Charles Batte

Published on: January 2013
Charles Batte is a Global Ambassador For Social Entrepreneurship, Your Big Year Winner 2012 (out of over 60,000 competitors from 221 countries), Founding Ambassador for Merit, Global Trotting Volunteer with Projects of Social Responsibility Charles grew up in one of the slums in Kamwokya , a suburb of Kampala. Surrounded by drug addiction, moral decay and unemployment, he worked hard to remain on course to reach his dreams.

He beat all odds to finish first in his class at elementary school with 4 distinctions in 4 subjects and again topped the rankings in the national ordinary level (high school) exams scoring 10 distinctions in 10 subjects. At age 18, he graduated with 24 out of 25 points making him one of the top science students in the country and was awarded a merit scholarship by the government of Uganda to study Medicine and Surgery at Makere University.

He is an ardent leader and orator, attributes that enabled him to be elected to his University's guild council in 2009 and be appointed Minister for Health. In 2011, he campaigned for student presidency of his University (the biggest university in East Africa), and finished second by just 10 votes.

Driven by the pain of unemployment and poverty in his society, Charles set out on an entrepreneurial journey to generate employment opportunities for his people. At the age of 20, he started up a farm that produces maize and beans, which today employs over 50 people every season. He is the proprietor of a family health clinic that seeks to bring health services closer to the people and provide healthcare for less privileged families.

He loves reading, writing, poetry, learning languages (he speaks English, French, German, Luganda, and a little Latin) and experiencing other cultures. He also loves sport (being a lifelong Liverpool FC fan), and plays football, volleyball, basketball and tennis.
charles batte,social entrepreneur
My strongest point in my life:

I tell myself all the time, "You win some! You lose some".

So I do not overdwell on the losses I make.

When I make any investment and it backfires and I lose the money I've invested, I do not spend years crying over it.

I ask myself, "Ok what are things I can learn from this failure?"

I'll give you an example:

I had saved money and it was the money I had saved over a very long time. In March 2011, I had a dream to stand for Student President.

My university has 80,000 students to a 100,000 students - a very big university - the biggest in the entire region of Africa, And the student president election is the biggest political event in the life of the student.

Just like an election itself - 2 weeks of campaigning to over 80,000 people and one day of very intense waiting and because I did not get a sponsorship back then I had to use all the savings I had to make the campaigning and it took all the money that I had. I had zero balance. I had to borrow so that I can live.

I lost the campaign by 10 votes! So I lost all the money that I had saved.

I called the guy who had won the election, and congratulated him! We have done the best we possibly could. But deep down me I knew the responsibilities I had accumulated. I had to look after and now I had lost every money.

And then came the next big thing, "Your big year"! I put my heart and soul in it, people wondered how I could again take part in yet another competition. That's me.

Instead of looking at what other people have, you need to look at the limited resources that you have to make sure that you make a difference in life. Because in the end, it doesn't matter what you do not have, it is what you have and how you can use it to further your success. You look at what you have at the time you have it and say how best you can use it. For me it is not just about satisfying your needs but also satisfying the needs of the people, trying to get different in their lives. When I was thinking about the type of business I wanted to do (when I was in high school) the vision was to use the business the way I use it is because I don't want to create dependent people. I do not want to be looked at as a charity organisation. I do not want to create a mindset in people that they can get things for free. I want to give people opportunity but at the same time I want them to realise that they are benefiting from their struggle, they are benefiting from their hard-work. So things are not given out to them. But seeing according to them they are walking out each day. and whatever they had to achieve, in the end, achieving them. So I created what at that time I called, a self sustaining community.

And in that I wanted to transform communities in the rural areas that was neglected, that was under served. And I said to myself, how do I convert it into a community in which people have jobs. So what I wanted to address was unemployment, and that's when I started a farm. Secondly, to improve health, and then I started a health centre. Again, it has a business model that brings health closer to the people in rural areas. Thirdly, I wanted to improve education and lastly I wanted to create youth empowerment, so that the young people do not have to leave the villages to come to cities looking for jobs. Because without jobs, they either go into drugs or crime. So I wondered how I can empower them so that they stay in the villages, but are empowered to create businesses that will create more employment opportunities for their other peer friends and also create development within their own home town. It has sort of been working all now, for the past 5 years.

Q: You have been travelling 11 countries from Smaller earth. Isn't it affecting your business back home?

Yeah, it is. Most of the work I do is over the computer and it's a long process and it affects me in a number of ways. First of all, it affects my business and the way they run, because there are limited resources to look after that and they have to keep getting instructions from me and reporting to me. I am not so sure whether they would do it as I would do it if I was there. So definitely that's a challenge. And it also limits the dynamism of the business, because it now takes a long time to make decisions.

They have to write to me when possibly I'm in another country, I have to keep following them. To be able to make the vision, I have to write them and they have to wait till may be the next morning to get to know what I think about what they are doing, or to get to know how I wanted to to be done. Secondly, there are so many things I want to implement. I cannot implement them when I'm not there because again that, people wouldn't do exactly the way you would. It doesn't mean they are incompetent but it simply is that way.

That way you really have to get me right. When you get an idea, there are so many things you are gonna learn and there are so many things that you are gonna change as you go on implementing the idea. Again, I'm not saying it's that they are incompetent. They are very competent but only I understand what I want to do, how i want to, how it should look and for that, I need to be present. But again it's not enough to write it in message because it brings out a number of challenges. There are number of things I can't give them from where I am because they require a number of things to do. They require documentation. They require a number of things which I cannot do.

So being away travelling around the world limits me a lot in that way. That is for my businesses. It also affects my family life. Because If I'm at home, I can look after my family - now when my sisters need something, they have to write to me on facebook or email me because they can't call me, because I change my number every two weeks.
It's sort of giving a problem in balancing the book. But a challenge is worth it, in the end if it all, because there's nothing about a caterpillar that suggests it's gonna become a butterfly. Watch out!

My message to youngsters: A diamond doesn't shine in darkness. It needs light to shine. Self belief, is that light, flame.

Keep that flame burning, you will all shine brighter than diamonds!
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