Posted by: beninmwangi | April 10, 2007

Making the Grade: Timothy Bukumunhe of Sunday Vision

Have you ever played the game of imagining that you were in someone else’s shoes? That being said, this post puts me in the mind of an investigative journalist, who by the way just so happens to be writing for the Sunday Vision in Uganda. Also, the name of the journalist whose article we are reviewing is Timothy Bukumunhe. So, if you would please join me and let us take a step back for a moment and imagine that we were journalists writing business stories for a relatively well known newspaper based in Uganda. Then imagine having to render, daily, the following rigors and deliverables.

1) An ever so demanding boss, who happily reminds you at every chance she gets that if you don’t find a way to get her better stories (which she says leads to greater market share, which leads to greater ad revenue) every day within deadline by next week, then there will be someone to take your spot by Monday.

2) Your own desire to push the envelope and find creative ways to repackage business news in a way that makes it hard for the readers to lose interest.

3) That incessant need that most all professionals have to reach the pinnacle of success in their respective profession.

4) And oh…to live up to the standard of providing honest and responsible journalism [considering the effect the story will have on the people that you write about].

Now with those 4 points in mind let us evaluate this story, as if we were about to turn it in to our demanding editor. First, we wanted to do a story about the nation’s government officials and their lavish business dealings but due to a lack of public information on that topic, this story was canned. So, in that story’s absence we are putting together the next best thing. Something more akin to a who’s who listing of the nations wealthiest and most successful business people. In a nutshell the story sets out to do two or maybe three things. First, to show the readers that there are many personal examples of market successes to be found within Uganda, in the form of a list containing the names of Uganda’s top 134 entrepreneurs, executives, and NGO officers along with the organizations which they have helped to build. Second, to try to bring out the similarities between the nations top entrepreneurs, executives, and NGO officers. And third to rank these business people into different categories according to their relative position within Uganda’s business circles.

Here is an excerpt from Timothy’s article:

“…FROM real estate to mineral water: Who are the richest people in Uganda?

By INGENUITY, not industry, is the common characteristic of the people who have featured in our rich list. These people made money in everything from media and real estate to coffee, farming and road haulage. The list is not limited to Ugandans and it includes individuals and families born overseas, but who predominantly work and/or live in Uganda.

We have measured identifiable wealth, whether land, property or significant shares in publicly quoted companies and we have excluded bank accounts — to which we have no access.

Alooni Mwagalwa: Luweero-based Mwagalwa is the owner of Nakaseke International College, which is the largest private education institution in Luweero District. He also owns several businesses in Kampala and is an agent for Uganda Breweries

Elly Karuhanga: Word on the street is that one should never underestimate the honorary consul for the Seychelles. Karuhanga has a passion for the Sheraton Hotel, where perhaps most of his deals go down. In some circles, especially with investors, Karuhanga is known as ‘Mr. Fix it’. They say he knows how to open up doors and put you in contact with the right people. He was an instrumental figure regarding the visit to Uganda by the owner of Celtel, and for his services, it is said he was paid a six-figure sum in US dollars. He is a brilliant lawyer and a partner in Kampala Associated Advocates…”

courtesy of: Sunday Vision Sunday April 8, 2007

Putting myself in this person’s shoes I could imagine all of the dedication and research that would have gone into finding the information on which to base the story. Not to mention the creativity involved in actually presenting the information and making it look appealing to the readers, who need I remind you get bored very easily. On top of the effort and creativity is the timeliness of the article, coinciding it with the recent stories of Uganda’s growing investor confidence should put a big smile on the editor’s face. Finally, the entrepreneurs themselves should be pleased that someone took the time to say all of these wonderful things about them, right?

So now, let us step back into our own selves again? How would you grade this journalist? If the grade scale was based upon the 4 points that we mentioned earlier, here’s my assessment:

1) I think that Timothy’s bossy editor could rest assured that the reach of this article is both deep and wide. Expanding the paper’s market share deeper within the Ugandan business community, as well as outside of the country’s borders.

2) The author of this article should be able to look back at it and feel further inspired to push the envelope even further. Just finding that many people to find detailed information on shows a level of patience that is commendable. Then when you consider that many journalists find a difficult time saying good things about one person and this fellow found motivation in 134 different individuals in one article-wow!

3) Again, the fact that Mr. Bukumunhe took the time to research and report his findings on such a large number of people is daunting. I could imagine that even if he was only able to meet 10% of these execs while writing this story that his career and business opportunities could have multiplied almost exponentially.

4) In living up to the standard of being a responsible journalist, I would give Timothy high marks. He gave the reader enough information about each subject without overloading us or infringing upon the personal rights or safety of any of them. This should be applauded.

In summary, if I were this journalist’s editor I’d say that his job was safe for at least two more weeks 🙂 Seriously, he gets an A for the effort, ingenuity, and creativity in my book. Also, I was happy that he did not publish the financial details of these business persons (for saftey and security reasons). Additionally, it is very easy for me to agree with him that a very common feature of Uganda’s successful entrepreneurs is creativity, in fact this might be said of the successful entrepreneurs in any of the other nation’s in Africa also. My only remark of constructive criticisms would be in perhaps providing the reader with a little bit more an introduction and backdrop regarding the celebration of entrepreneurship and investment in Uganda-as in the broader picture.

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