exploration drives innovation, so let your kids explore even if they might never return


WhatsApp Image 2018-04-11 at 22.42.51
Me taking a selfie with a most amazing person – in Maputo, Mozambique

A FEW weeks ago I met a most amazing person in Maputo, Mozambique and sat flabbergasted along with 200 other people in a large conference room as she told us her crazy, feasible and totally undesirable (to us) plan for the rest of her life.

Her plan was so unfathomable and yet so amazing that I entered into an uncomfortably nauseous mental space trying to work out whether I wanted her to meet my children and inspire them or to stay tens of thousands of miles away from them so she doesn’t spread the crazy ideas she is implementing.

She came over to a Coca-Cola Beverages Africa conference as a Guest Speaker and to be quite frank our expectations of her when she was announced were on a whole different planet from the person who jumped up onto the stage.

Most of us confessed to ourselves that when we read, “Dr. Adriana Marais” up on the electronic stage backdrop, we expected a scientific nerd-type person kitted up as Doctor-people tend to be.

In her jeans and casual shirt rolled up to expose many bangles, and a wide smile that didn’t distract us from her braids, she appeared to be the ordinary type of girl you would be happy to chat with at a bar on any evening. (There is a whole other story about THAT too!)

She stood there on stage in front of the massive screen and started talking about space travel, saying things in English that we found hard to understand for a while until we just had to accept that we didn’t want to understand or believe her.

Since her childhood (five years of age) she has been excited and enthusiastic about space and space travel. Plus, along the way, she was so disturbed by our poor resource utilisation on earth she figured we would one day run out and became determined to be part of the solution.

Hence her mission to leave Planet Earth and go to discover new life forms elsewhere.

She was not talking about a bus trip or a plane ride.

Adriana Marais from www.adrianamarais.org
Dr. Adriana Marais – taken from http://www.adrianamarais.com

Dr. Adriana Marais is “an aspiring Martian”. She is one of six Africans who are part of a group of 100 candidates to join the ‘Mars One’ project – to establish a human colony on Planet Mars by 2025.

They will go to Mars and live there, NEVER TO RETURN.

You need to sit down to try to understand this properly – just to try – but for the longer story one has to go to the online edition of this (www.skaheru.com).

She described the trip to Mars, and their planned mission, and said many other things that made us all wonder how crazy her and her mates were – which she always considers a compliment.

“The ones crazy enough to think that they can change the world, or create a new one, are the ones who do,” she told me. In any case, she told our audience, space travel on its own spurs innovation here on earth; in the year Apollo 13 happened, so more children in the United States were inspired to do Engineering and the results govern some of our lives today – from the mobile phone and computers we use to the power of the internet.

The training for living on Mars is long and intense, and the trip there alone takes seven (7) months. As she said this, all the people in the room who had complained about the long, two-leg five-hour journey to Mozambique felt quite silly.

And on that trip, she casually told us, “your muscles degrade over the seven months, but since we are not coming back to earth so…it’s okay!”

And when they get to Mars, they will embark on creating water and food and even breathable air. Their disciplines are different – hers being Physics and then Quantum Mechanics – and the selection will be done so they can start a new life and population and world on Planet Mars from almost nothing.

They will send certain machinery and equipment months before they go, which will be assembled by robots when they land there (this is not a lie or a dream – people are seriously doing this while here we have friends who can’t scan a document straight the right way up…).

“We all have resources of life and resources of time. Be careful with them!” she told us, and got my skin tingling.

Travel, mind you, is embedded in her very DNA. Her family left France at some point hundreds of years ago and arrived at the Cape of Good Hope on Voorschuten in 1688 – a trip of very many months to a place where the availability of resources and was very uncertain.

I made the determination to one day get my children to meet her or read a lot about her, so they are as motivated by her very existence as I was.

When I asked her, later on, if she had ever disadvantaged as a girl or woman, she told me she hadn’t.

“In the morning before my first day of school, my mother told me never to let anyone tell me I couldn’t do anything because I was a girl. I remember thinking that was strange and wondering why she had said it. Then lo and behold, on the first day of school the (female) teacher asked the ‘strong boys’ to help move the desks. Remembering what my mom had said, I jumped up and said ‘I am strong’ and helped to move the desks. And this is the spirit in which I live. We need to avoid judging others or allowing ourselves to be judged on the basis of race, gender, culture or background,” she said.

This is what I want my children to be like – but I don’t want them to go all the way to Mars never to return. Not yet.

Here’s the interview in full:

***

  1. Have any of the first 100 of you been taken through psychiatric tests? Most sci-fi films we watch (our experience – the majority of us lay people – with outer space) contain people who engage in terrifying criminal acts because of mental health issues, and most people would ask how sure you are this won’t happen to your group.

“Are you crazy?!” is a common question I am asked as a volunteer to move permanently to Mars. Perhaps. But I take this as a compliment. As we’ve heard, the ones crazy enough to think that they can change the world, or create a new one, are the ones who do. A good Martian settler will have showed an impressive level of sanity and purpose by having trained for decades before leaving Earth in STEM, medicine, counseling, team work, fitness, growing food, working in isolation, telling jokes when things go wrong, and much more, to ensure the survival of the team in the harsh conditions there. 

  1. When did your love for space travel and such extreme exploration actually begin? At what age or stage, considering that you made your decision as soon as you read the headline about MarsOne?

When I read in the paper for the first time about the possibility of applying to go to Mars on a one-way mission, I froze. Suddenly a strange early childhood memory rushed back to me so clearly: We were riding plastic scooters up and down the driveway where I played after school some days, and when we stopped I asked my two friends, “If you could go into space on a spaceship to see what was there, further than we’ve been before, but you knew that you wouldn’t come back, would you go? Just to see what was there…”

They wrinkled their noses and scooted off, not understanding what I meant, while I said determinedly, “I would!”. We must have been five or six.

Humans are explorers by nature and now for the first time the possibility to expand our society beyond Earth has arisen. I can think of no greater purpose than being a part of this adventure, whether going in person or creating awareness that enables future generations to go. 

  1. What did you study, exactly, and why?

I studied physics initially because of thoughts of becoming an astronaut,
 but soon became interested in quantum mechanics after learning about the impossibility of observing something without interacting with it, and therefore disturbing it in some way. I have been fascinated with the implication ever since – that the observer
 is always inextricably part of the system under observation, and that the way a question is posed can influence the answer, from the level
 of human interaction all the way down to measurements performed on single particles.

I began to study photosynthesis on a molecule by molecule, photon by photon level as a part of a field called quantum biology. This led me to the famous question, “What is Life?”

In my opinion, if life can exist on Earth, in an unimaginably large universe, it must also exist or have existed elsewhere. The study of living systems on Earth, and the mystery of how life emerged here, is always going to be severely limited by a lack of precise knowledge of the conditions under which it emerged around four (4) billion years ago, in a possibly singular event. 

Billions of years of evolution of life on Earth have culminated in the possibility of us calling another planet home for the very first time. Untold discoveries lie in wait, including the possibility of finding evidence of life there. The reason I want to go to Mars is simple: The allure of the unknown is far more powerful than the comfort of the known. And the possibility to contribute to the first off-Earth settlement, and potentially find evidence of life on another planet, is something I would give up almost anything to do.

  1. What did your parents say when you told them you were applying for MarsOne and would never return?

They are worried about the logistical feasibility of the mission, and that they would miss me, but they are also proud and fascinated by this proposed adventure.

They likened the mission to that of our ancestors, refugees who escaped religious persecution and all the people they had ever known in Europe to come to South Africa in the 1600s, with no idea of what challenges lay ahead and no chance of affording a return trip. I must have this inclination to explore in my blood.

They know me best of all, and have said it is totally in line with my character to have volunteered for this mission.

  1. What did your bank and landlord (separately) say, whether you have a mortgage or not?

Well, apparently plans to leave the planet doesn’t effect one’s credit rating, so I plan to keep paying my bond in cryptocurrency from Mars if I haven’t done so by the time I leave 🙂 

  1. Did your parents support your choice of education or study course all through or did they ever try to push you in another direction?

My parents have always encouraged me in everything I have done. I wouldn’t be the courageous person I am today without my parents having always allowed me to ask an exhausting amount of questions and to make my own decisions.

Imposing your ideas on how another human should live based on your personal experiences can restrict that person from achieving their full potential. Love is accepting and supporting! I am grateful for having such wonderful parents! 

  1. When you leave Planet Earth and get to Mars never to return, what do you think (at this time) you will miss the most?

Things I won’t miss include: Inequality. Advertising. Pollution. Long queues. two-minute showers in drought-stricken Cape Town (Jokes – our showers on Mars will probably be shorter) 🙂

What I will miss is life – all the people I love who have meant so much to me, all the animals we share our habitat with, all the plants with which we have been living side-by-side for so many eras… I’ll miss being able to breathe and smell the air, the feeling of the wind, sea and sun, the feeling of the ground on bare feet. I’ll miss good steak, and good wine, which I understand after my time with several winemakers, may be hard to produce on Mars… (The oak barrel is an issue).

  1. Did you ever feel disadvantaged as a girl or a woman at any point in your life? When was that and why? (I ask this because I am a father of girls, brother to my sisters, son to my mother(s) and husband to my wife, and I want them to emulate you but NEVER to leave me so absolutely!)

No I have not, but I do have unstoppable determination and a thick skin when I need it.

In the morning before my first day of school, my mother told me never to let anyone tell me I couldn’t do anything because I was a girl. I remember thinking that was strange and wondering why she had said it. Then lo and behold, on the first day of school the (female) teacher asked the ‘strong boys’ to help move the desks.

Remembering what my mom had said, I jumped up and said ‘I am strong’ and helped to move the desks. And this is the spirit in which I live. We need to avoid judging others or allowing ourselves to be judged on the basis of race, gender, culture or background. 

In order to create a future of which we can be proud, we need all of our contributions, and for this we need to view each and every human as the unique, precious resource of intelligence and life that they are.

***

i’m so UGANDA! #ondaba? that means…do you see me?!


Ondaba swaminarayan
Photo of Ondaba champions taken from ondaba.wordpress.com

ON a sojourn in Nairobi and South Africa a short while ago I took along with me a newly-acquired hoodie branded ‘I’m So Uganda! #ondaba?’

Normally, I take my travels decked out in a series of busy t-shirts branded “MunyaUganda” underneath the Uganda flag and accompanied by a tag-line such as “Mpaka kuffa”, “So Life is Tye Maber Loyo” and “kandi I’m Gifted by Nature”. Some of the t-shirts also carry tag-lines taken from our National Anthem such as, “Peace and Friendship” and “Together we’ll always stand”.

The #ondaba brand, though, is clean and stands out distinct as I discovered all through my time away and in that hoodie – starting with a young lady in a Duty Free shop at Entebbe who said, “Wow!” as I walked past and smiled back, thinking it was all about me and not the #ondaba hoodie.

One particular day on that trip I walked to the Nairobi Hospital to visit an ailing friend and then walked all the way to Kenyatta Market to experience the ordinary man’s juicy nyama choma, before circling back to my hotel through the Uhuru Park.

Part of the motivation for my trek was to test the street crime system and prove that this was no longer Nairobbery as we used to know it.

It wasn’t, but I was still trepidatious for a long distance because of the number of looks that came my way until I realised they were all aimed at the hoodie – the other part of the motivation for my trek. It wasn’t the stitching or the mix of the deep blue colour with red lining and yellow lines – it was that declaration: ‘I’m So Uganda! #ondaba?’

I eventually got back to my hotel justifiably thirsty and headed for the swimming pool bar to rehydrate. There, a dapper fellow in expensive sunglasses who was facing me as I walked in turned away from his companion to declare: “Wow!” followed by, “Eh! Eh! Eh! I like that!”

I thought I had mis-heard and found that the only seat I could take was at the table next to theirs but before I could take it he waved and started up a conversation – around the hoodie.

What did the words mean? What triggered it? How could he get one? His companion, a polite and equally well-spoken young lady, readily agreed with him.

They were not Ugandan but were *this* close to changing citizenship over ‘#ondaba’. We progressed the discussion as I texted one of the architects of the campaign to hand this guy over to her, as we had arrived at a point where the Kenya version was on the table and he was ready to draft partnership documents.

Later, as I left for South Africa, the ‘#ondaba’ hoodie caused tears to well up in the eyes of an attendant at the airport lounge. As I was responding to the young man’s demand that I explain the entire campaign to him, a guest at the lounge came over for service at his station and interrupted us.

Halfway through serving her, he did the impossible and self-distracted back to me to discuss ‘#ondaba’ further – till I sent him back to keep his job. He was taken by the campaign because he had done something similar back when Kenya erupted into post-election violence.

On his own, earning a humble salary as a blue-collar worker, he designed, printed and distributed t-shirts free of charge to his fellow Kenyans to build or restore their patriotism. He wanted to join the ‘#ondaba’ campaign.

“This is so patriotic, man! I love it! You know, we Africans need to build more patriotism,” he told me in his impassioned speech.

“When that problem happened here and people were dying (the post-election violence in Kenya in 2007) I felt so bad. My people were dying but my people were the ones killing them! I decided to make t-shirts with a message telling all Kenyans that we are one. Tribe doesn’t matter more than who we are as Kenyans. And even as Africans,” he said, this young man with a humble job but very noble aspirations.

I left him after exchanging contact details and a few hours later I was in South Africa where the keen interest in the message on the hoodie was consistent.

There, in South Africa, at least three people stopped me for more about ‘#Ondaba’ on that first night – and I got to my hotel late that evening.

The story behind the campaign should be a challenge for all of us in our respective countries. The group that made ‘#ondaba’ got together under the comments section of Amos Wekesa’s Facebook posts rallying Ugandans to promote tourism on their own if they thought the government wasn’t doing enough.

Herbert Opio, Denis Mubende, Patrick Ngabirano, Prossy Munabuddu, Belinda Namutebi and a few others discussed ideas and created a powerpoint presentation that they delivered to the Minister of Tourism at the time, with a plan to go all the way to the President.

They realised very quickly they would hit a dead end after lots of talk.

So they brought it to the people instead and agreed on #Ondaba as a social media hashtag, for Ugandans to use whenever and wherever they pleased to show what they were doing having fun and enjoying Uganda.

Then they made t-shirts and hoodies to take it further and…voila! People like Muhereza Kyamutetera and Solomon Oleny joined in and now it’s a whole organisation that is poised to go continent-wide!

The rest is history in the making and you will hear or read or be part of it as it grows. All because ordinary people like you and I and the young man making coffee in the airline lounge, took action to promote their countries.

That’s PATRIOTISM.

We can all play a part – we don’t need lots of money; we need lots of heart for country.

choose wisely – ugali or posho?


Ugali
A plate of Ugali (Photo from http://jikonimagic.com)

LAST year, in two different WhatsApp groups I belong to that have nothing in common save for myself, two very disparate people sent two messages a couple of weeks apart saying exactly the same thing.

The first is an old-time friend who runs a family-owned Ugandan road construction firm that has grown consistently in leaps and bounds over the last twenty years. During the course of his work he has traversed Uganda while building roads, prospecting for more business, and playing golf.

The second is my cousin and friend, who turned his childhood passion into a line of employment and has spent his life listening to, playing and producing music for the rest of us. Again, in the process he has visited many parts of Uganda and made a wide variety of contacts who relish his company – especially on Friday nights in Guvnor nee Ange Noir.

Both these gentlemen surprised me when they expressed their angst because I could never have linked them to the issue they raised.

“Why,” they both asked, “are there so many trucks here (naming two different, distant districts they happened to be in at the time) taking out raw, unprocessed maize in bulk? Honestly speaking, can’t the government or someone else introduce a law or a rule that stops this happening? We need to make it illegal for raw maize to be exported like this!”

This discussion could even end here because the logic should speak for itself, shouldn’t it?

In ensuing rants the numerous suggestions around solving the problem were amusing, spot-on and irritating in different measure – the latter being those comments from the type of ignoramus who confidently weighs in on the politics of Donald J. Trump and Vladimir Putin over a glass of whisky from Scotland imported through Dubai and making money mostly for people who buy shares on the London Stock Exchange.

“Are you growing any maize there? Don’t disturb us!” said one in another forum where the topic grew as quickly as Ugandan maize tends to.

The sensible ones suggested measures like investing in maize processing plants in those districts where the vast quantities of maize have attracted Kenyan-managed trucks and their wealthy buyers.

That would certainly make a lot of sense, said economic-savvy types, because it would employ more Ugandans, earn the farmers more money upfront due to the ready market, and earn the government even more because those plants would make use of all this electricity we are generating now.

Another contributor took the next leg and pointed out that the logistics end would benefit as well because instead of Uganda playing host to so many old, crumbling lorries carrying sacks of raw maize thrown “anyhowly” onto their beds, our processed product would attract much better logistical handling and management.

See, the thing about processing is that you get to a different level of client who asks for things that make high-level education all the more important – warehouse management including the use of forklifts and pallets, automation of systems and processes, presentation of certificates and other documentation that forces one to adhere to international standardisation…the list is long.

Not only that, came another suggestion: If there are so many Kenyans working so hard to take Ugandan maize out to Kenya, that means we have a brand attribute that can be developed into something much, much bigger! Indeed, whereas we all know that Uganda’s maize and other crop production is mostly due to our soils being so amazingly fertile, perhaps there is a magic in our crops that would increase their value on supermarket shelves if we branded the finished product right and added the words, “Grown In Uganda”.

We smiled. It was all WhatsApp kaboozi and the intellectual daydreaming eventually evaporated like the substances that normally inspire it. But I kept my eye on the maize story in the Kenyan press, and have accumulated piles of newspaper clippings updating Kenyans on a daily basis about the price of maize – raw and processed – and the availability of the stuff.

The Kenyans eat just about as much ugali as we do posho, but they are more in number and tend to have more money overall relative to the rest of us due to their economy having grown the way it has since the 1960s, among other reasons.

Their planning methods appear to be ahead of us as well, if those stories I have read for so many months are anything to go by. The Tanzanians know this and recently banned the exportation of maize from their country because they have worked out that they might not have enough to go around for themselves if the rains don’t work out as planned.

Kenya went as far as to import some maize from Latin America last year (some of those stories are more scandalous than economically educative) but as of a few days ago they announced that the government would fund a deal to shore up their maize reserves.

It is no secret – the deal was brokered by their Ministry of Industrialization and will have the government there financing Kenyan farmers so they can buy 6.6million sacks of maize “cheaply”. The deal was signed with the Grain Council of Uganda – whose identity and purpose I will google in my spare time so we can one day have a discussion over a plate of posho…or Ugali.

Why the deal was brokered by THEIR Ministry of Industrialization should be obvious, but I am looking forward to the discussions in our WhatsApp groups when all the wise Ugandans with access to the internet and drinks start getting angry and spend that money on anything but maize processing.

Perhaps, as one person in the earlier WhatsApp discussion said, the talking and monied classes would pay more attention to all this if they ate more posho ourselves. By the time that happens, we might have Ugali on offer instead.

maputo, inspiring kampala and giving us hope off just one street


MY first visit to Maputo, in Mozambique, did not allow me to visit the entire city by much measure – certainly not fully in the manner that would allow me to analyse everything it had to offer, but the one street I visited for many days made me quite happy.

It is not a secluded corner of paradise carved out of the usual squalor but it qualified for my pleasant approval for a number of reasons I must share with the people at the Kampala Capital City Authority in whom I have a lot of faith.

My hosts, dealing with more than 200 guests for the week, thought of everything including the proclivity of some of the group to pursue health-related activities such as those said to be essential for the avoidance of cardiovascular diseases.

“Leave the hotel and turn right, then jog or walk along the pavement until the Monument,” read the directions the Coca-Cola Beverages Africa team gave us before we left our various countries across the continent.

I read them with the thought that any instruction of that nature about Kampala City would be incomplete without caveats to do with boda-bodas, mentally challenged motor vehicle operators, disenfranchised pedestrians, and street-side property owners so lacking in scruples that visible infringements on public property laws and regulations have not phased them in decades.

On my first evening, pleasantly relieved that the commercial discussions of the day had ended on time, I changed into health-oriented clothing and followed the given directions.

I was half-willing to give up the minute a boda-boda or tree showed up in my direct path, because the people of Mozambique speak Portuguese and having only learned three words in that language I was not ready to engage in arguments to secure territorial control – especially since I couldn’t sustain successful ones at home in the same scenario in languages I am proficient in.

The memory of finding a series of electricity poles in my footpath along an upmarket road in Kololo has never left my mind, and tempered my patient attitude.

See, the idea that these electricity poles could be smack in the middle of a path – not a pavement – on a street or road that hosts a major Ugandan bank, upmarket restaurants selling expensive food, and real estate properties valued at rates that compete globally with cities like New York, London and Paris, is humbling.

Maputo, though, is not any of the usual ‘developed country’ cities, yet this street I was on actually existed and gave me an experience I believe could exist in Kampala, if not Uganda.

I took off on a gentle trot keeping the ocean to my right being careful not to psychologically burden myself with the expectation that the ocean would be on my right all through. Surely I would occasionally find some blight such as a massive cement structure with a hundred stories facing the road and blotting out the sunset on the sea-side?

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The seaside foot and bike path in Maputo (Photo by Simon Kaheru)

Disappointing. My right hand side was clear and my trip kept getting disrupted by the sounds of the ocean waves lapping against the sands, making me turn often to watch the white rush of water breaking and going back towards the Asias.

I kept turning back quickly to the road to ensure that no boda-boda would run into my knees and create a medical emergency or, more worryingly, cause my blood to blot the otherwise clean inter-locking paving stones forming the public pavement.

I went three kilometres before realising the risk of that was absolutely zero. And, unlike places I am used to, without revealing where I live and normally operate such manouvres, even if a boda-boda had sped up towards me using the pedestrian road option we would certainly have had enough space to share the width of the pavement!

It was confusing but I kept my cool all the way and constrained myself to stop my excitement attracting attention from various onlookers. There were quite a number – people jogging, others sitting on public benches as couples in comfortable arrangements and viewing the ocean, street entrepreneurs selling coconuts and other local street snacks, and small crowds waiting for taxis they refer to as ‘My Love’ .

They call these ‘My Love’ explained Sergio Fernandes, Coca-Cola Beverages Africa Public Affairs Supremo, because passengers get squashed in the vehicle and hold onto each other so tightly that they might as well refer to each other as ‘My Love’.

Returning to the wide and clean pavements from that digression was easy because there was so much space to meander in and out of safe spaces without stepping into the road – onto the sandy beaches, into roadside tarmacked parking lots, and following curves built into the road to ease foot (not motor vehicle) traffic.

The Mozambiquans have paid so much attention to pedestrians and non-motor vehicularised activities that along a three-kilometre stretch of ocean-front road they have stopped buildings being erected and even built public metallic exercise and game machines.

IMG-0936
Seaside public exercise and play machines in Maputo (Photo by Simon Kaheru)

I have seen these before in Beijing, China – metallic exercise benches, climbing and lifting frames, swings and what not that everyone and anyone can make use of to achieve physical fitness over time – without paying a gym subscription.

Their very existence encourages residents and visitors to the city to use this circuit for their daily or periodical health routines – besides or on top of the existence of that ocean.

Because such people normally walk around with bottled water and other snacks packaged in disposable, non-degradable materials, at two specific points the Mozambiquans provided creatively designed garbage receptacles for plastics, organic waste and paper (all separate).

IMG-0947
Eye-catching and innovative waste separation bins in Maputo (Photo by Simon Kaheru)

And along the route, to cater for the weather, there were trees with canopies providing the type of shade that would have cost a hefty sum if inorganic materials and labour costs had been involved.

It didn’t take me all six kilometres of ocean front to make up my mind about spending time, and therefore money, in Maputo. That one stretch of road was so fulfilling that I would find it difficult to essay another within that city, in case of disappointment, yet it made me believe that they existed.

And that is what I trust that the Kampala Capital City Authority in whom I have a lot of faith will pay keen attention to in due course, for God and MY Country, as well as theirs.

Obrigado!

it’s not witchcraft, Uganda is blessed…gifted by nature!


Maggie, Conrad, Simon & Reynado next to the trophy
Coca-Cola officials welcome the FIFA World Cup Trophy and prepare to take it off the jet onto the tarmac at Entebbe International Airport.From Left: Maggie Kigozi, Conrad van Niekerk, Simon Kaheru & Reinaldo Padua

IF I write or speak about anything other than the FIFA World Cup Trophy this week I will be cheating an entire country – Uganda. We may not have won the actual Trophy yet, but we certainly came top when it came to displaying passion, discipline, orderliness and relating love to the sport called football.

These little victories count on their own, even though the bigger ones like winning the actual Tournament and bringing that Trophy home would weigh way more in value than its dollar equivalent on the open market.

First of all, I won’t mention Coca-Cola too much in this so that I avoid a conflict of interest around my regular employment and this apparent public service and because by now you all know for sure who is ferrying that Trophy around the World.

If I hadn’t had a link to the company I would certainly have been in the running to join the social media “influencers” who went to South Africa to ride along with the Trophy on its dedicated plane.

It wasn’t necessary – I got to bask in the glory of the trophy right here in the warm and wet tropical climes of Uganda – starting on the plane that ferried it here. More importantly, as the President happily said when he was unveiling the Trophy and sending it off on its merry tour of the Pearl of Africa, everybody in the world saw and enjoyed the beauty of Uganda because of this Trophy.

From my close proximity vantage point I can confirm that the excitement in Uganda outshone that in most other countries. At the Kampala Serena Hotel I was tickled to see a lady bringing her children in their school uniform to take photographs next to the pull-up banners set up for the evening event. She had gone through loads of traffic to do this, and had no intention of asking for tickets to the event. They took their photographs and left for home – happy and excited to have been part of this in some small way!

Felicity George, the FIFA Partnerships Manager, said this quite clearly to us when she arrived at the Company Plant in Namanve. She was quite taken aback to see so many staff wearing their Uganda Cranes t-shirts and lining up in an orderly manner to take their photographs with the Trophy.

She spoke to a few of them and they were quite clear about their love for their country and the sport we call Football. She was impressed – out of all the countries she has visited on the Trophy Tour, she said, only Ugandans turned up in their national football colours!

We did well there all through, Ugandans – right from Entebbe Airport and on the roadside.

Taking the Trophy to the Plant for the company staff to enjoy its presence was a touch apart from what happened everywhere else in the world; more heart-tingling was the procedure the Managing Director insisted on – giving priority to the staff of Plastic Recycling Industries and Rwenzori Bottling Company first, and ensuring no hierarchical methods were used to manage the queues.

All through, the FIFA Security chaps in charge of the Trophy were thoroughly excited by the traditional dancers and their varied display of dances. One of them, on the second day, asked me why the dress and dances were so different and gave me the opportunity to explain how many cultures we had in Uganda and part of our history.

The FIFA World Cup Twitter account has about six million followers, and the World Cup itself was viewed, in 2014, by more than three billion (3,000,000,000) people! Imagine if just one percent of those, following this trophy, took up an increased interest in Uganda’s cultures?

The realisation that the Trophy Tour had turned so many eyeballs onto Uganda for those two days caused one fellow at State House to quip, “Eh! How many other things can we bring to Uganda so that we do this?!”

He got the point quite quickly when he noted how excited everyone was at all levels to take photographs with the Trophy.

President Museveni himself walked into the room so early that he took most by surprise, and then gave the Trophy and its attendants so much time and prominence that there was a full photo session on the stairs of State House for the staff and media to enjoy – which HE set up on his own.

Those staff and media, and all other Ugandans who took photographs with the Trophy, number close to ten thousand or so people. Now, if each of us uploaded our photographs to the internet with a positive comment about the country and an inviting message, imagine how much support that would give to the efforts of the Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) and the Uganda Investment Authority (UIA).

Even our Uganda Managing Director, Conrad van Niekerk, was taken aback at the energy levels generated by the Trophy. He was Managing Director in Ghana back in 2010 and when the Trophy visited that country he didn’t see them exhibiting such celebratory measures or turning out in national colours even if THEY WERE PARTICIPATING IN THE WORLD CUP FINALS!

“Uganda is simply amazing!” he kept remarking, at every step of the Tour.

If we all tell our tale of how marvelous Uganda was – even during those two days – believe me the benefits would be mind-blowing. The FIFA crew declared us to be blessed, for instance, because they could not understand how their plane left Cape Town an hour late but managed to land in Entebbe earlier than scheduled!

Then, every time the weather seemed set to destroy the events here, everything just went on smoothly; on one day when the trophy was at Century Bottling Company and being set up a drizzle started and clouds formed to the backdrop of climatically induced rumbling but everything changed as soon as the EmCee announced Conrad’s welcoming speech.

The clouds seemed to draw back as he walked up centre and raised the microphone to his mouth, and the EmCee laughed and accused someone there of engaging in witchcraft.

It’s not witchcraft. Uganda is blessed. We are gifted. By Nature.