The new Job of Chief Digital Officer!

Popa Cola Ltd, was a decade old company, currently engaged in the feisty and competitive beverage war of Cola supremacy. Soon after he had taken over as CEO, Gyagenda  started familiarizing himself with its organization structure. He was aware the last CEO had been fired because the company was losing out in the Cola wars for supremacy, with sales stagnating.

When Gyagenda was asked what strategy he was planning to engage, if hired, to help the company take on the better known traditional Cola giants, he did not hesitate but quick back: “I will use a digital strategy to popularize our products!”

“Digital strategy!” the elderly Board chair had expressed mild surprise. Besides him was a copy of mainstream daily papers and a file stacked with paper.

“Sir,” Gyagenda turned to him. “The world has entered the digital age. This means our way of doing things must be by engaging digital tools whether it is managing our human resources or reaching out to customers.”

Impressed, Gyagenda, was appointed as CEO. Soon after going over the organization structure, he called up Helen, the Human Resource Director.

“Who oversees digital matters in this company?” Gyagenda wondered. “I have noticed we have an ICT Director, but I wanted to know who is directly responsible for leading the company’s digital strategy.”

Helen pointed to a junior officer quite down at the bottom of the organization’s pecking order. Gyagenda was not impressed. “I am directing we start a restructuring of the organization,” he said. “A position I want to see elevated to top management is that of a Digital Director!”

“We already have an ICT Director,” Helen noted.

“I saw that,” Gyagenda noted. “I am not talking about heading ICT infrastructure acquisition and management, which most of those guys do. What I want is to see someone here oversees the use  of digital tools to develop and promote our business!”

Few would argue that in the post Covid- 19 pandemic age the digitization of the way of work is a foregone conclusion. Even as workers return to the office from home, a certain number will continue to divide their time between home and office.  Customer behavior has also shifted where an increasing number of consumers rely on digital tools not only to get acquainted with new products but also purchase them.

In this new climate, organizations must have a digital strategy at the heart of their operations. A chief digital officer is charged with helping organizations use digital information and new technologies such as cloud, mobile and social media, to create business value. For some, it means helping them move from analog to a digital business model.

Why this cannot be a junior position anymore is because it involves major changes to an enterprise’s technology architecture, business processes, products and job roles. Take the example of a print newspaper or bank whose customers are increasingly shifting to digital mediums to access their products and services. There is an obvious need of who leads this strategy.

Among others, a Digital officer is expected to help the company grow brand loyalty on social networks. The officer will help develop new digital revenue streams while working across the enterprise to break down data silos, engender a digital culture and build a digital business technology platform. For example, one such officer helped the organization become a “paperless office.”

The best fit for this role is usually someone with a good ICT technology background, of a lower age bracket as opposed to senior due to being conversant with these mediums and, certainly with marketing skills.

A Dog at Home

The other day I was having a call that threw me back to a difficult time in my childhood. “Don’t you think you now need a dog?” wondered my US-based Ugandan friend, after sharing with him a disturbing video clip of machete-wielding chaps, sneaking into suburban homes, where they have on occasion left victims in bloody pools, desperately clinging on to life. You see lately, the security situation in Uganda, but more so, the central region (read Buganda), has been rapidly worsening.

It seemed first like some remote freak incidents going on elsewhere as news started creeping into Kampala of hooded characters ambushing residents largely in the Masaka area, decapitating them, and then hastening off without any valuables. Who are these killers who do so only for fun! The shock of these senseless killings took me back to a time I would rather forget.

Somewhere in the 1970s, growing up in Kampala suburbs, my childhood started being interrupted with grotesque news that left me reeling on the edge. Uncle Bulasio Kavuma had just retired safely in his country residence, after a distinguished career in both the Buganda and central government of Uganda. Whenever he dropped by at home, dressed in a jacket and tie though retired, the house would be filled with his sonorous laughter and there was joy all around. But one day came news that machete wielding chaps had stormed at the door of his country house just as he had latched the locks. They demanded all his valuables, which he gladly offered. Then without waste started bludgeoning him to minced meat, before they left off, in the dark of the night.

Kampala was becoming a city of macabre news. Soon after, a rising cousin who had just graduated from Makerere Law school, was hauled off from his office after he defended someone that pissed off some army guys, tossed in a boot of a car, never to be seen again. In this climate my old man, Mzei, though never a late night out man, resorted to hurrying back home soon after work. Once inside the house, just after dusk, he would direct all the curtains drawn and doors fastened.

But still, the machete wielding thugs, known as kondos, continued on with their bloody match. This is how we got a watchman at home. Mzei stationed him at the front door armed with a bow and arrow. We all slept on edge. On occasion Mzei would get up in the middle of the night, disturbed at the slightest sound, of something moving outside. He would call out the watchman. All he got was the purr of him lost in another word, snoring away. The watchman was let go.

Before then Kampala suburban homes used to have only conifer shaped tree fences hedging houses. Few homes were enclosed behind high walls or gates. Suddenly, some people seeing that the hedges could no longer ward off the kondos started raising high brick walls. These, with time, would soon become a way of life. But before we too got there we got a new family member.

One day I came back home to find a puppy, brought home by mother. I had seen police dogs before, especially on TV shows where they happily followed orders, and knew dogs were good at protecting the turf their owners. Every one of us at home was excited about this puppy, which one of my siblings quickly gave the name Snap. We all couldn’t wait to feed it on milk and then as it grew, there was always a bone to toss it which it feasted upon. Mzei, on his way back from home, had a deal with a certain restaurant that gave him left overs, which came in a polythene bag and were emptied for Snap to feast, as he wagged his tail.

But our expectations of Snap growing into a giant of a dog would come to a sour end as its kind rose only to a medium stature. Mother without asking much about dog breeds, had been duped to think this was a German shepherd with its early black shade. As we all kids grew taller, Snap reached a point and decided there he would stop. Whatever mountain of dish we fed him on, he just refused to enlarge.

But then we discovered what Snap lacked in size, he could compensate with a loud hot bark.

As part of our raising him into a fierce dog to protect us from machete men, it was decided Snap would be locked up every day in a kennel. There was a theory going around that dogs kept outdoors tended to be too playful and rather weak. By then I had already seen a number of white expatriates who even drove around town with dogs tucked in one of the car seats. What a waste! This was not our idea of a dog. We wanted a mean dog, fed on a mug of bitter pepper, the kind that would maul attackers into minced meat without waste.

But getting Snap into his kennel proved some task. At the crack of dawn mother would task one us kids to motion him for his kennel. Snap would eye you wearily, with his sharp piercing black eyes, and start moving the other way. “Snap I say get in,” I would bellow at him. Still he would not turn back. Then I would move toward him. Fast he started sprinting off in the opposite direction. It was only after a spirited chase that would end up with any of us throwing hard objects at him that would finally get him inside his kennel.

He hated it. At first he would scratch frantically and push hard at the door, break loose on occasion, only to be pushed back. Then he would put out a load moan, till he tired of it and dozed off. It was after dusk that we would let him out. Immediately he set off into several quick laps around the house, with occasional barks, that made us feel safe. Through the night he would pitch out his loud bark, and take command of the house security.

Dogs do not have a very long life. As we all grew into teens, meanwhile Snap took a pause. His once fast legs started faltering that even a command of “Get in” wouldn’t provoke him into a fight anymore. He would just march quietly inside his dark kennel, where he let the hours pass by, just snoring away. Upon release, he settled into a corner, rarely and slept away without a single bark. All of us realized Snap was graying and started being easy on him. He had earned his badges of protecting us from machete wielding thugs, and now we only emptied into his plate all the bones he needed, and left him be.

One day I got home and found Snap was nowhere. “He died,” mother told me. “And we buried him under a traditional tree, jirikiti, where dogs are dispatched off.” The spot was actually not very far from home, about a 100 yards away, and seeing it I felt rather sad, to lose this character that had come into our life and warded off the machete thugs in their pitiful bloody thrust.

Strange, I thought, after hanging up the phone, that these thugs had returned and to forestall danger I might need a dog. Where I had thought that my brick fence wall with barbed wire, an iron gate, and a young man who keeps an eye around was enough, that was increasingly becoming less secure. Perhaps one day, my kids would return home to find, just as happened to me once, a long time ago- a dog at home!

One thing I have learnt to accept is, well, my country keeps ever moving in circles.


@ Turning Point is authored by Dr Martin M. Lwanga with the purpose to inspire by reflecting on life through personal experiences and life observations. The first collection will be out in the last quarter of 2021 under the title of “Who is my Friend!” Those interested can book for an early copy on Whatsup # 0772401774 @ 30,000 UGX ONLY (for free distribution around Greater Kampala)!

Why Shoprite Business Model Failed in Uganda

The decision by Shoprite, perhaps Africa’s largest retail, to exit from the Uganda market has provoked heated discussion concerning Uganda’s fragile middle class. There has been though scarce attention to her strategy and why it failed where a crowd of other mini supermarkets are seen thriving. These days at almost every roadside corner, one sees a new mini supermarket opening its doors, and easily flourishing.

Shoprite entered the Uganda market in 2003, along with a pan African vision extending to various African nations. After her exist in Uganda and Madagascar she will still concentrate in 11 African countries, with South Africa being her base, where she generates 80% of her revenues. Here, in Uganda she has operated five stores, and prior to the announcement there was expectation for a sixth outlet to open up in an upcoming mall in Nsambya. According to various reports, sales had stagnated since 2017 and the venture was loss making.

Shoprite, along with other mega retailers who have struggled in the Ugandan market, such as Uchumi, Tusky, Pizza hut, has a strategy that focuses on the middle class. Its stores are hyped in such a way that they attract this class with consumption goods that appeal to their broad range of taste. The retailer sells goods well displayed on colorful racks. The stores are generally clean, manned with smartly dressed clerks, with wide walking spaces, and boast of a variety of exotic imported goods, many sold at premium prices.

To appreciate some of the reason why this middle class focused strategy failed to gain traction, one has to begin by first appreciating the concept of supermarket. Supermarkets retailing that was started in 1915 by Vicent Astor in UK, where a broad range of goods are brought under one roof to take advantage of economies of scale and sell at lower prices, took off in the US during post World War 11 boom, cashing in on a growing suburban middle class with aggressive discounted priced products. These mega stores gradually squeezed out the small mom and pop shopkeeper whose higher prices because of overheads couldn’t compete.

This supermarket business model, was perfected by Sam Walton, founder of Wal Mart, with his “buy large and sell at discount”; then generate profit through volume. Long before Amazon, Wal Mart, also perfected one of the most efficient logistical network, enabling her to supply goods to any of her scattered outlets at the least cost.

While this strategy has flourished in the US, Europe and parts of Latin America and Asia; it has not been a spectacular success in certain geographical markets. For example, in spite of India’s $360bn-a-year retail food market, there only a handful of retail chain supermarkets – Metro, Walmart and Tesco- have persisted. The major obstacle has been that in India households still buy on a day-to-day basis, where price bargaining still matters. Besides, shopping is not just business of “pick-and-disappear” but also a social occasion between the neighborhood retailer and his well-known shoppers.

This, indeed, is part of the reason why some of these mega- supermarkets have failed to make in roads in various African markets, like Uganda, where the professional middle class remains weak. One of the elements that identify a middle class is her ability to secure an aspirational lifestyle. The class that lives above the subsistence level in Uganda and can save to consume non-essential goods is quite limited. This middle class, where it exists, is vulnerable and highly unstable. Indeed, it can quickly descend into poverty in the event of economic and other shocks, of which the most recent has been the Covid 19 pandemic. Covid -19 has left many pockets that depend on a regular paycheck battered due to irregular income caused by lockdown effects.

It is here that one appreciates why the min supermarkets are thriving. The fact is there business model is not hinged on this precarious class, but walk in customers many from the informal sector. There are conveniently located, with easy to access points, unlike the mega stores who to access one has to first tussle with parking lot knots. Mini super markets also coast goods which most ordinary Ugandans are acquainted with, in contrast to Shoprite’s more sophisticated range from abroad.

Shoprite business strategy has also been affected by the growth of online retailing, a space which Jumia online and other online delivery outfits have seized. Interestingly, it is this very exposed professional class, her target market, which is most likely to embrace online retail. Other reasons might have had to do with internal management problems such as fraud and poor location, critical to retail market success.

Although Shoprite and other big brand name retail marketers may exit from the Uganda market, the brighter side is that there are other local retailers like Quality Market who seem to have mastered the essentials of this market, of ours and are apparently flourishing. The point is a successful business strategy must fit within the specifics of a local market, rather than using a one-fit-all template, which ultimately has been the failing of Shoprite and other retail giants.

The Sun Will Shine in the Morning

“I tell you don’t worry,” so said Suubi to his wife, Njala who was generally pessimistic about anything she did. “The land we have just bought is good and we couldn’t have struck a better deal.”

Soon after the end of the long war in Luwero which had left many parts once teaming with people inhabited, Suubi learnt of a family that was selling over 35 acres of land there in Lutete. He had just retired after a long career as a public servant. After receiving his gratuity and social security savings he had decided to invest some of it in land, trusting that would not only yield fruits but also appreciate in value. Besides, Suubi had long realized that his ancestral home in Busiro had a lot of interpersonal conflicts, which he wanted to avoid. “Each time I go back to my birth place my family members are quarreling over something,” so often he had lamented to his wife. “They even quarrel about who gets buried where. I wish I could get my own place.”

“When shall we ever leave those people,” agreed his sour wife Njala, who had never warmed up to her in laws. “Besides, the land in Busiro is so dry and infertile.”

So, once the opportunity came, Suubi did not even bother consulting Njala. After his lawyer had searched and found there was no encumbrance upon the land in Lutete he hurried off and talked to the owner, Salongo, a grey haired man whom he found dressed in his kanzu dress. On Salongo discovering that Suubi was from the mpolologoma (lion) clan, which happened to be of his late mother too, he took to an immediate liking to him. “Even if you pay me slowly you are my mother after all,” Salongo said. He signed off the title, and went about to introduce him to his neighbors. “He is now the owner of all that land.” The neighbors who had much respect for Salongo gladly welcomed their new neighbor.

Suubi settled in fast. He arranged to plant a lusuku (plantation) of banana gardens of about 20 acres; a field of pineapples of about 5 acres; coffee trees of about 5 acres and he left 5 acres for his country residence, including burial grounds. “I am now freed from that old dry place in Busiro and their constant quarrels.”

However, when Suubi shared the news with Njala, came rapid fire. Njala was mad that she had not been consulted before the purchase. “That place is so far away,” she decided without first visiting. When she eventually did, almost after a year, she had no kind words for Suubi. “How could you buy such a dry piece of land,” Njala moaned. “I saw that soil and it can’t yield a single crop you are talking about. I looked at those neighbors and they all seemed evil. At least the people in Busiro knew and respected your family. But now you have decided to move among these Lutete strangers. I hear they practice a lot of witchcraft there as well!”

Suubi was disappointed to hear that stinker. But after getting over the fact that Njala had finally found something good about his old family land in Busiro, for he had never heard her say a good thing ever since he took her to where “we come from!”; he defended his purchase. “But can’t you be happy for once!” He knew Njala was always negative, and, perhaps for that, he had a tendency to do certain things without consulting her. “After all if I tell her,” he sometimes mused, “she will just look at the bad side and never the bright side.”

Having exhausted himself in defending the Lutete land, Suubi went ahead and hired a mupakasi ( gardener) to tend after it. The deal was that the mupakasi would first bring home any produce from the land before finding a market for the rest. The initial yields were not that good, which gave Njala an opportunity to vent, “See, I told you that land is no good. We are just wasting our money there.”

But Suubi held on to the land, though each time Njala made a sour remark he grew more discouraged. He was also not happy with the yields, especially from the banana plantation. Sometimes he found himself taking money to the village for the mupakasi, whom he was now maintaining. The mupakasi was aware that Njala despised Lutete as too dry for farming. So, whenever he came up with a poor yield, he would blame it on the poor soil. However, in truth the land was very productive, except he was swindling the owners and selling most of the produce to his gain.

One day Suubi got reports from a concerned neighbor about his duplicity. He decided to drive to Lutete without notice. Arriving before sunrise he found the mupakasi loading a pick up with bananas and pineapples. “So, this guy has been cheating me all this time!” He fired him.

Back home he shared with Njala about this theft. “See, I told you,” she quickly shot back. “Let’s start looking for another piece of land with better soils and neighbors, than there.”

Suubi was ageing and tired of constantly fighting Njala. He agreed she looks up a new piece of land. When news got out that he had lost interest in Lutete it didn’t take long for a buyer to show up. Suubi sold and waited for Njala to find a new piece of land to purchase.

Njala contacted some land brokers who started taking her around the country for land. However, it seemed like she would find an issue with each land they came up. “That one is too far,” she pushed off one. “Too dry!” she scoffed at another. “Who can live among those people,” she dismissed yet another.

Meanwhile Suubi was visibly getting upset as a year rolled without any land of his own, a dream he had long nursed. He started pressing Njala to buy anything. “We shall manage,” he advised. Finally Njala came across 15 acres of land that stretched near a stream of water, covered with a rich vegetation. “This is what I wanted all along,” she declared, urging Suubi to purchase. He discovered that here while it was less than his old land, in Lutete, it was double the price. Nonetheless he bought.

No sooner had Suubi settled here than a new claimant came up with a title for the land. Suubi was shocked and decided to go court, where he spent good money proving he had the right title. But just as he had settled that case, then he found there were some family members claiming the same land on account it was still part of the family estate. Suubi now started battling with this vicious family. It was such a nuisance that on occasion Suubi would drive to the village to find all his crops leveled to the ground because of their animosity.

“I wish we had remained in Lutete,” one day Njala lamented, after receiving news that yet another person had served court papers to Suubi also claiming this land. “We never had these issues in either Lutete nor your birth place in Busiro.”

“Excuse me!” Suubi blew up. “You never had anything positive to say wherever we have been. You only start seeing the positive things after discarding off what we used to enjoy. Maybe it is about time you started being a bit more positive with whatever we have.”

Pessimism is one of that human habit, amply possessed of others, just as some other people have boundless optimism. The pessimist tends to see only the negative side of things; while the optimist searches for the brighter side. If there is a dark cloud, the pessimist will mourn of coming floods with impassable roads. If there is a dark cloud, the optimist will cheer for the coming rains that will produce a great harvest and anticipate the smell of flowers.

There are cases where the pessimists due to their worrisome nature can forestall one from disaster with forewarning. However, left unchecked, the pessimist can lead one astray or even into the very dangerous waters they sought to escape, because they imagine a world without problems, which is yet to exist. A familiar vocabulary of pessimist is, “Look, I know it can’t work!” However, when they are proven wrong, and it so often happens, silence is their answer, or, “ Look, you just wait and see!”

But how would mankind have progressed to this day, if she was only worried over the worst. In the end it is the optimist who can achieve anything worthwhile and enduring, because he does not seek to avoid adversity, but rather embrace challenges with an optimistic and positive spirit.

Next time you encounter a pessimist listing an alphabet of disasters to strike, and why you must not take on a new challenge or give up because of encountering a roadblock, just pause, smile back and say, with a twinkle in your eye, “The sun will shine in the morning!” Then go up.


@ Turning Point is authored by Dr Martin M. Lwanga with the purpose to inspire by reflecting on life through personal experiences and life observations. The first collection will be out in the last quarter of 2021 under the title of “Who is my Friend!” Those interested can book for an early copy on Whatsup # 0772401774 @ 30,000 UGX ONLY!