MUBS Graduation Keynote, May 31, 2013
To the Chancellor of Makerere University, Vice Chancellor, members of the Board of MUBS, members of the faculty, proud parents, and, above all, the graduates of this academic year:
The first thing I would like to say is ‘thank you’ to MUBS for giving me the distinguished honor of inviting me to give the keynote speech today. I am indeed humbled by the gesture and accept it with a great deal of humility. I wish I were one of you graduating here today, instead of a 50 year old man, giving a speech, you will certainly have forgotten when you wake up – from your hangover tomorrow.
You have such a huge advantage over someone like me, because you still have time on your side. Precious time. The next 10 years are going to pass by so fast most of you will hardly notice as you juggle with jobs, finding a partner to settle down, having kids but more importantly…having fun.
Some of you think freedom starts today as you unshackle the bonds of education, and expect your parents to now respect your decision.
Please look for a short speech on U- tube or Google it. It’s called “30 is not the new 20.” A great speech and an important lesson to reflect upon. http://youtu.be/vhhgI4tSMwc
And learn to value your time going forward. Many of you are in your twenties, but before you realise it you will be in your thirties.
Especially the ladies, because you have the extra burden of manufacturing children along the way as you multitask between a career and doing many of the associated home and family chores that can’t easily be delegated to the maid.
I have a lot of respect for the role played by a woman. It is often not emphasised enough. I was raised by my mother, until she handed me over to my wife Carol, 23 years ago. Who to this day still plays a vital role in my everyday life, besides being my best friend and confidant.
I believe that God created every human being here today with greatness in mind. Within us all is a deep well of potential. There is a genius in every person; all you have to do is find the key to unlock it… To tap and release that genius in you.
There are seeds of greatness hidden within all of us, that need to germinate and grow…ordinarily Seeds require the right conditions, Soil…., Water.., Light…etc. Similarly, you as individuals, require the right mindset, to germinate and flourish. A mindset of Abundance- not scarcity and poverty. And that’s your biggest challenge today as you graduate because you now have the education.
You have the knowledge.
And some of you even have the skills…but very few have the right attitude and mindset.
It helps to have the right business environment for you to flourish, -an enabling and conducive environment for the private sector- which the government is trying to provide.
What else do you need? Financial Literacy, A little Capital, Very importantly- A lot of effort. Hard work and Persistence.
Unfortunately, not all the people here today will reach their true potential and it is sad because way too many people simply don’t try hard enough. I have done business in Nigeria and Kenya. They certainly try much harder. We have to up our game as Ugandans.
But it must all start with a dream. A dream that only you can chase and fulfill. Make a reality.
You have to get out of your comfort zone, conditioned by your upbringing, culture, education and history.
The Uganda Colonial education system was designed to produce white-collar job seekers for the government and neighbouring administrations. It has not evolved fast enough with the fast changing times. Especially since the ICT boom got a grip on Africa. It is my opinion that the education system is in many ways obsolete. So you as individuals, must adapt quickly to your environment or fall by the way side.
The Asian culture is different from that of Uganda and their young children are trained by family to be frugal, calculating and hard working from an early age. They are taught to analyze problems and challenges. They are taught critical thinking as a reflex and implementation of solutions.
They understand the language of money – financial literacy by the age of 18 and don’t take it for granted. I have seen many Asians – Indians and Chinese – come to Uganda with so little yet they flourish within a few years. Similarly, I have seen many Ugandans start off so well or with an inheritance/entandikwa but fail to survive 3 years in business, is this a genetic deficiency or just a lack of acumen and poor culture.
It’s a real tragedy that many of us settle for just getting by, and not real success. …We have developed a survival mentality that minimizes the pain in life, but does not strive for mastering life in all its different aspects. Life is not only about making money!
We look up to those who succeed and call them lucky or blessed. We want to be like them and often try to imitate their behavior, and even copy their lifestyle. It is tempting to do so and it may even be easy, but unless you focus on the inner workings of such a life you are doomed to fail. True success cannot be faked. We have seen very many like “bad black” and the likes of “Mike Ezra” of this world come and go.
Success begins by accepting to take full responsibility for your life. Stop blaming your parents, your teachers, and your government. Today is a good day to start taking full responsibility for your life.
That’s when we begin to draw water from the reservoirs of our soul. That deep well I talked about.
That’s when we realise that the future is actually flexible. Your future is not necessarily determined by your past, or your parents or even your schooling. We can set our own water level in life. This understanding alone causes us to raise our expectations and so rise and live an abundant life.
Today the university sets you free… or unleashes you all, to an unsuspecting public, armed with a respectable degree. You will go out there and make a difference to society, or just join the many graduates like you who passed here before that didn’t have that fire in them, that determination, those who couldn’t bother to draw water from their inner well.
Remember, you alone hold the key to your destiny, you alone can determine your level of success.
Unfortunately many Ugandans still respond in a negative way to success. The PhD syndrome.
The established world order demands that initiative and hard work be rewarded. Be it as a farmer on the land or in business. And that inactivity and laziness must be removed from our minds if we are to rise.
If you are a floor cleaner, a driver, or a clerk, do it to the best of your ability and with pride. Shine for whatever you do and it will be noticed.
Yes, we all have so much potential within us, we just have to stretch ourselves and understand that an abundant life won’t just happen because you are a good person and go to church every Sunday. We need to exert effort and think in new ways to succeed. Creativity and innovation!
I like to use the analogy, that there is a million dollars in a bag somewhere out there with your name on it. Say in EBB. At the airport. All you have to do is stay focused and walk there to get it. 24 miles..No small feat, but certainly manageable by most of you here today. If that money is there and waiting how many of you would stop at Clock tower, or get distracted at the Makindye roundabout. Each and everyone of you is entitled to a million dollars within the next 10 to 15 years. Go for it.
I will share with you my life story.
I was born into a reasonably well-off family. My parents worked for the EAC, so we had lived in Kenya and Tanzania. We had drivers and many privileges that I took for granted. We owned property, farms, buses, and cars.
When I was 13 my dad was brutally murdered by the Idi Amin regime. My Dad died at the age of 44, just as I began to really know him and admire him as my true hero. I really loved him so much. I was so devastated and shocked..…words cannot describe. It was the most heart wrenching experience.
Not only were we robbed of a father and bread winner. Everything material we had was taken overnight. All the material things we had were all gone in a flash. Taken.
Riches to rags doesn’t begin to describe what we went through. It was moments like these that I felt God had indeed forsaken us. Father Grimes of Namasagali college took me in with my siblings school fees or not for the next few years
The turning point in my life was about a year later, on the day when the family sat down on a mat, not a dining table, to have tea without Sugar for the first time. My mother insisted we just get used to it and drink the tea. Then my youngest brother started crying for Daddy. Then my mother who had 6 children by the age of 30 started crying too. Hysterically. And asking God to come and take us all. Then I felt a big lump in my throat.
That night I was on the Akamba Bus to Nairobi to look for some sugar. I returned the next day with a suitcase full of sugar – 15 kgs. I got the extra from concerned relatives that realised a 14-year old had come all the way to Kenya just for sugar. Traveling that far in those days was unheard of. It was like going to Syria today. Communication was hardly there. Crossing the border was scary but no one suspected a young kid to be smuggling sugar in a school suitcase. When I got back home there was so much delight and happiness. My mum hugged me. I automatically realized that I was no longer a boy. I had become a man. That one act had re-defined me. The neighbors heard on the grapevine that I had brought sugar and almost begged to buy some. So we sold them half, and got 4 times what it had cost. And I was on the bus back to Kenya for another suitcase of sugar…and so my career began.
Do you know what it is to live without a Door lock on the front of your house, or not to have a bathroom door that actually closed? That is the loss of Dignity. I had to restore our dignity, and family Self Esteem.
Do you really know the Importance of jobs to society?
After 6 years in senior school, and 3 years at Uni, if you then spend the next 3 years looking for a job, knocking at so many doors and walking till the soles of your shoes are gone. With your now tattered CV in your hand. Your self esteem will no doubt diminish.
I encourage many of you to go out there and start up a business that creates jobs. We need young people who will find a creative idea or a solution to a problem, grab the opportunity, take the risk, and set aside or postpone the comforts of today by setting up a businesses that will provide jobs and profit for tomorrow.
Jobs are what allow people to feel useful and build their self-esteem.
Jobs make people productive members of the community.
Jobs make people feel they are worthy citizens.
It is you the youth of today that go into business with knowledge and skills that have the power to harness the creativity and talents of others to achieve a common good. To put labor, capital and other factors of production to work.
This should make Uganda more competitive and a useful member of the greater East African region.
Let me make it clear to you all: Job creation is a priority for any nation to move forward.
I say to you, get a job if that’s the best option open to you, for not everyone can start a business. Take the job and work as hard as you can. Learn everything these companies can teach you-and build a network of contacts and friends, then leave whilst you still have the energy!
If you dream of creating something great, do not let a 9-to-5 job – even a high-paying one – dull you into a complacent, comfortable life. Let that high-paying job propel you towards building a business for yourself instead.
Looking back, I have succeeded where many have failed mainly because of hard work, persistence, focus on my set of goals, discipline, honesty, taking responsibility for my life and believing that I could change my future.
It was a time of dog eats dog. No, even man eats dog. And I had to find a way to support myself and my family. You are beginning as Uganda’s oil is about to flow.
I started by selling sugar, then shirts then ladies dresses, then shoes, then a Night club, foreign exchange, then mobile phones and airtime.
Ever since, I have tried to provide a service or product that is needed by a customer for a fair return.
And I realised that I got a lot of satisfaction in providing the service or that product period. Making a profit was simply the bonus that followed most of the time.
I set up Simba Tours and Travel, Simba Forex Bureau, Simba Telecom Ug, Simba Telecom in Tz with Vodacom, Simba Telecom in Kenya with Safaricom, invested in property, Hotels, Energy generation, Farming, Micro Finance banking, Media, Insurance and transport.
Today I stand here before you with humility, as the Chairman UIA, Chairman of a listed company -Umeme, with thousands of Ugandan shareholders, an advisor to H.E. the President, Honorary counsel for Australia to Uganda.
But most importantly I employ over 1500 staff today.
It was only when I had gained more experience and built my reputation, that I could borrow money from the banks and get into serious property and bigger business.
That’s the Simba story. From selling 5 kilos of sugar to the neighbors to becoming the biggest mobile money and airtime dealer in Africa
When I had shown success in the smaller businesses, I was able to raise money in the capital markets-through IPOs like we did for New Vision, National Insurance Company and recently for Umeme. And I have managed to develop some complex, capital-intensive businesses like ElectroMaxx the power generating company.
It’s not been easy; it’s been slow, but sure. One day at a time, one brick at a time. You, however, have time on your side. Use it well. And don’t be afraid to make a few mistakes along the way.
From kindergarten through to university, you learn very few skills or attitudes that would ever help you start a business. Skills like sales, networking, creativity and being comfortable with failure or rejection.
In fact you are taught not to make any mistakes. Mistakes are the best teachers if you learn the lesson and don’t repeat them.
No business in the world happens without someone buying something. But most students learn very little about sales in school or university
Moreover, very few businesses get off the ground without a wide, vibrant network of advisers and mentors, potential customers and clients, quality vendors and valuable talent to employ.
You don’t learn how to network crouched over a desk studying for multiple-choice exams. You learn it outside the classroom, talking to fellow human beings face-to-face. I commend MUBS for their different approach to this crucial training, it’s begun to pay dividends..
I must now end by wishing all of you good luck and may you be the future that transforms our beloved motherland Uganda.
31 May 2013
Editor’s Note: Patrick Bitature is the Chairman of Simba Group of Companies. He’s rated by Forbes as the Second richest man in Uganda.
– See more at: http://campuseye.ug/patrick-bitature-commencement-address-at-mubs-graduation-sounds-like-steve-jobs/sthash.R3KLPzMT.dpuf#sthash.hJRFS3EW.dpuf