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WHILE reading up on the recent sale of Uganda’s largest dairy processor to Kenya’s largest dairy processor which is part-owned by one of the world’s largest dairy processors, I had to do quite a lot of internet checking.

I can identify both the Dairy Corporation and Brookside logos from right across a supermarket because I have seen their brands for so long now, but as I was checking up on the companies I realised that I didn’t actually know the names of their Chief Executive Officers or their Public Relations people. I know that the Kenyatta family has an interest in Brookside, but before tonight I couldn’t name the owner of Sameer at the snap of a finger.

Where did I get all this information from?

Various other websites – including Bloomberg, Forbes and Wikipedia.

But NOT the official websites of either Sameer or Dairy Corporation or Brookside

What’s my problem? BOTH these companies, the biggest two in Uganda and East Africa in their sector, simply don’t care enough about me and people of my ilk, to invest anything into their online communications.

And this in the information age, where you and I convince ourselves daily that online and digital communication is the future for Africa, and that countries like Uganda are entering the information age or living in it.

First, while looking for some information, I found myself at this document that I expected would be up to the usual World Bank standards.

It wasn’t.

This was a document clearly written by the Sameer people and not edited by anyone at the World Bank that I know or would confess to having been at school with. I got this at the second paragraph which did not make sense because it was a collection of phrases separated by commas in a non-logical manner.

Still, I read the document all the way to the end and could not work out what it was for. Initially, I hoped it would give me some official information about the status of the Dairy Corporation after Sameer had sold it to Brookside – had Brookside bought into it and joined the shareholding? Had Brookside bought the entire company? Were any of the old shareholders out to accommodate Brookside?

Surely the World Bank document would tell me this?

No, it would not.

This document was from 2013 even though it was the Number Four result from a Google Search for ‘Sameer Agriculture & Livestock Uganda’ (use all permutations, if you wish).

So I dropped that and went to the official website the World Bank endorsed document sent us to – http://www.freshdairy-creambell.com/.

I therefore went to that Dairy Corporation website, and found lots of information … dating back to about 2009. Six years ago.

The home page is so old that I swear it was last updated in 2006, since it states, under the section titled ‘Prospects’:

“By the end of 2009,SALL should be processing over 300,000 litres of raw milk-…”<—and that hyphen is actually there, like that!

The ‘News’ section tells us about the company earning it’s 2005 September ISO Certification, and that Sameer won a Gold Award at the 2009 Gold Exporter of the Year awards, and (cue laughter): “New UHT Line…coming soon”.

Basically, it’s an online, digital middle finger to all people like me who think serious companies would take their online existence seriously in order to win our respect and support in the belief that this is a serious company that takes its products seriously enough to pay serious attention to its brand and communication.

They even state their ‘Vision’ as follows: “To be the market leader in Dairy industry. Uganda is uniquely positioned among other countries with its rich soils and the capacity to produce high quality milk and being surrounded by countries who are offering huge market is set to become a milk hub for the COMESA region.”

True story.

So I went off to find their new owners, the mighty Brookside Dairies, which belongs to the Kenyatta family (mostly, I am made to understand) of Kenya, where we all know that people take marketing, brand and reputation much, much more seriously.

The shock at finding this website made me spurt milk (NOT theirs) out of my mouth.

I don’t know how long it has been under construction, but surely the least they could do, this largest dairy company in East Africa, would be to get their email addresses right? The email address for their Uganda operation is listed as “brookside@infoco.co.ug”, which I am absolutely certain is wrong for lacking the ‘m’ to make it @infocom.co.ug.

So I sent an email to brookside@infoco.co.ug and waited two seconds for the message delivery failure response which came as sure as day. Then, realising it could be much, much worse, I even sent an email to brookside@infocom.co.ug and …it also sent me back a message delivery failure response!!!!!

These are the biggest dairy processors in Uganda and in East Africa. They do not use their massive resources to drive online sales to people like me, who are the people who actually buy milk and yoghurt; they are not trying to coax me using online recipes and creating food clubs; they don’t even bother to post the ingredients of their yoghurt and other products online for us to do a quick accountability check.

Neither of these companies cares to spend a shilling on their websites, even though Brookside has spent Ushs20billion on buying milk from farmers (clap, clap! That’s their core business and that’s wealth going straight into the pockets of Ugandans at the lower end of the food chain!) and spent near half that (depending on which news reports you read) buying up Sameer.

Yye, how much did they buy Sameer for?

The only hope one has is to go to the website of the most reputable company (by online presence) involved in this story – the one that owns 40% of Brookside and is an internationally reputable organisation that files annual reports and is environmentally accountable, etc – Danone.

So off I went to www.danone.com to find…nothing about the Sameer and Brookside transaction on their admittedly modern website!

Except, that is, the four paragraph press release announcing their purchase into Brookside which they called “partnering” – here

I was licked!

WE don’t matter so much in the general scheme of things, we modernistic, information-age characters who think we say important things on twitter and facebook, and spend lots of money ensuring our ongoing connectivity.

Information Age? Digital Age? Social Media tweeps, feeps and peeps?

I even went to Facebook, hoping that the trend we have been talking about for these last couple of months had caught on – where brands and companies are moving their web presence to Facebook (more on that later).

Nothing! None of the Sameer’s on Facebook even suggests dairy processing or production, and as for Brookside, I might as well have thrown myself into the brook.

But then, to be fair, I also googled my favourite Dairy Products provider – JESA – and couldn’t find their website but did find their very active Facebook page

Hope was restored. And so was my faith in all things Ugandan being sometimes serious…even though, to be honest, the story of Dairy Corporation could be interpreted to contradict that statement.
For now, in the interest of Uganda and our being in the digital age, I am going to be buying JESA – even if Brookside does wake up!

  • Julius Czar

    Yye, how much did they buy Sameer for? (i liked the “Yye”)

  • Don Kimbugwe Muzaphal

    When it comes to Ugandan companies and government agencies, a simple litmus test would be in trying to contact them using their websites’ ‘contact us’ forms or even trying to get to their current physical location based on the information found on their website. I think Ugandans have to appreciate the importance of outsourcing website content management or to best sort the whole mess outsourcing content marketing as a whole.

  • Mag

    I would say it all start with customer service, which is a rare commodity in our market, the consumers are just taken for granted so why give them info about the company or “worse” an address to complain about any product.