Monthly Archives: April 2016

I’ve Quit My Job – What Next?

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The message flashed onto my WhatsApp and looking at the sender, I was not only overjoyed but also very proud of the move this long time friend of mine had made.

The adage “throwing the cow over the cliff” emanates from the story of a Philosopher who was strolling in a remote area with his disciple. They came across this family living in a dingy house all dressed in ragged and dirty clothes. On asking them how they manage to survive, they pointed at the cow and narrated how it provides for their daily milk supplies which they use at home as well as barter for other commodities at the nearby town.

On departing, the Philosopher tells his disciple to go get that cow and throw it over the cliff. The disciple apparently filled with sympathy thought that was a very heinous act but had to do as he was told. Despite his rumblings, the Philosopher never went ahead to explain why.

This experience haunted the disciple that many years later he decided to go back alone and check on this family. On reaching the place, he found a big farm with all sorts of amenities, tractors, a big farm house, storage silos, a new car parked in the yard among other things. He quickly knocked at the door and asked the gentleman who opened where the ragged family that once owned that place had gone.

The gentleman responded, They still own the place. Well, we used to have a cow, but it fell over the cliff and died,” said the man. “Then, in order to support my family, I had to plant herbs and vegetables. The plants took a while to grow, and so I started cutting down trees to sell the wood. Then, of course, I had to buy saplings to replace the trees. When I was buying the saplings, I thought about my children’s clothes, and it occurred to me that I could perhaps try growing my own cotton. I had a difficult first year, but by the time harvest came around, I was already selling vegetables, cotton and aromatic herbs. I had never realized how much potential the farm had. That cow dying was a bit of luck really!”

Many of us are stuck in the rat race with work or jobs whose only effect is to give us the comfort that we can foot those bills like house rent, car loans, utilities, eating out, a weekend at the club, going for holiday in exotic destinations among others. These jobs psychologically condition us into thinking and believing that without them, we can’t survive. Like that ragged poor family, we believe that without that job, life is all over. Infact we can’t imagine anything called existence outside that highly billed job. This probably is the biggest reason why we get the Mid Life Crisis bug when we hit certain ages. Sometimes the best thing that can ever happen to you is to lose that job you so much want to stick onto.

We all have Cows that need to be thrown off the cliff if we are to achieve those dreams we harbored right from our youthful days. The death of that poor family’s cow got them into overdrive and behold, in a matter of years, they had stretched their imagination beyond the cow and acquired skills in crop husbandry, lumbering among others which eventually saw them start reaping. Of course the beginning is always hard (this I can’t lie) but once you remain steadfast with the decision to forge a way forward, the benefits start coming in droves.

I recall a marketeer who once worked with one of Uganda’s leading Telecom companies close to twelve years ago. This then young man was the perfect embodiment of his company’s brand. He was always the subject of the only available gossip column then in the New Vision called ‘Have You Heard.’ He was every babe’s dream guy simply because he had the money to flaunt around, a big company guzzler to drive anytime he wanted to and the assurance of a salary many could only dream of. One day, he went on leave and in his absence, quite some dirt was uncovered of his underhand dealings. Upon returning to office for work, he was gently requested to hand over all company property in his possession and just like that, he fell from Grace to Grass. Walking out of his employer’s air conditioned building, he looked for the next boda boda (motor bike) to take him back to his upscale rented residence. Just like that, he fizzled into obscurity, never to be heard of again.

This marketeer’s story is one of a cow being thrown over the cliff but it’s ending is full of uncertainties. The difference between him and the rugged family is that this then young man probably never had as much thirst and desire to survive and overcome his predicament when compared to the poor family.

My friend who sent that WhatsApp message had been contemplating for a while about leaving his job and pursuing his desired work as opposed to doing a job he studied for. When I shared that story of throwing the cow over the cliff, he reflected upon the message and saw that it applied to him personally. That is when he decided to take the plunge.

You might be in a similar situation, you have wanted to make that move, you know too well that the job you are doing only enables you slide through life with a smile but deep inside your heart, you would rather be elsewhere. Don’t deny yourself and your heart’s desires because you are definitely going to regret in future not having taken the step at the time when it mattered most. You are no different from a partner who hangs on in an abusive marriage because of the children and what society will think.

As one of the soft drink companies says, You Only Live Once (YOLO). The scare of not being able to meet your bills might over weigh your desire to pursue your first love but am here to encourage you and tell you that BITE THAT BULLET. The challenges you are likely to face are part of your future story since you can’t have a testimony without a test.

I know that for you to read this far, you have definitely considered throwing the cow over the cliff before but backed out. This is your time, this is your day this is your season. Discover your unlimited potential, THROW THAT COW OVER THE CLIFF !!!!!

@wirejames on Twitter

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President Museveni, Some advice on Roads

Dear Mr. President!

I am hoping that this finds you well!

In a few days; you will be sworn in as our President for yet another 5 years. I do not know if you are excited about the new term in office as some of us are; I will for the purpose of this note, assume that you are, perhaps even more than I am.

I am excited about the new term of office because you have promised us so many good things; things that should change for the better, the life of the ordinary Ugandan.

I implore you Mr. President; to start doing these good things by changing the way we do things because we cannot do things the same way and expect change.

For instance in the roads sector; if we are to achieve any meaningful development; we must….

1. Reduce the cost of building and maintaining roads; so that we are able to build more roads using the same resources. This is one thing that Govt can very easily do but has simply ignored or refused to do.

2. Must empower the local road construction industry so that we build its capacity. It hurts our economy when all the money spent building roads finds its way out of the country because all the work is done by foreign companies; some of whom are actually fake. It is hard to believe that Eutaw on the Katosi road is an isolated case!!

It is absurd to say the least, that in 30years of steady progress, we have failed to build just one local contractor to international standard. Clearly there is something not right!

Continuing to ignore this industry the way the NRM Govt has done over the years, is a great disservice to the people of Uganda.

It has been common place for all your Ministers for Works to state at every chance they get, that the problem with the local contractors is that they have no experience and capacity. Three questions I have for these Ministers are;
a)  If a contractor has been building murram roads for 40years; where will he get the experience on tarmac roads if you his only employer will not accord him the chance?

b) How can a contractor build capacity for building tarmac roads when they have no assurance for a job? Those that have tried have ended up with bank loans that they cannot pay!!

c) Where do they think the foreign companies fake or otherwise that come here got their experience from? Were they incorporated with this experience?

The benefits of a strong local road construction industry to a developing country like ours cannot be over emphasized.

3. We must adopt different methods of road construction best suited to our culture of having poor or no maintenance regimes for our roads.

4. We must adopt different maintenance regimes for our roads so that there is sustainable expenditure in the sector. Its baffling to see the bitumen or gravel on a road being eaten away by rain water because the maintenance cycles we have now do not provide for regular routine maintenance.

5. Abandon schemes that involve Govt taking over the construction and maintenance of roads in whatever form.

The reality is that these schemes have been tried before and they did not work, they simply resulted in the wastage of public resources! To that end, they simply cannot be justified.

Government needs to build meaningful and sustainable partnerships with the private sector in order to deliver on the roads.

Mr. President, I wish you all the best in your new term of office and I look forward to real change in the way we do things. That is the only way we shall be able to produce real results that speak for themselves in this and other sectors such as the health sector!

Contributed by Anthony Mark Mondo via WhatsApp

KCCA, Stop the Sugar Coated Incompetence

A visit to the Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) Website led me to read about the Directorate of Physical Planning and I saw these opening lines, “To plan the development of the functional urban design, infrastructure and administer land management of Kampala city. To ensure that the development in the city is organized and does not exert stress on the existing functioning infrastructures, the planning takes care of the overall planning of Kampala city.”

I was led to review this online information after the heart breaking loss of lives and property in the collapse of the Kyaseka Towers, an under construction Six Storeyed building as reported in the media. I also took time off to pass by the site and it wasn’t a good scene at all.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 13.27.47What I read on the website was in total contrast with the exchange I had earlier on Twitter with the same institution.

As if that wasn’t enough, the media has released all sorts of press messages from KCCA consistently putting blame on either the owner or the contracted engineer of the structure. Some of the stories that turned out into the media are;

In all this, the message from White Hall (KCCA Headquarters) is clear, “It’s not us. We are clean good guys and blame free. The problem is with the building owner.” This impression is insinuated in statements from some of the institution’s staff like;

For KCCA to give you a permit, your engineer must be registered with an institute of professional engineers because some people pretend to be engineers yet they don’t have skills. We advised Mr Kyeseka to first get our approval but he couldn’t understand,” Engineer Kitaka Andrew, Director Engineering at KCCA.

Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 14.02.38This building was not yet complete. As you can see, there were still poles going up meaning that it was still going up. However he [Moses Kyaseka] built for a certain period even before we came into existence as KCCA and then the building stopped for some time. And he was resuming but in a clandestine manner not in an open manner. We had summoned them to come to KCCA to resubmit their plans. And actually even recently as recent as last week, our engineers came to this building, they inspected it quickly and we were supposed to start doing the structural integrity assessment of the building. Unfortunately it collapsed before an assessment was done,” Engineer Kitaka Andrew, Director Engineering at KCCA.

We urge all developers to always observe building regulations in place.” Ms. Jennifer Musisi, Executive Director at KCCA.

I have always and will continue being a vocal, unrepentant supporter of this institution but being the objective type, when nonsense is done, I should never be expected to tolerate it and I won’t. The collapse of poorly constructed structures isn’t a new story in Kampala but what amazes me is to see that the officials supposed to work on turning around the status-quo retreating to pathetic excuses.

It is well known that successful corporate professionals are those who are skillful enough to steer clear of blame when something goes wrong and yet position themselves to get all the accolades when all is right. KCCA staff seem to have perfected that art and as long as you can ensure that you are in the good books of a superior, even such public embarrassments like this one need not faze you at all.

While the average government employee would claim that they are poorly paid to be able to carry out their duties effectively, the KCCA staff are wise enough to realise that such an excuse can’t count and hence the response they made in a tweet that “like Police KCCA can’t be present on all sites 24/7 developers public & professionals all have a role to curb this.” So, they prefer to give the impression that they are over whelmed.

Overwhelmed? My foot. You have the audacity to organise a very efficient Carnivore costing Millions of Dollars and still can’t plan for the lives of the people you are maintaining the city for? By concentrating on cosmetic activities, KCCA is appealing to lower level instincts of humanity and the time has come for them to start addressing issues that will touch the marrow of Kampala’s dwellers.

How can a developer defy the mighty KCCA and they keep quiet? Yet the same KCCA is on record for being super efficient when it comes to chasing, whipping and confiscating property from hundreds if not thousands of street hawkers? One developer? Really? If it grunts like a pig, then it must be a pig. All the hallmarks of conveniently bribed officials at the White Hall are visible in this blame throwing statement issued by the Director of Engineering. He’s essentially condoning the “Hear no Evil, See no Evil” attitude of his staff.

How could the developer have reached the stage of even letting tenants into the structure without the knowledge of KCCA? Are there no staff of the institution that ply that route daily to and from work? It is this ‘leave work at work’ or ‘it’s not my duty’ attitude that needs to be changed. Remember, a junior secretary in that institution earns more than a doctor yet they are all government workers. With such serious perks, I would expect staff who eat and breathe KCCA everywhere they go.

I still have some unanswered questions for KCCA;

  • I know you’re overwhelmed by the size of the city, can you at least show us one inspection report per year for that structure ever since the authority was set up?

  • You claim the contractor defied your directives, isn’t there an ordinance at KCCA that clearly stipulates the consequences of defiance?

  • It is claimed that you had requested that he first gets his plan approved including complying with the need for a professional engineer. How did he get to build a whooping Six storeys without your knowledge?

  • You claim he built in a road reserve. Is this the time to make such information public? Can you please publish all structures built in the road reserves and the corresponding action to be taken against them? Does it mean if he hadn’t infringed on the road reserve you would be ok with a poor structure?

For once I side with my fellow Lumumbist the Lord Mayor Elect who is quoted as saying, “Many city buildings don’t meet the standards and this problem is particularly caused by the Directorate of Engineering at KCCA, who don’t take time to study the plans presented to them. These are the things I have always been complaining about and now that my office is still locked, I can’t do anything to rectify such problems.

To be honest, Madam Jennifer Musisi, as the ED of KCCA, the buck starts and stops with you. You need to carry out an internal investigation and find out your staff who are conveniently colluding with illicit developers in the city. Uproot them even if they are your favourites. We need a city that is going to be structured around proper planning. Genuine developers complain of their plans taking for ever to be approved ( I have a doctor friend who is in this quagmire and has been waiting for over two years) yet quacks go about their business unhindered. With the level of IT deployments you are making as an institution, can’t you have a simple monitoring tool that can give your Engineering team reminders on which areas to follow up when and how? Some of these things to get done only require people who are willing to appreciate that they are paid above average salaries and hence must go the extra mile to produce results.

Get out of that shell guys at White House because we can’t stand tolerating such gross levels of incompetence being massaged by a well oiled Public Relations machinery.

If this isn’t hallucination, then what is it?

Rest In Peace to those who died in this tragedy including that University Student who had celebrated his birthday the night before.

@wirejames on Twitter.

The unravelling reality of Space Travel

Welcome back the Shepard, perfect landing, we made history today. Now, who wants to go to space?” said the commentator in the video after the second landing of the New Shephard rocket that Blue Origin has been working on to realise the dream of space travel. Wondering, what the heck this is all about?

Let’s go down memory lane. The 18th and 19th centuries were spent with various individuals experimenting on air travel. Many mistakes were made, however, their persistent efforts paid off when at the dawn of the 20th century, The Wright brothers among others were able to come up with mechanised flight.

The first commercial flight in recorded history occurred on January 1st 1914 between St. Petersburg and Tampa in the USA covering a distance of 21 miles (34 Kilometres) in 23 minutes at an altitude of 15 feet (5 metres). The amount paid then by the passenger was US$ 400 which is equivalent to almost US$ 10,000 today.

KLM the world’s first commercial airline opened it’s doors in 1919 and transported 345 passengers and 25,000 Kg of mail and cargo in its first year. This is equivalent to the load carried by a single Boeing currently. Since then, a lot of progress has been made in the aviation industry with flights today traveling non stop for over ten hours at speeds we currently consider fast.

In the middle of the 20th century, the space race begun and was largely a two horse battle between the American and Soviet Governments. The Soviets drew the first blood by sending the first man to space as well as launching the first ever satellite. Subsequently, the Americans outdid them by landing the first men onto the moon. Alot of effort has since gone into space related research with the launch of numerous satellites and probes sent to distant planets.

The entry of private players into the Space Age that had been a monopoly of state actors begun remarkably changing many things and injected a lot of much needed money as well as innovative ideas.

In 2002, the commercialisation of space travel saw Mark Shuttleworth become the first African to travel to space and spend eight days at the International Space Station. It however came at a hefty cost of Twenty Million US Dollars. Not many can afford such sums of money to achieve the dream of space travel.

One of the reasons space flight has traditionally been expensive is the need to use new rockets each time a pay load has to be taken to space. It is similar to having to purchase a new plane for each flight that is going to be made. There has always therefore been a need to come up with ways of landing rockets safely back to earth and reusing them for future missions.

On April 29th 2015, Blue Origin launched the first flight of the New Shepard rocket that flew upto 307,000 feet (Approximately 94 Km) which was just 6 Km shy of the Kármán Line at the altitude of 100Km regarded as the Edge of Space. The rocket came back to earth and made a successful upright landing much to the joy of the development team.

As if that was not enough, seven months later, on November 23rd 2015, a repeat flight was made by the same rocket that achieved a distance of 329,839 feet (100.4 Km) above the earth effectively reaching the edge of space.

On the 21st of December 2015, Space X a company whose goal is to enable people live on other planets sent the Falcon 9 rocket to space and it duly delivered eleven (11) low earth orbiting satellites after which it returned and landed safely back on earth. Similar to Blue Origin, Space X took the game further using a more powerful rocket while attempting a much harder feat. Not to be outdone, the New Shepard was sent on another trip back to sky on 22nd January 2016 confirming to many that Blue Origin means business.

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Falcon 9 rocket route plan. Picture courtesy of SpaceX

What does this all mean to humankind?

“If one can figure out how to effectively reuse rockets just like airplanes, the cost of access to space will be reduced by as much as a factor of a hundred. A fully reusable vehicle has never been done before. That really is the fundamental breakthrough needed to revolutionise access to space.” Elon Musk, Space X founder.

At the turn of the 20th century, the pride of many was being able fly in an aeroplane and visit other continents on earth. The 21st century however has come with its own demands. Today, with a greater understanding of the solar system, galaxies and the universe, humanity is aspiring to colonise other planets and make them habitable or at worst extensions of our civilisation. Why can’t one go for holiday on mars or the moon? How about taking a guided tour of the Solar system giving you an opportunity to see planets like Pluto, Saturn and it’s many moons all from the heavens’ eye view? Imagine closely trailing a comet or asteroid on its journey orbiting the sun? Let alone having real estate on the moon with a retirement apartment for you? For the work freaks, wouldn’t a floating office in space give you the extra zeal to work?

All this may seem too imaginary and unreal but it’s as outrageous to you just as the idea of flying an aeroplane was to earth’s inhabitants six centuries ago. The human race has all it takes to conquer the universe and with the advances made technologically, one day at a time, I can’t rule out inter planetary travel being the norm in the next thirty years with inter galactic travel being achievable within a century from now.

Our ability to visit space repeatedly, at will and with ease will go a long way in enabling us push the boundaries of space ambition. A rocket should be able to take off from earth, deliver passengers into space and return all within minutes and then make another flight within the hour, essentially being re-used five to eight times a day. That way, the cost of access to space per head will drastically go down.

This is one of the reasons am excited about the foresighted approach of the new Ugandan Secondary School syllabus that has added Astronomy as part of the package to be taught to students. A good understanding of what the universe has in store for us will push our children into aspiring to challenge the new horizons. Maybe it could also be one of the solutions to the numerous land conflicts that we are faced with.

@wirejames on twitter

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