Humour: Why Napoleon’s charcoal business collapsed


Some time back, I told you that we have been working on a honey processing business with my old friend Ole Gunia in Mavumbi town.

Despite numerous setbacks, I am delighted to inform you that the business is up and running, thanks to the support of my better half Nectar and Ole Gunia’s zeal.

Gradually, our Asali Asili brand is becoming popular in Mavumbi town and if all goes well as projected, we may soon be exporting our honey to neighbouring counties.

This has made my colleague Napoleon very envious and has been nagging all the time for business ideas of his own.

I advised him to start a business that few people are running, and which requires the least number of workers.

Secondly, I enquired if he had enough capital.

He shrugged his shoulders and said he had enough shares in his Sacco to qualify him for not less than half a million.

Upon serious deliberations, I advised him to start a charcoal wholesale business in Mavumbi town.

“Currently, charcoal is being supplied from a neighbouring county. If you start a charcoal wholesale business, you will cut off the outside supplies by selling at a lower price,” I enthused.

I could see a warm glow on his face.

Being a colleague and a person well known to me, I offered to be his loan guarantor.

I knew he could not run away, being my deputy headmaster and earning a fairly good salary.

He chose his second cousin as next of kin, despite wedding only the other day. But that’s a story for another day.

As his business advisor, I asked that he pays me ten per cent as consultancy fee, a demand he flatly rejected.

Instead, he offered to buy beer and nyama choma at Makuti Bar and Restaurant ‘kurudishia mwili asante’, whatever that means.

After renting a mabati makeshift, Napoleon was good to go.

The charcoal business involved ferrying the charcoal from far flung forests, which meant bribing the police along the way.

But sooner, trouble started. The wife began raising a dust storm that she couldn’t manage the business because she had not been listed as next of kin.

Napoleon got angry and hired a young man who had been hawking padlocks in Mavumbi town.

However, it seems some ill omen was out to scuttle Napoleon’s charcoal business.

The other day, county revenue officers and two policemen impounded a lorry transporting the commodity. Efforts to grease their elbows were fruitless.

Napoleon was called out of an agriculture class to record a statement at the police station.

When he reached me for advice, I told him it was okay for the matter to be taken to court, whatever charges would be preferred against him.

“I think the same way too,” Napoleon concurred.

The charcoal consignment, however, had been offloaded at the police station, the lorry released and the driver pardoned.

The charcoal was never stored as exhibit for any court case. Instead, it was shared out among senior police officers and the rest given to a charcoal trader related to one of the officers.

Napoleon had been boxed but I encouraged him not to give up.

We went back to Makuti for more beer and nyama choma, this time ‘kukuna kichwa’, meaning scratching our heads on the next move to ensure the charcoal business does not end prematurely.

By Pascal Mwandambo

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