go and learn some more cricket, Ugandans


WhatsApp Image 2017-04-19 at 09.30.01

UGANDA! This might be coming to your attention a bit late, but you have a whole month to go, so don’t say nobody mentioned it. YOU are hosting the ICC World Cricket League Division 3 Tournament right here in Kampala NEXT MONTH for TEN DAYS.

The ICC is the International Cricket Council and is the world’s governing body of the game or sport called Cricket.

According to www.topendsports.com Cricket is the world’s number two (2) sport, with an estimated 2.5billion fans mostly in Asia, Australia and the UK (and Uganda!), after soccer with an estimated 3.5billion fans in Europe, Africa, Asia and America. The site www.mostpopularsports.net lists Cricket as the world’s number three (3) sport. They calculate this by analysing website visitor traffic using the Alexa traffic ranks of over 300 top sports websites.

www.mostpopularsports.net figures that Cricket is the most popular sport in five (5) countries with a combined population of more than 1.4billion people, and one of the top three (3) in ten countries with a combined population of 3.6billion people.

So, nationally, our hosting the ICC World Cricket League Division 3 Tournament means we are likely to be the focus of attention for nearly half the population of the entire world for TEN RUNNING DAYS.

The economists should have some formula that works out, for instance, what we stand to benefit if just 1% of those 3.6billion people choose to visit Uganda as tourists. That would be 36million tourists.

The Ministry of Tourism figures from 2015 estimate that a tourist injects about US$132 dollars into the country every day on a six-day visit. That means that we could earn US$4.75billion A DAY from those tourists if they all came in at once – though it would be a tight fit within the national creases.

But at least you see the picture?

If we used this opportunity right and got those 36million tourists (1% of people watching the Tournament) to visit over a period of a year, then Uganda would earn US$1.8billion in visa fees alone at US$50 per visa. Add to that the money paid in by the airlines bringing them, the 36million taxi rides, 36 million Rolexes and empoombo sold…

Like that, like that.

So we have many opportunities right here, right now.

Mind you, we had these same opportunities right here in Kampala back in 2014 when Uganda was just about to host the same Tournament of that year.

But, sadly, our right to host got cancelled at the last minute and the tournament was moved to Malaysia. See, in September of 2014, just a month before the Tournament was set to launch, the Police here announced that they had “seized explosives from a suspected Islamist militant cell”.

We were out for a duck.

Commendable work at securing the nation, of course, and we applauded. The BBC reported, at that time back then in 2014 (I have to stress this in case someone makes a mistake) that those al-Shabaab chaps were planning an attack. This was after a US Embassy warning that there were likely to be revenge attacks after an air strike in Somalia that killed al-Shabaab boss, Ahmed Abdi Godane.

That opportunity went up in smoke – which was better than buildings and people doing so, of course, so nobody is really complaining about the Police doing its work.

But this time round we need to grip our bats tightly and swing the opportunity for a century of national benefits that will stop us complaining about how tight the economy is.

The number of people coming in for the Tournament itself is not massive in a way that will constitute the end-all of this opportunity. There are only 112 team players coming in and possibly not as many officials. I would be pleasantly surprised if more than ten times that number came in to watch the games live at the venues.

But those who will be tuning in on TV and reading the newspapers? Millions upon millions. There are cricket-crazy countries like India and Pakistan where the sport is almost a religion; those two countries alone account for a fifth of the world’s population and they WILL tune in to watch.

If we focus our tourism and investment promotion efforts on just those two countries for the next one month and during the tournament then our economic umpires will be shouting “Howzat?!” all the way to the bank.

And now, if you don’t know what that word means, start off by reading up on your cricket terms and terminologies – because 3.6billion people worldwide will be more likely to find your website or order for your product if you speak their language.

The ICC has bowled well; it’s up to us to bat our way right down the order and collect all runs and extras along the way. This is not the time for dead balls or maidens, people! It is time for Cricket!

national security starts with you and I


Uganda Police LogoABOUT five years ago, in the thick of the night, I was on my verandah thinking things through with the help of a well-formulated tonic and generally being alert when I spotted some movement on the road outside.

Focusing my sights through the wall railings, I watched as someone lithe and quick slithered over my neighbour’s wall and went over silently using the method of an athletic high jumper.

I was only alarmed for a few seconds, during which I worked through my options and then whipped out my phone to call the Police. I had the number of our local police station and the direct line of the Officer in Charge (OC) there, as I normally walk over to collect such details when I move into a new neighbourhood.

The station number went through and I quickly reported that I had probably witnessed a possible burglary or robbery either starting or in progress, and gave them directions to the location. Jittery about the likely response time, I tried another number to escalate the issue then walked up to my night guard to work out a plan – just in case we needed to be heroic in some way.

We were still whispering about it a few minutes later when there was a light tap at the gate. Our astonishment at opening to find the police right there only increased when we found that they had not only arrived stealthily but had spread out along our road in some formation I cannot describe.

The commander of the operation explained that they had sneaked up in order not to alert anyone to their presence, and had parked their vehicle a distance away. He asked for more details all in very hushed tones. I explained myself and insisted on going over to the house with them – in the unlikely event that my eyesight had played night-time tricks on me.

When we got to my neighbour’s gate I started to recall that I had heard a little hooting there at the time I was walking to where my askari normally ‘takes cover’. I also recalled seeing the lights of a car driving down in that direction.

It took a while for the gate to open up but eventually the askari opened up and reluctantly went off to call his employer, my bemused neighbour, who did not appreciate being woken at that hour. I explained myself to him and insisted that he allow a search of the premises just in case the person I had seen was hiding somewhere waiting to strike.

The reluctant askari seemed to be against the idea but we prevailed and the police gained access and conducted a search. They found nothing amiss and no-one of interest. My neighbour was quite perturbed but humoured us enough to allow a second search rousing everyone in the household.

That was when his wife expressed surprise since she had just returned home a short while before that, hence the hooting I had heard.

During that time I realised that this particular neighbour was the only one of the houses around me whose phone number I did not have. I had the contact numbers of all the others, and have had to call them on occasion for things other than to borrow sugar and salt.

Eventually, we worked out that the person I had spotted going over the wall was my neighbour’s askari. It turned out that he had a habit of going for drinks at a nearby kafunda after his employers had retired to bed. This night, his employer (the wife) had stayed out uncharacteristically late but the askari spotted her vehicle from his kafunda and sprinted back to the house.

He arrived a little too late, finding her already hooting at the gate, and took the athletic route over the wall. He deservedly joined the unemployed shortly thereafter, and I added my neighbour’s contact details to my database.

We discussed how badly things could have gone if indeed the person I had spotted had been a burglar or worse, and how my not having my neighbour’s contact details would have caused me great regret forever after.

Right there, at that late hour of the night, we also discussed how impressed we were with the police, as I neither had to invoke any big names nor provide fuel for whatever vehicle they were using. Some of them had even trotted over on foot from their night patrol, I later realised. I applaud those men and women in uniform whenever I get the chance because it can’t be easy to spend nights doing this day in, day out.

Our neighbourhood or community watch has since developed into an institution working closely with the police and local council structures. The recent incidents of highly visible insecurity have triggered off an increase in community policing efforts that we should all take seriously.

In our neighbourhood, we’ve resolved to step up our community policing or neighbourhood watch efforts, starting with information sharing and keeping in touch with each other as neighbours.

We know that crime will not be stopped entirely, but it can be decreased significantly. If we are more alert as citizens and neighbours.

We are the first line of our own security.

marketing Uganda requires more common sense, imagination, preparation and seriousness


Jakob_World_Cross_Country
Photo from https://www.sportstalenthub.com

AS a child I always found the examinations titled ‘General Paper’ intriguing and useful. I don’t recall really studying for it, but had to answer questions on a wide range of things that I always found more interesting than the regular subjects we were examined on.

I recall questions like, ‘What are the advantages to a country of hosting the World Cup?’ and answering them with relish even though I had no memory of class notes to rely on in providing my answers.

When I asked around for the rationale of this paper I was told that it was designed to broaden our scope of thinking; to make us more imaginative.

Later on in life, right up till last weekend, I often ponder that particular question and feel a little flabbergasted that we don’t appear to study this subject seriously enough.

Last Sunday the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) World Cross Country Championships 2017 were held in Kampala, as most people resident here only realised on the day itself.

There was a hue and cry in most circles about the lack of publicity – with at least one newspaper article published in the same space that had carried stories about this event for a number of weeks.

I was too busy to assess why the publicity was low in Kampala or Uganda, and I wasn’t clear about the communication objectives of the organisers of this – the biggest global sporting event Uganda had ever hosted. Ever.

Most countries try to ensure that global sporting events of this nature are heavily attended so that they showcase to the world at large how fun-loving, vibrant, colourful, entertaining and high-spirited their citizens are.

Sports, in general, makes the worlds of television, tourism, investment and marketing go round.

Anyone who doesn’t understand that sentence there must be stopped from getting involved in any initiative to do with Sports, Tourism, Investment and National Marketing at ANY level. From the managers of the events themselves to the people who should have sold hundreds of Rolexes to everyone who came into Uganda to be part of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships 2017.

The complaints about lack of publicity made sense on some level but cannot be blamed on the organisers themselves. The announcement that Kampala would host these races was made back in November 2014, and it was made public in the media and on the internet.

Still, for some reason there are Ugandans who believe that we constantly need to be reminded about things that we have already been told. Those are the same ones who will tell you that when you agree to hold a business meeting with them, you must additionally send them frequent reminders about the meeting.

We need fewer of these Ugandans in existence. More importantly, we need fewer of them in positions of authority and in the private sector.

Instead, we need to culture and develop Ugandans who will read all newspaper articles carefully with a view to identifying opportunities where they lie. Serious Ugandans, on reading back in 2014 that we would be hosting the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, would have taken many sensible steps.

Besides those who would have stepped up their training, like Kiplimo, and aimed to win a Gold Medal without paying for an air ticket to participate for glory in a far off land, the rest should have locked in the contacts of the IAAF (which sent, perhaps, a hundred officials) and the individual teams – the biggest number ever at 59 teams of more than 550 athletes.

A simple internet search reveals the email addresses of most of these teams within three clicks.

After getting those contacts, any hotel or tour company or rolex stand should have sent them offers and invitations directly to take up product and service offerings. And that only if the official organisations were incapable, unwilling or unable (for reasons that cannot be stated politely) to make the necessary connections.

In organised societies, the reasons large events such as these are managed by professionals running the national organisations in charge of marketing, investment and tourism, is because every time the world is focused on one country for an event it means billions of eyes and dollars are pointed there.

It was good that the website www.visituganda.com was visible on the bibs of the runners, but after that the people in charge should have ensured that the photos of the race winners as they cross the finishing line are posted EVERYWHERE AROUND THE WORLD.

Our planning for events of a national nature needs to be more pointed and take into account the objectives for which these events are staged in the first place.

Perhaps we need more of these people to study ‘General Paper’ – common sense studies that build the imagination.

we’re missing the opportunity call on mobile phones by not harnessing our energy, entrepreneurship and the numbers


LISTENING to a podcast the other day I learnt that China has so much of everything that one point in recent history they had more billionaires (United States dollar terms) than the United States with 594 billionaires to America’s 535 billionaires in October last year.

This is not kaboozi relevant for us on its own, so don’t focus too closely on that point. Next, I learnt that the country with the most female billionaires was China – and since this was around Women’s Day I was intrigued and spent a bit more time on that.

Still, though, to focus on just that would be tantamount to gossip, so let’s move along quickly. One of those female billionaires, I learnt, is a lady called Zhou Qunfui.

She became the focus of my thoughts, and not just because her net worth is possibly US$8billion. She was born poor in 1970 and her partially blind single father made bamboo crafts and furniture to raise the family, while doing bicycle repairs. She herself, as a child, helped out by raising animals to earn more money for the family.

She dropped out of school at age 16 and became a migrant worker in Shenzhen, and ended up working in a factory to earn a living while studying accounting. Story fast forward, at age 22 her factory employer shut down and she decided to start her own company making watch lenses.

But while doing so, she noticed that the mobile phone industry was growing pretty fast and soon got into making mobile phone screens instead, creating a touch-screen company called Lens Technology, that started supplying all the big names.

In brief: she started off poor, worked hard, used her experiences to identify opportunities, then employed professionals to take advantage of a fast growing market, producing high-value affordable items that would be demanded in high numbers.

I am not suggesting that any of us here should start a touch screen factory just like that. China has about 1.4billion people, so their mobile phone population is massive enough to get someone to a value of US$8billion.

But Uganda has about 23million mobile phone subscribers (not mobile phones) and an estimated 8million of those use smartphones. But focus on the mobile phones in general.

There is a massive range of opportunities around these mobile phones that we are allowing to go to people elsewhere, and then sending our scarce Uganda shillings there as well.

Where Zhou Qunfui chose to focus on just the screen of the smartphone, we need to find a Ugandan or ten to pick one aspect of the mobile phones being used daily by these 23million subscribers and turn that into their success story.

Most of these mobile phone users, for instance, use phone covers to either protect their devices from dust, dirt or damage, or simply to beautify them. I know young people who have more than one phone cover – sometimes changing them with their outfits.

Phone cover from allexpress.com
Photo from http://www.allexpress.com and product unlikely Made In Uganda

What is stopping someone from setting up a line of these accessories locally made, using our local materials and designed to fit these mobile phones? Where is our Zhou Qunfui to work out a way of turning so many materials into mobile phone covers – kitengi, barkcloth, light lugabire rubber, ensaansa, some brightly coloured batiks, and so on and so forth.

What about phone covers designed cleverly with the Uganda national colours or symbols like the Crested Crane, done in a manner we would proudly brandish? Or even phone covers designed for specific tribes or districts? I suspect that if some Ugandan Zhou Qunfui got in on this they would be quite successful.

What about other mobile phone accessories that could be churned out in vast numbers to take advantage of these 23million mobile phone subscribers? Mobile phone holders for use in the gym or while jogging? Mobile phone stands for use in propping up the phone so you can watch your videos easily at the coffee table (or, God forbid, office desk)?

Let’s just assume that of the 8million smartphones we have our local Zhou Qunfui could get 800,000 smartphones wrapped with her locally made Ugandan products – how much does each cost? The cheap imported plastic ones on the local market go for about Ushs30,000 (some cost thrice that!); that’s a Ushs2.4billion industry right there.

Continue the mathematics from there, Ugandan Zhou.

we shall be known by our fruits, grown from the seeds we normally throw away


File_000
Photo by Simon Kaheru

Having finished a particularly juicy mango some time in December I dilly dallied with the seed even after using my teeth to scrape off all the flesh.

This wasn’t the usual type of string-filled mangoes that agitate me into bursting through my toothpick and dental floss budget.

The mango I had gormandised was the old-school type we used to find everywhere from Kampala through Kyaggwe to Hoima when I was a child. That big variety that didn’t become soft to tell you it was ripe, but when you bit through the tough skin your teeth found the flesh to be hard yet very pleasantly sweet.

The nostalgic feeling it brought me made me hang on to the seed for a few hours, on a saucer at my window sill as I worked the computer (hands all washed). I kept glancing at it thinking about how much I would happily eat one every hour were it not for the sweetness overkill.

This particular mango had come, with a few others, from a visit to a loved one in Ntinda right here in Kampala. During our afternoon chat we noticed that the tree, which had stood there many years, had finally offered up a respectable number of fruits with almost no effort besides patience.

My replenishment plan would involve a few more visits, but that wouldn’t keep me in the endless supply of said mangoes that I craved at that point. Mulling over the problem a little longer, I realised that the drying seed on the saucer next to me was the solution right there.

I have planted many mango trees over the last couple of years, planning to establish a constant supply for my domestic consumption as well as some light commerce in years to come.

Our family consumes so many mangoes, in our small set of homes, that if one of us became a supplier then we would have a cheaper source and also run a mini operation wealth creation.

All those trees came from seedlings purchased at a fair sum but topped off with transportation costs then made bigger by the bulk I have to purchase each time.

The internet, always useful for such purposes, told me quite clearly how to convert my drying seed into a seedling – which my seedling suppliers will not be excited to learn. The internet, being mostly written in climates that are not as friendly and blessed as tropical Uganda, included bits in their processes that made me realise how many more trees I would have grown by now if I had started thinking properly much earlier.

I immediately made a resolution to convert as many fruit seeds as I encounter this year into seedlings with as little fuss as possible. At some point last year I discovered the Butternut Squash, a relative of the ordinary pumpkin, and contrived some recipes so bewitching that I started thinking about the Squash in my spare time.

The problem was that each one cost about Ushs5,000 in regular supermarkets. One day I put the seeds aside, after cutting a Squash open, and planted them one by one in small cups of soil. A couple of weeks later they had germinated and I am now trying to grow my own butternut squash in various places instead of spending Ushs5,000 each in a supermarket.

With the fruit project, it has been three months of regularly consuming avocadoes, mangoes and fenne (jackfruit), allowing the seeds to dry out, then planting them in small cans and bottles. I have been largely successful – more with the fenne and avocado than the mangoes, but successful all the same, to a notable extent. Even the chillis, onions and tomatoes have sprouted something.

While I wait for the experts to tell me how fruitful the seedlings will be when they grow, I recall that six years ago I devised a scheme that should have led me to this point much earlier were it not for an insufficient infusion of lugezi gezi amongst my domestic staff.

At that time, I established a garbage separation system so we could collect our organic waste and use it to create compost, while disposing of the plastic, paper and other waste through the garbage collection companies. It worked for only a short while, after which the people tasked with implementation couldn’t be bothered and the Manager (myself) lost focus on the trees because of the forest.

I am returning my focus to the trees henceforth, and resuming garbage separation as part of my mini operation wealth creation project.

My success shall be shown by my fruits, as the Good Book says in Matthew.