Market and Need in Uganda

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In Uganda, it is said, there are no niches in the market, but great big gaping holes.

You’ll find an unbelievable number of churches for cleansing of the soul, but not a single laundry for cleaning of clothes, neither in Kampala nor anywhere in the whole country (there are dry cleaners but these are the domain of the rich, for it costs an average of UGX 10,000 to have a two piece suit dry-cleaned). 30 million people wash their clothes by hand; even though there is countrywide (at least in the larger towns) electricity supply and running water. Only a few expatriate and richer Ugandan households own a washing machine.

Almost every vocational institution trains carpenters, who after finishing their education present their produce at the roadside, no matter where, but the furniture is usually of a common design. Sofas, armchair, tables, chairs, all of relatively poor quality. Why aren’t there more designers to run professional furniture factories? Why are there not more wood mills to process and supply dry wood, so that desk tops and tables don’t warp after a few weeks of using?

Furniture - all the same design

Coca Cola and Pepsi have discovered the Ugandan market already and Ugandans love these beverages. However other franchise companies like McDonalds, KFC, Burger King or Pizza Hut are still asleep, but Ugandans would go for it, I am very sure.
There are around 850 international development organisations here and probably even more global international companies with local branches but there seems not to be a single agency which provides temporary staff.

Expatriates come and go. Houses are built. Properties change owners. The rental market booms. But only very small property agents and brokers exist who mostly haven’t even seen the properties they are offering to their customers and annoy them accordingly. No money for air time, and ‘beeping’ or ‘flashing’ the client awaiting a call back on their costs. Few web sites presenting properties for sale or rent, and if there is a web site you can bet that the pictures are not representative of the place on offer, and sometimes not even available any more.

What Uganda lacks is serious entrepreneurship. People, who roll up their sleeves, and go out in the first place to set up a large company. In addition, the few Ugandans who have successful businesses somehow are challenged to grow their enterprises. Not that Ugandans are lazy, or possibly don’t like working. On the contrary, all Ugandans I know work very hard, above all manually. The roads are full with people, very early in the morning, thousands of people who operate small businesses, selling air time, newspapers, used goods, food. But the majority of these tiny enterprises remain tiny. Large families need to be fed and somehow a methodical approach and reinvestment of profits is missing.
I see the need for businesses consultants, but above all genuine entrepreneurs! People with vision, who are forward thinking and infectious. Entrepreneurs who have experience in creating companies, with a track record of this in their home countries, people who know how to develop themselves from a dishwasher to a millionaire, because they are driven.

There are many capable, intelligent Ugandans, and I observe a great deal of entrepreneurial spirit: willingness to take risks; to work long hours; to educate themselves intensely; but I also observe that people lose their way, not having the experience of how things are done properly, lacking role models, and hampered by too many things which need to be addressed at the same time. Many companies are started and then diverted and finally die.

Thinking positively, possibly some people require just a small push in the right direction and some assistance to remain focused – but one must find them, help them, train and support the ones with leadership qualities – these people are the backbone of Uganda, the future of the country.