One year on: Since Covid-19 hit the world, the entertainment industry is one of the sectors that continues to remain under lockdown. Although some stakeholders in the sector tried to exploit the online platform, it was not sustainable. Isaac Ssejjombwe spoke with some of the people in the business on what the last year meant to them.
Abbey Musinguzi – Abitex
Government should give us a stimulus package
As the president of the Uganda Promoters Association, let me speak on behalf of other promoters. Covid-19 hit us hard. We were not prepared. You can stake all your savings on an event but on the day of the event, it rains heavily – it hurts, but imagine spending a year without working. This period should, however, help us divert to other business. Luckily for me, I have rental houses that I have been depending on throughout this period but there are many out there who solely depend on events.
With entertainment still closed, I would advise the government and other stakeholders concerned to open up because Covid-19 is here to stay and if they don’t ease the lockdown, we are headed for tougher times. People are tired and soon they will show their true colours. They should remove curfew, open bars and events and then give the creatives a stimulus package they promised to help people get back on their feet.
Tshaka Mayanja – Jazz Safari
Lockdown has been such a blessing
Certainly being the oldest/longest serving music concerts organiser/curator/producer in this region, and very possibly on the continent, this to me is more about music itself, than events. I haven’t really thought about events, but I have focused on music very much – ‘The music in events’ not what it has become lately, ‘events with music’
As far as events go, there is nothing the lockdown has taught me, mainly because I have reached the zenith of doing events, there isn’t much I wish to do that I haven’t done.
Musically, the lockdown has been such a blessing. I have learnt so much more about music, things that will help me in good stead when planning for my next festivals from here on.
Musa Kavuma – KT Promotions
Don’t depend on only events
I can’t say Covid affected me so much because I have always had plan B. Besides being an events organiser and promoter, I also own a construction company known as Suza Constructions and also a car bond in Najjanankumbi. With these two businesses, I was able to sustain myself and my loved ones but the government should find ways of opening the entertainment sector because so many people are out of jobs yet no opportunities have been created.
Cissy Jawe – Asylum Bar manager
Never focus your business in one direction
Like everyone else, I thought this was a joke. I felt the government was panicking for nothing and at first we were a bit hesitant to close. But the reaction from our customers was a bit loud, so we closed with hope that it would only be for a few weeks. But we were wrong! We faced so many challenges such as salaries; it was hard having to pay salaries when you are not certain of when business would resume. And just like many landlords, ours expected his rent as well although we later sat on a round table and found a middle ground.
Also, our set-up is an open one, so we still had to maintain the armed security, lights had to be on every night and the place still had to be well maintained and clean. These are bills we continued to foot even when business was closed.
We had to send our employees home and although we could feel their pain since most of them earn their daily income, there is not much we could do.
Even after the lockdown was eased a bit, and the restaurant section permitted to operate, we could not afford to have all of them back, and that affected their livelihoods.
Most of them still keep checking to see if we can fix them somewhere, but it’s tight.
Then, there was the loss of time to recoup the investment; our business is based on a lease arrangement with the landlord. So far, we’ve lost a year minus revenue.
However, the biggest lesson I learnt during the lockdown was never to focus your business in one direction. We are lucky we have a bar and lounge, a restaurant, a washing bay, a salon, a grocery store, boutiques and mobile money services.
By thinking out of the box, we came up with a plan to make our restaurant stand out, for example our foil pork and luwombo have attracted a huge number of new customers. We also gave our washing bay a facelift.
I feel we delayed a bit to engage the aspect of online marketing full throttle. I also feel we delayed to embrace deliveries.
Those are two aspects we have managed to improve throughout this period.
Richard Maganga – Marketing executive, Club Guvnor
Continue to check in on your clients
When the lockdown news first broke, it seemed like a joke, rather unbelievable. But once the President confirmed all the closures and we had to close and stay home, it felt like we were getting a break, a mini vacation from work, some time to spend at home with family and it was exciting. At the time, none of us could ever have thought it was going to be a vacation from work that would last more than a year.
We expected the closure not to go beyond three months. We expected to be back at work functioning fully by now.
Being a workaholic, being out of work was my biggest hardship because it meant everything to me. It had been 10 years of no rest on an operational day. It was not easy being away from my clients and colleagues, some who had become family. And then there was cooking, YouTube was my new class of thought. Insurance costs result in huge bills.
Thankfully, part of our salary was maintained and we are indeed grateful to our CEO for making sure we were all kept afloat. God bless him. Also, there were side ventures that we were blessed to embark on to make ends meet.
But closed or not, business must go on. You must make sure to continue to check in on your clients, remind all your patrons of the brand/business through outlets such as social media. You must continue to maintain a presence even if the business is not open to the public. And at Guvnor we have maintained this through our social media pages, partnerships through programming with media houses (TV, print, radio).
Eugene Solomon – Manager, La Venti
This situation taught us to diversify
We didn’t know Covid and its effects. We thought it was a hoax and didn’t know the magnitude of its impact. We thought it won’t last and we thought it wasn’t that serious and dangerous, until the lockdown days kept increasing, number of infections rising and deaths around the world increasing. We expected nothing apart from waiting for the government to uplift the lockdown. Because of Covid, utility bills and fixed costs such as rent kept on accumulating with no explanation of how to overcome it.
With majority of my employees being youth, they depended on the business but since we were closed, some were thrown out by landlords, some relocated to villages, others could not afford meals and medical bills and we had to stand in for those we could support as a company.
This situation taught us to diversify, for instance agriculture, and then our saving culture needs to improve among the youth.
Ian Kiryowa – Skizar
People joined other businesses
The biggest hit was on employees because most employees in Jinja come from different parts of the country and when bars were closed they did not have what to do. However, nine out of 10 employers tried to extend support to their workers for at least three months but that too couldn’t be enough, so people ended up joining other businesses. But towards the end of last year, hotels decided to incorporate bar settings into their businesses and this somehow accommodated people such as deejays and waitresses. Towards the end of last year still, two bars opened but with restrictions and few customers and these have been operating since then.
There is one bar known as Queens Palace that was arguably the most profitable that closed. Bills continued piling up and the owners could not put up with the rent while the landlord refused to reduce the rent. This forced them to pack up their things and leave the premises.
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