My boda guy is an interesting character. He told me that education is a hindrance to progress for most people. “Why?” I asked! “Anti mwe mubala nyo!” “You count too much,” he responded. “Look around town, Sudhir, BMK, Young, Drake Lubega, name them, who has a degree? I tried to think hard and truthfully, of all the building owners I know in the city centre, none is a professor or a doctor. I know the Twed Tower belongs to a doctor but he is one of the few.
So I kept wondering, is education really not the key to enormous success but instead a hindrance? It depends on where you stand. Looking at myself, I see many instances where my knowledge was a hindrance to opportunities. Many opportunities have come up and after several consultations, doing cost benefit analysis, doing projections on growth, competitor analysis, name it, I often find the ventures not worth investing in.
On several occasions, while in the process of doing this analysis, you find that the opportunity has been taken. I remember when they were building a UK mall in Kansanga, I wanted to venture into the pharmacy business. So I approached Umar Katongole (explains the name of the mall?), the owner, when they were still in the basement. He was kind and allocated me a prime location. I literally determined the location since he was still building. I was to make a deposit on rent within a week.
That week, I took my pharmacist friends there, got an inspector to check, and took some time as he was to confirm whether it’s possible to have a pharmacy at the mall when there are 3 pharmacies in the neighbourhood. By the time I got the reports on both suitability and prospects, it was too late. Someone else had taken the place. And here is how my journey into the pharmacy business went. Wouldn’t be surprised if it was taken by someone who isn’t that structured.
Very recently, someone told me about an opportunity in Apac. By hearing of the word Apac, I imagined a place with no paved roads, nowhere to sleep, maybe even animals crawling. When I told my friends about it, one of them said, let’s go and have a look. “You will never know what lies on the other side if you don’t go there. Sometimes, you will find a huge snake or even a hungry lion. Then you take off for your life or be eaten. Or you find a big hive with honey dripping. A man’s gotta do what a man gotta do,” he said in his usual humorous style.
In my long 41 years in this republic, I had never been to Apac. Google didn’t give great answers. I was more confused by what I learnt; maps, satellite images, news pieces I found were not painting the best picture. I was hesitant to go. I accepted to go because partly, I had made a promise to myself to be more adventurous on my 40th birthday and this was a day before my 41st. Let’s go! I said to him, At 6AM the next day, we were on the road headed north.
The road was smooth, the stories and laughter made light of the long journey. By 9:30AM, we were at the ferry crossing. We were met with a pleasant surprise, the ferry was under repair. So we took the “special” boat, a fishing dugout canoe that has since been turned into a taxi. In five minutes, we had crossed the gigantic Nile – that looks more of a lake than a river at this 900M wide crossing – within 5 minutes. There are no floating Jackets, so there, “you die like a man” if you are faint hearted. Once across, we parked ourselves in a blue Ipsum that sits 11, an extra seat had been created between the front seats to fit more passengers and off we hit the generally smooth marram road to Apac.
As we got tinted by the dust from the road that is currently being laid with tarmac (should there be future trips, this should be easier), we passed through many townships full of activity. The people were jolly and nothing like my preconceived assumptions. Maybe just like Speke felt after “discovering” Nalubale and the river Nile, we were excited to discover Apac. Now imagine if we had not gone? Maybe we would still believe it was a hostile, nearly hell of a place. Well, the business opportunity remains in balance but we at least succeeded at breaking out of our comfort zone. We now know better by taking the gamble.
Had we considered all the information at hand, weighed the options, considered the cost of transport, we probably wouldn’t have gone. Our other normal people were jumping into the boats without life jackets and enjoying the crammed taxis with cheer. Many corporate people would consider this too risky and not worth exploring. Maybe we would be better not knowing!
I must confess that I have not always been like this. Not long ago, I was easy going, bordering on reckless. If something came up and I was convinced it was worth it, I went all in without hesitation. But as the years go by, you know way too much and fear so much.
This fear gets in the way. Maybe we should risk more when we are younger. It’s definitely easier! After all, at that time, if you lose everything, you can start over again easily. It’s harder when you are older.
That said, we should step out, travel, meet people, and take the risks. You never know what we can find out there!
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