Multi-Level Marketing in Uganda

No group of people, no matter how poor, are immune to the predatory practices of multi-level marketing (MLM) companies.  These companies are nothing but glorified pyramid schemes, causing financial losses for more than 99% who get involved.

A Chinese MLM called Tiens has set up shop in Uganda, despite the fact that the average income is $2 per day (so few people can afford overpriced snake oil). Tiens is using false income claims and lies about medical cures to recruit distributors.

Filmmaker Priya Biring did a 25 minute film on this MLM, entitled “Uganda’s Health Pyramid,”  and produced by Al Jazeera News.

Priya says the following in the article that accompanies the video:

Luckily she isn’t so easily fooled, and was able to document how Tiens convinces people to stay loyal through reinforcement of the idea that distributors are starting a new life and by its unrelenting “blame and shame” rhetoric about personal failure and not selling enough products. Only their inadequacies and doubts – and those of sceptical family and friends who should, of course, be dropped – were barriers to the recruits achieving great wealth.

When we met up with Michael Halangu, a former Tiens distributor, he confirmed these were the same techniques that had kept him in the business for years. In our interviews he was open about how they fooled him and how much money he lost, but the psychological impact had gone deeper; although he could see all the aspects of the scam, he still blamed himself for not having made a success of it.

But while it is clear that the poor, weak and vulnerable are particularly susceptible to such schemes, even strong people can succumb under enough pressure. Michael is an intelligent and determined man with a college degree, and we even met a university professor among the distributors at one Tiens event we attended.

No one is safe from these predators who call themselves multi-level marketing, direct sales, network marketing, or any other variation on the pyramid scheme.

3 Comments

  1. Bodil

    MLM is not a criminal business modell. But you need to learn how to market your products, and the business opportunity to those who show an interest in the business. Would you do a plumber work or a teacher job with out any education or training`What is wrong is that some people with an MLM business learn to recrute people and they don`t understand they have to learn it themselves how to do it and then teach this to those they recrute into the business. Some MLM companies have a very difficult payplan so it is very difficult to make much money if you not work your butt off. So there are cheaters and bad companies. But you have that in every industry and businesses. So oyu should not claim this is only in MLM. Also if people start another business, maybe a dress business or food business they sometimes also lose money. If you own a news paper you can also go bank rupt… Tere are more millionears made in MLM than in other businesses. Of course maybe because there are more people starting it. And of course there will be more people who don`t succeed because so many people just go into it with out knowing they ahve to work to build their team and they need to sell products. Before you say a company is bad or criminal you have to search for the truth. Many companies are difficult to make money in. But before you join be sure to get the full information and then deside if it is the right for you.

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