Orientation Week

Last week was a week of ups and downs, frustrations and excitement here in Kampala, as we oriented ourselves around the city and prepared to meet our business owners.

Easter weekend

The first few days in the homestay were inevitably going to be hard work, for all parties involved. It seems there is a huge amount of variation in the size, location, and scale of luxury in the different homes. One (very jammy!) colleague is staying in a gorgeous mansion on the top of a hill, with a stunning view over Kampala city. They have a maid and plenty of food provided. Another is in a small apartment with just a bunkbed to share with their counterpart and will have to cook for themselves most of the time. I am staying in the suburbs with Momma Grace, her three-year-old daughter Faith, her niece Sheila and a variety of other family members, and my counterpart, Naira. We managed to be the only ones with a pit latrine – lucky us! It’s not really a problem, and something I was expecting, though the rat which snuck in there to greet me on my first night not was not a welcome visitor!!

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Getting to know Kampala

I can now confidently get myself in to the city centre, around town, and safely home, having spent the week moving to various spots with the team. The main method of transport is taxis: small minibuses which are pretty comfortable and, to be honest, beat standing in a crowded tube. The traffic jams are absolutely terrible though, and often a 45-minute journey will take around two hours.

The other way to get about is on boda bodas: motorcycle taxis. They scoot around town very speedily, but given that they’re the top killer in this city, we’re not allowed to use them. People manage to transport some crazy stuff around on those boda bodas… this week I saw someone strapping a whole bed on the back!

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Another crazy traffic jam moment from this week has to be watching a man run up to a stationary fuel tanker, open the valve in the side of the tank and effectively steal petrol straight into a black bin liner. I thought the driver was going to kick off, but he just told him to stop and the fellow walked off looking pretty pleased with himself! My fellow taxi passengers, however, were outraged!

Meeting the Incubators and Businesses

This week we learnt more about the Business Incubators through which our SME have been identified. These incubators provide support and mentoring to entrepreneurs and established businesses.

CURAD, aims to encourage a smoother transition between agricultural studies and practice. They help students to get more work experience, and especially focus on value addition within the coffee sector.

Enterprise Uganda aims to “help people succeed in business”. It has a wide range of services, from training and mentorship, to networking and planning, aimed at established businesses. I was happy to read on their website that special attention is given to female entrepreneurs, as women occupy a large part of the workforce here in Uganda.

Afri Banana Products is an agribusiness incubator, which specialises in banana value-chain development. They support SMEs who work with banana products, and encourage innovation and new ideas for using every part possible of the banana plant. Their incubatees produce an array of products from both the sweet yellow bananas we know at home, and ‘matooke’, a green banana which is cooked for eating. For example, they make banana juice, banana wine, banana chips, cooking briquettes, banana paper, dried fruit, animal feeds, vinegar and jewellery. Of course when we met there on Wednesday our meeting was delayed by a good three hours, causing much frustration amongst the team. They warned us about punctuality back at home, but that didn’t stop us being royally annoyed when it became a reality! Relief came in the form of celebrating Tom and Naira’s birthday with cake, singing and silly hats that afternoon!

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On Friday morning we met our business owners. Naira and I will be working with Waste Masters Ltd., a waste management company, which specialises in household garbage collection. The owner, Chrispin Lutalo, has nicknamed himself “Kasisiro”, meaning “Trash” in Luganda. Once we get more stuck in to the role, I’ll be able to give some more details about the company.

On Friday evening, a few of us managed to link up with a friend from the UK, Andrew, who is living out here organising the first International Uganda Marathon. It seems like he’s doing some great work establishing connections with numerous NGOs in Masaka and around the country. All of the international runners will fundraise for one of these Ugandan charities, and will enjoy a visit when they come over for the race. It was lovely to meet up with someone outside of the programme, learn about the development work he’s realising, and share a couple of Niles, of course!

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