Millionaires’ Mission

New Channel 4 show sends entrepreneurs to Ugandan village to come up with poverty-fighting ideas

Who said the reality TV format was tired, easy and exploits the exploitable? The latest offering involving entrepreneurs aired for the first time last night. Can a group of successful business people use the their undoubted acumen to combat extreme poverty in Africa, the programme asked.

Channel 4’s four-part series, Millionaires’ Mission, set about trying to find out. Eight British self-made millionaires were sent to a rural Ugandan village to see if their entrepreneurial minds could find new solutions to the problems of aid and development in the region. Predictably, the show honed in on tensions within the strong-minded group.

Redrow Homes’ founder Steve Morgon, who amassed a reputed £450m from his construction company, quickly isolated himself by insisting on installing a pump system to bring water up the valley, despite being told by his fellow millionaires that accessible water was not a problem in the area.

Travel entrepreneur Diedre Bounds, who started First Choice Travel and sold it for £20m, recognised entrepreneurial traits in the local community – after being serenaded by the village she pointed out that it’s exactly what she would do to get someone to empty their wallet, having presumably closed deals on the back of fine dining.

It was all too much for founder of 25-strong northern pub chain Yesteryear Pubs Tony Callaghan though, who promptly burst into tears as the dancing began. Morgan too showed his soft side, unable to resist handing over a small cash sum to help give an undernourished baby a chance, despite being advised by his peers that the aim was to find solutions to help the community help themselves rather than throw money at the problem.

Finally, sharp-looking Seb Bishop, a web entrepreneur who made his millions on the back of the pay-per-click advertising model and now president of MIVA suggested building a hotel with a difference – a project that several of the other millionaires, including whiz kid Dominic McVey, who made his first million at 15 importing and selling micro scooters and became the  youngest newcomer on the Sunday Times Rich List, immediately bought into.

The Teach Inn hotel, which has now been open six months, gives travelers the opportunity to teach local children vital language skills during their stay in the Ugandan village. The hotel has already received 40 guests and made the community around £15,000 in revenue, and a second hotel is now being planned for a nearby village.

The hotel is a shining example, the Startups team believes, of a brilliant business mind put to good work. Do you agree with the Channel 4 producers that the show was an ‘experiment in enterprise’? Let us know what you think in the box below.

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