Masaka, Kampala, Entebbe and great Lake Victoria – this is the wide territory that Henry has covered in his country, Uganda, the “pearl of Africa.” He’s gone from the village where he was born, to his economic studies at university in the capitol, to the shores of the largest lake on the continent.
It is so large that it counts more than 3,000 islands. This is where the White Nile begins, which then flows into the longest river in Africa, the Nile. Everything is big in Uganda: the parks, the impenetrable forests, the nature reserves.
Henry dreams big too. “At Masaka, where I went to university, I noticed how people didn’t have time to cook anymore,” he says. To resolve the problem, Henry started a business to produce meat and fish products. At just 24, together with two others his age, he started the Sseruh Food Processing Company Ltd. in Entebbe.
On the other side of the world, in Argentina, another entrepreneur, Gonzalo Perrin, had already started a company some years ago: Pasticcino, which produces cookies for a number of cafeteria chains and coffee roasters. Urged on by the spirit of the Economy of Communion, Perrin moved to the Soladaridad industrial park at Mariapolis Lia, a little city of the Focolare. There he promotes a culture marked by the values of reciprocity, care for the disadvantaged and the environment.
Two years ago, in June 2015, Gonzalo went to Masaka to visit the African community. Henry, who at the time was a 22-year-old student, was still an aspiring entrepreneur, yet Gonzalo had an intuition that his project had all the components to become a good business: an idea, attention to detail and a quality product.
What amazed Gonzalo most was the plan to package the product, which used simple materials with the creativity and responsibility of someone who has business in their blood.
It only took a few minutes for them to become friends. “I will never forget my visit to Henry’s village,” remembers Gonzalo. “The warmth and happiness of his people, the marvelous welcome to the sound of drums that they had prepared for our small delegation of friends from Argentina. And the embrace they gave us, since any real exchange comes with a hug.”
To seal that meeting, Gonzalo tied a scarf around Henry’s neck with a knot. “When you’ve finished studying, I’ll be waiting for you in Argentina.”
That day would come, and last summer Henry reached Gonzalo. “Having faced all the obstacles to get a visa, I finally boarded the plane,” says Henry. “After a 21-hour trip, at 3:30am on a cold winter’s night, I found my friend Gonzalo waiting at Ezeiza airport.”
It was a unique opportnity for Henry, who shadowed Gonzalo at meetings with clients and through the different stages of work.
“As an entrrepreneur, I learned many things about the food business and was able to see firsthand the sacrifices necessary to build a business motivated by an ideal.”
The Ugandan discovered asado – the Argentinian barbecue that featured in many family meetings – mate – shared hot drinks that are like social customs in African culture, especially in the Bugana area, where coffee beans are shared as a sign of unity – saying hola – “which for me was almost a sign of peace” – and winter – “I never imagined such cold existed!”
These days Henry has returned to Uganda. “I planned to build ponds near to my business to make sure it was constantly fed by fresh fish, and who knows, perhaps even to export them out of Uganda and out of Africa,” he says.
“Many young Africans prefer to be employees. But those who choose the way of the entrepreneur work passionately, and that makes all the difference.”
The friendship and collaboration between the two businesses continues – faraway continents, but on the shores of the same ocean.