On Wednesday 15th August, Stephen Kiprotich, the Olympic marathon gold medallist touched down at Entebbe International Airport. There were hundreds of people gathered to give him the hero's reception that he rightly deserved.
A guard of honour was mounted for his inspection. His boss the commissioner of prisons in his welcome speech recommended that he should be promoted to Assistant Superintendent of prisons, a nine rank jump! It gets better; he proceeded to state house where he met Uganda's president Yoweri Museveni who impulsively heeded those immortal words uttered by Cuba Gooding Jr in the movie 'Jerry Maguire'. I don't know how good Kiprotich's running man is but I can picture him doing the jig and screaming "show me the money!"
Well Museveni did show him the money. Eighty grand USD is a tidy sum by all means. A few days earlier the New Vision, Uganda's leading daily started a campaign to raise five hundred thousand USD for the man now known as the golden boy.
All this must have been beyond Kiprotich's wildest dreams when he set off for London just over a week ago. He now seems set to become a person of beyond average means. It's not perhaps premature to describe him as rich by African standards at least.
It's Kiprotich and his newly found riches that sparked a debate about what it takes to convert such abrupt windfalls into enduring wealth.
Countless manifestations of African couples working their way out of poverty to positions of relative affluence exist. More often than not, their children have to repeat the cycle or even worse; the children find themselves taking a backward step to the lower echelons of society.
In Europe, North America, Asia and even the Middle East the transfer of wealth from generation to generation seems to be more systematic and efficient. It's not uncommon to find a sandwich shop in England that has been a family business for three or more generations.
The private Swiss banks renowned for their secrecy are often run as family businesses some going as far back as the 1400s
In Japan, the Zaibatsu or large conglomerates such as Sumitomo, Mitsui, Mitsubishi and Yasuda have existed as family controlled businesses as early as 19th century.
In America, large corporations such as Wal-Mart Stores, Ford Motor Company and Koch Industries were founded in the 1900s as family businesses and are still going strong today. In the case of Ford Motor Company it's been a hundred and nine years having started in 1903.
In Africa where monarchies still exist, royal families are both largely ceremonial and heavily subsidised by seating governments. Those that are not so lucky have either been deposed or are living in exile. In the Middle East on the other hand, they are captains of industry such as the Al Maktoum family of Dubai and the house of Saud in Saudi Arabia.
So what is it in the African family fabric that makes it impermeable to wealth?
More often than not, the successes and failures of a society are to be traced to its cultural values.
In African culture, a pubescent male is viewed as a man in waiting. The sooner a child passes from adolescence to manhood the more 'social credits' he receives.
This is usually attained by performing certain rituals that differ from one culture to another but occur between the ages of sixteen and twenty five. The culmination of these rituals is usually taking a wife and starting a family.
The girls on the other hand are married off at the earliest opportunity.
In essence, African culture encourages youth to spread their wings as it were and leave the nest. This is often accompanied by family land fragmentation and a diminished workforce.
For comparison, let us look at Indian family life. The boys are treated as God's gift to the world. They are encouraged to find a trade before going into marriage and when they eventually decide to marry they are treated to all sorts of presents and financial support from the bride's family.
It's more the norm than taboo for a young couple to stay with the boy's family until they can afford a home of their own. This is frugality at its best. Wealth is not built through frivolous spending, parsimony is key.
More crucially, in the west and Asia young men are encouraged to go into the family businesses where they exist or take up the family profession.
This serves to consolidate the gains made from one generation to the next and provides a trans-generational understanding of the family business or profession. Business is about getting an edge over the competition; competitive advantage is the term in economics.
A better understanding of the business or profession is a perk that comes with family run businesses. Access to information is round the clock and forms a knowledge base richer than any computer system can conjure up.
By weaning our boys of their fathers too early, Africa deprives its youth of vital learning. They are then sent out to the world only to re-invent the wheel. Faced with depleted resources, both the father and son face a bottleneck in growing their enterprises. A vicious cycle ensues and sooner than later, the small enterprises run separately are both doomed.
Can Kiprotich back the trend? Only time will tell. It is said that fortune favours the brave. Kiprotich was certainly brave on that warm Sunday afternoon on 12th August in London and now he stares the goddess Tyche in the eyes.
Let us hope for his son and daughter's sakes that comedian Chris Rock's claims in 2004 are now outdated.
He prophetically asserted that "black people can get rich but they can't be wealthy!"