How ADC is empowering farmers towards self sustainability

There is this struggle I’ve always had with my young sister when it comes to giving directions around Kampala. She often does it based on the shinny buildings she sees around but because I have been around much longer than many of the buildings I keep telling her that the first point of reference should be the name of the street. This is because many times I don’t know which new building, shopping arcade or club is located in which spot. So when she uses them as points of reference I get more confused. For the streets, I know most of them and I know they have been there for years.

Source: http://www.sunrise.ug

However using street names can also come with some challenges since we have some streets where the street name signpost was knocked down and never replaced, we have some where the signpost is there but it is also serving as a hanging spot for the Boda boda guys’ jackets. And in some bizarre twist we have roads with the wrong names. I am talking about the ones that the city council renamed but when it came to putting the signpost they used the old name.

The roads in Kololo and Nakasero can be quite confusing especially since many carry names of our ‘colonisers’ and if you are not a resident of the place or work there, they tend to look the same with huge houses or office blocks at every turn. The way my mind is set up, street names are memorised better if I can associate the street with something else.

If for example you asked me about Mackinnon road, I would tell you that it is the road that had that posh nursery (or is it kindergarten) school that this young sister of mine who is bad at directions, studied from. I didn’t know much else about the road until I was there to locate Agribusiness Development Centre (ADC) which occupies plot number 1 on that road. Theirs is not one of those imposing structures but their work is what is really imposing as I was soon to find out.

ADC is an organisation that supports Farmer Based Organisations (FBOs) to become better organised, profitable, bankable and eventually self sustaining. In other words, they identify those FBO that have potential but lack organisational or other skills to operate in sustainable way and they help them on that front. It is one thing to go into farming and another thing to run it as a business.

Many farmers in Uganda hear about banks that offer loans and other financial services to farmers however many of them do not have their books in order. Some don’t even have any books to talk about. They just grow crops or keep livestock and everything about the farm is in their heads. So when they approach a bank for a loan they are asked about the status of the farm and they have nothing much to show besides their memory.

Others seem to have the paperwork in order but lack the skills to keep the farm running well enough for them to be able to pay back what they have borrowed from the bank. This capacity deficiency is where ADC comes in. I had to sit down with Aaron Chandia who is in charge of Monitoring and Evaluation to get to the bottom of what exactly ADC does for farmers in Uganda and how it does it.

Aaron was quiet patient with my ignorance and answered all the questions I had and more. It is always good to find someone who can do a good job at explaining what they do without falling for the temptation to use the moment to just brag about it. According to Chandia, ADC covers three main areas of governance, financial literacy and marketing.

The capacity building trainings that ADC offers start with facilitating FBOs, which maybe set up as cooperatives or Saccos, with setting up a clear governance structure. A well run FBOs needs to have a clear structure of how leaders are chosen and what is expected of them. The second intervention is the one about financial literacy. This one is for all members of the FBO because it is very important for them not to only be knowledgeable about agronomy but also agribusiness.

In addition, financial management training is also offered to the finance staff and management of the FBO. These are the people supposed to make a case to the banks for more money so they need to be skilled enough to do it well.  And to ensure that this well run organisation keeps their cash flow on point, Marketing is the other area that ADC trainings cover. It is not enough having a garden with the juiciest tomatoes or fattest chicken if you have no skills to market them well.

These people at ADC are so systematic, once an FBO has been identified they start by assessing the skill levels using a scoring system so as to know the best level at which they should intervene. They have a curriculum they follow for these trainings and many who have benefited are the ones that end up spreading the word around. They also have a component of innovations where they have developed e-learning platforms and other applications that help farmers like Simu+, Kuza that can be used by more farmers.

To be able to pull off this amazing work, ADC has funding from dfcu Bank and Rabo Foundation. dfcu Bank is aware of the fact that agriculture is a key pillar of the Ugandan economy and therefore understands the need to play a role in the capacity building of farmers in the country. It is also not surprising that their other organisation that funds ADC, is Rabo Foundation, the social fund of Rabobank which is a Dutch multinational banking and financial services company. Rabobank is a global leader in food and agriculture financing.

In short, both dfcu and Rabo foundation are committed to empowering farmers and ADC was fitting the bill as a partner in this regard. Apart from the money, these two esteemed financial institutions also bring a wealth of financial experience and networks to the table. Their financing has enabled ADC to cover four regions in Uganda and work with 114 FBOs with a target of reaching 375 by the year 2022.

ADC takes the trainings to where the farmers are and works with district agricultural officers to identify those in need of trainings with the goal of ensuring that they can eventually have access to credit and market for their produce. There have been clear improvements in the way many FBOs operate. Many now have bank accounts, do book keeping, hold annual general meetings and are generally more bankable now than before.

 “For us, focus is on adoption and practice.” – Aaron Chandia

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Why you need a smart diner’s approach to personal loans

Are you into people watching like me? I am talking about this cool sport that I believe deserves a slot at the next Olympic Games. It is so much fun observing how people behave in certain scenarios. Some of the best places to indulge in people watching are restaurants. Famished people tend to put up a good show if you can observe them without necessarily staring.

What you see also depends on whether one is a regular in an eating place or not. Regulars tend to know what exactly they want and how they want it. While the visitors struggle to hide their ignorance about what is available and how it is served. In the high end restaurants where meals have fancy names and prices that compel you to think about whether you should just spend the money on buying Yaka power units, it’s not rare to see some diners reading the menu like it were an encyclopedia.

Chicken luwombo

Others will be seen reading the menu like it is some piece of Arabic text. They start with the part that has the prices on the right and then move to the left to see which dish costs that much. I have been told that this pro-tip has been known to save many from the cardiac arrest that can arise from ordering a dish and then discovering the price much later.

There are times you see a couple, one reads the menu for hours and the moment the other has made an order, the ‘reader’ immediately says, “I will have that as well.” This move can also been seen when you go to those restaurants where the menu is what the waitress can remember. In these places one will simply look around and go, “Nange mpa nga eyoli” (give me just like what that one has).

There is a common phrase in these low end restaurants that you may never get to hear anywhere outside Uganda – Mmere yonna! I love that term because nothing proves that Uganda is gifted by nature than that phrase which simply means all foods. Such an order means that your plate will come with everything that is in the kitchen as far as food is concerned.

Some of these restaurant habits got me thinking about how some people approach the issue of loans. I am not talking about the high risk ones from money lenders that give you money so easily but are ruthless when it comes to collecting what is theirs be it the money or the pricey assets you staked against this money. I am talking about personal loans that banks extend to salaried workers.

I have this friend of mine; we shall call him Isaac, for my own safety. This chap thinks that loans are acquired the same way one walks into a restaurant and orders for Mmere yonna or looks at what they neighbour has on their plate and just says me too.  Isaac has a new job with one of the big telecoms but even before he can complete his probation, he can’t stop talking about how he will soon be eligible for a personal loan. On those days when he doesn’t have much work on his desk, you can be sure to catch him calculating how much he can get as a loan based on his net salary.

After having done those calculations over and over, he has now moved to a new pastime; checking out car brands on those websites with reconditioned Japanese cars. There are days when you walk to his desk and find him tilting his head to get another angle of the newer models of the Subaru Legacy and he won’t hesitate to remind you how he dislikes the shape of the Forester as if anyone has ever forced him to like it.

There are sober days when he talks about how he also doesn’t want to be employed for ever and intends to start his own hardware business at some point. He doesn’t have any experience in this field but is sold to it because he sees a lot of evidence that construction work happens almost everywhere you look. So the market must surely be there. I keep worrying that this excitement may end in tears if he is not willing to do more research about this business before stepping in the river with both feet.

Does Isaac really need a loan or he wants to get it simply because he qualifies for one? This question has bothered me for a while but I was lucky to get some answers when I spent some time with someone who has those answers so detailed and readily available. There is an amiable and witty lady called Barbara Asiimwe at dfcu Bank who took me through what it means to apply for what she called an Unsecured Personal Loan.

Just like a restaurant, dfcu Bank can give you a long list of loans they serve to their clients. However it pays to be like the smart and informed diner who knows the meal they want and how exactly they want it. According to Asiimwe, you do not have to ask for the maximum amount that you qualify for without having a clear plan on what you need the money for and how much you need. She strongly advises against this tendency of borrowing fwaaa.

From our chat, my biggest take away was the importance of financial literacy. One ought to fully understand what their need is, how they will utilise the money for its intended purpose and of course clarity on how this money will be paid back. It helps to know if you qualify for the loan by first establishing if you yourself are a reliable employee working with a reliable employer. The kind of employer that has a reputation for adhering to basic work ethics and the labour laws of the country. If your employer is the kind who doesn’t want to pay taxes or NSSF then you are already in trouble. If your employer is that jama who pays workers in cash then you can forget expecting this loan.

The dfcu Unsecured Personal Loan is ideal for a lot of self improvement undertakings and one can be extended up to UGX150 million, to be paid back in a period not exceeding 60 months. As long as your net salary is at least UGX200,000 for government employees or UGX400,000 for Non-Government employees then you are in good standing. All you have to do now is to provide the Bank a little more proof that you have the capacity to pay back by presenting recent pay slips among other standard requirements.

Once all your paperwork is neatly presented, you can be sure to receive a response from the bank in just hours. 48 to be precise. Did I forget to mention that the loan is insured against eventualities like death and permanent disability? Yes you read that correctly. This loan is insured ba dear. When it comes to paying back, the bank does not expect you to pay more than 50% of your monthly salary. This is done to ensure that the loan repayments do not take up all your whole salary and you become a burden to your coworkers, always asking them if they have a ka loose 50k.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Back to school… after Parte

DJs have this special skill they employ to keep you on your feet dancing to one song after another. Sometimes you get excited and request them to play your favourite song. Other times they’ll just play what they think is good and in the process, surprise you by playing that song that makes you scream like a fool before breaking into some back breaking dance moves. This excitement may have you running to the DJ’s box to fist bump with the guy who by now is looking for the next song to play so as to keep you on the dance floor.

As I write this, the biggest club banger in Kampala is the hit song, Parte After Parte by Big Trill. The song has in no time become the city or the country’s undeniable party anthem. Ugandans are known to party like no other when given just half the chance. Many often wonder how we do it. How we manage to party, party, after party and continue partying. At the Nyege Nyege festival 2019, last week, Big Trill performed his song to a live audience that did not disappoint.

A quick look at a calendar and it soon becomes obvious that after this Parte After Parte song, the next song we have to listen to is the rather depressing “Back to School” jam. Do not bother looking for the artist or the lyrics to this song for we all know how it goes. Parents will wear a tough face as they edit those lists of requirements from their children. Tough questions will be asked in order to keep the list brief.


Daddy: “Do you really need to take a towel to school, John?”
John: “Yes Daddy”
Daddy: “Can’t you just air dry? You see in our days…”

Then there is the burden of queuing to pay for school fees. And that is if you have the money to pay. Those who don’t have the money ready are already preparing award winning speeches to present to the school administrators as they ask for more time to find the money. Some people had this money but as you know by now, “Parte after parte…

However, this “Back to School” tune does not have to leave so depressed. There are ways to go about it that will leave you dancing as if the DJ is still playing that Parte after parte song. You can start by paying school fees using the numerous dfcu Bank Agents across the country and stand a chance to win amazing gift hampers. More so, you can also win school fees worth UGX500,000/= when your child writes a composition with any of the following titles.
-A Narrow Escape
-A journey to remember
-The Dangers of Global Warming.
The written compositions should be sent to CustomerCare@dfcugroup.com  or via WhatsApp number: 0790897472.

It is quite simple actually and those who emerge winners can tell the DJ to rewind that song so they can continue dancing to, Parte after Parte after Parte!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

AFCON and the tourism buffet that Uganda offers

The sporting world never seems to go on holiday. At almost every single time, there is a major sports event happening somewhere in the world. As you read this, the ICC Cricket World Cup, the Copa America and the FIFA Women’s World Cup are happening at the same time as the Africa Cup of Nations.

jb_drc_uganda_patrick_kaddu_goal-900x600
Source: kawowo.com

Uganda Cranes not only made the cut to be at this year’s edition, they also won their first game at the tournament since the great days of 1978, when they made it to the finals in Ghana. Let me first talk about the win against our neighbours the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). You see, DRC are not just our neighbours, for many years they were our main source of entertainment with their addictive Rhumba and Soukous sound. However when the whistle was blown for the opening game between Uganda and RDC, the Ugandan players did not allow to be distracted by any ‘kwasa kwasa’ moves. They pulled off a win so emphatic that the DRC team had to apologise to their fans for the loss. I swear I didn’t make that up.

One strange thing about this game was how the two teams seemed to have donned jerseys that were not easy to tell apart. Was this an oversight on the part of CAF or just a subtle way of reminding us that there are more things we share with our neighbours to the west. Take for example the amazing gentle giants that reside in the Virunga massif. The Mountain gorillas.

cd66a7a18d37d7e5dd969c249e9a1ecb_L

Uganda and DRC share these gorillas and the animals do not even need travel documents to cross from one side to the other. Gorillas are one of the top attractions that Uganda has to offer. Just like in the game, Uganda has something more than DRC on this front, for we have mountain gorillas in Mgahinga National Park that is part of the shared Virunga massif but also in Bwindi impenetrable forest. Tourists therefore have a choice on which gorilla community they can visit and at quite affordable park fees.

By the way, if you’ve ever met a silverback gorilla, you would agree with me that these are indeed the kings of the jungle. Not the lions that roam the Savannah while claiming to be the kings of the jungle.

Back to football, the next game Uganda has is against Zimbabwe. When one thinks of Zimbabwe, their mind may go to Comrade Robert Mugabe or the stunning Victoria falls. I choose to think of the falls for they will certainly outlive uncle Bob. Interestingly many tourists spend quite a while trying to figure out whether it is better to visit these falls from the Zimbabwe side or the Zambia side.

To save time, I would say, how about you just choose to head to Uganda. And make your way to the magnificent Murchison Falls. You will be able to enjoy the beautiful scenery from below the falls and from on top of the falls without having to cross to another country. I have been there and trust it is really breathtaking.

The breathtaking Murchison Falls Photo by Allan B Ssenyonga
The breathtaking Murchison Falls

At the top the roar of the Nile as it negotiates the narrowest spot on its journey to Egypt will be your soundtrack. Yes, the same Egypt that is hosting the AFCON relies on water that starts its journey from Jinja.  At the bottom of the falls, the water continues to flow in a gentler man towards the Lake Albert.

As you enjoy a boat rides downstream you will be sure to see Elephants gracefully grazing as well as crocodiles basking on the bank. And I am not talking about any crocodiles but the Nile crocodile. The largest crocs you can ever set your eyes on anywhere in the world. If you are a bird lover, this area is well known for so many bird species including the famous shoebill.

a-shoebill-stork
source

There is so much you can see while in these spaces that it can feel like being at a buffet table with so many tasty dishes. If you have a good appetite for travel, then Uganda is the meal your dietitian would recommend.

“Football is the world’s greatest sport viewed by billions of fans across the globe. In Uganda, the Cranes is the greatest football brand- but more importantly the leading sporting ambassadors to the region and the world. We want to open up brand Uganda to the massive sports audience where our national team participates.” – UTB CEO, Lilly Ajarova

ABOUT UGANDA

Known as the “Pearl of Africa,” Uganda is located in East Africa and offers some of the continent’s most diverse wildlife viewing, dramatic landscapes, and immersive cultural experiences and warm people and hospitality. Uganda is home to more than half the world’s population of endangered mountain gorillas, and trekking to observe these gentle giants in Bwindi Impenetrable Forest is one of the world’s top bucket list travel activities. Safari opportunities abound in savanna, forest, and wetland settings throughout 10 national parks, where visitors can come face to face with “The Big Five” – lion, leopard, rhino, elephant, and buffalo – as well as giraffe, zebra, chimpanzee, hippopotamus, crocodile, and more than half of all bird species found in Africa. Among Uganda’s extraordinary natural attractions are the snow-capped Rwenzori Mountains; expansive Lake Victoria, which forms the source of the Nile River; and Murchison Falls National Park. For more information, please visit; www.visituganda.com.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lake Bunyonyi is such a therapeutic and beautiful tourist attraction

Until recently, Lake Bunyonyi seemed like a well kept secret among the people of Kabale in south western Uganda. I remember, the first time I visited this place we had to stop near a group of young men to ask for directions to this wonder of nature. These days there are more than enough road signs giving you a hint of the several hospitality facilities that surround this lake, the second deepest in Africa.

Relaxing in the hammock

Do you really need a caption here?

If you are coming from the capital in Kampala, you will have to endure a long ride of about six to seven hours before getting to Kabale town. You are even luckier if you are coming from another capital like Kigali where you will only need not more than an hour and a half on the road before you get to Lake Bunyonyi. Bunyonyi means a place of many little birds but its imposing beauty can easily make you forget that you are in a prime birding spot.

The accomodation units at Hawk's Eye are all named after different birds.

The views that your doctor recommended

Its beauty is so imposing that it even appears on the 5000 Uganda shilling bank note. This is because the lake is dotted with 29 islands that make you think, the creator was in the mood to be extravagant with the beauty. The terrain around the lake is similar to what most of Rwanda looks like. Very steep hills, terraces and the cold can really bite when it chooses to.

There are more than enough hospitality facilities around the lake for one to choose from. Including one owned by Uganda’s famous comedian, Anne Kansiime. There is no guarantee though that staying there means she will be by your bedside trying to kill you with laughter. On my most recent visit I stayed at the cool Hawk’s Eye Lodge and Campsite.

Just like in the old days, a fireplace is the best for story telling

The fire place, where all the deep stories happen

Things to do while here

There are basically two main things to do around Lake Bunyonyi, to relax and to indulge in energy filled adventures. The relaxation bit is the easier thing to do. The views of the lake are so soothing especially if you are trying to escape the stress of the city and its gruelling capitalistic demands. At Bunyonyi you can just spend hours looking at the calm waters of this very deep lake.

You can also take boat rides as you listen to tales about the islands including the famous punishment island, Akampene where unmarried pregnant girls would be abandoned to die of hunger. Interestingly, it is said that men who didn’t want to go through the struggle of paying bride price often came to the island and picked up the girls. That was so many years ago and the practice is no longer in place.

Hiking the steep hills of Kabale could be the exercise you needed

At the beginning it sounds like fun until you realise you just walked all the way into another district

While many would love the boat rides on engine powered boats, some prefer to enjoy a calmer moment in a dugout canoe. Some of the hotels can only be accessed by boat while others will do boat rides from one island to another or from one hotel to another. The locals will be seen going about their usual lives without a bother. Moving goods and people especially when there is a market day or young children in their canoes just going from school to home and back. The lake to them is a big highway.

Hiking is another fun activity one can engage in while here. During my stay at Hawk’s Eye Lodge, the proprietor of the place, Parity Twinomujuni, took us on this long hike to find locals that still engage in blacksmith activities. The hike started off slightly after we woke up and it turned out to be a whole seven kilometres of mainly uphill stretches. Parity kept telling us how we were almost there and yet we were not. His fitness for a man of his age made us feel bad for being young and unfit. He fed us with lots of fun stories about the people, the area and his interesting life and this kept us going and going.

_FRT9238

You bet this was taken straight from a movie set

Fresh and unique foods

One thing that is rarely mentioned enough is the fact that while you stay at places by the lake, you will enjoy some really fresh and healthy foods. The locals do a really good job at ensuring that visitors have enough to eat that is fresh from their gardens. At Hawk’s Lodge the fruits were always fresh and in plenty. Lake Bunyonyi also has a secret that comes to life when you stay close by – Crayfish.  These Louisiana Red Swamp Crayfish are loved by visitors as a culinary delight. Just like Lake Kivu has Sambaza, Lake Bunyonyi has these tasty Crayfish. Try them when you visit.

The fact that there are so many tourist facilities close to each other means you can stay at one and take a boat ride to have lunch at another before returning to sleep. It is important to find out whether the place you have chosen to stay at has warm water because the cold in this place may quickly make taking a bath an option. Although it is a tented camp, Hawk’s lodge had the water issue sorted.

The views as we hiked for more than 7 kilometres

Walking away in the woods…

Did I mention that the sunsets and sunrises can be really magical from this place? Oh yes they are and you should carry a long a camera or a good phone now that they are the commonest cameras we use. To further deal with the cold, one of the best moments we had at Hawk’s Lodge in Bunyonyi was the fireside chats in the evening where we laughed so hard at stories from Parity and his other staff members who were really friendly to us.

Zip lining over the lake

I rarely do crazy stuff when on such trips but I was having so much fun this time that I put my fears aside and decided to join my friends as we went zip lining. In the past I have refused to try out crazy adrenaline activities like white water rafting or bungee jumping in the eastern lake resort town of Jinja. Zip lining was also in this group but on this day I was like, why not? After signing my name on some document that basically says if things go wrong then sorry!

Been there, done that and got the T-Shirt

Time to swallow that fear and do the damn thing…

The signing of that document has a way it makes you think about whether you really want to do it. But by this time your pride is in too deep. You do not want to give in to any fears. So after wearing the gear needed for this, I climbed up a tree and moved until the last part where a guide who does this so many times that he can see a coward from miles away tried to tell me the usual stuff.

He went on and on about how the rope could hold my weight with ease and that I had nothing to worry about. I agreed with him but my legs did. They were shaking so much; if I had stay in that spot long enough I would have peed on myself. I thought about whether I really had anything to prove given how scared I was feeling. But my fears lost the fight. The Bakiga are known to be brave people and I was not about to let them conclude that anyone who is not one of them is a just a big baby. My pride and that of my people was on the line, literally.

Zip lining over Lake Bunyonyi

The famous Nile Crocodiles just missed a snack right there… lol

I then let go of the guide and down the rope I went. The fear quickly disappears and you start to enjoy the view, the breeze and you feel like you were born to do these things. I even stretched my hand to touch the water.  If you are ever around Lake Bunyonyi, please do the zip lining. The fear is nothing compared to the great photos and that brief moment of invincibility.

The lake is a blessing to the locals

I have been to more than four tourist facilities in this area and it is amazing how the lake is really a blessing to the people there. Many are employed by the facilities while others have something to sell to the tourists that come here. As far regional tourism is concerned, it is one place that a visitor to Rwanda can easily slip into his or her itinerary. It is a great place to visit as a group for the fun activities you can do together and also a good romantic or honey moon spot for the lovers looking for a serene and picturesque place.

Photos by Chris Okello

Posted in Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Unreasonable taxes expose Uganda’s generational divide crisis

The first day of July came a crude surprise for  some of us. Just a few minutes after midnight those of us who were within the borders of Uganda found ourselves unable to access several internet sites because they had been categorised as ‘over-the-top’ services and slapped with a bizarre tax of UGX200 per day. Those who pulled the plug (Telecoms) took a while to get their houses in order and for a number of hours the internet in general was a mess and the USSD code for paying the tax (OTT tax) seemed not to work.

I eventually managed to pay the tax so as to access the over 50 social media sites that had been blocked. Yes  the number is over 50. Think of any social media site and it is there on that list. So it is not just Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter or Instagram. Even LinkedIn, Skype and Tinder!

The OTT tax is annoying largely because it comes from a place of deep ignorance. President Yoweri Museveni considers social media not only to be a luxury but also that it is mainly used for gossip. His man at the helm of the Uganda Communications Commission, Godfrey Mutabazi also showed his ignorance when he talked about tech giants like Facebook making a lot of money while trying to justify a tax that is being paid by us who are more of the product that mere users in this social media environment.

DhO1mniXUAATzv3

Cartoon by Dr Jimmy Spire Ssentongo

When it comes to the Mobile Money tax you have to find new anger to understand what these old men and women do instead of thinking. They introduced a tax that applies when you load money onto your mobile money account, when you receive money, when you send it, when you use it to make any payment and when you withdraw it. This immediately led to a drop in the usage of the service with many going back to moving money physically than incur a myriad of taxes on top of the ones that were already in place and the charges for sending and withdrawing.

These taxes clearly expose the fact that they were drafted by old men and women and thrown out to a country that is largely youthful. It is the young people that use Social Media more thanks to being tech savvy and not so loyal to traditional communication lines. In a country plagued by youth unemployment, the average Mobile Money agent is someone who was not around when Museveni and his friends stood outside parliament to announce that they are the new government bringing a “fundamental change.”

The social media tax resulted in some using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to bypass it while others are paying for one sim card and tethering all the others onto it. Such moves further prove that those who may have made estimates on how much money will be collected may have to adjust their ambitious projections.

The tax is clearly a regressive one that seeks to roll back the strides made by a budding digital economy that serves as a source of employment and enlightenment for young people in Uganda. It is also a huge blow to freedom of expression given that many young people rely on social media to express themselves and communicate with  one another. Taxing this on grounds that it is a platform for gossip only gives away ones state of senility.

These old folks don’t know how these technologies work and why they work. All they want is something more to tax and fund their privileged lives and maintain a painful status quo. They are in essence looking for money to keep them going instead of working for their going away from the scene. After 32 years in power many should be looking for ways to create jobs for young people instead of taking away those very jobs. This is how you widen the tax base.

A lot of noise has been made and some have been forced to chew their words or claim ignorance. The President said the tax on Mobile Money should be 0.5% not 1% and that he signed the bill into law hurriedly. Why would an old man hurriedly sign away bills that are only going to make life uncomfortable for the young people in the country by killing their livelihoods and burdening them more for taxes? Has he not learnt any patience after 32 years at as president?

The finance minister also played the ‘I was not around when this tax was passed’ card. Talk is now rife of a review of the taxes but it is clear that those behind them need the money to sustain the amorphous patronage system. Already there is talk of not just increasing the pay for MPs but also getting the whole 426 of them, new bullet proof cars and escorts. Remember they have insulated themselves from most taxes.

The Mobile Money tax is a huge blow to financial inclusion and those who will abandon mobile money are unlikely to head to banks where the excise duty has been increased from 10% to 15%. Pushing people back to carrying around cash is not only bad economics it is also bad for security as more will be robbed and in violent ways. You do not want this for a country where kidnappings and assassinations are already a reality.

These old folks do not even see the irony of branding social media as a space for gossip and yet they are now using the same space to explain the errors and confusions surrounding these terrible taxes. Are they also gossiping? Have they paid their OTT tax like us or are they using VPNs? By the way  given how much young people rely on social media sites as the gateway to most of what they read online, putting taxes on it means strangling the little reading and learning culture that was left.

These old folks have pushed us back to that horrible time when owning a mobile phone was a luxury (remember the president thinks social media is a luxury) and telecom companies were foolishly charging a ‘service fee’ for anyone to use their mobile phone to make or receive calls. Now we are having to pay a service fee in the  form of this OTT tax so that we can access platforms that the government never created nor owns.

The internet is a vital utility and we should be focusing on increasing its access and in more efficient ways. Those interested in collecting taxes need to sit down with executives of companies like Facebook and ask for a cut on what they make from ads. They can even Google how to go about this or simply talk to smart young people and I am not even one of them.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Media, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

We wont solve unemployment without fixing the education system

Education is a subject that I am quite passionate about for many reasons. One of them being the fact that it is a field I have trained in and also one that I have significant ancestral attachment being an offspring of teachers. More so it is a field so important that one of the truest statements ever made remains that, “a country cannot be more developed than its education system.” It is a statement that  needs to be repeated as much as possible especially in the ears of those charged with designing development strategies for their countries or the continent at large.

The aggregate skilled or semi skilled labour force that every country relies on implement anything is often almost entirely drawn from the fruits of its education system. Therefore it goes without saying that an excellent system will spur development while the reverse is true. What this means is that countries all over the world have almost no option but to take education very seriously.

In some cases I have actually read that education is very serious a matter for some countries that it is actually perceived as a  matter of strategic importance just like military readiness. For a country to leap ahead of others it needs a very developed education system to produce the people who will come up with the latest innovations and solutions needed for the new challenges that  the world has to deal with.

DYypyzNU0AA6XiA

One of the biggest challenges that African countries have to deal with is the challenge of youth unemployment. This challenge has often been manifested in a double dimension. On one hand you have young people who have gone through the education system being unable to find jobs to do. On the other hand you have young people having gone through the education system but lacking the required skill set to function effectively on the job.
In other words, they are ‘educated’ but not skilled to perform.

Therefore to address these challenges we need to look at the education system and fix it. One of the key flaws of the education systems especially in Africa is that those who end up in the teaching profession are people who had bigger aspirations such as becoming lawyers, doctors or engineers but make it. So the teaching profession becomes a place where dreams go to die. A collection of people who not only preferred  not to be teachers but also those who became teachers because they failed to be what they really to be.

All this comes from the fact that teachers are lowly paid so few aspire to join a career associated with misery and too much work. Another dilemma is that often times, the methods and even the curriculum used do not do a good job at keeping pace with reality. The world is changing so fast but the same cannot be said about how we teach those who are supposed to take on this changing world.

The Mastercard Foundation has over the years invested a lot in supporting education efforts in Africa especially in form of scholarships as well as supporting organisations involved in inculcating different skills like financial inclusion or better agricultural practices all aimed at uplifting the lives of different young people. During the recent launch of the Young Africa Works strategy in Kigali, Rwanda, the Foundation announced two key programs it will embark on so as to enable 30 million African youth  to secure dignified and fulfilling work by 2030.

The two programs with a kitty of US$100 million focus on tourism and hospitality (Hanga Ahazaza) and education (Leaders in Teaching). Both programs are being piloted in Rwanda with a plan to roll them out to the rest of the continent. There are reasons why  Rwanda was chosen to benefit from this first. The country has been on a tremendous path of progressive that riding on this wave is the only logical thing to do.

The Leaders in Teaching initiative seeks to support the delivery of high quality, relevant secondary education and will establish the pan-African Centre for Innovative Teaching and Learning in ICT that will explore new approaches to improving educational outcomes.It will focus on the areas of training, motivation, and professional development for teachers and school leaders.

In Rwanda, at least 250,000 secondary school students are set to benefit as the initiative aims to improve Science, Math, and ICT knowledge and teaching skills for new and experienced teachers, improve the capacity of head teachers to create positive instructional environments, and recruit young people into the profession.

Finding the people who are passionate about education and equipping them with the right skills, knowledge and attitude to execute this noble act is essentially what this initiative is all about. Teachers plays a very influential role in the education system and often what they have to offer is  probably the biggest influence to the learning outcomes.

The challenges that teachers in Africa face are well known to most of us and yet we often underestimate how these challenges trickle down to the learners and the general quality of life the learners are likely to enjoy. In many cases we are finding the worst people and expecting them to give their best to the learners. A clear case of working with the worst and hoping for the best and yet hope is not a strategy.

The Mastercard Foundation intends to prepare a situation where quality secondary education presents opportunities for young people. This can only happen where the teachers are qualified and skilled enough to deliver on this promise. They intend to do this through country-level programs that focus on recruiting passionate young people into the profession, and on investing in training and professional development for teachers and school leadership.

Secondly, they intend to set up Pan-African Centres for Innovative Teaching and Learning that address a key theme in secondary education relevant across Africa. These centres will support formulation of  evidence based ICT policies and set up of digital  learning resources for African classrooms. In all this Rwanda will benefit from all that the Mastercard Foundation has learnt over the years and Rwanda will also bring on board what it has learnt along its path of progress. The future can only be bright with such partnerships.

About the Mastercard Foundation

The Mastercard Foundation seeks a world where everyone has the opportunity to learn and prosper. The Foundation’s work is guided by its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion for people living in poverty. One of the largest foundations in the world, it works almost exclusively in Africa. It was created in 2006 by Mastercard International and operates independently under the governance of its own Board of Directors. The Foundation is based in Toronto, Canada. For more information and to sign up for the Foundation’s newsletter, please visit www.mastercardfdn.org. Follow the Foundation at @MastercardFdn on Twitter.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Hanga Ahazaza is a huge blessing to the hospitality industry

Last week all roads literally led to Kigali with Rwanda hosting a big African Union Summit at which African leaders signed a landmark agreement to create the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement. The commitment from the leaders is proof of growing concern to find lasting solutions to the challenges that the continent faces.

In a similar spirit, in the same week the Mastercard Foundation launched its new strategy dubbed Young Africa Works with a commitment to enable 30 million African youth especially young women to secure dignified and fulfilling work by 2030. It was no accident that  the Mastercard Foundation chose Rwanda as the launch pad of the new strategy. Rwanda has proven beyond doubt to be one of the most progressive African countries and it only makes sense for the Mastercard Foundation to set sail where the wind blows.

The Master Foundation announced two new programs in Rwanda aimed at directly addressing the overall goal of increasing economic opportunities for young people in Africa. The continent has an obvious population challenge of high population growth coupled with insufficient employment opportunities and where they exist there is a challenge of skills.

DYypyzNU0AA6XiA

One of the sectors that have proven pivotal to the economies of many African countries is the Tourism sector. The continent is blessed with some of the rarest wildlife and other natural features that many would love to experience. However the potential  for this industry is not yet fully exploited due to several factors including poor skills for those involved in the tourism and hospitality sector. This sector is all about experiences and you need people with the right skills, knowledge and attitudes in charge of things.

“Youth unemployment in Africa is the issue of our time. Together, we have an extraordinary opportunity to shape the future and increase prosperity for all,” said Reeta Roy, Mastercard Foundation President and CEO.  

The Mastercard Foundation announced a commitment of US$100 million for two initiatives in Rwanda one of which is Hanga Ahazaza, which will specifically seek to increase employment and enterprise opportunities for young Rwandans in the country’s growing tourism and hospitality sector. This initiative is coming just at the right time when Rwanda is doing all it can to harness the potential of tourism.

Indeed tourism has been one of the major contributors of the Rwandan economy thanks in part to the fact that the country is blessed to host the rare and endangered mountain gorillas. The efforts that have been put in place to conserve these rare species and save them from extinction have proved that Rwanda is a good place for such an initiative. The population  of the mountain gorillas has increased and now the government is in the process of acquiring more land from the people to increase on the size of the park.

Elsewhere, Akagera National Park now boasts of the famous Big Five with lions and rhinos recently reintroduced into the park. Poaching is almost unheard of, due to increased security in the park and sensitization of the people living near the parks and the country in general. Overall, the future of wildlife tourism in Rwanda is looking quite bright. Domestic tourism is another policy the government has embarked on with the Tembera uRwanda campaign that encourages Rwandans to explore the beauty of their country.

DY4YcKOX0AAguUq

The Rwandan government also embarked on developing and implementing a robust MICE tourism strategy. MICE refers to that tourism segment that covers meetings, incentives, conferences and events. The construction of the Kigali Convention Centre as well as new hotels of international repute such Kigali Marriott and Radisson Blu was a sign that Rwanda was ready for take off especially when you couple this with the expansion of the national carrier, Rwandair.

All the above serve as a good foundation for the Hanga Ahazaza (which means , create the future) initiative that will seek to equip 30,000 young men and women with customer service, ICT and digital literacy skills, and provide on-the-job- training and opportunities for employment. Small businesses in the same sector will also benefit from this initiative through access to financial services and business development skills.

All this will go a long way in not only improving the tourism and hospitality sector in Rwanda but also in the region since these initiatives are set to be rolled out to other parts of the continent in due course.

Facts to note

Hanga Ahazaza, meaning “create the future” in Kinyarwanda, is a consortium of partners from the education, development, and private sectors. Working together, they will support small businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector through increased access to financial services and training, and by connecting them to young people who have the skills they need to be successful employees.

• Each year, 125,000 young people are expected to join the labour force in Rwanda, but they face significant barriers to employment.1 More than 65 percent of youth between the ages of 14 and 35 are considered underemployed.2
• Rwandan youth, women in particular, lack relevant technical and soft skills, business expertise, access to financial services and tools, and support to start a business or search for a job.
• When entrepreneurs and small businesses access financial services, they have the resources to grow, expand, and create job opportunities for others in the community.
The Opportunity
• Growth in Rwanda’s tourism and hospitality sector is a key national priority. It’s vital to reducing poverty, improving youth employability, and moving the nation to middle-income status. The sector will have an estimated 151,000 jobs by 2030.3
• Improved access to financial services and tools, business development skills, entrepreneurship coaching and mentorship can support entrepreneurs and small businesses as they grow and hire more young people.
The Foundation’s Response
• The Mastercard Foundation’s Hanga Ahazaza initiative will equip 30,000 young men and women with the skills they need to transition into employment in the tourism and hospitality sectors.
— 17,000 will be new, entry-level employees.
— 10,000 existing employees and 3,000 new and existing industry managers will be equipped with the skills needed to secure employment in hotels, restaurants, and other tourism and hospitality enterprises.
• Young people will receive training in customer service, ICT and digital literacy skills, and receive on-the-job training and opportunities for employment.
• The initiative will coordinate with training institutions and providers to improve the quality and relevance of training materials. This will ensure they are aligned with national and global standards within the tourism and hospitality sector.
• Hanga Ahazaza will also support small businesses in the tourism and hospitality sector through increased access to financial services and business development skills training so they can create more employment opportunities for young people.

About the Mastercard Foundation

The Mastercard Foundation seeks a world where everyone has the opportunity to learn and prosper. The Foundation’s work is guided by its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion for people living in poverty. One of the largest foundations in the world, it works almost exclusively in Africa. It was created in 2006 by Mastercard International and operates independently under the governance of its own Board of Directors. The Foundation is based in Toronto, Canada. For more information and to sign up for the Foundation’s newsletter, please visit www.mastercardfdn.org. Follow the Foundation at @MastercardFdn on Twitter.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

And the award for Clients at the Centre Prize US$150,000 goes to… Jumo

This year’s Symposium on Financial Inclusion was held in Accra, Ghana and as usual the deliberations were as exciting and insightful as  many had anticipated. The event hosted by the Mastercard Foundation, happened at the Kempinski Accra hotel brought together key players in the world of financial inclusion numbering over 400 from over 50 countries.

As is always the case with similar Mastercard events, the interactive sessions are always very exciting. Sometimes it is the surveys or the debates that get almost everyone following keenly and eager to be part of the conversation.

During each of the symposia, Mastercard Foundation awards the Client at the Centre Prize  worth $150,000 to recognise the organisation that is most focused on client centricity to enable poor people in developing countries to access formal financial products and services.

The finalists for this cherished prize present their business models to the audience of over 400 industry professionals who are then tasked to vote for the winner. Each organisation has only a few minutes to present its case and win hearts and a fat cheque.

The inaugural award in 2015 went to the Swedish mobile microinsurance firm BIMA. Last year, the Prize was presented to the South African international remittance company, Hello Paisa. Every year more than 100 organisations send in application and you can imagine the Herculean task of cutting that number down to only three .

This year the three finalists were:
● Jumo, a large-scale, low-cost financial services marketplace that uses behavioral data from mobile usage to create financial identities for micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises;
● ftCash, one of India’s fastest growing financial technology ventures which aims to empower micro-merchants and small businesses with the power of digital payments and loans; and
● Destacame, a free online platform that empowers users by giving them control over their data to build their financial capabilities and to access financial products.

The aim of the prize is always to highlight the best practices that appeal to client satisfaction. In other words for one to win, the audience ought to be convinced that the client’s needs are not only met but are at the centre of the design of the financial service being offered.

Jumo Wins CATC Prize - Nov 8-2017-Accra (1)

After all was  said and done, Jumo, the South African-based company as a large-scale, low-cost financial services marketplace, were the lucky winners of that evening in Accra. After being awarded the Prize, Buhle Goslar, Director of Customer Intelligence at Jumo said “For anybody in a customer function, this is probably the most exciting prize to win because of the people who are voting for it. They really know about customer centricity; for them to vote for us is a great acknowledgement of the work that we’ve been doing.”

The Mastercard Foundation believes that banks and other financial service providers in developing countries should focus more on the needs and expectations of people living in poverty. Putting poor clients at the centre of the design of new financial products and services helps bring them into the formal banking system, improving their livelihoods and their ability to plan for the future.

“The Symposium on Financial Inclusion (SoFI) has focused on client centricity for the past five years,” said Ann Miles, Director of Financial Inclusion at the Mastercard Foundation. “We are thrilled to award this year’s prize to Jumo for its exemplary work of putting clients at the centre of its business model. As we reflect on the past five years of SoFI, it is more important now than ever before to recognize companies such as Jumo and encourage them to continue providing access to financial products for those who need it most.”

DOGYdovXkAEhFVC.jpg

The other two Prize finalists were ftcash, one of India’s fastest-growing financial technology ventures which aims to empower micro-merchants and small businesses with the power of digital payments and loans, and Destacame, a free online platform in Latin America that empowers users by giving them control over their data to build their financial capabilities and to access financial products.

About the Mastercard Foundation

The Mastercard Foundation works with visionary organizations to provide greater access to education, skills training and financial services for people living in poverty, primarily in Africa. As one of the largest private foundations, its work is guided by its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. Based in Toronto, its independence was established by Mastercard when the Foundation was created in 2006.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Will clients remain at the centre of financial inclusion going forward

At the beginning of November, the humid but beautiful city of Accra in Ghana played host to what has grown to become one of most significant conversations around financial inclusion. The MasterCard Foundation Symposium on Financial Inclusion brought together financial inclusion professionals from across the globe to keep pace with developments and share ideas and experiences around the core theme of “Clients at the Centre.”

The Accra event was the fifth annual dialogue that sought to tickle and direct the next generation of financial services providers not keep the client at the centre of all the processes and designs that cover financial inclusion as a whole. Over the years consensus has been built to the fact that understanding the client is key to achieving meaningful financial inclusion especially for the poor.

For the duration of the conference, delegates reflected on the journey that financial service providers and clients go through  and how it influences how they relate with each other. Addressing the issue of whether it remains a win win situation for both the service providers and the clients and whether this can remain the case with all the changes in technology advancements and increased collaboration among the industry actors remained a key talking point.

The over 400 participants from more than 50 countries that gathered at the Kempinski Hotel in Accra spent quite some time mulling over whether indeed the client can keep a hold on to their central position at a time when some of the service providers are growing into worrying monoliths with so much power, data in their hands.

The rise of mobile platforms as major playground for service providers has not only proved to be a worrying to traditional players like banks but also a growing concern to clients who give up so much personal information that big players can use for their own ends. Client centricity can be compromised where big tech players choose to use all the data they mine from clients to meet their own selfish objectives especially where there is no consent from the clients or it is hidden is small print terms and conditions that poor people may not be made aware of.

DOMkf9OWkAABwg9.jpg

This calls for stricter regulatory frameworks and client sensitisation in order to protect the clients’ position from being abused. Much as there is clear evidence of growing financial inclusion and the benefits that have improved the lives of so many, it is important to keep an eye on emerging challenges lest the poor lose out from irresponsible service providers.

More so, the symposium provided a good opportunity for delegates to understand the intricacies of the financial inclusion journeys happening particularly in West Africa. Great insights into how in Nigeria Jumia has grown into a key e-commerce platform and how cognizant they are of the threat from bigger players like Alibaba that are keen to also take a bite at the African e-commerce pie.

For the banks the clarion call remains that they have to partner with fintechs if they are to survive the onslaught of digital platforms eating into their business model. Some have even gone ahead and created their own digital platforms so as to keep apace.

About the Mastercard Foundation
The Mastercard Foundation works with visionary organizations to provide greater access to education, skills training and financial services for people living in poverty, primarily in Africa. As one of the largest private foundations, its work is guided by its mission to advance learning and promote financial inclusion to create an inclusive and equitable world. Based in Toronto, its independence was established by Mastercard when the Foundation was created in 2006. For more information, please visit http://www.mastercardfdn.org.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment