GIDEON BADAGAWA: SERVICE WITH PASSION
On 26th June 2021, we laid our colleague, friend, mentor and leader to rest in Muira, Iganga District. The thought that we will not see Gideon again is painful. However, we are comforted by the great things and impact he had on the private sector in Uganda.
Therefore, today, I choose to celebrate his life, and the measure of its worth to us all.
Mr. Badagawa has been a man of many talents, passions and already many of you have provided testimonies to affirm to this. I have a lot to say but for lack of space let me focus on only five;
He was passionate about enterprise development and particularly the micro and small enterprises considering that they constitute 93% of all business establishments. He was concerned about their inability trade and compete favorably due to high interest rates, inadequate skills, poor technology, high cost of doing business, limited access to finance, burdensome polices, regulations & Laws and limited access to quality management infrastructure. All these hampered their ability to survive beyond first year and for those that survive transformation through growth is almost next to impossible. We see few cases of small companies growing into medium, and medium into large. We have not seen many becoming locally grown and bred multinational companies. As a leader at PSFU he made the effort to advocate for capacity building projects so that the business community could get grants to improve their businesses. By the time of his death, through our various matching grant schemes and the Skills Development Facility, about 5,000 micro, small and medium enterprises had accessed grants to install better quality management systems including ISO certification, improved technology, up skilled their employees, installed better management systems, improved their brands, secured more markets for their products and obtained financing for their businesses. Many; young and old, micro, small and medium enterprise and large alike have testified about how their business fortunes were impacted positively. Within these business, about 100,000 individuals comprising employees, customers and suppliers were impacted too.
Beyond the capacity building which individual businesses have control over, there are policies, Laws & regulations and the general business environment onto which businesses have no control over whatsoever. He labored so much to try and improve the environment under which businesses operate to make it conducive to trade as well as make money and grow. He led extensive consultations with members and the general private sector and travelled extensively locally and abroad looking for good practices in enterprise development. He advocated for better policies, laws and regulations. Many Laws have been updated and new ones drafted and enacted and are under implementation. Others are awaiting presidential assent, while others are still in the legislative processes.
Further afield, lack of markets began emerging as an issue over the last four years. This was a puzzle considering that only a few yearsago, the country imported almost everything. Accordingly, policy makers had to balance between protecting the nascent manufacturing while at the same time ensuring goods could be imported cheaply into the country in order to avoid shortages. Thanks to the collective efforts of policy makers, enterprise development facilitators like PSFU and investors, today Uganda is a surplus country in some products which we used to import namely sugar, cement, steel products, milk, poultry & eggs to mention some. Markets became a brand new challenge before us. The key question now is how do we expand markets to absorb the surplus production?
PSFU under Gideon’s leadership advocated for expansion of markets in three ways. One by ensuring that incomes increased for those that were already earning and starting income projects for those not earning. The logic here was that increased disposable income creates effective demand and increases markets. Secondly, that any available local market; whether in government or private consumption be supplied by local producers. This is the advent of Buy Uganda Build Uganda and later the enactment of the Local Content Law. It is sad that Gideon left before the Local Content Law was assented to by H.E the President. The third way to expand markets is to look for regional and international markets. At enterprise level MSMEs face bigger challenges of lack of markets whether in local or foreign markets because of limited capacity to marshal scale and compete. To overcome capacity challenges, MSMEs need to cooperate or link with bigger companies to access markets. This then called for a change in approach from “produce and look for a market approach” to a “secure a market and produce” approach. This approach is quickly gaining acceptance among development practitioners and Government.
Secondly, he was passionate about eliminating inequality; he used to be so much pained because of the inequality in this Country most especially regarding women. You are aware that women are not treated equally in this Country. He worked so hard to promote programs within the private sector that promote women equality, he looked for partners and as we speak about 42 companies have introduced gender equality policies in their companies. These policies include equal opportunity for jobs at all levels, equal pay for equal work among others. He also labored to stop violence against women, girls and children. In his memory, I implore all those who knew him and all those reading these pages join the fight to eliminate Gender Based Violence.
Thirdly Mr. Badagawa was a family man. He was passionate about his family. He did whatever it took to ensure that he was able to balance his work with his family life. He actively participated in the education journey of his children. Getting them to school, visiting them, reviewing classwork, engaging with the teachers and participating in sports days etc. Many men are not as involved as he was. In fact teachers complain about the fact that very few men get involved in children’s education activities compared to women. Men; let us learn from Gideon and do likewise.
Mr. Badagawa was a talented communicator and mobiliser. He used every opportunity to communicate and rally the business community towards agreed causes. He moved from media house to media house, workshop to workshop talking as if his life depended on it. Even as recently as November last year the country remembers Gideon championing the “Tugobe Corona” campaign. He moved street to street, media house to media house preaching wearing a mask and compliance to other standard operating procedures for the population to protect itself again Corona. Alas! Corona has taken him.
Gideon’s death, really shook us to the core; but we are not broken. On behalf of management and staff I want to assure the private sector, government, development partners and the general public that PSFU will remain strong and continue serving you as has always been.
Gideon; May your soul rest in eternal peace.
ACTING EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PSFU