#oscarssowhite is not the issue when you’re in a kazigo


Chris Rock at the Oscars
Courtesy Photo: http://www.thewrap.com

I MADE a decision to stop watching the Oscars and Grammies back in the late 90s when, one night as we were gathering to watch the glitzy ceremony, Paul Busharizi burst into a typically uncontrollable fit of laughter at me.

Our viewing station was the kazigo next to mine, and as we walked past my door I smoothly inserted and turned the key in the door lock, unlocked the padlock, threw back the bolt, pushed the door open and quickly tossed my notebook into the dark room where I was certain my bed was located, almost without breaking a step.

Bush was impressed at the fluidity of my movements, but that quickly broke down into his fits of laughter when my notebook landed onto the edge of what sounded like a plate with crockery on it, bouncing it into the air to crash land into some other items of an indeterminate but loud, clattering nature – muffled as I shut the door within seconds of having opened it.

This was muzigo life.

As usual, I endured his ribbing and it didn’t hurt my feelings because it was really funny. But I became alive to the idea that I was putting aside these hours to watch the glittering world of Hollywood’s richest and finest in their splendid clothes at expensive hotels, from the comfort of a squalid one-room muzigo off a very fair sized colour TV.

So I have tried over the years to bring some glitz and glamour into my own little life in whatever small measure, even if there are no lights and cameras involved.

Part of that has been supporting stages for our own entertainment industry to claim some of the prominence and attention the Oscars and other such shows seem to own.

Further opportunity to do so showed itself when, for the last couple of weeks on the international scene an uproar erupted over racism in the world of entertainment, under the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.

#OscarsSoWhite rocked social media almost as much as #BlackLivesMatter – which came up because of all those killings that involved white (police)men and dead black men – also racism.

#OscarsSoWhite arose because people were indignant that ALL the nominees for the Oscars this year were white – no blacks were deemed good enough to be nominated for these prized awards, and social mediaratti lost its collective control.

This was just weeks after Ugandan model Aamito Lagum was the subject of racist comments from ignorant and angry seemingly ‘white’ people, indignant over her inclusion in an ad for some high-end cosmetics – and that resulted in the social media campaign #PrettyLipsPeriod.

As all that was happening on the global scene I paid a visit to my daughter’s school and noticed once again that there were many posters, motivational messages and text book pages that feature non-Ugandans (their being white should not be the central issue).

As we waited to chat with her teacher, I received a couple of those ‘Good Morning’ and ‘Have a nice day’ WhatsApp messages with images of non-Ugandan (let’s not say ‘white’) babies, and my irritation bubbled over.

I immediately resolved to create my own WhatsApp greeting images using my own children (coming soon to a phone near you), in order to right the global imbalance between black and white. I am also creating for my daughter’s school motivational posters and messaging using images of ordinary, local Ugandans.

Even before vying for Oscar-winning roles, I am certain that creating more Ugandan content will right any so-called racial injustice and counter #OscarsSoWhite more effectively than a hashtag campaign.

If we allow our children to settle for a muzigo with a TV on which to watch the Oscars they will never get to the damn show either, let alone believe that they can create their own respectable alternative.

all hail the queen of Katwe


IF you don’t know Frozen, you either have no children, no TV, a very low media appetite, or all of the above.

That makes you commercially unimportant in the global scheme that the promoters of that movie designed and implemented well enough to take over the world of entertainment and commerce so decisively that the movie is reported to have grossed more in revenue in one year than some countries do in decades.

Your irrelevance to the global economic equations of the world’s premier businesspeople aside, you must – at least – have heard of Disney. The Walt Disney Company? Again, if you haven’t, then even your ability to read (especially in the English language) is a miracle you should be proud of.
Disney has been behind the world’s biggest entertainment projects for years and years; besides their amusement parks, we can focus on only their movies to get to the point here:
Their animated movie The Lion King made US$313million in the first few years after its release, while the musical (performed on stage) made US$6.2billion (BILLION!) in three years from ticket sales alone, and was seen by 75million people! Toy Story 3 grossed US$1.063 billion in 2010. Frozen earned $398.4 million in the United States and $674 million internationally to take the title. By March 2014 it had grossed US$1.072 billion in revenue after opening in Japan – and has continued earning since.
Disney knows how to make money out of entertainment. Let’s not even talk in detail about their amusement parks and merchandising, because there is too much information out there.
One Frozen statistic that flummoxed me was to do with a dress of one of the Elsa dolls; this dress that had retailed at US$150 sold out and started going for US$1,000 on eBay…secondhand, in some cases!
Then also, in one day in 2014 in the United States, Frozen sold 3.2 Million DVD and Blu-ray Discs. In one day.
Much more importantly, they make massive amounts from franchises. One US authority reveals that: Mickey Mouse brings in $4 billion in sales a year; the Disney Princesses (Jasmine, Snow White, Cinderella, Ariel, Mulan, etc. – I name them for a reason that will become apparent shortly) $4 billion; the “Cars” and “Winnie the Pooh” each $2 billion a year; and “Toy Story” brings in $1 billion a year.
Still with me?
This is one of Disney’s releases of 2016, about Ugandan chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi, who rose from Kampala’s slums to international chess stardom.
The movie will be released in April and will star Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo (that black agent in Spooks) – and also feature Madina Nalwanga playing Phiona Mutesi, Ntare Mwine, and Maurice Kirya.
You guys!
Disney is going to feature a movie about Uganda (go back up a few paragraphs and read those figures again).
That means they are likely to make good amounts of money doing so while giving us – the entire nation – free publicity to make what we will with it.
Even if we just found a way of squeezing one of our promotional phrases onto the DVD covers, we would benefit greatly.
But let’s go to Katwe, first. Not many of us – you reading this – spend time in Katwe or can identify it apart from the tarmac bit we drive through on the way from Entebbe.
Now that it is going to get Disneyfied, the people at the Kampala Capital City Authority, Uganda Tourism Board and Uganda Investment Authority need to look up quickly and do some work there.
Create some Katwe trails so tourists enthralled by the movie can come visit and walk through Mutesi’s home(s), eat the food she ate, and jump over the dirty bits of road she skipped through as a child.
Speaking of food, does the Rolex appear in the movie? Luwombo? Katogo? Spiced tea with Cassava and gnuts? All Uganda’s restaurants and hotels should introduce a ‘Katwe Option’ onto their menus. This is the time to officialise Ugandan cuisine onto the world market and sell it in a big way so we have Rolex stands in New York, London, and at Disneyland!
That same Disneyland is where a lot of the merchandising rakes in the dollars, but let’s be clever over here and create Queen of Katwe chess boards, gomesis, bags and other merchandising.
Speaking of which, remember those Disney princesses named above? I have detested having to buy them for my daughters and nieces, and seeing the adulation beaming out of their eyes, but I will LOVE doing so for a doll named Mutesi…
Kudos to that young lady for putting Uganda on the map so well by usurping great odds to excel in a field so unexpected.
Phiona Mutesi! The Presidential Awards Committee should take that name and spell it correctly.
So should the media; our biggest celebrities and heroines are in the slums and villages, not in nightclubs and cities.
PHIONA-MUTESI
Phiona Mutesi: Our Queen of Katwe – Photo from i.huffpost.com

good Ugandans can be friends with good Spaniards


If you’ve ever heard of #SpainIsNotUganda, please don’t think me a hypocrite because of the following:
This week the soccer legend Patrick Kluivert visited Uganda for the first time in his life as a crucial step in the set up of a promotional tour that will open Uganda up to tens of millions of potential tourists and investors in coming years.
The story behind the story, though, is a tale of good Ugandans versus bad Ugandans and how one group triumphed over the other for God and Country.
It all started with a good Ugandan, a young chap reportedly called Joseph Baguma who applied to join a soccer academy in Spain run by Rayco Garcia Cabrera, a soccer talent scout, and passed the trials easily.
Baguma was the first Ugandan ever to join the academy, and played so well that he got even more of Rayco’s attention – so much so that the soccer scout told his mother about the young man, and the old woman got Baguma to move out of his hotel and into her home.
And Baguma talked about Uganda a lot, even though he was based in England; before long Rayco was convinced that he could find more talent of this nature if he came over here himself.
After consulting his colleagues – the Patrick Kluiverts, Johann Cruyff’s and Lionel Messi’s – Rayco Garcia took a contact from Baguma and flew to Entebbe.
Within hours he was blown away by the beauty of the place, the hospitality of the people, and the promise of tourism – much the same way Kluivert was when he arrived this week – the story of every visitor to Uganda.
He kept spotting talent whenever he saw children dancing, playing soccer, running about – see, the things scouts look out for are not just accomplished soccer players already assigned teams. To his eyes, most of the bare feet he saw kicking balls in Uganda were golden boots gleaming in the sun!
But the contact he had been given was a bad Ugandan. For two weeks, Rayco was shuttled from fruitless meeting to fruitless meeting, achieving nothing close to progress in the way of securing interest in opening up a talent academy in Uganda, or hosting the Barcelona Legends to a promotional game here.
Instead, he got asked for money to set up high level meetings, and even the small things seemed odd to him – like the way his contact always had a meal in front of him when they met, but was never around to deal with the bill.
He couldn’t understand why the Ugandans were not seeing what he saw. When Uhuru Kenyatta happened upon him at a hotel in Kampala a couple of weeks ago, within minutes the Kenyan President had stopped everyone and whispered urgent words of invitation for Rayco to drop everything and go to Kenya.
Because of the talent he kept seeing, he stayed on a few days more, in spite of the phone calls from back home asking him to head back to business.
On his last night, he had drafted a letter of frustration to share with his management team back home, when another contact, Basketball’s Ambrose Tashobya, suggested that he meet with Tourism’s Amos Wekesa.
Those two good Ugandans turned the tide round.
Amos (please note that I am on first-name basis with him) cancelled Rayco’s flight out and insisted that the man stays another week to see some of the tourism attractions, and accomplish what brought him.20150824_153259
A few days later, the Barcelona Legends team captain himself was intown and within hours they were chattering excitedly about building an exclusive high-end lodge that would be patronised by the world’s biggest names in Sports, a set of town houses for world soccer’s biggest names (Barcelona players first, of course), a soccer academy based somewhere in Uganda that would feed the one back home…
…and the next day they were shuttling between meetings with more good Ugandans – including the Prime Minister and President who within hours had confirmed government support of their promotional tour during which they would visit the national parks, nature reserves, and lots more.
This is no small feat.
IMG-20150826-WA0010
Barcelona FC is the second most valuable sports team in the world,
worth US$3.2 billion, and the world’s fourth richest football club in terms of revenue, with an annual turnover of €484.6 million.
More importantly, the official club Twitter handle has more than 15million Twitter followers, and each player has an average of 10million – if this December all those people receive tweets from their small gods declaring Uganda to be beautiful, peaceful, hospitable, promising and a must-visit…
Well, this week I met both soccer stars; and one of my favourite conversations involved a sincere and earnest apology from Rayco Garcia Cabrera for #SpainIsNotUganda – it certainly isn’t, but we can be friends on some level for God and Country.

the Gecaga-ism in YOU revealed by Obama’s visit


Jomo Gecaga scoring a lifetime achievement
Jomo Gecaga scoring a lifetime achievement. Photo from http://www.kenyan-post.com/

OF THE numerous photographs that did the rounds on WhatsApp, email, Twitter and Facebook from Obama’s visit to Kenya, the one that made me look up and take notice of our overall focus was one of a chap with his hand on the bonnet of “The Beast”.

(“The Beast” is the motor vehicle of the United States President, and you can google the rest because I don’t have time for it here.)

I sat up because the fellow in the photo was described as the Personal Assistant (or Private Secretary) to the President of the Republic of Kenya, and named as Jomo Gecaga.

The man appeared quite foolish in that photograph as a Secret Service fellow appeared to be stopping him from putting his hand on the vehicle.

That Gecaga fellow’s excitement at being near the car that conveys the President of the United States was a little understandable until I discovered that not only is he a nephew of Kenyatta, he IS Chief of Staff of the Kenyan President and attended some of the best schools in the world – including, according to the internet, Eton.

Gecaga and The Beast 2

THAT GUY was the one having his photo taken next to the car of the US President the way those kids in your village do when you drive your second hand four wheel drive car over there for Christmas?!

I was flummoxed, which sounds like the Sheng word for the kind of punishment one would mete out to a fellow caught in his situation according to that photograph.

Even a well-heeled chap like that one could lower himself to this and get told off by askaris? America is a superpower kweli!

And I couldn’t laugh at him properly myself because over the entire period almost right up to this point, I find that most of the material being shared with me by otherwise upstanding members of society is the WhatsApp, Twitter and Facebook equivalent of copping a photograph with one’s hand on “The Beast”.

Check your phone and laptop – how many people sent you links to the terms of the pacts and bilateral agreements signed between Kenya and the United States during that visit? How many of your pals engaged in insightful analysis about how Uganda (or whatever other country you are in) could benefit from the presence of the United States President and right here – right next door where we go on bus rides to see rally cars, eat nyama choma and collect cars from the port to drive them back to Kampala?

Did any of your pals talk about the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, especially since Uganda was named yet again just TWO WEEKS AGO as the world’s most entrepreneurial country?

Did Ugandans set up Rolex stands from Jomo Kenyatta airport to trap all the Secret Service men and possibly even entice Obama? Did we do anything to stress to his entourage that the single entry visa that put them in Kenya could have elicited value for money if they hopped over to Uganda quickly for a day – perhaps even using the airport parking of British Airways, since those ones are not going to be around for a while anyway?

I didn’t even hear about any serious restaurants creating an #ObamaInKenya rolex and putting the menu online so they attract Google search hits to their websites.

Obviously I might be linked to the wrong social and business networks and should therefore seek to join those in which members were invited to or made their way to the Summit in Nairobi to mingle in with globally accomplished entrepreneurs from the United States and across this continent.

Do you know anyone who went to meet with the billionaires that accompanied Obama? Maybe one of them met ex-Mayor of New York Michael Bloomberg (worth US$37.5billion), Businessman Aliko Dangote (worth US$17billion), and TV Sharks Daymond Garfield John (worth US$250million), Barbara Corcoran (worth US$80million), Mark Cuban (worth US$3billion)…the list is much longer!

Luckily for my self-esteem, none of the people I have been communicating with has sent me photos of personal achievements such as standing next to the Presidential Car or a Secret Service Guard.

But sadly, none has shared with me their prospects for increased business and entrepreneurship or even personal development pursuits with the United States. All I have received so far are Gecaga-istic exclamations around Obama and the paraphernalia around his office.

Let’s see if we do different when the Pope comes over…

wake up! the greeks are coming!


Greece Sign
Photo from independent.co.uk

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.