Sunday, January 12, 2014

TMS Ruge: creativity and initiative from Uganda

Twitter is different for different people who use it. For some, it is a pure source of information; they rarely participate in the conversation. For me, Twitter resembles a big cocktail party, where you enter and exit at will, and meet interesting and wonderful people if you make an effort.
TMS Ruge
One of the people I "tweet-met" is TMS Ruge (@TMSRuge). I had no idea who he was, except that he was from an African country and seemed interesting. I didn't even know what his real name was. In September 2013, I noticed that he appeared to be in New York City to speak at a couple of conferences--so I tweeted to him, and we were able to meet in person for a cup of coffee and some conversation.  Later I sent him a few questions, which he graciously responded to.
TMS Ruge--also known as Teddy--was born in Uganda, and raised in Kenya and in the United States. He trained as a communications professional, and works in graphic design, photography and social media consulting. He is also actively involved in various international development projects in Uganda.
Hive Colab







He cofounded several organizations and startups in Uganda including Hive Colab (@hivecolab), Uganda's first tech coworking space; Redcore Interactive, the company behind the http://remit.ug remittances platform; and http://UMPGl.com, an agricultural value-addition startup. He also blogs at http://tmsruge.com.
Bahiyah Robinson from D8ta,
one of the funders of Hive Colab
Below are answers to my interview questions:

1. What brought you to what you are doing now?
A dissatisfaction with the status quo. I am always on the quest to do things better. I am trained to see opportunities and I see most problems in development in Uganda as an opportunity to make a difference. As an African, as a Ugandan, I am eager to show that we are not just underdogs and recipients. I want to prove that we can build the future that we want.

2. What is your impetus? What is your dream, your goal?
I want a self-reliant Africa. But of course it is silly to think that I alone can make that happen. The best I can do is execute in my own little corner of Africa. If I succeed in being successful, hopefully that lights the fire in other individuals and maybe that cascades. But mostly, I do what I do because I think it is always better to criticize WHILE you are doing, instead arm-chairing issues. It's good to get down in the development trenches and get dirty. You learn better that way.

3. What is planned for 2014?
TMS Ruge in New York, September 2013
The year is starting out fairly quiet. I have been traveling a lot over the last few years. It is nice to be immobile for a bit. I am busy working on my startups, planning a pretty big year, so it is nice having some desk time. Maybe later in the year I'll get back to airport hopping, but for now, it is nice to be with family, while I plan out the rest of the year.

Teddy was the first Ugandan I met, and he presented a fine example of a young African who wants to help build not only his country, Uganda, but Africa in general, from the inside, with whatever modest means at his disposal. We can only hope that many more, in many disciplines, will be similarly motivated.

A Class at Hive Colab
Moringa plant being harvested.
TMS Ruge and Ruth Aine at Hive Colab