugandans. If Uganda's resources were used more effectively and if more individuals were willing to take the risk and become entrepreneurs then Uganda's economy would experience significant growth. This economic growth would later equate to social and environmental because the natural resources available on Uganda would be used- which would not harm the environment, and this economic gain would allow Ugandan's to focus on expanding their political and social freedoms more robustly, rather than the continual subsistence farming that has characterized Uganda for far too long.