In Defence of ‘The Rolex’
By Arinaitwe Rugyendo
Following a two- year retirement, your column, Behind The Scenes, returns today!
Following a number of enquiries about it, not least from my Archbishop, His Grace Paul K. Bakyenga; ‘Behind The Scenes,’ which mainly churned out political intelligence stuff, has returned to the pages, this time with tinge of on transformational issues, challenges and opportunities for Uganda, the region and the continent.
It will also offer a dose on youth mentorship and strive to answer some of their questions that they have been physically confronting me with at conferences and student gatherings. I encourage them start sending them to me through my email provided at the end of this piece.
Particularly, I have been forced to return here following the cynicism and the negative energy that greeted the efforts of a few patriotic Ugandans who organized a festival, last week, to promote a sensational street food recipe known locally as ‘Rolex.’
The ‘Rolex’ does not refer to the popular Swiss watch- Rolex. The ‘Ugandan Rolex’ is a rolled chapatti containing a fried egg and vegetables, wildly popular in all major streets of the capital Kampala and beyond. It had been a silent gold mine for mainly the informal sector blokes until the new State Minister for Tourism, Godfrey Kiwanda and some Ugandans decided to market it as a uniquely ‘Made in Uganda,’ recipe in a bid to promote Culinary Tourism in the country.
But, as the cynics, full of negative energy, dominated the social media sphere, wiser folks smelt an opportunity and went to work. Consequently, a food truck called ‘UGOOD’ has been launched in Copenhagen, Denmark to serve what its founding entrepreneurs call ‘healthy and delicious street food, made of ecological ingredients from Uganda and Denmark.’
A quick glance at their website; www.ugood.dk, tells you amazing stuff that no official ‘Brand Uganda’ effort would obtain without paying through the nose.
They have even managed to give the ‘Rolex’ a historical touch in order to brand the country not only as the inventor of the sensational recipe, but a good culinary destination for tourists:
“The famous Rolex was introduced back in 2003 in the Wandegeya area – a Kampala suburb where it is believed University students flocked these streets in search for a fast and cheap snack leading to the invention.
Rolex is eaten everywhere when you travel around Uganda such as to Gulu, Fort portal, Kampala and Iganga. It is called a Rolex and no synonym for it.
Amidst the language barrier, everyone speaks the language of Rolex just say the word and you will be served! The Rolex invention does not discriminate against any one.
An ignorant person may affiliate it with lower segments of society but it is eaten by all members of society, be it the young, elderly, rich, poor, literate and the list goes on and on,” goes a citation on the website.
The ‘UGood Truck’ is not alone. The world’s leading news media- CNN, BBC, Aljazeera and the Guardian- have referred to the ‘Rolex’ as the continent’s fast growing street food recipe.
The BBC has a video clip on its You Tube channel on ‘How to make a Rolex,’ specifically targeting its global audience while inadvertently promoting the unique cooking abilities of the Ugandan street ‘chef.’ It would imply that the BBC might have turned Uganda’s street Rolex vendors into instant culinary consultants for foreign tourists.
In short, this is how dangerous cynicism and negative energy can suck a country’s ingenuity and deny its hard working ordinary population opportunity to transform and advance. It also stifles a country’s competitiveness in a hostile global environment.
Students of ‘Business’ and ‘Strategy’ who might have come across Harvard Business School’s Prof Michael E. Potter’s work on ‘The Competitive Advantage of Nations,’ will agree with me that if an invention is unique to a country, then that country must do all it takes to martial its labour force, environment and culture towards producing that unique invention to sell to the rest of the world.
Prof. Potter has consulted for countries like Rwanda, Costa Rica and the United Arab Emirates, designing their cluster strategies as foundational channels for their competitiveness. Everyone knows how these countries are progressing.
For the benefit of the cynics, this is what he posits He says, and I quote him verbatim:
‘National prosperity is created, not inherited. It does not grow out of a country’s natural endowments, its labour pool, its interest rates, or its currency’s value, as classical economics insists.
A nation’s competitiveness depends on the capacity of its industry to innovate and updgrade. Companies gain advantage against the world’s best competitors because of pressure and challenge.
They benefit from having strong domestic rivals, aggressive home based suppliers, and demanding local customers.
In a world of increasingly global competition, nations have become more, not less, important. As the basis of competition has shifted more and more to the creation and assimilation of knowledge, the role of the nation has grown. Competitive advantage is created and sustained through a highly localized process.
Differences in national values, culture, economic structures, institutions and histories, all contribute to competitive success.
There are striking differences in the patterns of competitiveness in every country; no nation can or will be competitive in every, or even most industries.
Ultimately, nations succeed in particular industries because their home environment is the most forward-looking, dynamic and challenging.” End of quote!
What is the problem of Uganda? Is it cultural? Ideological? Where does this ‘PHD’ (Pull Him Down) mentality come from?
Why is it so hard to fathom an opportunity for those street vendors, the many jobless kids coming out of catering schools, and the mushrooming hotels round the country, from a unique invention like ‘The Rolex’ or any other locally unique recipe?
This is what I want to address in this column, going forward. Part of the fundamental problem of this country is cynics! Cynics do not build nations. They crush them and run away.
I defend the ‘Rolex’ because I potentially see in it, the same ecological characteristics as in the famous Kentucky Fried Chicken or KFC.
Both did not reinvent the wheel. The Chapatti and fired eggs are everywhere. Chickens do not come from America. The point is that in both cases, the unique local environment played a key role in shaping the value addition that these two products underwent to make them a global sensation. Consequently, KFC for example which was founded 86 years ago, had by December 2013, 18,875 outlets in 118 countries and territories around the world. There were 4,563 outlets in China, 4,491 in the United States, and 9,821 across the rest of the world. Yet it had similar challenges or even worse than the ‘Rolex.’
Two weeks after the Rolex Festival, The `Rolex’ is at least on the streets of Denmark, selling from a moving truck. That’s the real deal. This is a very good step.
86 years from now, it might be a universal sensation.
Till next Sunday.
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