Monday, June 15, 2015


Social media has been awash with images of the house that Hamis Kiggundu has built on the shores of Lake Victoria.

It’s a huge, stately house with high ceilings, a sweeping staircase, chandeliers and complete with swimming pool and marina. Reports say the palatial mansion has 25 bed rooms, while experts estimate that with a living space of more than 1,000 square meters, the build must have cost at least $1m (sh3b).

Reactions have been mixed.

Some people envy the 31 year old owner’s good fortune at being able to build himself such a fantastic residence. Others wonder what the point is of such opulence, question the source of his funds while others are left gobsmacked, shaking their heads in befuddlement at the spectacle.

For those who dismiss it as conspicuous display of wealth one cannot help but detect a certain amount of sore grapping. They probably have never been exposed to such luxury, they cannot conceive being enveloped by it, they probably break into a cold sweat at the thought of it.

For those who are enthralled by the marvel they probably wish it was they who owned it, lived in it, and enjoyed it. They probably returned to their prayers, their intensity heightened by visions of the house that Ham built.

To each one his own.

"Not to begrudge the young man his money, but his home is symbolic of a lot that is wrong with this country...

As a country, and people, we are not poor for lack of resources but because we misallocate our vast resources.

We are continually seduced by short term gains over the long term sustainability. We are quick to copy others even if we do not understand the rationale of their actions. And we are always on the look out for the one big deal that will set us on easy street, application and diligent work are to be avoided at all costs.

There are only two ways of spending money one, by eating or consuming it or by investing it.
If expenditure is slanted towards the former rather than the latter poverty is eventually guaranteed, regardless of how well one lives currently.

If on the other hand one invests, allocates money to activities with a good chance of receiving a return one can expect a life of ease over the long term as the investments begin to pay off and spawn other investments, which in turn throw off even more cash.

Why it is so difficult to invest rather than consume, is that investment requires faith, belief in a future benefit that is not guaranteed, while consuming now guarantees immediate gratification.

People who have built wealth sustainably over years, decades even generations are men and women of great faith, never mind that they might not subscribe to your favourite pastor.

As human beings we are not designed to think long term. Our attention spans, unless trained otherwise, are unable to concentrate for long periods of time live alone project into the distant future.
The downside of this is that we tend to overestimate what can be achieved in one year and underestimate what can be achieved over ten years.

Whereas this a human condition and not unique to Ugandans, it is the attitude that glorifies those among us of questionable wealth over those who put in an honest day’s work at their jobs or businesses day in, day out over years.

It is this kind of thinking that makes us envy Kigundu, that he has made his money – never mind how, while he is young enough to “enjoy” it, by that we mean that he can now “eat” his money presumably finish it before he is dead.

Judging by his mansion Kigundu seems to have fallen for this way of thinking.

"It is not only that the mansion is too big for the needs of any one man, it is that all those billions of shillings have been tied down in concrete, steel and glass, monies which would have been released into the economy to generate more economic activity. As if that is not enough you have to take into account the millions that will be spent in upkeep and maintaining of the property annually....

But Kiggundu is probably better than the rest of us who have dotted the countryside with country homes that they barely spend a week in all year, but which cost millions to put up.
At least Kigundu will live in his castle by the lake.

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