Tuesday, August 16, 2016


Last week the announcement was finally made that French soccer player Paul Pogba was rejoining Manchester United for a record $150m (sh525b) from Italian club Juventus.

Pogba, whose father went to France from Guinea almost fifty years ago, will earn £290,000 (sh1.3b) a week at Old Trafford. Pogba, 23, now the most expensive player in the world left Manchester United a few years ago under a cloud after then manager Sir Alex Ferguson denied him enough playing time in his superbly gifted team. They sold him to the Italian side for $1.5m!

Old news!

But this sliver of news from last week – it was all about the Olympics, asks the fundamental question how much is a person worth or more precisely how much is a person’s labor?

"Off the top of my head there are two determinants of how much a person’s labour is worth, how skilled that person is in whatever he does and the size of the economy that person is operating in....

The market will play for the value it thinks it can extract from you. So a major challenge for anyone looking for a higher paycheck is to increase the value – real and perceived that the market sees in you.

The real value comes with increased knowledge, which may or may not come from a formal education and increase experience, which can only come with time applied in exercising your skill.

"The 10,000-hour rule popularised by Malcom Gladwell in his book “Outliers” and again in the book “Talent is overrated” by Geoff Colvile speaks to this idea of how to increase one’s value. The books which reported on research done on classical musicians showed that to attain world class standards at whatever endeavour one has to have practised for 10,000 hours. Broken down this comes to about four hours a day, five days a week for ten years for deliberate practice....

But that only allows you a seat on the high table. If we are to log Pogba’s footballing career from the time he started kicking a ball at his home on the outskirts of Paris as a four year old to the present, he probably has been playing football for at least twice as long.

So what is it that you do? Have you done your 10,000 hours?

But doing your time is not enough. Because you might be the most skilled person in your field but the market does not recognise or appreciate your mastery.

One of the best things that happened to Pogba was that his father moved to France from the small west African country of Guinea. With this single stroke he improved his son’s prospects exponentially.

There is no way a talented Pogba would have been paid full value for his skill in a country of 11.6 million people with a per capita GDP of $558. If you are world class you have to expose yourself to  larger more lucrative  markets to be fully appreciated.

Thankfully now with the internet, marketing oneself globally is not impossible, and it’s safe to say if you are world class and put yourself out on the internet you will be discovered.

But It may happen too that you have all the above in place but the market is unwilling to pay you top dollar. Either because you are the wrong skin colour for the target market or you are female or just have bad handlers, then an accumulation of 10,000 hours learning to negotiate may come in handy.

"The truth is though, that if you have served your 10,000 hours in disciplined practice you will be hard to ignore...

In the 1990s Majid Musisi was discovered and played a few seasons for Le Havre, interestingly a former team of Pogba too. It helped of course that he along with SC Villa had featured in continental tournament finals two years in a row, but anyone who saw him play knew Uganda or even East Africa was too small for his immense talent. Ibrahim Sekajja has followed suit and Stephen Kiprotich too. 

There probably are a few hundred Ugandan professionals around the world going toe to toe with the best in their fields. That’s another thing when you are world class you spend little time trying to impress villagers.

The bottom line clearly is one has to put in the time and in the case of Uganda that may be even that much harder, because people around you are “excelling” on less than a few hundred hours so why bother?


  1. Very well written piece. i highly doubt that we apply the 10,000 hour rule here. that is why most of our professionals are mediocre and cant make it to international standards, think acting, sports, music e.t.c key word though is deliberate practice.

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