The contagious dream of a young Ugandan entrepreneur and his connection with the Argentinean EoC....
by Carolina Carbonell
Uganda is known as the "Pearl of Africa", a country known above all for its national parks that house the "Big Ten”, the 10 big game animals.
Henry is an average young man originally from a village near the city of Masaka. In the past 5 years he studied Economics in Kampala, the capital of the country, and now lives and works in Entebbe, a city located on the shores of Lake Victoria, near Kampala. The lake, whose name is a heritage from the colonial era, looks like a sea for its extension and Henry goes to fish there to get the raw material he uses in his farm. “In Masaka I noticed that people no longer have time to prepare their meals slowly, cooking for several hours, and it was with the aim of solving this problem that I had the idea of processing meat and fish for sale.”
Henry was 24 years old on 10 October and today, together with two other young people, he is running the Sseruh Food Processing company Ltd., which was also mentioned in a Ugandan newspaper in September.
Gonzalo Perrin, an Argentinean entrepreneur who runs the biscuit producer company called Pasticcino had met Henry two years earlier, on a visit to an African community in Masaka. At that time Henry was a "novice" entrepreneur of food dressings (for meat, poultry and fish).
Only the wise and attentive look of an entrepreneur could notice that the product Henry was developing followed what marketing books define as the main components of a good business: a good idea, attention to detail, product quality. However, what surprised Gonzalo most was the packaging. Despite the simplicity of the design and materials used for the label, the product packaging contained all the creativity and responsibility of those who do business by vocation.
It took only a few minutes for them to become good friends - so much so that Gonzalo, to seal the meeting, took off his scarf and gave it to Henry, inviting him affectionately to Argentina, as soon as he finished his studies, to visit the Polo Solidaridad in O' Higgins (Province of Buenos Aires), where Pasticcino is located.
Henry finished his degree in Development Economics at Makerere University and his next step would have been to find a job, standing up to the challenge of the high unemployment rates of young people. This spontaneous gesture strengthened his courage to continue working on his personal project and be able to help many other people through it; in the meantime he continued to nurture his desire for a visit to Argentina.
“The year 2017 seemed still distant and I was very anxious for the moment to arrive. After facing all the obstacles to obtaining the visa, on 10 August I boarded the plane. I travelled for 21 hours, and it was a great adventure. I arrived at the airport of Ezeiza at 3.30 am on a cold winter night, where my great friend Gonzalo was waiting for me".
Everything that follows this meeting will be a golden point of inflection on his journey as an entrepreneur.
“I could get to know first-hand the professional reality of someone who leads a company, I actually accompanied Gonzalo to meetings with clients etc..., I remember that in the Café Martinez I only managed to say ‘hello’ and ‘fish processing’ – situations like this made us smile. In addition, I was able to join in the work with the whole team. As an entrepreneur, I experienced a unique opportunity exploring and knowing many aspects of the food industry. On the other hand, it was a blessing to be able touch by hand the sacrifices made by people engaged in ideal-driven business".
When he speaks of Argentinean culture, he fills up with emotion and says "Oh my God, what a wonderful experience! I remember the embers of the "asado” (Argentinean barbecue - the tr.), present in all the occasions of meeting with each family we visited, the mate (herbal tea – the tr.), another special moment, which I find very close to the social rites of African culture, especially in the area of Bugana, where coffee beans are shared as a sign of unity. The way people greet each other, especially the word ‘hola’ accompanied by a touching of the hand, almost as a sign of peace. The experience of the winter, completely new for me: I had never thought such cold could exist, at 8 degrees I had to get extra jackets!”
Speaking of his dreams, Henry tells us: “My future plan is to have a food processing company based in Uganda in the province of Mpigi, but I am also thinking about the construction of ponds to ensure a constant supply of fish by the time I would start exporting outside Uganda, and who knows, maybe outside of Africa, too”.
"Many young people in Africa want to get employed, which reduces the creation of job opportunities. However, those few young people who sacrifice themselves and choose the entrepreneurial spirit devote themselves to it and work passionately to make a difference in society”
Unlike many others who would have liked to cross the ocean, Columbus really did so, thanks to a map he had found (drawn up by a certain Toscanelli who never left Italy), which gave the explorer the strength and hope needed to face the "unknown" with the well-founded trust to find a New World (even though he was looking for the Indies). But the map, the real and updated one, was drawn by Columbus himself, on his return. Africa must discover itself and do this journey. And that journey can only be done by Africans. Sailors, ships and captains will be needed at later points, but first of all the nostalgia for the sea, the desire to start looking for a new world. Without that nostalgia, there will be no start to it all.
I will never forget the visit to Henry's house in his village: the warmth and cheerfulness of his people, the sound of the drums during the wonderful welcome they had prepared for our small delegation of Argentinean friends who wanted to visit and hug them, because the real encounter with people happens through the embrace. But above all I cherish the memory of having observed and photographed that particular moment in which Gonzalo gave the scarf to Henry, in order to seal the pact of the two of them meeting again, next time, on the other side of the ocean.
Standing on the side I was a witness to a decidedly extraordinary story...