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How imported furniture is slowly killing local content

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Home furniture

Home furniture

By Moses Kaketo 

The famous British Prime Minister called Uganda the pearl of Africa. The landscape was simply amazing. This beauty has also extended the inhabitants. Foreigners, especially the whites who have visited this land have fond stories of the wonderful hospitality accorded to them by Ugandans.

But others think we give with both hands and then beg for the same things that we ‘donated’. This may hold some grain of truth especially if you look at the country’s balance of payments. It has perennially been in the negative side of the number line. We spend heavily on importing the same things that we could make locally make using local resources.

It’s excruciating to see Ugandans buy imported goods yet we could easily make the same products locally, sorry to say we are running low on some of the resources we once had in loads.

The latest, Ugandan market both high and low end (visit any suburb) is occupied by imported furniture- the so called white furniture – used in home furniture and office furniture. This is usually imported mainly from Dubai, China, Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia.

The White furniture market in Uganda is booming as reflected in the ever-increasing number of big and small players joining the business: This trend has significantly contributed to a reduction in Uganda’s trade deficit rise from $ 4.5m (Ugx. 13bn) in 2013 to $ 4.7m (Ugx. 13.9 bn) in 2014.

Last year, the country’s imports increased to $6.1 bn (Ugx.18.1 trillion) from $6bn (Ugx. 17.8 trillion) over the same period. Exports on the other hand were estimated at $ 2.65bn (Ugx.7.8 trillion) last year down from $ 2.82 bn (Ugx. 8.3 trillion) in 2013.

A visit to Jinja road tells the story. Your eyes are engrossed by large shops selling imported home and office furniture-here you meet-Nina interiors, Footsteps, Prime Impex and host of other Chinese brand names.

Bukoto has also been invaded: Furniture City, ORCA Tex, High point Furniture, Biplous Uganda among others. That is just the tip of an iceberg. Nearly all leading supermarkets have a section for white furniture.

In the suburbs one gets to see White furniture for the low end. Regrettably, while some of this furniture gives the impression of being elegant, they easily break and the shiny supposedly leather covers peel off sooner than expected, hence this bad feeling of daylight robbery for a pricey item. At the end of it all, we are sending away money to someone in Malaysia and China and denying more Ugandans employment.

A survey done by this magazine revealed a set of home chairs costs an average of Ugx 6M. A visit to local stores-home made products reveals a big difference in the prices. One wonders how imported products can out compete local products yet the former has to meet certain costs including freight costs, taxes etc.

Kalangala forest give away-the missed opportunities.

The ‘bad’ decision the country took in 2007, is beginning to have an impact in form of heavy furniture importation, already February and March 2015, were extremely hot. Local media has been reporting that more farmers in Kalangala are abandoning palm oil growing citing low prices for the palms.

According to National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), an estimated 3,600 hectares of ancient and bio-diverse forest in Kalangala have been destroyed in last eight years to give way for palm tree growing.

The proponents of Palm Oil project argued that the project would bring in a lot of wealth opportunities for the locals and Ugandans in general. So we had to demolish Kalangala forests for the money making palm trees. Mabira forest was also going in a similar manner, but thanks to efforts of some foresighted environmentalists and Ugandans, it stalled, though we don’t know for how long.

The Kalangala, giveaway has been described as bad move. Something that destroyed the entire economy.

Eight years after the Kalangala give way, we are now importing furniture in tonnes.

In his 2015 State of the Nation Address, President Museveni noted that Uganda’s forests presents immense opportunities to Ugandan youth.

The president explained that a lot of products can be made from the country’s soft and hard wood: ‘‘From timber, there are many traditional products we can make out wood. I have been attending exhibitions. I have seen wood products made by young people. They are making wooden plates, cups, spoons, milk pots, combs etc. These products are long lasting. I have promised them support and encourage Ugandans to support them by buying these products. I have promised them government supports them when money becomes available.’’

In 2007, Palm oil Uganda Ltd, a subsidiary of Bidco–Uganda, cleared natural forest in Kalangala district to plant Palm trees. Several people came out to criticize the action.

Anne Van Schalk an official from Friends of Earth Europe was quoted in Daily Monitor Newspaper last month saying: ‘‘Forests have been torn down. People’s livelihood disregarded and devastated for short term profit of climate destroying oil palm industry.’’

Among others, the forest could be source of tourism attraction. How about if we built a five Star hotel in heart of Kalangala forest? This would not only preserve nature, but bring in foreign exchange. What do tourists/ visitors see when they come here? Tall buildings, eat European foods? Why not treat them to something different? And Kalangala forest would give them a different treat. Now that Oil production is threatening some of environment, what will be left?

According to experts, there are several sources of cooking which one could opt for and save our forests for other things.

Back then, Uganda Prisons used to grow a special tree called Esogasoga, which was used to produce cooking oil. The rest of the tree was used to produce soap, cattle feeds among others.

The oil Palm project currently covers 1,200 hectares on the mainland island of Bugala.

About the author:
Moses Kaketo works with Summit Business Review Magazine, holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration from Uganda Management Institute, A professional diploma in marketing (CIM) and bachelor’s degree in Education. He sees business in everything. He loves writing business news, reviews and analyses.

Twitter: @mkaketo

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MTN MoMo Nyabo promo is back, Ugx 1.2 billion in cash prizes up for grabs

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Somdev Sen, MTN Uganda Chief Marketing Officer unveiling the new promo.

By Our Reporter

MTN Uganda has launched the 3rd edition of the highly rewarding MoMoNyabo promotion. Under the theme “MoMoNyabo Together”, this year’s promotion is designed to help MTN customers with the much-needed support following the negative effects of the covid19 pandemic on the wellbeing of many Ugandans.

Unlike previous editions which were characterized by fanfare around the country and giving away of cars, motorbikes and other prizes, this year MTN is focusing the promotion on supporting customers meet their most urgent needs such as domestic welfare, rebuilding small businesses or meeting outstanding obligations among others.

“Life has not been the same for many. Times are tough, and every Ugandan is trying to find a way to rebuild following effects of covid. It’s in this spirit that MTN is stepping in to be part of several efforts aimed at supporting Ugandans to rebuild”, said Somdev Sen, MTN Uganda Chief Marketing Officer.

“MoMoNyabo Together is one of several ways that MTN Uganda is standing with Ugandans in the midst of today’s disruptions,” he further commented.

The MoMoNyabo Together promotion will reward customers that have embraced MoMo, and use it to pay for airtime, bundles, utilities like Yaka, NWSC, TV subscription plus shopping, school fees among several other services, everywhere they go.

MTN has earmarked over UGX 1.2billion in mobile money prizes to be given away to lucky customers and MTN MoMo Agents and/or merchants. The winners will be chosen in draws to be broadcast on NBS and Bukedde TV every day, starting at 8:20pm.

Every week day, two customers that have used MTN MoMo to pay for airtime, bundles or another service, will randomly be chosen and each will win a guaranteed UGX 1m/- with a chance to triple that amount and also win an additional UGX 2m/- for friends and loved ones through an exciting game show. This brings the total amount available for each winner and their beneficiaries to UGX 5m/-.

All this will be broadcast on TV.

To win money for their friends and loved ones, customers’ will be given a chance to participate in a quiz in which they will be asked 5 general knowledge questions each with a multiple choice of answers, for the winners to select the correct one. Each question is worth UGX 800,000 which will be equally split between the winner and their preferred beneficiary. The winner has the option to choose one beneficiary for all the answers they get right or nominate several beneficiaries for each question answered correctly.

Nominated beneficiaries can be individuals, families, organizations/causes who should be active MTN customers.

“MTN MoMo not only saves our customers the inconveniences of having to leave their comfort to get airtime, bundles or other services, it also gives them the chance to win much needed money though this promotion”, Somdev concluded.

Customers don’t have to deposit all their money on the phone but just keep some on MTN MoMo to use it when they need it the most. For example, if you have 5,000/-, you can deposit 2,000/- on your MTN MoMo account and use it to pay for airtime, bundles or other services and enter the MoMoNyabo Together promotion for a chance to win money.

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ISBAT University, Airtel Uganda partner to provide free access to university’s Hybrid Virtual Learning Platform

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ISBAT University has announced a new partnership with Airtel Uganda aimed at providing students with free access to the University’s Hybrid Blended Learning platform.

By Our Reporter

ISBAT University has announced a new partnership with Airtel Uganda aimed at providing students with free access to the University’s Hybrid Blended Learning platform using the Airtel internet platform.

The partnership that is in line with the Uganda government’s efforts to ensure safety for everyone as well as education and business continuity from home will see Airtel provide free access to student numbers provided by the university and will be available to all active students of the current semester (Spring 2020).

Commenting about this partnership during the launch, ISBAT University Vice Chancellor Dr. K.M. Mathew noted that World over Universities adopted such learning and assessment practices for the affected semester(s) in order to save the semester and progress academically.

“ISBAT University’s interactive live virtual classes attracted a vast majority of students with lots of encouragement from the University community. The University’s aim is to ensure that our students are not at disadvantage due to the prolonged closure of the University in the lockdown period and we sincerely hope to save the semester in a timely manner,” he noted.

Airtel Uganda Managing Director Mr. V.G. Somasekhar congratulated ISBAT University upon this essential innovation and encouraged the students to utilize this opportunity to further their education.

Since the lockdown of all Education facilities in March 2020, Airtel Uganda has put in place a number of interventions to ensure Ugandans continue to access their education materials. The telecommunications company recently partnered with Avaya Holdings Corp. (NYSE: AVYA), as well as a number of online education providers to implement remote learning initiatives.

The collaboration between Airtel and ISBAT is going to be a paradigm shift in the higher education sector of Uganda, especially during this unprecedented pandemic situation.

Students will greatly benefit by this unique arrangement, as they will be able to continue with the academic progress in an uninterrupted manner with more enthusiasm and high academic spirit, without spending anything for expensive internet data.

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The Innovation Village opens new centre in Mbarara

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By Our Reporter 

The Innovation Village has launched its new location in Mbarara City. This is their 3rd new location since the beginning of the year 2020.

According to CK Japheth, the Team Lead at The Innovation Village, “The Innovation Village is a promise to entrepreneurs. Our motivation is the potential that Ugandans have to contribute solutions to the problems challenging their country.”

“In Mbarara, we have set up a community where women and young entrepreneurs can come to network, connect and meet each other, and our mandate is to ensure that entrepreneurs realize their potential, work through their ideas until they scale into sustainable businesses.” Japheth added.

This launch comes at a time after Mbarara was recently awarded its city status. The district has earned its popularity as the land of milk and honey. This move will facilitate uniform and harmonized growth and development.

Mbarara town is a gateway to western parts of Uganda and Great Lakes region countries of Rwanda, Burundi, DR Congo. Its population is about 480,000 people, and is second to Kampala in importance, industry, and infrastructure. Mbarara is also the home of one of Uganda’s biggest universities majoring in science and technology.

The Innovation Village seeks to partner with entrepreneurs that are not just technology enabled, but contribute to different sectors like farming, arts and crafts, agriculture to name but a few.

“Entrepreneurs do not know how to create sustainable businesses around what they do. The Innovation Village will help them sieve through their dreams until they settle for a good idea, that can grow and scale into other regions in the country.” He concluded.

The Innovation Village has other locations catering to the needs of entrepreneurs in Gulu, Jinja and Kampala.

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Oner Fruit Juice introduces new flavour

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Oner Juice

By Our Reporter 

Hariss International, the manufacturers of RIHAM products, have announced a new Oner Fruit Juice flavour. The juice now comes in a  Grapes and Berries flavour,giving consumers another option to choose from.

Oner Grapes & Berries is an addition to the already existing flavours of the Oner family – Oner Apple and Oner Mango which were launched into the market in 2014, and have since grown into successful brands.

“We have introduced a new Oner Juice blend of Grapes and berries to grow and diversify the brand’s family while also fulfilling the consumers’ desire for fruit Juice.” Hariss International said in a press statement.

Due to the multiple health benefits associated with the product, market surveys indicate that Oner Grapes and Berries fruit juice is likely to gain wide acceptance among the masses.

The new oner Grapes and berries recipe will also be trading under the renown slogan “Freshness you can taste” a symbol of the brand’s ability to bring freshness and a sweet – natural taste of Grapes & Berries.

The 500ml Fruit Juice is now available in all retail outlets, supermarkets, and restaurants countrywide at a recommended retail price of UGX 2,000.

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