Last Month one of our readers Joseph told us that he would like to hear more the day to lives of African people. I hope that we can rise to that challenge here on Africa on The Blog afterall this is one of the reason this platform exists. Minda started us off with her list of African bloggers who write about all things African and I thought I would share with you a conversation I had with James a business man in rural Uganda
I first met James at the first Villages in Action (VIA) in Masindi NW Uganda. That was at the back end of 2010 and it was a pleasure to catch up with him again at last month’s VIA. James is a grain miller and provides two very vital services to his community.
Grain milling- James started the grain milling business 9 years ago. This service is vital to this village because the village has neither electricity nor factories and the only way to preserve food is to turn it into flour which can be stored easily and used during the leaner times.
Bicycle repairing– bicycles are the most common means of personal transport in Kikuube and as any means of transport the bicycles do break down and need repairing.
IH: How long have you been in business?
J: I have been a grain Miller for 9 years
IH: how has your business impacted your life?
J: It has enabled me to put my children through the education system, pay for health care and sustain my family. I have also helped people in the village
IH: Please tell me about the significance of the bicycle repairing business
J: It enables farmers to get their produce to market without bicycles it would be near impossible as the market is a long a way away nearly half a day’s walk
IH: Do you enjoy your work?
J: Yes I do. I am the only person that provides the services that I do. I am also a sugarcane farmer and keep poultry, so I earn enough to sustain my family
IH: What challenges do you face in your business?
J: Inflation is a big problem, Cost of fuel, Cost of spare parts for the milling machine- I have to travel to Kampala to buy them, it is nearly 4 hours away and it is expensive. It would be good if the government could help people like by opening up a centre nearby where I could go and buy the spare parts. I also lack Capital to scale the business
IH: Where does someone like you that lives and works in a rural community go to access capital to expand your business ?
J: It is not easy but as a sugarcane farmer I can borrow from Kinyara Sugar works, who buy up all the sugarcane that we produce. It takes 2 years from planting to harvesting and even then they pay us 3 months after they have taken our sugarcane by which time we are in a lot of debt.
IH: If you had access to finance what would you do that you are not able to do right now
J: I would move the grain milling enterprise into a permanent structure as I am unable to meet demand in the village. I need a new engine for the machines too. As the village has no electricity I use diesel to run the milling machine and I travel 15 KM to collect the diesel. He I that an industrial solar panel would be a better alternative to diesel as the plans to electrify the village are a long way off
IH: So are there plans to bring electrify to the village?
J: Only if we pay the government
IH: What about solar power?
J: Have not explored it but I am sure it would be useful – yes
IH: Have you got any advice for the youngsters in the village?
J: Get an education
J: One must have enough knowledge in order to run a business
IH: what does the future look like for your business?
J: Expand the business. I need assistance
IH: What sort of assistance ?
J: mostly Skills- need to learn from others – how they organise their businesses and how they work
This was a thoroughly enjoyable conversation and I too look forward to listening to more of such conversations this year