Detailed analysis of various business sectors in Uganda

Strictly come dancing to Uganda? Not so Musilu Dala Dala(MDD) then?

Outside Looking In
D E Wasake [With Guest Writer-May 2012]

About the guest writer:

Roger Masaba is the artistic director for Footsteps arts. Since 1996 he has worked with dancers,choreographers, visual artists,film makers and percussionists . His experiences include:

  • Mashirika performing troupe in Rwanda as choreographer and part time Director where they exhibited performances in Scotland and UK in a program about genocide effects.
  • East Africa and Russia dance traffic from 2002-2005 as a choreographer representative for Uganda.
  • Dance encounters Kenya international Platform
  • Festivals Attended:Attaakalari residency India-Bangalore, Masdanza international dance festival -Spain, Bagamoyo international festival- Tanzania, Libya Jamuhuri festival,African choreography and dance reconnoitres in Paris
  • Dance Week Uganda initiator working with Alliance Francaise and German Cultural centre.
  • Work with Camila Ekelof on a tour dance contract in Tanzania and Sweden.
  • Work with Chandiru a choreographer who resides in Austria.
About the writer:

For over 9 years I have worked with several clients in Uganda, The Bahamas and the United Kingdom in providing audit, tax, accounting and advisory services. My sector experience with clients in various sectors including entertainment enables me have good understanding of this sector. To see the full depth of my experience, Please see my profile

Article Summary

It is no longer so Musilu Dala Dala (MDD) to invest in a dance group, infact it would probably be "ignorant" to ignore this emerging sector considering the success of Uganda's music and entertainment sector. The estimated profitability is Shs. 2.1m per year from an initial investment of Shs. 13m. It takes about 6 years to get your capital back (return on Investment).

There are however options the "advanced thinking" entrepreneur can consider and this includes large one off projects like music videos, gigs (like Strictly come dancing "ki na uganda") and the like. You also need to be able to "tie in" an innovative choreographer through perhaps a salary/equity structure.


It is funny how when growing up a person who chose a career in Music, Dance and Drama(MDD) was ridiculed with being called Musilu Dala Dala [very stupid].

Now imagine it is the future:

Saturday night on WBS TV. The hottest dance show "Strictly come dancing: Uganda Chapter" is on: Ugandan musician Jose Chameleon is dancing the flamenco with an agile companion called Monela from G-force dance group and he is punctuating each exquisite “stamp” dance move with his trade mark sound of “woliyoliyo” .

The judges are Stephen Rwangyezi of Ndere Troupe, Roger Masaba, formerly of Footsteps dance company and Sharon O Nalukenge of The Obsessions and Big Brother Africa: Amplified fame. Jose gets 6-6-7 from the judges. Bobi Wine and Natasha of Kombat dancers win! BUT only because 86 year old ballroom maestro Christopher Kato had declined to participate in this year's show.

In case you are wondering what I am talking about, Strictly come dancing is a popular BBC show in the UK in which a celebrity gets to dance with a professional dancer over a period and in which there are judges voting and the TV audience gets to vote who stays until the winning couple is declared.

And what does Strictly come dancing have to do with investing in the dance and entertainment sector in Uganda, the aim of this article?

Well, I am interested in the future and I can tell you that as long as music(and therefore dance) continues to be the dominant form of entertainment in Uganda then I will not be surprised if this is where the trend is going, you are probably thinking, not so “Musilu Dala Dala” then hmm.

Which means that, with the trend, it is a sector worth looking at!

However, a person seeking to invest in a dance group should know as a start without me going into details that for a dance group to survive, they will have to diversify their sources of income or in Ugandan speak, find “side deals” similar to say America’s best dance crew champions the Jabbawockeez who now feature in videos and shows.

And so you if want to perhaps get onto the set of the Ugandan version of Strictly come dancing then perhaps consider investing in a dance company but:

First the CONS (of course):

1. Finding a good Choreographer

This is the driving force and inspiration of the group. Thus, the choreographer needs to be at his/best to compete favorably. After all, the difference between good and excellent lies within the choreographer.

Sadly there are not many good dance choreographers and trainers, there is a huge gap in to be filled in this department. The likes of 83yr old ball room maestro Christopher Kato are in the evening of their careers, yet there seems to be no ready replacements [I know however of up coming persons like Michael Kasaija formerly of Obsessions and Kombat and Roger Masaba formerly of Footsteps]

Once you find a good choreographer there is of course a risk that he will be poached by a rival, I would therefore recommend that you consider “locking” him/her in through offering them equity shares in the company, say 10%. This ensures stability for the company.You should then consider having apprentice choreographers to ensure there is proper succession planning in the event that the main one jumps ship.

2. Good corporate governance and investment in soft skills.

A dance group like any regular company should seriously consider aspects of corporate governance like a board of directors/trustees with regular reporting including financial reporting. Other aspects should include well developed policies and human resources skills development. It is unfortunate that this seems to be lacking in many dance groups in particular and Ugandan business practices in general. Unfortunately this costs additional money which a dance group often lacks. Boards of directors need allowances and training companies like say Peak Performance are not necessarily cheap.

How many dance groups for example get basic soft skills training like conflict management, motivation, handling stress et al? Perhaps this is the cause of the numerous dance group splits judging by press reports.

In neighbouring Kenya for example, one of the most prominent groups, Sarakasi is set up as a trust with a board of trustees steering it. I would recommend a similar concept for the dance sector investor. Whilst you may not start the size of Sarakasi, the concept of subjecting your decisions to independent persons who provide strategic direction is most likely going to result in success.

If you of course cannot afford a board, how about a mentor? Stephen Rwangyezi the man behind Ndere Troupe which is most likely the most prominent dance group in Uganda has been in the sector for over 20 years and will most likely be happy to steer a group. Irregardless of whether you are performing contemporary or traditional dance, you could benefit from the experience.

3. Professional ethics and conduct

It is difficult enough for a typical company to prevent work place romance considering most people spend the better part of their lives at work, it is even more difficult maintaining professional ethics in a dance company considering that a lot of dance movements(say the Flamenco Mr “Woliyoliyo” will do with Monela) are pretty intimate by nature and so this is a difficult one, but nevertheless I expect that with good corporate governance highlighted above, there may for example be a policy on having “side dishes” or perhaps “main dishes” at work. Judging by Ugandan press reports (or indeed international news) it is not uncommon for dancers to be involved say with principals, choreographers and the like which has lead to the demise of what would otherwise be a successful group.

Whilst romance in itself is not necessarily a bad thing(who am I to act for Cupid?) there should be policies. In many corporate companies for example there are restrictions on work place romances or say spouses working in the same department. Princeton University for example has policies limiting conflict of interest arising from work place relationships(for example you cannot appraise your “side dish”). A dance company should be no different, it is a work place.

An alternative for the dance group which is usually small in size (5-8) may be that there is a strict ban on the choreographer who is strictly speaking a teacher from having a personal relationship with the dancers, who are strictly speaking students. There is after all a breach of trust in this case and it disadvantages the other dancers who may feel favouritism.

This seems hard to implement in the typical Ugandan dance company but I am not advising you to set up a typical dance company am I? We are looking for a dance company of the future and so there will be an independent board of directors/trustees who should have a “confidential hotline” for staff to report such inappropriate behavior. This is similar to corporate companies which have a “fraud hotline”.

4. Recruitment of quality dancers and performers

It is difficult enough dealing with the social stigma surrounding becoming a dancer (remember the alternative MDD phrase?), how does the investor and/or choreographer recruit the quality all round team that will deliver and keep the group chemistry at a high? The cohesion and recruitment of the crew is the most important part and once this is taken care of, allowing the group to blend and sticking together for a period of time is key to the group’s success.

There are many options to find dancers. Luckily Uganda is endowed with many people who love dancing, after all music is one of the key things that makes Ugandans happy judging by a recent Coca-Cola "Happiness Barometer" survey. Auditions can be held say once a month (depending on turnover and the nature of the next project). Other options may include use of social media like Facebook or “guerilla” scouting (nicking the best dancer from another group).

One alternative option for many dance groups is to incorporate corporate social responsibility with “talent spotting”. It is not uncommon for dancers to be say orphans and/or poor. This is a concept that has been embraced by Crane performers which was formed by my old colleagues Gordon and Benedict from PricewaterhouseCoopers in Uganda! (Yes, accountants are dancers too, its not only about double entry you know).

5. Start up capital,profitability and return on capital

And now I set out what the numbers of this sector look like.

In my model, I advocate that the dance group has two different “departments/units” the traditional and the “contemporary” ones. The reason for this is quite important.

Like I have highlighted in my related article on the DJ, this is a “weekend” based business and the key risk is therefore that revenue is not regular. The problem is however more acute for the dance group because to keep being good, the dancers need to rehearse regularly and therefore you need to provide meals and transport allowance. You therefore may have to incur venue hire and labour costs irregardless of whether you have performances.

a) Traditional.This unit does traditional Ugandan dances.

Why? To the outside world(in case you have forgotten it) we are African and any visitor (say that Mzungu) is interested in knowing about Ugandan culture. They are not so keen to know that you can dance as well as Sean Paul or that you got street dance moves that put Diversity to shame. Embassies in Uganda may provide a grant for the dance group to perform traditional dance or may even sponsor an educational project that is steeped in promoting African culture compared to that focusing on contemporary dance.

There are of course exceptions like say Tabu flow, a hip hop group or say Tofo Tofo A Mozambique group whose Southern African dance moves(Kwaito/Pantsula) were featured in Beyonce's video for “Run the world(girls)”. The grant income may not be limited to embassies. The ministry of Culture or even National Theatre most likely has a budget for promotion of culture and so do several international organizations like UNESCO et al. Once again I use Sarakasi in Kenyawho have various sponsors.

b) Contemporary. This unit does contemporary dances e.g hip hop, dance hall, ballroom, salsa et al.

Why? Ugandans are not necessarily that keen on “traditional” dances and hip hop is for example considered to be well “hip”. Ugandans likewise love dance hall and with the continued growth of the music industry, a contemporary unit to say provide back up dancers is critical [say for music videos which I expect to be the trend].

Table 1, 2 and 3: Start up profit, Regular running costs and Net Profit

Click here to view tables 1, 2 and 3.

P.S Clicking the above link will take you to the Inachee Databank where the full version of this document can be dowloaded after you register.  

You will notice that from the analysis the company is making a loss of over 10m! It is therefore imperative to consider the importance of the "side deals" or other income which i now analyse below.

Analysis of other income and return on Investment

Other income

1. Video dancers: Shs 4,950,000. I assume 1 video a month for 9 months. For each video shoot, the company will charge Shs. 800,000 of which 250,000 will be direct costs(video "vixen" allowance et al) bringing net income per month to Shs 550,000.

2. Usher/modelling contract: Shs 4,320,000. I assume 2 events a month for 9 months. For each, the company will charge Shs. 300,000 of which 60,000 will be direct costs(usher allowance et al) bringing net income per event to Shs 240,000.

3. Other events: Shs 3,690,000. I assume 1 other event(private function, educational programme et al) a month for 9 months. For each , the company will charge Shs. 500,000 of which 90,000 will be direct costs(allowance et al) bringing net income per month to Shs 410,000.

On the basis of the above, the total other income is Shs 12,960,000 per year. This will therefore reduce the loss(table 3) and therefore the company will now have a profit of shs. 2,151,000

Return on capital

On the basis of the profitability analysis above, the return on capital therefore is 6.257 years being:

Total start up capital: 13,457,910 (Table 1)/ Net profit: Shs 2,151,000

As you will see from tables 1,2 and 3, two costs stand out; the labour costs (allowances for dancers) and venue.

In respect of the labour costs, it is better for the investor to focus paying the dancers more of a fixed/guaranteed income rather than cost/allowance per performance. The reason this is better is because then during the month, when there are several other “side deals” you don't necessarily have to pay allowances. It works out cheaper especially if you are going into this industry full time. Of course if you are looking at part time, say dancing after work, rehearsals on weekends then this may not apply, but this article is particularly for those investors keen to focus on this sector in a full time capacity.

In respect of venue, if you can get a free venue then this is excellent. National theatre say on Mondays and Wednesdays is free(at the date of this article) and therefore can be considered to reduce costs of venue.

Another cost you will see is brochures et al. A word on marketing/advertising. Social media like Facebook and Youtube has revolutionized and perhaps made it easier and cheaper to market. A well worded email to event managers, to marketing managers of companies enclosing the company e-brochure as well as say a Youtube link to some of their past performances may save transport and brochure/business card printing costs and is probably more effective as you get a response immediately. Likewise having a facebook page and website for the group with regular updates of your performances may work wonders in marketing the company.


1. Opportunity to command significant fees from diverse activities.

Dance companies are not your conventional business venture thus incomes and profitability are not fixed per say. But the key pointer is the ability for the company to be able to perform in diverse roles of the industry like acting, drama and video appearances. A dance group like anything in the entertainment sector (or generally) is that If you are good, you can command fees way in excess of the market.

I for example use Shs 500,000 as a market average but in the financial scenario above, I for example assume that the group will be practicing almost everyday, will have several shows and will significantly invest in new material through buying DVDs and the like. This I believe should propel them to the front of the industry and thereby they can even charge say Shs 1,000,000 per show and upwards. The same applies to any other “side deals” they have.

2. Grant income, donors/sponsorship and international festival exposure

I have mentioned previously the opportunity that lies in having a “traditional”unit which is often viewed as a means of enhancing Ugandan culture. Assuming say you recruited talented dancers from disadvantaged backgrounds, then there is a high chance you can apply for a grant from embassies or other bodies that support the arts and culture. As an example, the British Council is looking to develop culture through a music festival and the like.

There is therefore an opportunity if not for grant income/donations, then for exposure to the international stage which can result in income in excess of the local market rates. African dance troupes are not uncommon in many international festivals. For example you can hop onto a bus to Rwanda for the FESPAD festival in 2012. If that doesn't suit you how about the Sawa Sawa festival in Kenya? Of course if I suggest the Toronto African Dance Festival, I hope the dancers won't disappear into Canada like many Ugandan Sportsmen do when travelling abroad!

3. Cupid beckons

This reason may seem a little “tongue in cheek” considering this is a serious investor's article but come on, in this sector, it is not typical for “business and pleasure” to mix given so many high profile international celebrities who get involved with dancers, for example, Madonna and 24 year old dancer Brahim Zaibat, Jennifer Lopez and back up dancer Casper Smart, Naomi campbell and flamenco dancer Joaquin Cortes et al. So perhaps for the dancer it might actually be the smartest investment of them all!

Oh well, now back to business!


First the numbers:

On the basis of my analysis:

  • Capital investment(A):13,457,910
  • Profit per year(B): 2,151,000
  • Return on Capital(Years to get capital back) (A/B): 6.27 years

Now the basics you must get right before investing.

  • Group cohesion. It is important to start off with good start up capital to give you that initial push but what’s more important to note is that the key resource is not money but the individuals who consist of the group. Thus how you motivate them and keep team chemistry to stay is important; many dance companies have collapsed due to internal wrangles and different conflicts of interest. I propose good corporate governance and soft skills development to counter this.
  • Performances/Marketing. In this business, performances/gigs sell the brand. What people see and like is what they demand! Thus good stage performances, outstanding costumes and designs are important to make a mark to the people who need these services. Marketing is likewise critical and so having say a Face book page with contacts, latest events, pictures and information should help coupled with an effective e-marketing campaign to reduce costs of printing brochures and making DVDS to market the company should go a long way. You can even advertise on the various online classifieds portals emerging in Uganda.
  • Other opportunities. The other opportunities for dance groups are as diverse as members can capitalize on individual talents to break even and expand their list of clientele. Like I said, the “side deals” (and perhaps “side dishes” if you like) are endless. If you get these right, then there is a good possibility the return on capital will improve and of course getting on "Strictly come dancing: Ki na Uganda" will cement your "side deals" income.
My guest writer weighs in

"Africa dance….differently"

Quite simply this is to demonstrate that dance is not a laughing matter, and these days people in Africa dance differently.

In the past, having an artistic view of dance was difficult and misunderstood, with its traditions so deeply rooted in the way of life of Africa's societies.

Today it is possible to to take dance far from the beaten track and give personal interpretations and at a different point of view, without being accused of having lost one's roots or being an artist in distress.

Tomorrow is on its way, and it will reflect the image of this young effervescent generation ready to pick up the challenge of African choreographic creativity and carry it far beyond the confines of the continent.

Dance ……especially in its abstract structure is speaking to the world. African abstract movement for performance has developed quite unique language that has otherwise developed a signature that is attracting big amounts of viewer-ship.

The labor is readily available and there is a business to conduct for those interested to make money. The one challenge ahead is to maintain a dance crew or artistic company.However this business will allow room for flexibility settling for the contract idea makes life bearable.

For business preparations, there are processes that have to be experienced before anything is achieved.

There are many festivals that have good platform and opportunity, this requires packaging and once the product the group has is of good quality…there is money to be made. A good example is when Tabu Flo a hip-hop dance crew created a piece “Abasezi” this was a fusion of break dance and African elements, with a clear story line.I think they made some very good news and the country was well presented. Its a pity some of this information never [appears] to get to the desk of the Ministry of Culture, but there is quite a lot that can be done in the name of culture.

Artists have learned that a good video and quality work will build a profile and a good profile will sell you at any minute. Dance there fore is very serious every hour that passes.

Through dance art I have managed travel far and wide meeting people and sharing.I have skills achieved which to date am using to make life bearable.I am an acclaimed international artist and am still growing strong in the career. In my country(Uganda) am refered to as the "grand father of contemporary dance", and that is great honor.

In my work I have had great experiences but the most challenging was the International Dance Medicine conference that I attended in Stockholm, Sweden where doctors and nurses link up with dance artists to consider amongst others: Process of introduction to movement,dealing with damage or injuries, study of anatomy and dance structures. That is important because concrete study is made a system we don't have that here in Uganda. This is a sign to show how seriously they regard movement or dance for purpose documentation and study.

Final Word:

My guest writer has beautifully summed up what you should do to succeed: "Africa Dance…differently". He correctly highlights that times have changed. Dance particularly abstract form can be embraced worldwide. He has also mentioned that international festivals that give a platform and of course he recognises the power of a good quality video. You should listen to him, he is the "grandfather of contemporary dance."

Let the numbers or projected losses not necessarily scare you. They should give you a goal and target to work towards. You can however with very little capital start a dance group say together with friends, not getting paid and practicing in a garage/friend's house. As long as you have the passion to dance, you will succeed and go on to Run the world(girls)! so come on;

Go out and break a leg(not literally I hope).

Otherwise, best of luck and of course if you need some help, do not hesitate to speak to us to get the ball rolling, Inachee after all represents Home Grown Energy in Motion.

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And now the disclaimer: While I have taken steps to research this information as well as based on my experience, you should not rely on the information given here to base your investment decisions. You should seek business advice from a professional knowledgeable of your specific circumstances. I shall therefore not be held responsible for any loss you may incur when acting on this information.

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