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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Kenya’s Eddie Mbagua says bye to The Apprentice prize


Sunday was the end of the road for Kenya whose only surviving envoy in The Apprentice Africa show ‘committed suicide.’

The task that orchestrated the downfall of Eddie Mbagua tested the contestants’ strategic marketing skills.They were asked to demonstrate the profitability of a unique payphone called the Celtel Red Phone to people who cannot afford a handset but afford making calls for as little as five naira.

The contestants would hereafter present on “route to market” before Celtel executives headed by Michael Folly on the best way to make the product a hit among the masses. Matrix Corp. project manager, Mbagua started off well with an enterprising tagline: “You pay for what you use.”

But his problems began when he asked for promotional materials but used them to bribe potential customers by quid pro quo: I give you a free T-shirt and you use the Red Phone. A disappointed Michael Folly noted that it’s not sustainable business to give away T-shirts to sell phones.

Meanwhile, Zulu Corp. headed by Isaac was in good business as customers queued to use the red phone. During the presentation, the Celtel officials were shocked to discover that Matrix Corp. overrun their financial projection by 1,000 percent.

Although Zulus showed they understood the business model of the Red Phone, Michael Folly wanted to know how it could be popularised fast. Deox Tibeingana alluded to the transparency of Celtel and said the phone’s precise and friendly billing should be tabled to the clients in contrast to the blurred billing options of competing networks.

Visibly impressed, Michael praised Deox then declared Zulu Corporation winners. Both teams however received a lashing from Shobanjo for wasting time in useless banter with customers: “Time is money,” he said, “when you need to make a deal, you go in, close the deal and get out.”

He congratulated Zulu and treated them to “Nigeria’s best food” at Yellow Chilli Restaurant, where they were also entertained by Lagos’ loved standup comedian, Basket Mouth. In the boardroom, Shobanjo wanted to know why Matrix had performed dismally.

Blessing who has since mastered the blame game said it would have been a different result had Nancy not overshot their financial projection. The game would have ended there, for Nancy who for three straight weeks had narrowly survived Shabanjo’s deadly bullets but Eddie defended her saying the slip was his as he was “responsible for checking and cross-checking before the presentation!”

Poor girl had gone through much in the past few weeks and needed a little break, added Eddie. Shabanjo shrugged as if to say if it’s your will to take someone’s bullets, I cannot stop you. He quickly pulled the trigger, “Eddie you are fired!”

The Kenyan stood up: “Thank you sir…” he said, as tears sprang to his eyes, and the eyes of his ‘sweetheart,’ Regina.

--The Daily Monitor, May 3, 2008