Brian Kirumira, also called Bryan White (a name he probably adopted from American actor Brian J White or the God Gave Me You singer Bryan White), is only one among a flock of Kampala city socialites that have made spending money look like an actual job with a job description and taxable salary. The difference is, while the rest of the pack spends big on lavish color-themed parties in posh bars and nightclubs, Kirumira’s PR tactic is channeled more towards spending on what many might call charitable cause.
Before White, the norm was that a city socialite emerged with fishy stories on how they source their income, flashed off a few cars and money, dated a singer or two, threw a lavish party, made headlines and eventually got drowned by a fraud scandal.
Then God gave us Bryan White. The man who seemingly knew our pain and had been sent down from Heaven above to answer our prayers. White leveraged the death of one of Uganda’s undoubtedly most talented musicians of all time, Moses “Mowzey Radio” Sekibogo, to generate PR buzz by contributing generously towards finances for the funeral, completing the house Sekibogo was building for his mother etc.
White has since then earned quite the name through philanthropic activity under his Bryan White Foundation. He has visited hospitals, sponsored sports events, led a campaign or two against drug abuse, etc. He’s basically what one would call “the good one”.
But looking at his activities closely, just like all the “big-spenders” before him, White is more focused on generating talkability about his name than driving actual social impact. First, I don’t understand why a charity fund needs regional tours with artistes to “launch” it. It’s not a product or service in a competitive market. Unless the ulterior goal of his foundation is to make White known, there is no reason an NFP would need a series of nationwide pompous launches.
Secondly, a generally acceptable hypothesis of how charity works is that the said philanthropist identifies a community need; the deficiency or total lack of a necessity good or service X. The philanthropist then pools resources in one or more of many ways to avail the good or service X to that community, thus satisfying the community need.
White’s philanthropic activity seems mostly unpremeditated; it’s not well thought through to optimally benefit the communities. Granted, he dishes out cash money to endless queues of boda boda cyclists. Is this charity?! He gives out mattresses and sacks of sugar. I do not dispute that these are commodities the beneficiaries could actually put to use, but are they serving an actual need these people have had? Is this more of a “Mbarara Youth receive mattresses” headline or a “Bryan White has did it again” headline?
I also find the system that Bryan White Foundation uses to select its beneficiaries quite lazy and not genuine. White says his fund targets the youth, to drive them to sustainability of self, which is quite plausible. The problem I have with that is that youth as a segment is quite macro. And looking at the youth that the media has shown benefiting from his widely publicized handouts, I can’t surely say that he has reached out to the youth that need his help the most.
I mean, I know he cannot possibly help the whole country. But could he just sit down and systematically identify the youth that he actually needs to reach out to? The mattresses he gave out to people that probably sold them off for quick beer money would have served more the youth without beds and shelter in the remote rural parts of Uganda than they did the cyclists and vendors in Mbarara town. If his criteria for beneficiaries is where the media will be most able to cover rather than who needs his help the most, then his advisors are doing a pathetic job at charity and a splendid job at PR stunts.
Long story short, Bryan White may have a big heart. He possibly has true goodwill. But his hunger for fame and publicity is clouding his priorities as someone that says they’re here to be our Black Moses.