Saturday, 13 May 2017

UTL Broken bone insurance.

Broken bone insurance, what is that? You might be thinking that I am finally going off the rails with this blog post. 

Now with all the hype and tensions around the re-registration of all Sim cards for both nationals and non-Ugandans. I found the phone call I received from my UTL customer service provider very odd.

In the context of what was going on (registration deadlines, stampedes at Kololo airstrip grounds) I found it bizarre that what UTL was selling was broken bone insurance. Broken bone insurance, of all things! Why would you be selling broken bone insurance and how relevant is it for the current times especially in the context of the brand's performance and money woes.

Now many of you must be wondering, UTL… what are you doing on UTL network? Well here is the simple answer. I am fiercely loyal to a fault so I stick with whatever it is I have invested in and hope and wait that it is worth it until all signs show that there is no hope of resuscitation. But this time my patience and resolve were tested and I finally snapped. Below is the conversation that transpired between the call center person and me.

Call center agent: ‘’Good morning, hello I am Sam calling from Uganda Telecom.’’

Me: ‘’Good morning, Sam what is this about?’’

Call center agent: ‘’I would like to ask you if you have re-registered your Sim card?’’

Me: ‘’No, I have not.’’

Call center agent: ‘’Well, you need to otherwise you will be disconnected from the network and not be able to make or receive any calls.’’

Me: ‘’Oh, s you have not disconnected me yet? I thought you had as I have not been able to make calls or send a message over the last 3 weeks. Anyway, what is this call about? ’’

Call center agent: ‘’Broken bone insurance. So all you have to do is opt in for the service by utilizing a minimum of 5,000 worth of airtime over a month to benefit from 200,000 worth of cover for an accident. ’’

Me: ‘’So, let me get this straight. You want me to use at least 5,000 worth of airtime to call/ SMS and then I qualify to get insurance. Now, this insurance is only valid when I break my leg?’’

Call center agent: ‘’Yes, that is correct.’’

Me: ‘’Are you serious?’’

Call center agent: ‘’Very madam. So if you are in an accident and break your leg you go to get a medical checkup and bring the paperwork to UTL service center and after 2 – 3 days of processing we pay the amount of bill up to 200,000Ugx.’’

Me: ‘’So, during the 2-3 days what am I supposed to be doing? Limping around in pain.’’

Call center agent: ‘’Uhh, no madam but we need to 3 days for processing the money.’’

Me: ‘’So if the broken bone shatters and punctures a major artery or vein, I wait for you to process the money, huh!’’

Call center agent: ‘’Madam that is the procedure.’’

Me: ‘’You must be crazy! Anyway, forget that it is not your fault.’’

Call center agent: ‘’So do I register you?’’

Me: ‘’No!’’

Call center agent: ‘’Then, can I check your history and sort out your issues with your line?’’

Me: ‘’No, do not do anything I am fine. Have a good day.’’

Call center agent: ‘’Madam…’’

I cut him short with another goodbye after all the network had been spamming my inbox for week’s every morning with this broken bone nonsense. Telecoms, you need to be in tune with your customers and be relevant not add to the additional noise we receive every day. So it was out with UTL and in with Airtel.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Do you have a woman or a wife?

Burials are very somber occasions where you get to take stock of your life and what value you have added to people and whether you have done what you are passionate about. Last year, I traveled to Tororo town for my uncle’s burial to pay my respects and say goodbye to a man I never saw sick or heard complain. A cool man who was senior in age but not the heartWhen you think of him you would not use the word old because that implies tired and frail but that is not an accurate comparison of who he was.

Although burial services are often sad events, I was greatly entertained by the Catholic priest who conducted the mass and the best man of the deceased who told the most hilarious stories about him that I will remember for years. The catholic priest was young compared to the crowd at this burial but very theological, therefore with his youth came a fiery dissemination of the written word in a way that is uncommon and very refreshing.

The deceased had been married to the same woman for 50 years and was an ardent supporter of the catholic church for all his life, this seemed fitting and served as the foundation for his sermon that day

Catholic Priest: ‘’Praise God!’’

Audience: ‘’Amen.’’

Catholic Priest: ‘’Today, we celebrate the life of a man who understands what service and commitment are about.’’

Audience: ‘’Yes, amen.’’

Catholic Priest: ‘’Those of you who have not wedded in church and you pass on, you have left a woman. Do not be mistaken, you have not left a wife because you have not wedded in church - Holy matrimony.’’

To this many in the crowd giggled and a few middle-aged women began to look at the gentlemen seated next to them. It was quite the sight as I observed many give glances and gentle nudges as though to drive a point home. Then I adjusted my seat for better viewing of this clergyman and paid keen attention

Catholic Priest: ‘’So any man can wake up and come and take her for a wife and you cannot complain. So respect her and make her your wife; not your woman.’’

The giggles had now evolved into loud ramblings of affirmation with many clapping intermittently but nothing had prepared me for the analogy that he intended to use shortly.

Catholic Priest: ‘’When you watch men drink from the same malwa (local brew) tubes and they do not wipe it. I admire that level of love between them. I am not saying go and begin to drink alcohol. I am telling you to remember that you are a visitor here. It is, therefore, important that you know that your life is temporal and you are accountable to a greater person. You can have children but not raise them, we cannot call these children of value.’’

Many burst out in laughter at the alcohol reference but this clergyman was not mincing his words.

Catholic Priest: ‘’Invest in your children so that you can be proud of them when you pass on so that they are a clear representation of who you are.’’

This statement came after a long and detailed reference to the deceased’s emphatic insistence in educating both his daughters and sons. He also raised them to be God fearing, driven, achievement-oriented and to have empathy for people.

Catholic Priest: ‘’The deceased was not a minister, council member or chief but he made his mark.’’
As we walked to our cars and the rest of the village folks set off for their long walk back home, this clergyman had lit a fire and started conversations all around. Many laughed along as they spoke and reflected on what he had said but there were also a few men who were cornered and put on the spot as to the nature of their status.

The take home for me was, people need to be valued, loved and celebrated and if you have a person of substance and do not value them someone else will. Time does not wait for any man so make the most of your stay here, we are all but visitors passing through onto a better place.

What will be said in your Eulogy? It is still being written so make your mark.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Out with PayWay and in with ChapChap.

Nearly 1 year and 6 months ago, I ranted on about the inconvenience in trying to credit my Yaka account using the PayWay service. This post is not a rant, it is a solution to the dilemma that we all have when we need to top up and get units for our Yaka devices when the PayWay or Mobile Money network is down. You have all experienced this once or twice before.

I had resigned myself to being content with the way things are in Uganda (the status quo) and even opted to do bulk purchases for my Yaka meter once a month, always making sure to top up when I was left with not less than 15 units. Yes, I mentally created a minimum top-up level for myself on my phone with audio alerts (desperate times call for desperate measures).  This is no way to live, I told myself as I remembered my terrible experience I previously had with PayWay.

Then enters ChapChap a new mobile payment platform that allows you top-up, pay other bills and earn/ save money while doing so. Check out their website on  

You can top-up you on airtime on UTL, MTN, AIRTEL, VODAFONE, SMILE DATA, Smart Airtime and AFRICELL Airtime. For bill payment, you can pay for NWSC, UMEME, Startimes, DSTV, GOtv, URA and KCCA. Given my limited needs, I have only used the platform as a user and not an agent for purchases of airtime for UTL, Airtel and MTN and top-up for my Yaka.  So begin I downloaded the App off play store and entered my sponsor agent number which is a telephone number after which I got a license.  

So to pay for YAKA of 100,000, I made sure I had 100,000 on mobile money but that was not enough I needed a service charge of 3,000 from MTN to also be available on my mobile money account as well. (Please note that the service on charges vary depending on the payment)

Step 1: I went onto the downloaded ChapChap from my Google Play store using my MTN number for registration. and I purchased stock worth 100,000 on ChapChap. To pay using this platform is a little different, it is not like using Mobile Money where you send the money using instructions such as *160*2… (You know what I am talking about).  

Oh before I forget, since you use both  MTN number and email to register you can access it online using a computer/laptop to print out receipts in the cases where you use this service for work-related purchases and accountability is needed.

Email receipt on email confirming purchases of stock, you can also extract for any payment transacted off your account on their system.

Step 2: No you need to buy digital stock worth the value of the transaction you want to make. So go to buy stock, select your mobile network and enter your mobile number and package (payment amount value from menu options).

You will be asked to confirm payment using your Mobile Money PIN so have it handy.
The great thing about this platform is you get SMS notifications at every stage of the process. So here, you get SMS notifying you of completion of the stock purchase and highlights the amount. If it was not successful it means that you do not have adequate funds on your MM Account.

Step 3: Go to the pay bills sections and select YAKA or any other payment you would like to make.

Step 4: You enter your YAKA Meter number and then below enter the amount you intend to pay and click proceed.

Step 5: If you have adequate funds (10o,000 stock) + (3,000 MTN fees) you get an SMS alert showing you your receipt and token number to activate your top up as you would usually find on your Yaka Payment slip issued by PayWay. 

Step 6: You get a cash back for using the service, for YAKA it is 600. So can only be cashed and used if you are an agent.

Personally, the fact that I don’t need to use PayWay again is awesome so the cash back is just icing on the cake. The convenience, ease and user-friendly customer service support team that I called late at night (11:00 pm) on a weekend make this platform a must-have. A pal of mine, downloaded this App onto my phone and activated it for me with him as my agent and I whined the entire time but believe me I thanked him afterwards.

So this runs on Android based platforms but that did not stop me from telling my sister about it. Sadly, I am a few light years from her in tech terms so she kept saying, it is called what Chap sap, Sap sap…..

Saturday, 25 February 2017

The Mbale local council fraudsters.

As a business owner/ manager, I tend to deal with all sorts of issues and people from the farmer we source vegetables, to the district local council member. Allow me to discuss the latter group of local council officials whose office I personally choose to call an evil in itself.  

Now as the year kicked off, I asked my shop manager to follow up on the renewal of the trading license for my Mbale shop by end of week 1 of 2017. Sadly 4 days into the New Year before she could even get the process started, we had visitors from the Mbale municipal council. She was called off to the entrance of the Coffee shop to speak to a lady and gentleman who informed her they were there for shop inspection. When she agreed to let them go about looking at our premises they said they needed an inspection fee before they commenced.

Please note, as these two individuals asked for this inspection fee not one of them moved an inch towards the door even as the shop manager motioned them to the entrance so that she could show them around. I know this because I was sitting about 150 meters from them on a conference call. So the two officials then asked to see the owner and the manager walked towards me and waited for me to get off the phone. I paused my phone conversation and she brought me up to speed.  So I asked,

Me: "How much for inspection?’’

Shop manager: ‘’ 70,000.’’

Me: ‘’Ask them to provide identification and a letter of introduction stating that they are authorized to inspect at the given fee mentioned,’’ I said as I got back to my phone call.
The shop manager walked towards them and after a brief conversation, I saw her walk back towards me.

Shop manager: ‘’They say we will be fined for arguing and disrespecting officers from the municipal council.’’

Me: ‘’Asking for proper documentation is not a crime. Ask them to give me 5 minutes and I will come and take them around when their paper work is in order.’’
However, by the time she got to me I saw the lady and gentleman whisper to each other and before I could get up from my seat they had left the shop in such a rush they seemed to have been fleeing from a ghost.

Moral of the story, Ugandan officials in authority, why do we have to be so dishonest? Can we change the mentality and stereotype of what Uganda is? People in authority can we stop frustrating Ugandan owned and ran businesses because these are the businesses providing employment to other Ugandans who need and value their jobs.

Two weeks later after a great deal of back and forth by the shop manager between the municipal council office and the shop, we processed our trading license and certificate of and suitability of premises to prepare and serve food customers. 

Now here are a few pictures of the lovely shop that these people wanted to put out of business for a 70,000 bribe.

 This story has a happy ending, but it could have ended a whole other way with me paying the bribe, going back to council later and being told that my application had not been processed at all. Sadly, I did not get any names of these fraudsters so I could not follow up on this issue any further which greatly frustrates me because I detest Ugandans who continue to give professional people a bad name because of the vices that are ruining this society and country we live in. 

Think of our children, your children; are these are evils that you want them to deal with 10 years from now?

Thursday, 12 January 2017

The hustle of selling data in this Ugandan economy.

Given my profession as a marketer, manager, blogger, student and digital enthusiast, my circle of life is greatly driven by internet and data service. However, the dilemma is that it is extremely difficult to get a reliable provider at an affordable rate.

Vodafone is my current service provider, however, recently I went to DFCU Acacia branch for my usual weekly ATM withdrawal when I run into a Smile telecom agent with his assistant. The 2 agents set up a promo tent right next to the entrance of the bank. Ordinarily, I would have walked past this tent with not even a glance but this time there was a new and enthusiastic agent who was on a mission to sign me up for their service.

Smile Agent: ‘’Hello, could I interest you in a smile router?’’

Me: ‘’No thank you,’’ I politely responded.

Smile Agent: ‘’We have awesome packages both for office and personal use at affordable rates. You look like a good candidate for a weekend bundle package.’’

Me: ‘’No, I already have a provider and I have no complaints.’’

Smile Agent: ‘’Which provider?’’

Me: ‘’Vodafone.’’

Smile Agent: ‘’Well the thing is I have you ever tried Smile?’’

Me: ‘’Yes I have and I had an issue with your connection at home, frequent outages during peak (working) hours and an inconvenient recharge process.’’

Smile Agent: ‘’Wow, very detailed feedback. When did you last use our service?’’

Me: ‘’ A year and a half ago.’’

Smile Agent: ‘’Well that was a long time ago and our system has greatly improved since then. Also, Vodafone offers are too good to be true.’’

Me: ‘’Hahaha! Well I have no complaints.’’

Smile Agent: ‘’ Give me your number and I check whether your device is still active.’’
Me: ‘’Why would I do that?’’

Smile Agent: ‘’So that when they finally let you down you can come back home.’’

Me: ‘’Really! ‘’ I responded in shock mainly because of the underhand tactics being employed by this sales man.

Me: ‘’ So smile is home?’’

Smile Agent: ‘’Yes totally, take my number so that when that happens you can come back home.
That day I left the bank stunned at how cut throat the sales in the internet (data) service industry had become since I last worked for an advertising agency and was glad I did not have to hustle with the rest of these salesmen today.

I am still waiting to see when I can finally go back home since this chance meeting with this salesman 8 months ago.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

The MC who had more fun than the wedding guests.

In a bid to break my antisocial habits I made a decision to attend my cousin's wedding. Aside from this new resolution, it is also extremely difficult to dodge a wedding when your personal invite has been delivered to your workplace. However, at the end of the night, I was glad that I showed up because the MC really did make the night – all by himself. I experienced something I have not in a really long time, an MC who thoroughly enjoyed the wedding more than the guests and the bridal party.

I must note that the MC was not the only highlight of this wedding, there was this instance just after the cutting of the cake when the bride was scheduled to throw her bouquet (yes it was scheduled on the program), that he got every single bridesmaid and friend of the bride to come and take part.

MC: ‘’Hey, if you are single or he has not put a ring on it I expect to see you here.’’

The single ladies were a little shy and most did not respond to his calls to participate so he amped it up and resorted to calling out names.

MC: ‘’If you are single and you are not here, do not complain if this favour passes you by. This is a divine moment, your husband could be in this very place. Can I hear an Amen.’’
I was so amused I burst out in laughter only to see one of my aunties ahead of me turn and motion to me to go in front and join the group. I politely declined and unfortunately that would open me up to a whole other grilling session I would be a part of where I would have to explain why I had not declared my status to them as - dating. (Let me not digress)

As all this commotion was taking place, at the table right behind me there were ladies in their late 30’s and early 40’s who had been dancing the entire wedding and talking so loudly I would often hear them above the MC’s baritone.

Lady 1: ‘’Athieno, why aren’t you getting up to go in front?’’

Athieno: ‘’Because I am not single.’’

Lady 2: ‘’ No, but the MC did not say if you have a man hanging around you. He said if you don’t have a ring on your finger.’’

Athieno: ‘’But I am not searching.’’

Lady 1: ‘’No you are not but Oboth is clearly still searching. Do you see him around there, over there chatting with those younger ladies.’’

Athieno: ‘’Maybe they are his nieces.’’

Lady 2: ‘’ If my husband held his niece's handbag and hand like that he would not have any supper.’’

Athieno: ‘’Well me I am content, God will sort me out.’’

I could not help but snicker as I listened to them from my seat and watched this drama play out before me almost play like in this mix of a blend of a modern and traditional wedding setting.

MC: ‘’Okay time is up. Mugole (bride), we are going to count down from 5 – 1 and then you can close your eyes and throw the bouquet.

The crowd went wild into laughter as the last 3 girls shot out of their seats and run to join the group waiting to catch the bouquet.

MC: ‘’Wow, these ladies really want to meet Mr. Right and all the single brothers say……’’
The crowd shouted back in response, ‘’Amen.’’

MC: ‘’Single gentlemen and especially those in the groom’s party, I hope your eyes are open and you catch this vision. Okay, let’s count down 5, 4, 3, 2……..1.’’

When the bride closed her eyes and threw that bouquet I could not help but feel glad that it was a non-living thing. There was 1 lady from the group of 3 who had joined last that jumped so high that she mimicked a high jumper at the Olympics. She grabbed the tip of the bouquet as another lady grabbed a hold of it as she was descending mid-air. We all watched in shock as the Olympian nearly elbowed the other lady to a point she let go.

That squabble was not the least of the excitement with the most shocking part of the entire bouquet toss being during it. Now a word of advice to every young or middle aged lady going for a wedding. ‘Be mindful of what you are wearing.’

So the 20 something lady who won the bouquet toss was wearing a short and flimsy dress and had not thought through her actions before she decided to take part. She had jumped so high that due to the laws of gravity, her dress joined in the jump exposing her now not so private parts to the rest of the guests at the wedding.

I thought she would have been so embarrassed that she would have left the wedding celebration immediately but to my surprise, she fell to the ground into a squat with the bouquet and composed herself as the MC said.

‘’Wow, dear single brothers this is serious.’’

The rest of the crowd burst into laughter while a more senior lady held her mouth as she tried to recover from the shock of what they had just seen. The bouquet toss winner got up, laughed it off and walked off grinning from ear to ear with her prize.

What a wedding and who said weddings are boring?

Monday, 22 August 2016

My know it all classmate

As an adult, we are continuously plagued by the perils of professional education.  No one wants to do the work but we all want to benefit from the results of these new found insights that comes from studying a professional course. 

Not to digress, I was recently at Uganda Management Institute for my Saturday morning class for one of my final papers for my course.  Sadly, I was the only student in class that day with my tutor for close to an hour before anyone else arrived. Then in walked a middle-aged gentleman who asked;

Student 1: ‘’Is John around?’’ he asked he pointed at the tutor’s laptop which was open at the head of the long table.

Me: ‘’Yes he is,’’ I responded as I looked up.

 Student 1: ‘’Where is he?’’

Me: ‘’He stepped out to go and get some airtime.’’

Student 1: ‘’Are you on a break?’’

Me: ‘’Yes,’’ I said as I went back to my crunchy pack of cookies.

The tutor returned after a brief while and found us seated across from each other on either side of our long class table and after glancing at our new addition to the class he asked;

Tutor: ‘’Jim, where is your material for class? Where is your laptop, notebook, pen and flash disk?’’

Student 1: ‘’I have it with me.’’

Tutor: ‘’Where is it? I do not see a laptop.’’

Student 1: ‘’I do not need a laptop, all I need is,’’ he said as he tapped his forehead and I allowed a chuckle to escape under my breath.

Tutor: ‘’Okay, well will that capture your assignment? The assignment for your December sitting is out, give me a flash disk.’’

With a grin on my face, I watched the gentleman dig deep into his pockets and fish out a flash disk which he passed on to the tutor.

Tutor: ‘’So why did you come to class, ….now how are you going to view what am giving you as we read through the assignment.’’

Student 1: ‘’………,’’ he paused for a while as silent as a bat before responding, ‘’I was on my way somewhere when you called me so I came to class.

Tutor: ‘’So you did not receive the class timetable?’’

Student 1: ‘’Yes I did but I did not expect you to come to class for the first lecture.’’

As he spoke these words the other 2 members of our class snuck in behind the tutor as he faced the soft board. When he faced the class again, he saw 4 instead of 2 faces and said;

Tutor: ‘’Eh, we keep multiplying.’’

Student 2: ‘’Yes, we were not sure you would be coming to teach today.’’

Tutor: ‘’Yes, this is level 7 so there are no games. So did you also bring just your heads? Where are your class items, study material?’’

Student 2 & 3: ‘’……’’ There was dead silence as the students looked on stunned. Jim and I could not help but laugh because we were the only ones who could understand this joke.

The moral of the story is if you are going to show up, own it and make sure you are not simply physically present.