Posted by David Omoding
On a hot Monday evening, Mr. Tony Otoa was scheduled to speak to the Rotary Club of Kampala South about SME’s being the engine of Uganda’s Economy. By the time the Rotary norms were done, you could hear a pin drop as everyone logged on in eager anticipation of what Kampala South had served up. SME’s being dear to many, the club hosted a sell-out attendance of over 200 Rotarians from four (4) continents, as well as Rotaractors and friends of Rotary.
There couldn’t have been a better choice of speaker for this hot topic other than the current Executive Director of the Stanbic Bank Business Incubator Programme, a semi-autonomous entity of Stanbic Holdings. Evidently, he was drawing from his vast experience in enterprise development at Stanbic Bank and previously at Total E&P, plus his formative grounding in Busoga College Mwiri.
The eloquent, passionate and exuberant speaker, Mr. Otoa pinned all attendees in their seats whether they were stuck in the evening traffic snarls (as was the case for many East Africans) or snuggly beset in their homes and offices across the world.
Tony encouraged the members in the house to abandon the notion of side-hustles or gigs and give SME’s the proper nurturing that would drive the future.  Pointing out that Uganda was ranked as one of the most entrepreneurial countries in the world, he decried the rate of attrition of companies – with over 80% not being able to make their first birthday of incorporation.
This he attributed to several factors, notably the absence of the business blue-print otherwise known as the Business Plan, a poor culture of saving, poor banking and borrowing credibility, informal governance structures to give the business an outside perspective and overall direction.
Any successful SME’s should be able to stand the test of time and endure the pain and hardship of setting out without quite complaining or giving up.  This is the philosophy of stoicism – which he encouraged members to bear.
The importance of emotional intelligence and social quotient over intelligence alone, the relationship between the business and customers, employees all galvanized by good working environments, team effort, leadership and communication were pointed out as the subtle pillars for growing a lasting, stoic SME.
It was truly captivating, insightful and re-energizing to many and had attendees yearning to engage more with Mr. Otoa as well as the Stanbic Incubator Programme set to roll off in August. By the time his allotted 45 minutes were done, you could sense the hunger in the attendees for more of his intellect, fire-brand passion and also tales from his beloved Najjera neighborhood plus nuggets of what more SME’s could do.