Cold Cash, Series

Cold Cash: One by one makes a bundle

By Ben Mwine:

As I have been thinking about money (which I'm sure most of us do more than anything else), I've been learning quite a lot about it, and getting some interesting revelations about it too.

Now if you're a typical African, saving is something that's probably alien to you. Giving is even more alien to most people.

It's just not something we have cultivated in our society for generations. The reason most people give is that they don't have enough to save. What with the crazy prices, and endless dependants among other things, but is that really true? Where did this parasite mentality come from? And even more importantly, how do we break it…?

Allow me to share two stories that have changed the way I look at money especially within the context of Africa.

In 2008, I had the privilege of being on the lead team for an event called the Passion World Tour, a gathering of university students in different cities across the world that have dedicated their lives to serving God and making him famous. As a part of the tour, the passion team traveled to different cities including Mexico City, Stockholm, Tokyo, Seoul, Johannesburg, Paris and Kampala. The students in each of the cities showed their support for the next city on the tour by praying and contributing financially.

As we stood in a sports field at Makerere University, Loui Giglio gave the Ugandan students an opportunity to support the next leg of the tour in Paris and something shocking happened!

None of us really saw it coming. In less than 15 minutes, Ugandan university students raised more than 6 million shillings (about USD 3700 at the time). For many of you, this might not seem like a lot of money being raised by thousands of students, but you must understand, these were Ugandan university students! I am strongly convinced that it is probably the single biggest donation given by a collection of Ugandan students in a single giving. I have never gotten over that experience but then something happened this year that blew me away even more. A congregation of about 14,000 Christians at Watoto Church (again many of them students), in a bid to raise money for church planting, have given 1 million dollars in just a couple of months. Yes, you read right, 1 million US dollars! How is that even possible!? This is Uganda for crying out loud! Now for those of you who are of the ilk that believe Pastors rip off their flock to enrich themselves (and admittedly some do), this was 100% voluntary giving, it didn't come with promise of blessing or any of that blah blah blah. To be honest most of us didn't think we could ever pull it off, but O us of little faith! So again, I am convinced that it is the single biggest giving by a Ugandan congregation in history.

So let's break it down a little shall we? If you divide the total money given by the congregation of Watoto Church by the number of adult members in the church, each person would have contributed just over 70 dollars. If you use the same math's with the students at Passion Kampala '08, each student gave 240/= (14 Cents). And here is where the big picture comes into play; individually the amounts were miniscule, but put together – life changing.

So here's the personal lesson for me and hopefully you today, and let's do it in Mathematics.  If you purposed to save 30 dollars every month, for 10 years (this is what most of you spend on movies/dinner in one seating), you would amass a pretty impressive 3,600 dollars.

Let's say you become a bit more ambitious (for those of you who earn more than 1,000 dollars a month) and decide to go for 100 dollars every month. In 10 years you would have 12,000 dollars! That's quite a chunk of money. So why aren't we doing this….? Well, because generally Africans never want to see the big picture.

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  • Njuki

    Ben.
    I appreciate your writing and the generally positive messages here.
    One thing here though that tickles me the wrong way is the stereotyping. I don’t agree with you that Africans generally don’t see the big picture.That is pretty insulting and on top of it all,untrue.
    How do you presume people of modest means manage to construct a house,or start a business or buy a matatu?through saving.
    It is a great thing to encourage people,African or not, to save more,but surely terms like “Well, because generally Africans never want to see the big picture.” are the wrong way to go about it.
    This is where the negative stories begin,through stereotype.

    • Thanks Njuki for the feedback. I totally agree with you that negativity should not be entertained. However, please note that I specifically said that “generally”. I believe that excludes the people of modest meads you’re referring to. By generally I meant to allude to the majority of Africans which I am sure you will agree fall in that category, no?

      • kathy

        Like you say it has a lot to do with our culture and upbringing, the bible says in proverbs 22:6 train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will never depart from it.

  • Is that so? You think this culture of not saving is exclusive to Africans only? How do you explain the lifestyle in the more developed countries where people use and abuse credit cards to the point of becoming bankrupt? And what do they spend on? Lavish living that have nothing to do with self development. Anyway, please cut us some slack.