Monday, 07 June 2010


A friend of mine recently-if January is recent- quit her job and joined another company that doubled her salo and transferred her to Kenya. She said the former business was a one-man show, with the majority shareholder making decisions alone, most of the time. She didn’t feel fully utilised, and felt that her opinion never mattered. It made me think of how many businesses are so dependent on individuals that they are almost sure of collapsing or having near-death experiences when that individual is absent. Here are a few more examples. I won’t name most names;

• The Forex Bureau opposite KCB Kampala road; it has probably the best rates in town. Even the first M-Pesa guy in Uganda goes there-we call him Mapesa. I like using it because it’s right opposite KCB, so if I need Ksh, I’ll buy go to KCB, withdraw UGX , cross the road, buy Ksh and deposit in my (or my mum’s or my brother’s) account. Of course I could just buy at KCB, but their rates are not customer friendly. So one Sato about a month ago, I went to the FX Bureau, and was surprised to find the closed before 2pm. I asked the askari what was going on and he said they were closed because mzeyi (mzee) was sick. This came as a surprise because besides three or so other employees, there’s this guy I always thought to be mzeyi’s son and imagined he would run the show.

• The fuel station next to City Oil on Bombo road. I have another friend who is in the fuel industry. Any time you want to give him directions or get directions from him, the easiest landmark for him is the fuel station in that area. So you are telling him to take turns and he’ll be like “which is the nearest fuel station”. Guess you have to know who your competitors are. So one day we are going to Luweero, or somewhere in that direction, and he mentions that City Oil on Bombo is probably the busiest station in K’la. Right next to it they have Java’s, the coffee shop which gave birth to Cafe Java’s at Oasis Mall where Nakumatt is located. I admire these guys; I think they started with City Tyres, went on to City Oil, then Java’s and then Cafe Java’s. Now, right next to City Oil is probably the deadest fuel station in Kampala. Reportedly, it was there first. Juzi while on Bombo road with another friend, I mentioned how unbusy it was-even their restaurant is no longer operational, I think. My friend said (he had heard) that the business owner suffered a stroke, and the business never recovered.

• A Kenyan construction contracting company gone regional. The Man used to work for them in Kigali, but now, you wouldn’t convince him to work for a one-man-show business again. I’ll keep this short.

• Talking of Kigali; I think Rwanda is a one-man show country. But the guy has a strong PR team, at least internationally. I used to think that if African countries were corporations, Rwanda would have the best CEO. Not so much now. In other countries, when a guy is president for 23 years (16 so far, the presidential term is 7 years and he will win), he is called a dictator. They have what the world calls a benevolent dictator. Maybe, just what they need? Na akienda, je?


Ssembonge said...

The Rwanda situation has got me thinking. I call it micro-managing, which is not good in the long run.

Anonymous said...

Proud Kenyan too

Cee said...

Waafrika, what I realized as our problem is GREED. The owner of the shop wants to make the most profit at the expense of all the workers so he pays them peanuts, the workers want more than what they are getting so when they are left alone to run the business, they look for ways to con the owner. Not to mention, the owner of the building (if the company is renting the place) will charge exhobitant rents to make as much profit as possible before someone builds better offices across the road and everyone moves from his.
You might argue it is fighting for survival but at times it goes overboard. Eventually the owner of the shop can't allow his employees to know secrets of his business or even who, how and when or why to make deals so when mzee is not there, the brain is not there. No body works when the brain is gone.

Epop said...

Sometimes with owner-managed businesses, it comes down to the fact that no other family member is interested, or constrained by geographical distance from getting involved. And when you compound the situation by situating the business owned land, then you know human nature - tie the darn thing up in the courts until only one (wo)man is left standing!
As for President PK, more power to him. Rwanda is on the run, and the benefits of his style far outweigh those critical - rightly or otherwise - of his style. There will be time to soothe pierced egos and nyorosha 'human rights' in due course ....