The Bunyoro Hard Talk WhatsApp forum started with a great promise: a public square of intellectual discourse about Bunyoro-Kitara Kingdom’s development agenda. The anchor model was simple: a platform to provide an opportunity to deliberate the best course of action to fast-track development in the Kingdom. It was named “Hard Talk” because no subject was out of reach, in line with the BBC’s Stephen Sucker’s tough interviews. Any member on the platform was expected to add to the discourse and or be held accountable for any omissions or commissions in the interests of the great people of Bunyoro-Kitara. The most keys were to chart a way forward for the Kingdom.
It started well.
Yours truly was challenged to come clean about the Kingdom’s digital strategy, where we had signed a contract for an e-commerce website for the Kingdom. The project failed because we could not be provided with an official bank account in which online proceeds would be deposited through integrated channels with PayPal, and other payment platform APIs. The project concept was grand – create a Kingdom ecosystem where all the farmers, small scale traders, artists and artisans, and anyone with something to sell would list their products to the global marketplace. That was way back circa 2012, by emulating the Amazon model, as we intended to showcase the Kingdom’s rich cultural diversity and its potential. Without an official bank account, some officials would suspect fraud in the project, due to a lack of transparency in accountability for revenues. We opted to stay the implementation. At the project launch during Empaago, we had so many people pledging support, which totalled over Ugx 25m. But the pledges were never followed up to be fulfilled for lack of an account to deposit the project incomes. But this note is not about the spoilt milk. Rather, the future of the forum risks degenerating into small talk, unoriginal forwards of other people’s propaganda, and before long, the forum will lose the originality of ideas, an anchor agenda and clarity of purpose or even worse, be taken over.
Whereas the administrators tried their best to prevail, the forum continued to degenerate. They say when you lack a vision, you can easily end up in someone one else’s. The initial purpose of bringing together all sons and daughters of the soil regardless of location, to focus on the Bunyoro question for sustainable solutions to restore the Kingdom to its former glory, has dissipated.
We can fix it.
Let’s not divide and fall!
Contrary to the founding principle of a shared position, the forum has been dividing members along political party lines, and then clan lines. True, politics and economic development go hand in hand. We should not allow party divisions to divert us. I was surprised when the admin allowed breakout groups along clan lines!
Instead of a grand project to define the family tree of the Kingdom which allows members to explore common roots and lineage, we moved ahead of ourselves and started promoting divisions. We cannot grow if we continue thinking in silos. Bunyoro Kitara-Kingdom is stronger than any individual or family or clan.
Which way Bunyoro-Kitara
- BKK suffers from three ills. Pride, which leads to individualism. Envy, which also leads to individualism. Greed, which also leads to individualism. Readers of the Bible know these are three of the top seven deadly sins. The starting point to wake up BKK is to fix these sins. It is not easy. But it is possible.
- No group can work and see through any project when members have pride, envy, and greed. Each one wishes for themselves. The focus is short-term and not long-term. When the individual dies, their businesses and projects die with them. This is a bad prospect to witness again and again. Which business in Hoima is 100 years old! You cannot list two, if at all any exists.
- Elders on this forum know Bunyoro is blessed with great sons and daughters who are widely read, travelled, and exposed. Banyoro is like Nigerians. They are in every corner of the world. One time I was deep in the village in Thailand visiting to understand the country beyond Bangkok and was surprised to find a Munyoro there. Be it in Germany or Japan, or China, or Russia, great companies in the 100 years+ club are family-owned but with a village or municipality in their setup. Such businesses offer opportunities for others to succeed without trying to curtail their progress. For most Bunyoro, it is backstabbing. Envy. And trying to be the tallest among dwarfs. When you bring someone nearer, they forget about working and start scheming at your expense, typical of crabs in the basin, which keep pulling each other down!
- Go to any office in Kampala looking for an opportunity, once you find a Munyoro, you know the deal you were pursuing will suddenly be killed. And it usually happens. Each one thinks they must be the richest guys in the room. You cannot want to be the richest person among the poor and expect to transform a Kingdom, let alone your own home. Impossible. Envy blinds. Our thinking about wealth is so narrow and shameful.
- BKK needs a flagship company that plays big at the national and regional level. What is a flagship company or enterprise owned by a Munyoro or Banyoro that rivals the likes of Pepsi, MTN, Airtel? We do not even have a financial institution to offer affordable financing to our farmers in the whole region and we talk about optimizing oil & gas opportunities!
- Companies like Bro Group have demonstrated leadership potential and a scalable business model. But BKK has not considered working with the founders to make the company a Bunyoro flagship project which champions the development agenda for the region by representing regional interests.
The Bro Group of companies including Threeways Shipping Services (Group) Ltd and Transtrac Ltd it’s haulage division that is 100% indigenous owned Banyoro. At its peak, they employed at least 150 Banyoro to add the multiplier effect. They experienced challenges by investing heavily early on, yet Oil and Gas exploration to the development stage has taken ages, which has been a big setback. This would be the time for Banyoro in placed positions to redeem the company, by preparing and working with the group and positioning it as regional flag bearer for the sector.
The Chinese, Indians, Kenyans, etc have a strong community whose primary focus is giving business opportunities to their members. Many Embassies in the country conduct quarterly business forums for members to offer business opportunities, networking, and connections to grow their members. Not in Bunyoro. For example, Uganda spends a fortune in paying annual fees and licenses for software used across the government. Imagine, many of the software tools used by the Uganda Revenue Authority are owned by a private entity based in India! And you talk about national security when all business data of the country is run on the software of a foreign entity! Why not invest in educated BKK students to make software like that and keep the money home? Those are the kinds of business models BKK should be discussing and aggressively investing in. To succeed, we need companies like Bro Group, with a track record and can be given a seat at the policy level to take on such challenges. Many BKK people are talking about oil opportunities at the individual level. The fact is Bunyoro is not prepared. To win, we must identify companies in the region with the potential to change the game, support them to prepare to fully tap into the opportunities as they offer employment opportunities to the locals. It is easy to help winners as they know what it takes, the investment it requires, and the kind of preparations needed. And then we can then find another ambarella entity for hospitality owning prime hotels in Hoima, and so on. A Chinese investor in Uganda can easily access decision-makers because they work and invest under one corporate name. Individualism does not take anyone far.
BKK must have a focused debate. And take consistent and relentless action to actualize agreed positions.
The fact that we are still lamenting about the fate of the Bugoma forest shows that too much talk without action is useless. We all seem to know where we want to take the Kingdom in terms of prosperity and household income growth, but no one is prepared to get their hands dirty. To think beyond the self.
We can start by identifying the top 10 business opportunities which BKK can dominate in Uganda and the region at large in the Oil & Gas space. Hospitality and tourism, which links to farming value chains. Logistics and supply chain, which links to transportation and of course education and skilling. Resources can then be pooled in terms of skills and capital to organise such business to be even bigger. Imagine all small hotels in Hoima operating under one name brand name, saving on technology, procurements and other advantages with banks as well as being invited to the table of men when discussing hospitality in Bunyoro.