“When you join this business, you make over 1 million per day.” Heard that statement before? How about this one? “You will be able to get your dream car, dream house in a very short time.” It’s enticing, isn’t it? If you haven’t, then probably ask a ‘campuser’ or a fresh graduate. Usually, it’s a friend or those already in the business. To even the more dismay, the person looks hungry, stressed and look like they don’t have these purported promises.

Network marketing is supposedly the new way of ‘making money.’ It’s got everyone talking across Uganda – especially in Kampala. It might seem like a new thing but not so much for those who were conned some 5-8 years back by companies like Telex Free and were stressed by companies like GNLD. Probably that’s why you’ve had reservations and a cringe on your face, just like myself. Haven’t joined any myself, but I’ve heard quite a number of “pitches” from those already in the ‘kintu’ and attended presentations too.

It’s basically a multi-level system of product or service selling where you join by buying a package, recruit a person under your network and that person brings another person. And you earn by way of bonus when your network expands. I’ve never really warmed to the idea, particularly with the conditions of joining, where, for all the “absence of the economy in my pocket” (do I have a witness?), I have to part with a minimum of 780,000 shillings that many fresh graduates don’t even earn if they luckily land a job. Others ask for 3-7.5 million shillings. It’s quite expensive, really. Sadly, many youth are joining using borrowed money yet they have no jobs. How will they pay back?!

Question is, are they authentic? They are, surprisingly! Of course, there will always be bad apples in the crowd. Even in the church, there are false ‘men of God.’ These companies are actually known internationally and Africa is obviously a target, accounting for over 40% of their clientele. Unsurprisingly, because poverty is biting scores. We have a problem, like seriously. AIM (Alliance in Motion) Global, Oriflame, d9club, Dynapharm, Herbalife and hi2 are some of the lot. Majority of them deal in health products and food supplements. Others are online marketing sites that utilize similar tactics to recruit members. Is this the new dawn of selling and marketing, or it’s just one of those shrewd schemes and unsustainable methods? Surely, it might make for much business sense for companies stuck with products in stores.

My reservations also lie in the fact that “those at the top” are enriching themselves while those at the bottom (who don’t have actual jobs) only hope that they’ll recruit a friend before they can start earning, and even the more annoyingly – peanuts. Oh and chances are that you will get stuck with the products, disguised as packages, for months. Shouldn’t these companies be investing in production and industrialization which create jobs for the youth, instead of siphoning money that they don’t own? I liken them to these tycoons who spend billions putting up plazas and arcades in town – what have they produced? Yet they keep getting awards and increasing rental fees.

Can we continue to be networked by mere promises of nice things without really using our skills, knowledge and investing in innovation? One might argue that this is part of innovation. I don’t know. Am yet to be convinced by these ventures and it takes a risk taker and one who already ‘has their money’ (whatever this means) to ‘invest’ without frowning. Especially if it’s a side income generating venture. It is, on the other hand, probably too soon for today’s youth, but it’s difficult not to forgive them. There are no jobs or simply don’t have the skills to be employed. They’ve even sold clan land just to buy boda-bodas, now it’s to join this ‘mind-blowing and ear tickling business.’ It’s a forgotten generation, but they’ll be forgotten no longer. I just don’t think, in this way.

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I have always marvelled at how unique human beings are, yet still somewhat of a problem to themselves. There's something about us, and it's from within really. You can't explain how we even get along! But somehow, we do, only that we could, much more.