These last couple of weeks have been a rather tumultuous and chaotic affair, as the opposition and NRM Members of Parliament came to loggerheads over the imminent amendment of the Constitution, Article 102(b) that would oversee the removal of the age limit and possibly qualify the incumbent, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni as an eligible candidate for the 2021 elections.
As expected, this did not go down well the those in opposition and many Ugandans who felt that this undermined the Constitution of Uganda. So heated was the two-day debate in Parliament that members of both sides were forced to exchange a few blows, necessitating the intervention of outside control measures, particularly the Special Forces Command (SFC), a unit originally created for the sole purpose of the President’s protection.
However, despite strong opposition, the bill has been tabled, wheels set in motion and Ugandans now look at what could possibly be another decade under NRM rule, headed by the same leader.
Needless to mention, the insatiable hunger for change amongst the youths was poignant as many took to the streets and social media to make known their discomfiture and hopelessness, with claims that there was no incentive or plan that catered for them, with most citing high levels of unemployment in the country.
Nonetheless, the will to survive and prosper still stays true in this day and age as it did during previous eras of war and tyranny; today we see a youth encumbered with stress, and minuscule support of government, prompting them to find their own means of survival.
Michael Kazoora, 29, is one of those youth. He first joined the entertainment business when his brother David Kazoora (Junior) gifted him with his first franchise: a popular night club called Y.O.L.O within the suburbs of Ntinda. From then on it was a roller-coaster for the young entrepreneur as he battled failures and celebrated triumphs all leading to his success in founding and setting up a couple of solid, futuristic and effective brands. A seasoned events promoter (LIVE.REPUBLIC) and much sought-after ticketing agent (QIUCKTAP SOLUTIONS), the sky is the limit for Michael Kazoora.
Indeed, Michael has come along way, establishing himself within the ever changing disco-lights of the entertainment industry and today he is one of the few nominees for the Young Achievers Award 2017 and co-founder of a number of successful enterprises such as JIBU manufactured water.
Learning the nooks of the business and gaining the trust of many was no easy task for this young man, and he readily agrees that there is still more he has yet to learn. He happily shares that this weekend on October 8, all roads lead to the former Lawns in Kololo, where Live Republic will be hosting its first ever ‘cashless event’ in Kampala.
Dubbed the Bora Bora festival, it aims to offer local entrepreneurs a platform to showcase and promote their products while offering both the retailer and customer a safe and ambient atmosphere without the usual haggle and bustle of the ordinary market. The event is set to offer a wide range of goods and services including a live performance form musical artist, The Body of Brian and Dj Kasbaby whilst radio host and presenter Cleopatra will be hosting the night. Eagle online sat down Michael to discuss his journey to success.
Eagleonline: What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve encountered in starting up a business?
Kazoora: Some of the biggest challenges I’ve had ever since I set out to make Quick-Tap a success is pitching the idea to potential investors. I’ve had probably about 70 business proposals turned down and that makes investors a problem in Uganda. For example, they like to invest in the usual areas like real estate and land.
Eagleonline: Maybe your ideas are not solid enough? Why do you think investors are not forthcoming?
Kazoora: What I’m trying to introduce to Ugandans and the market is ‘a way of life’, a culture. I’m looking for something that will be long-term; I don’t just create products but want them to be…like I said, a way of life. Who knew that today there would even exist such a technology that could permit something such as a ‘cashless-transaction?’ No one!
Eagleonline: Speaking of which, can you shed more light on the NFC technology you want to introduce to the public on October 8?
Kazoora: The near-field communication technology basically works with two devices communicating seamlessly. These chips will be inserted into the bands you will be given at the entrance with your money put onto it and from that point on you can purchase anything that will be on sale using your wrist band.
Eagleonline: Is it something like Mobile Money?
Kazoora: (laughing) Yes, it like mobile money but we don’t do charges.
Eagleonline: Isn’t such a technology expensive?
Kazoora: Yes, such a technology is costly but we are trying to get branding partners on board in order to get the product out there but like I said, finding investors in Uganda is tricky but they are coming in slowly.
Eagleonline: Do you think this technology is important in these public events?
Kazoora: the NFC is very efficient when it comes to these public gigs, id say here in Uganda it is way ahead of it’s time. We have largely covered events, whether it is entertainment, conferences, sports and you will find that it helps the promoters of these large gigs to keep ahead of their inventory and therefore full control of their money.
Eagleonline: And what are some of the advantages of this software other than money transactions?
Kazoora: The technology is very good when it comes to tracking the cash flow at an event. For example, if you have 10 bottles for sale, you will keep track of the number of bottles remaining and when they were bought. Ticketing is also another secure area since the technology itself is not easy to duplicate and so fake tickets can not be produced or used. Also security is very key and we can ensure peoples safety by tracking; that way we are accountable for them at that event, flukes can also be traced and fined. Lastly, I would add that it makes the fare collection fairly easy at the end of these events. Which is usually not the case with events of this magnitude; money tends to reach the wrong hands. In fact, we are looking to expand into public transport since most of these vehicles are privately-owned but Ugandans are being conservative, none of the technology has been taken on spot and that is why we need daring entrepreneurs.
Eagleonline: Going back to the festival, what can you tell us about Bora-Bora, what does it mean, what is the sole purpose of such an event?
Kazoora: BORA-BORA has a Swahili connotation that implies to be ‘Best of the Best’, and it is mainly a goods market. What we are aiming to do on October 8 is provide many Ugandans with a unique vending experience or rather vendor experience; we are looking to have a wide range of goods, from furniture to meat to fashion and we hope to make this out into a weekly market.
Eagleonline: Experience? Is it similar to Blankets and Wine or Nyege Nyege?
Kazoora: No it is not a party event but more of a market. We ensuring that all the goods on sale will be affordable with each vendor and their enterprise in attendance. This is done to support them by bringing to them a ready market as well as providing a platform for them to showcase their products.
Eagleonline: Why do you feel the need to take it upon yourselves? Shouldn’t this be the work of government?
Kazoora: I relate to startups because I’m one. I also strongly believe that these are the guys we should monitor cause they make up the economy. As a starter you learn a lot, make mistakes but through these different errands you learn what is key and become more aware of other roles.
Eagleonline: Have you always been this keen about the marketplace?
Kazoora: Personally, I started from a very young age, but Bora-Bora started with Live Republic and as a founder I might say that I would be nothing without my partners because they do most of the hard work. I can’t be without them in this business.
Eagleonline: Do you and your colleagues venture outside the entertainment industry?
Kazoora: Yes, we have other ventures outside of Bora Bora that we are working on. We have started manufacturing water which is under the brand name ‘JIBU’ which means solution and also beverages-Prime foods which we are putting on the market, among many other start up projects.
Eagleonline: And how do you get funding for all these various projects? Capital is usually the issue for most start-ups.
Kazoora: I want to thank my partners like Derek Lugemwa, Isaac Okumu-Ringa and others when it comes to that area. Like I said, they have done a lot to bring us where we are. Of course I don’t have that money and I never had a solid investor in my dreams like a father, infact it wasn’t up until my 77th business proposal that an investor eventually heard me out. It’s all about determination
Eagleonline: What can an individual with a small business do to become successful? Is there a particular method you’ve used to get here?
Kazoora: There has to be a set of rules you have to subscribe to in order to make it in this business, you have to have a certain level of discipline. Rwanda is far ahead of Uganda because of discipline such as a the rules like: Don’t litter, that we deem as trivial or small. Also the government has to come in and help, there is a laissez-faire approach towards foreign investors and that is why they can invest at anytime, anyplace without certain sanctions and this greatly affects locals and their produce. I wouldn’t be angry if some rules were put in place, because that for me as a leader speaks of order in any given society.
Eagleonline: What do you think are some of the challenges that hold back most Ugandan entrepreneurs?
Kazoora: There are very many challenges that one faces when they start out but for me, I think funding as an entrepreneur was most difficult. You need to know your market and the product your trying to sell. Also access to funding involves a lot of politicking which raises the question as to why they are not made public and people’s ideas and businesses are funded in particular time frames of the year like from January to February rather than these fraudulent personas who are used by government. Uganda is one of the most entrepreneurial countries but you find that many businesses fail due to poor or insufficient funding. Also working with the right people like Cedric Karibende, Andy Acon and Emma Luyinda can take you a great distance; you will find that some people marginalize you and don’t involve you as much as possible in all the intricate details of your venture, inother words a founder remains simply that; a founder and yet there should be equal input in order to develop your ideas. It is also key to work with people who are better than you in order to learn more
Eagleonline: If given the chance, how would you go about rectifying some of the government’s mistakes concerning the youth?
Kazoora: I appreciate the fact that Museveni fights for the rights of youths but much more can be done. Uganda by far has the best laws but they need work on their implementation and follow through. For example, the money spent on Minister’s travels should be invested in the youth. As much as I like programs such as wealth-creation it is aimed at youths in the countryside and I am a technology enthusiast.
Also you will find that in government most of these projects benefit those who are handling them more than the target populace; transparency is key if these things are to work. If it were up to me I would strongly urge the government to set up venture-capital firms, that are set up by government but managed by entrepreneurs. Let us avoid meeting ministers and youth representative committees organised. This way there is no discrimination and youths can get equal opportunities.
Eagleonline: Where do you see Uganda in the next five years?
Kazoora: I must say that there are more hubs coming up in and around Uganda and that is good. We also see that the Government is introducing more youth-beneficial programmes like wealth creation but we also need people to think outside of the box. You need first to analyze the situation or society you live in then find a way to benefit from it but here in Uganda you will find that an individual will first produce a product then look for a market. For example with Quick-tap solutions we first looked at the problem then offered a solution.
Eagleonline: It is said that the technology is fast replacing workers and laborers in major factories, do you think this is why Uganda is abit pensive of the idea?
Kazoora: Yes, certain technologies can do what humans can if not better and yes, they do replace certain people but if you can train people to learn how to work with these technologies there shouldn’t be a problem. For instance, we know that taxi-conductors wouldn’t like the NFC technology but when you systemize their work, you realize that the conductor’s work load is made easier and all he has to do is market the bus whilst also getting a formal salary. This formalization also widens the tax sector and can even make the bus operators eligible for a bigger loan, same applies to cashiers in supermarkets. It is important to remember that each business compliments each other business.
Eagleonline: Can you tell us what motivates you to do what you do?
Kazoora: God. Without God I wouldn’t have persisted and because of God, I wont stop. I can also thank my mentor Mike Davis, he is one of my role models who actually believes in me. Dave Kazoora, my brother has really pushed and motivated me from the very word go and I am grateful for that opportunity he gave me when I had just started. My friends also have a few words of advice to give me and last but not least, my friend James Byaruhanga, he has been a strong influence in my life/career. That is why we need Government to provide more mentors for the youth, they have no-one to talk to.
Eagleonline: Any last words you would like to share with the public?
Kazoora: Do not give up and make sure everything you do, you benefit, even with your friends you need to make sure they are better than you at something in order to learn and always love God.