Zikusooka, nkuyambe ntya leero?
“How can I help you today,” Hajji asked me, as he pulled a wooden chair, on it’s last legs, in my direction. He was himself seated on a debe – a disused 20 liter oil tin.
In a confident voice that had a trace of desperation and betrayed a whiff of fear (only an entrepreneur would start to understand this state of being), I replied:
“I need to borrow 20,000 dollars from you, Hajji. Payable in four weeks.”
He looked at me intently for a moment – a moment that seemed like an eternity, and looked away the next, drifting in thought.
“Mitwalo ebiri eza dolla. Mmm. Mitwalo ebiri..”
(Twenty thousands dollars. Mmm. Twenty thousand). He was thinking out aloud.
Next I knew he was barking out instructions to his shop attendant (cum cashier), and motioning me on as he stood up. He started walking in the opposite direction from me.
We crossed the road.
For the life of me, I will never forget the next one hour that followed.
We went down the road into a very chaotic part of town, through narrow shopping arcade passageways, ending up in a dimly-lit basement. The shock on my person was palpable. It was a banking hall of sorts; full of people exchanging money. There was hardly any paperwork exchanging hands. The folks behind the almost make-shift counters were the ones writing – in what I imagined where accounting journals. The lingua franca here was Luganda.

Unless you are buying, speaking English in downtown Kampala is a debilitating handicap. In those formative years of business, it dawned on me that if I was going to make headway in this town, doing the business I was doing, my Luganda needed to get proficient. Quickly. Ditto for Swahili when I crossed the border into Kenya.

While I was still trying to piece the puzzle that this curious place was, Hajji waved two stashes of 100 crispy dollar bills in my face. I started to fumble. Where was I going to put this cash? I had left my bag in the car parked on the street in front of Hajji’s shop. Everything was happening too quickly.
My naivety of how things run on these streets must have irritated Hajji. Impatiently pointing at my shoes, he bellowed:
“Zikusooka! Sente ziteke mu sokisi!” A jeer followed.
What! Before I could even imagine of thinking of protesting, I found myself bending down to stuff my socks. Now, I have trekked entire days in swamps and alpine conditions alike. And climbed some pretty steep mountains. But that was the most uncomfortable mile I ever walked in my life. Not only was I moonwalking in the middle of town but I also kept looking at my feet, ready to grab the bundles if they fell out. At one point, Hajji straightened me up, squared my shoulders and annoyedly told me to stop drawing attention to myself.
When we got back to the shop, Hajji waved me on to my car. No paper signed. No collateral. Just my verbal commitment to settle in 28 days. At zero interest.
That morning, some scales fell off my eyes. A chip slipped off my shoulder. In the safety of my locked car, the immortality of these truths came rushing at me:
There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: there is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great riches.
Blessed are the humble, for they will inherit the earth.
That day also, I learned a great lesson: Your business will only grow at the speed at which you can mobilize capital. And the speed at which you can mobilize capital is a function of Relationship.
By Jacob Zikusooka
Jaluum Herberts Luwizza is a Speaker,Writer, Columnist with the C.E.O Magazine and Contributor with the Nile Post.He is also a Business Consultant with YOUNG TREP East Africa’s No.1 Business Management and Consultancy firm that helps people start and grow profitable businesses.
0700155232 | 0787555919 | whatsapp 0716223986.