IN the midst of all the excitable politicking that has engulfed most of Uganda today and will probably fill our every thought for the rest of the year, a big story has been unfolding on the global stage with the realisation that Greece is flat broke.
Few of you have been as broke or in as much debt as the nation of Greece is suffering right now, but if we don’t pay some wise attention we will individually be even worse off in about a year or so.
You see, the brokeness of the Greeks should not lull us into a sense of security and complacency. Actually, while the world marvels at how badly run they have managed their finances over the last ten years or longer, Uganda is bagging great reviews from Economists and analysts left, right and centre (pushing pessimists firmly aside).
The IMF has conducted periodic three-month reviews of our economy and consistently scored us highly for about a year now; a Harvard-based economic think tank declared in May that we were poised for even greater things in about a decade if we focus; and we are climbing consistently out of the list of poorest countries in the world.
But the wise among us should worry and consider that this news of the poverty of the Greeks might be a Trojan horse that will soon offload piles of Greek businessmen, plumbers, carpenters, teachers, and so on and so forth.
Even as we speak, I have over the last three years encountered a number of products being made in Uganda as a result of the Greek economy collapsing.
One of those items is a brand of jam that is made out of local fruits by a group of local women in Jinja and is on some supermarket shelves. I am quite happy with this jam because it is made in Uganda, and the Zesta people are certainly feeling the pinch.
The local women in Jinja were mobilised by a Greek lady whose name I know not at this point, but who relocated to Uganda with her husband after the economy collapsed there many years ago. They sold what little they had left, got in touch with some close relatives who have been here for a couple of decades, and jumped onto a plane for tropical, sunny, opportunity-laden Uganda.
After being on holiday for a few months living off their depression-depleted savings, the old lady took an interest in the fruits she saw dotted about her neighbourhood, and the ladies that were hanging about.
It didn’t take long for the business to kick off, and now they have products on the shelves!
And that is just one old, retired couple.
First of all, in all recent surveys more than 55% of the Greeks say they are willing to emigrate because of their economy being so lousy, and they don’t mind much where they will go.
Then, the strength of the Euro vis a vis the Uganda Shilling means that even a poor Greek walking in here with a couple of thousand Euros has a good beginning to lean on.
It will be worse for us if they come in with a few old tools or pieces of equipment which we don’t have and can’t even use, together with decades of experience that they have gathered in production, commerce and tourism – even though their record at financial management is extremely lousy.
But our biggest fear should be the superiority complex that they will definitely carry with them, juxtaposed with our inferiority complex here when a foreigner shows up.
If we don’t step up and begin to make use of the opportunities around us as indigenous, capable Ugandans with vast resources, somebody else is going to come here and do so; and if that somebody is an energetic Greek with all the above and faces as little competition as we provide, then we will be eating more Packed Jam Made in Uganda and owned by Greeks.