We must now ask why Sembuya’s death wasn’t announced through a Sembule radio

Raymond Mujuni

What you need to know:

  • It is sad that as his eulogy continues to pour out on various platforms, Uganda has managed to murder its local capital with neck-deep bureaucracy designed to favor multinational capital and frustrated all its trade unions under the dizzying guise of political management. 

My grandfather kept two radio sets; a brown Sony one that he secretly stashed in a pouch in his bedroom and a black ‘all-weather’ Sembule radio. 
The brown one was reserved for occasions when he hosted visitors or when special speeches would be given. It is on it that he listened to coverage of the LRA war by the BBC. Given his affinity for the brown radio set, we often found ourselves in control of his Sembule radio. We took it on farming sprees and herded cattle down the Bunyagabu farms. It got rained on, but still it worked.

It often fell, sometimes in ways we thought we’d lost it, but after a few fixes and some slaps the knobs moved again and sound came from it. The only demand it had of us were dry cells – and boy, did we fiddle them? We used a pair of cells until it gave way itself; first we would put them out to dry when they run out, then we would hit around them until the black stuff started to pop and when they became wet and radio announcements started to sound like a breaking record, we would retire them. 

The Sembule radio set, in many Ugandan homes, represented resilience and offered a gateway to a world of information at a time when it was needed most. 
Its founder, Christopher Columbus Sembuya, sadly went to be with the Lord this week. 
By the time of his demise, a big chunk of his entrepreneurship from steel mills, to nails, to radios and insurance firms had either been taken up in debt or bought out by multinational capital.
 
Sembuya had understood very early in his journey the role a local bank played in capital distribution to fantastic entrepreneurial ideas and tried to start and keep one, he had also understood the role of a trade union in guaranteeing good work conditions and lobbying governments so he threw his weight behind the formation of the Uganda Manufacturers Association. 
Those two elements; local capital and trade unions, are the engines of transforming entrepreneurship and labour respectively into vital cogs that propel meaningful development. 

It is sad that as his eulogy continues to pour out on various platforms, Uganda has managed to murder its local capital with neck-deep bureaucracy designed to favor multinational capital and frustrated all its trade unions under the dizzying guise of political management. 
Sembule dared to dream but none of those dreams would have come to life without a firm capital base that allowed him to experiment from radios to nails, to steel mills. And, where he – or rather the system failed him -  it should have fallen to a sober economic management to bail him and his company that pioneered a lot of manufacturing products out. 

The after effects of Uganda’s disastrous neglect of local capital is clear to see in the inheritors of Sembule’s business estate. Multinational firms were able to box him out of insurance, banking and manufacturing and survive where he didn’t. 
I hope, as he is laid to rest, in that minute of silence, someone in charge and with steel apparatus can ask why the news of his death wasn’t delivered to them through a Sembule Radio.   
 

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