I have been eager to update you on my first week in Uganda. The past week that I have spent in Uganda has been a tremendous time of soaking in observations of Uganda’s business and governance environment.
My first meeting of the week was with Dr. Yasin Ziraba, Chairman of the National Steering Committee for the Innovation Systems and Cluster Programmes of Uganda (www.ugandaclusters.com). This is an incredible program that works to foster innovation, collaboration, and competition among small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Uganda. If you are into collaboration, this is a program to watch out for. I cannot wait to connect you with this program when I get back to Atlanta.
We discussed how this program brings together enterprises operating in the same sector and forms them into clusters according to their geographic location. Some examples of the successes clusters have had through this program include the following:
-The Management Consulting cluster securing a contract with Emirates Airline to hire 300 personnel for the airlines operation in Uganda.
-The Katwe Metal Fabrication cluster building an entire car from scratch.
-The ICT cluster developing a system that utilizes SMS messaging to determine Uganda’s national milk supply
Uganda has a burgeoning film industry, and I met with the Director of Uganda’s Investment Authority and the Program Director of Maisha Film Labs in efforts to gain a better grasp of Uganda’s film space.
Maisha Film Labs trains filmmakers through laboratory training sessions in partnership with the likes of Columbia University, Goteburg Film Fund, and the Danish Film Festival. After the labs, filmmakers produce four short films, some of which have appeared in renowned film festivals. Oscar-nominated director Mira Nair founded the organization in 2004, and it hasn’t looked back since.
The Ugandan government is establishing the environment for filmmakers to be successful through the creation of intellectual property laws, and the capacity building of officials responsible for enforcing such laws.
Yesterday, I and three friends had a terrific dinner with Derreck Kayongo’s parents. Derreck works at Care International and is Chariman of the Global Soap Project (www.globalsoap.org), an Atlanta-based organization that reprocesses used soap from US hotels. His father told us how Derreck, at a young age, would watch him make soap. A lot of people are grateful that he was paying attention.
I have stayed with a most gracious family, the Kajjubis, who has given me an eye into people living at the bottom of the economic pyramid. They lead a church in a struggling suburb of Kampala, Uganda’s capital city. They have a vision to impact the lives of the community spiritually and economically. I have learned so much from this family in the past week. We have had incredible fellowship every day – praying, building business plans, playing soccer with the local boys. I am most grateful to my friend for inviting me to join him in visiting close friends.
Today, we leave for Bugiri, a rural city east of Kampala. Agriculture is one of Uganda’s leading economic opportunity areas, and I am eager to spend time with farmers working the land in that part of the country. I will be back in Kampala next Wednesday, and I look forward to updating you at the end of next week.