THERE is a group of people out there, prominent among whom are Tourism aficionados Amos Wekesa and Stephen Asiimwe, who have offered themselves up to be walking advertisements for Uganda to the international community in the simplest way possible.
These are people who travel frequently outside of Uganda through airports and other such communication hubs that are frequented by large numbers of other people who are likely tourists or, at the very least, travellers.
They are also people who by nature gain public attention merely by virtue of their presence alone.
Their simple activity: Wearing a Uganda t-shirt.
Amos’ rationale makes sense and if you try it out you will find that it works out just fine: turn up in your Uganda t-shirt in front of anyone who hasn’t heard of Uganda before and they will ask, “What’s that?”
That gives you an opportunity to deliver a well-rehearsed marketing pitch for your country that could drive up tourism or investment:
“Uganda is my country; it’s called the Pearl of Africa because it’s gifted by nature in terms of flora and fauna, and is located in the heart of Africa, mostly on the Equator, which means we have the best weather in the world all year round, which makes us the happiest, most polite and hospitable people ever. You’ve probably heard about Uganda because we’re one of the few countries in the world with Mountain Gorillas, Chimpanzees, Lions, Giraffes, Rhinos, and more than half the world’s bird species all viewable within hours of landing at our main airport, Entebbe.”
Practice saying that and see how easy it is.
Even where people out there have heard of Uganda before, you will find they probably heard something odd and negative about the country and they will be a bit surprised, “Uganda? You mean you can proudly wear that t-shirt out in public?!”
And the response is simple: “Yes…(followed by the other paragraph above).
I joined this group long ago and have a large array of Uganda shirts with me whenever I travel, but even take it a notch higher sometimes.
At an airport in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, I realised that the cafe my group and I were seated at was quite crowded and jumped up with my Uganda t-shirt on full display (body girth helps), then kicked off.
Rather than just walking around and hoping someone would ask a question, I contrived to take a phone call from someone asking me about the best place to visit on holiday.
“A good holiday destination? You want a place where you can have loads of fun whether you’re with family or just friends or on your own?” I started, quite loudly, in my best American accent (speaking slowly, just in case any of them were slow to follow),
“Uganda. I can’t think of anywhere else, man. Uganda… (insert the other paragraph above).”
The reaction was positive; at first I might have been mildly irritating, but being a good performer I threw in some interesting gestures and a couple of dance moves (it’s easy to not be shy in foreign lands). Before long I had their attention and sold Uganda enough to get a couple of thumbs-ups, smiles and nods as I returned to my seat.
Earlier on in my trip, I often got stopped and asked about Uganda with the usual appendage of “Uganda? Idi Amin, right?”, to which I always responded with, “No! Uganda! Simon Kaheru!”
By the time that conversation ended, the person asking would be set right about Uganda (see the other paragraph above).
And right now, I am toying with the idea of designing a tee-shirt with that paragraph above boldly printed on the front, especially because someone my size could certainly pull it off!