There is an interesting documentary titled the Men Who Built America. If you have never watched it, you don’t know what you are missing. I would suggest you look up that DVD, lock yourself in the house and watch it. Alternatively, get your data bundles as it must be available on Netflix.
The men who built America features Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller (probably the richest man besides King Solomon if you love your bible or Genghis Khan if you are into history). The others were Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Thomas Edison, and Nicola Tesla. It was a story of innovation and resilience. They believed in their ideas and moved their country forward. Don’t get me wrong, they were not angels! They were businessmen!
Every time I think about the men who built America, I start thinking of the men or women building Uganda and Africa.
Today, I got a copy of the October 2017 edition of Forbes Africa magazine. There are many stories in this edition including one on Amos Wakesa, the tourism entrepreneur whose story is well documented and Dr Ian Clarke — again he doesn’t need introduction. But what caught my mind is Kiira Motors Corporation not that they need any introduction.
There is no company in Uganda that draws mixed reactions as Kiira Motors today. This is because they want to make history. They have already done nobody else has ever done by making Africa’s first electric car, hybrid car, and solar bus. And reading the story took me back to the men who built America. Henry Ford was fought so much when he tried make cars. Apparently, horses were better as a form of mobility at that time. People said cars are not possible. They internal combustion engine would blow up, they were not enough roads etc. Henry Ford is rumoured to have said that if he had asked people what they wanted, they would have said….wait for it…. “faster horses.”
Nicola Tesla lost his job because his boss the greatest inventor of all time, Thomas Edison couldn’t bring that alternative current (AC) is actually better electricity than Direct Current (DC). What an irony! I hear about the same stuff all the time about Kiira Motors. They can’t make cars even when they have made three cars. Somebody even said why didn’t they start by making toothpicks and safety pins to remove jiggers from people of a certain tribe. We can be so jocular at times!
If you have made three cars, what stops you from making 100, 500, 1,000, or one million vehicles? I sometimes feel for the guys who run Kiira Motors and I admire them at the same time especially their ability to switch off from the outside noise and do what they think is right. It needs special talents to do that.
So when the time comes for a documentary on the men (and women) who built Uganda or Africa? Where will you be? Among those who were the naysayers who are only good to watch on the side or among those who would have done something? It is a question I am asking myself. I don’t want to be on the wrong side of history.
Again, if you are to look at America today, they are still the biggest innovators on earth. The men who are building America today are the owners of Google, Facebook, Amazon, Tesla Motors, Microsoft, and many others. America is rich because when somebody comes up with a crazy idea, they simply provide the money. They know the idea may not work. But they give it a chance. Rockefeller innovated oil pipelines when the trains couldn’t transport his oil or demanded so much. JP Morgan listened to Nicola Tesla and brought in the money.
Somebody is going to say Ugandans are poor and don’t have money. That is not true. When a company comes from Brazil and says you invest USD2000 and we give you USD180 every week for 52 weeks when you are actually doing nothing, Ugandans sign up very fast. In a quarter of a year, a company like that signs up USD12m. And in another three months, the directors of the company have vanished from the surface of the earth. It’s true story. Ask them to invest USD12m in a company with a business case, they will say we don’t want to lose our money.
We must start investing in our people with good ideas or simply those who are willing to start or go to the next level. Some need very little. A boy who needs to earn some money slashing your compound, washing your car or simply wants to start up a Rolex stall on the roadside. They need very little to start and they can be the next Amos Wekesa, they might be the next Henry Ford, Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg.
The author is a media and communication consultant and construction contractor.
#OutToLunch is a compilation of Denis Jjuuko’s lazy and flaky ideas.