urban planners in kampala, please HELP?!


From redpepper.co.ug - Bukoto-Heights-Apartments
Bukoto Heights Apartments (Photo from http://www.redpepper.co.ug)

Dear Urban Planners and People In Charge of decisions such as which buildings of what type go where and how, Please HELP? The only way we can stop begging you to help is if you implement the stuff you went to school to learn.

I haven’t been to those schools or gone through the academic process you did, so I can’t say for sure that you are taught these things in those official forums; since I presume you live and work in places like Kampala, I hope that you share the pain most of us do.

Having just resumed driving my own vehicle last weekend, I was unprepared for the entire experience of getting from one place to another in one emotionally sound piece – and I can only blame the urban planning people.

To start with, leaving home was more difficult because there are yet MORE apartment blocks going up in the area where I reside. This means that there are MORE motor vehicles being parked in the neighborhoods there overnight, and needing to leave in the mornings for life. It also means that there are MORE motor vehicles visiting the neighborhoods during the day, and occasionally MORE celebrations during the day.

It is paragraphs such as the above that I would assume get written down in text books and notes of people studying urban planning. See, some of the buildings contain apartments with three bedrooms, for instance, which means that they will probably be occupied by a family. That family, in an upscale neighborhood, will almost certainly consist of two adults both gainfully employed in busy jobs that will require them to have a different car each.

When urban planners and those people who approve construction projects don’t take that into consideration and therefore demand that the investors in these apartment blocks create sufficient parking space, we end up having our already narrow neighborhood roads crammed with cars parked by the roadside.

Because the already narrow roads don’t have pavements or sidewalks, pedestrians walk weaving through the roadside cars and suddenly pop up in front of you on the road as you carefully drive through trying to avoid scratching cars on either side. Luckily, you are incapable of driving at speeds that could occasion vehicular bloodshed, but the anguish of avoiding said bloodshed tends to pile up.

By the time you leave the residential area and make it onto the main roads, therefore, you cannot be in a mellow frame of mind, and that makes you less prepared to deal with the discourtesy of your fellow motor vehicle operators. The rapid accumulation of motor vehicles at specific points of the road necessitates the deployment of traffic officers to create a semblance of order but they are normally as lacking in humour as you, the drivers, are.

One can’t blame them as much as the urban planners, whose fault at this point is the failure to increase the number of road connections from point to point in order to ease the flow of traffic. Where I reside, for instance, there are only three roads leading to the main roads, but many others that are called “Closes” because they close up at the gates of private residences.

These residences, urban legend has it, are mostly illegal – having been constructed smack in the middle of a road that should connect to other roads as the urban plans indicate.

The urban plans probably include some maps and should be in the custody of the urban planning people who would, under normal circumstances, take the necessary corrective action so that life is made easier for all Ugandans. I cannot explain why it doesn’t happen, which is why I go about my business as normally as last weekend when I went through this anguish to visit a relative on the other side of town.

En route to my destination I stopped over at a supermarket to pick up a small gift and was directed to the basement parking of the so-called Mall housing the supermarket. As I descended into the dark pit of the building I switched my car lights on and noticed that many of the pillars holding the building up were chipped at the edges.

A car emerging from the basement made it clear why. Within seconds I found myself in a panic because the departing vehicle turned a millisecond too early and was suddenly stuck in position, as was I because of another vehicle behind mine, and another behind that one, all causing a fresh traffic jam from the road into the basement of the building!

I’m certain that in our minds we all bore colourful thoughts about the urban planning people who approved the plans that created a basement with pillars placed so close to each other and the walls. The fellow in the departing car, though, became the most aggrieved when his car chipped off another bit of the edge of the pillar as he tried to make his escape from the dungeon.

Some of this would have been avoided, I’m sure, if the urban planners had considered the nature of the tenants and users of such buildings before approving plans; if each and every one of the tenant shops in that building had one car parked in the basement full-time, then the hundreds of shoppers driving in would always be squeezing their cars in between the spaces left over and against walls and pillars.

That’s another reason the urban planners need to revisit those lessons about public transportation systems and how they fit into the arrangement of buildings in towns and cities. Malls placed in locations far removed from where mass transport stops exist will most certainly be used by car owners – otherwise how are people to carry their shopping home?!

HELP US, we beg you, and revisit all your learnings from school?

leadership is in a crisis from the united states to anywhere…even Uganda


POLITICAL Leadership the world over is taking a hit.

The Leader of the world’s Super Power is a petulant, foul-mouthed, misogynistic character whose ascendence to the top seat in the world’s so-called bastion of ‘freedom’ appalled the most idealistic of us out there.

Despicable Donald Trump
From http://www.businessinsider.com 

 

 

 

It was simply a sign of the times to come. There are many words we employ to describe people who behave the way this world leader does; some polite yet very apt – like ‘despicable’ – while others are too rude to be put into print.

For a long time, closer to home, we have seen these signs manifesting themselves mostly because of the activity that has taken centre stage for long years of political campaigning.

 

Sadly for us, the political activity and campaigns continue to focus more on the campaigns and attainment of positions and titles of ‘leadership’ rather than the results of that leadership.

This Tuesday was less surprising than disappointing, and not because of the usual reasons.

Having been locked up in a Leadership Retreat to discuss matters of seeming importance that would not be affected by the lifting or not of Age Limits anywhere in the world, I emerged from the Board Room in the evening to an amazing array of astonishing videos and social media messages.

The first stood out because of the vivid colour involved. Initially I took it to be some masterful disinformation and sabotage; how could I just believe that an adult who is currently in the public eye could dress up all in bright yellow and drive a bright yellow vehicle of a distinct make and model, then park it by the roadside and not expect to be recognized?

Abiriga Peeing
Someone urinating against a wall in public (From http://www.newvision.co.ug)

Even more, would I not be intellectually careless to simply accept it to be true that the brightly-clad adult would then stop close to the Parliament building where the world’s eyes are focused for the nonce, and still not think that someone would notice them?

More to that, in this day and age of frantic and ubiquitous social media activity and heavy smart phone penetration, what self-respecting grown person would stand up against the wall and engage in a spot of public urination?

Before passing verdict, I trawled through my messages for important ones and was flabbergasted to get to a video clip that purported (I use this word very carefully, because I must tell the children that all this is made up fiction) to be an interview with the same yellow-clad gentlemen suspected of public urination.

I watched the video once and decided that the words could have been doctored, even though the phrase “I was badly off” sounded authentic. I even found a Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) Ordinance 6 of 2006 that read that any person who “commits a nuisance by easing himself or herself in any street or place of public resort…where he or she may be seen by the public…” commits an offence.

Offence of Easing Oneself.jpg

Abiriga Criminal Summons

A short while later, I realized that I was subconsciously trying to avoid addressing the images and footage of Representatives of the Ugandan population engaged in a scuffle that involved hurling chairs about the ‘august’ House. That word ‘august’ means “respected and impressive”.

One person on Twitter lamented at the possibility of the children of any of the people in the Parliamentary fight footage seeing their parents fighting with their workmates, in suits and ties.

Two other video clips depicted other national leaders running from security officials, and others involved insults and disparagements befitting of an American President.

Here’s the one of Odonga Otto being chased by Parliamentary security officials: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Go2GNg0bEj4

Here’s the one of Moses Kasibante being chased by a policeman after jumping off a police pick-up truck: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvIeob4oUxA

There was no salvaging the day, in general, and I urged my phone battery to die quietly so I could rest.

The next morning, a friend of mine expressed his dismay over a snafu with an Operation Wealth Creation project upcountry that meant his mother was going to lose an investment worth Ushs100million.

See, the rains have started and she is ready to plant crops but…and as we were chatting I quickly checked to find out whether any Leader has recently given guidance to the Ugandan populace on agriculture, agribusiness, investment or any other ‘developmental’ issue.

Even though just six months ago we were talking about the drought being a national disaster, we are into the wet season and there is no noise being made about growing food crops and other such unimportant matters. We are all about ‘Politics’.

Finding that the Age Limit debate has dominated the conversation, I checked for a copy of the Bill that is causing so much national excitement that we have lost control of our adrenaline and bladders. All the intellectuals out there should surely have dissected it quite considerably left, right and centre?

Like most of you out there, I couldn’t find it, and I am not interested enough to really chase it down because supporting it is the least of my worries and has not been made desirable in any way, while opposing it appears both cliched and just as distasteful in action, as evidenced on Tuesday.

Indeed, today most everything to do with Politics (not Uganda, yet) is as undesirable and distasteful as finding old men engaged in public urination. In terms of Leadership, we are really badly off right now.

uganda: let’s delete the word ‘potential’ from our national dictionary


ON Wednesday morning I jumped out of bed as a rainstorm raged on outside trying to make it difficult for the lazy-minded to leave their beds.
I could have done with a few extra minutes of sleep that morning but the night before I had said something on a radio talk show about how unjustified it was for most of us to sleep at all, given the amount of work we needed to do to develop Uganda.
The thought that someone could call me out for spending longer in bed than I had publicly said was necessary drove me to my desk, so I was watching the storm through the window over the top of my computer as I made my day’s plan, thinking how happy the farming community must be about this weather change.
Only three people these past two weeks have spoken to me about the rains having started: My primary farming advisor (who is also my loving mother) , reminding me to make the necessary adjustments; my regular supplier of tree seedlings (@GreeningUganda), making a pitch for increased sales as per our standing arrangements; and the third, a friend’s highly energetic domestic employee, in a conversation.
This robust domestic employee, at a lunch party over the weekend, had me helping him move garden furniture because it was threatening to rain. “But are you sure it’s going to rain?” I asked him, to which he responded with a vigorously confident, “The rainy season has started. It will rain.”
The confidence with which he spoke stayed on my mind all through the sumptuous luncheon, and I thought to myself that this domestic worker must have had an agricultural background – like many of us do.
The neat, sprawling gardens in which we lunched were beautiful and vivid in colour and variety, and seeing this domestic employee flit about to and fro in the foreground of the floral compound made me wonder whether, with his knowledge of agriculture and vast amounts of energy, he would be using the rainy season to grow any crops, herbs, or spices for future luncheons to be had.
The potential of it all, I thought to myself, was massive!
Potential.jpg
Immediately, I mentally slapped myself round the back of my head. ‘Potential’. I am a little fed up of that word, in our context.
It means, my dictionary says, “having or showing the capacity to become or develop into something in the future; and latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness.
 
An hour or so later, I read an article that underscored why I dislike that word so much these days.
 
Uganda has potential to feed 200 million people – US envoy’, read the headline, followed by: “Uganda’s fertile agricultural land produces a wide range of food products and has the potential to feed 200 million people in the region and beyond,” said (Deborah) Malac.
This figure of 200 million was published by the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations in August this year, and we have had tens of thousands other declarations of ‘Potential’ around Uganda.
We need to delete the word Potential from our national dictionary as soon as possible. If we don’t then we’re going to stay stuck at this Potentiality forever and ever.
Why does it irritate me?
Because we never seem to leave the Potential box and keep making headlines out of it instead of, ‘Uganda land deal boost for Centum’, as reported this week about Kenyan investors Centum buying up 14,000 acres of land in Uganda to grow maize and soya beans.
Those Kenyans are not dealing with just ‘Potential’ any more. Back in February 2011, a Centum official talked to a Ugandan newspaper about the Potential in Uganda, and today they are putting money onto the ground.
On the same day the newspapers were talking about that ‘Potential’ to feed 200 million people, I saw a news snippet about food relief being taken to the Kigezi region (for people affected by floods, not hunger) and sighed.
At that point, certain we won’t delete the word ‘Potential’ from our vocabularies soon, I stopped fretting over its existence.
Instead, I picked up my phone and contacted the friend who had hosted me to lunch over the weekend, to advise him to get his energetic domestic fellow to take advantage of the rainy season and plant some food-related things somewhere in the massive space surrounding his beautiful house now that the rains have started.

raise those hawkers respectfully to major economic heights


street-hawkers-in-kampala-ityafrica-net
Photo from http://www.emmasadventuresinuganda.wordpress.com/tag/icye/

SINCE I was much younger I have found engagements with street hawkers entertaining in many ways. Along the way I have graduated from comical time-wasting banter to what I hope is a more useful sort of interaction.

I distinctly recall one incident in about 1993 at a place called Hakuna Matata in Bukoto, when one of us – Gary Samuel, we called him, called a hawker over and asked: “Olina…bino?” (‘Do you have…these?’) and gestured with his palm held out flat and slicing into the air sharply.

The hawker, arms full of plastics and mostly light kitchen utensils, had no clue what Gary was asking about but tried guessing. Knives? No. Spoons? No. Brushes? No. Brooms? No.

Everything he was vending was in full view, in his hands and slung over his shoulder and back.

And with each guess, Gary insisted with more animation and sharper gestures shooting higher into he air: “Bino! Bino! (Luganda for ‘These’) Things that go like this (Shooting gesture high into the air). Bino!

We all joined in on the guessing game but none of us could get it right. I could see the hawker losing hope of making a sale, and felt sorry for him when I realized how much direct sunshine he was absorbing. If he had started his journey somewhere in Kikuubo and had his time wasted like this at every bar and pork joint he stopped at but in exchange for a small tip, he would be a millionaire.

He was still guessing in the hope that he would make a sale, while the rest of us who were seated in the shade and having a drink were already fed up with the game. We insisted that Gary put a stop to it and he finally stated what he was asking for:

Olina…amabaati (‘Do you have IRON ROOFING SHEETS?!’)”

Laughter ensued, and the crestfallen hawker sauntered off. Some of us felt bad about it, and I can’t lose the memory of that, and other times when hawkers got asked for DSTV dishes, tractor tyres and other such ridiculous items.

I have tried to make amends over the years in various ways, mostly by showing this cadre of Ugandan entrepreneur a lot more respect and courtesy than they usually receive; for instance, I don’t swat them off when they approach me at traffic lights or in heavy traffic. Instead, I politely smile and mouth a “No, thank you.”

Their stigma is hard to appreciate – imagine being a hawker and finding the sign “Hawkers Not Permitted Here” on every door you walk past even when you are not vending your wares.

Recently, my change of policy towards hawkers has led to interventions of a different kind.

I am keenly aware that the Kampala Capital City Authority Act (2010) Section 3 of Part A, gives KCCA the responsibility to “Prohibit, restrict, regulate or license (a) the sale or hawking of wares or the erection of stalls on any street…”

Because of that, I am rarely eager to exchange money for wares from hawkers, but there is some other support they can benefit from, as one Robert Mwesize reminded me last Friday.

He was vending soft cuddly toys, normally called Teddy Bears, in Ntinda. He hesitated at us because he didn’t think a random group of men fitted in his categorization of sure-deal clients.

We called him over anyway and quickly bought a couple of his second-hand Bears so we could have a conversation with him.

At first, he was reluctant to give us his second name, which gave us the opportunity to explain to him why he needed to do so to increase his sales over time. Then we told him that since he only sold Teddy Bears, as he confessed, he had chosen to specialise and now needed to brand himself as the Teddy Bear guy.

So we took his number (0751266921) and saved it as Robert Mwesize Teddy Bear. I offered him my number but he didn’t see the relevance till I explained that if he built up a customer database he could make regular sales to repeat clients by direct marketing.

All the men in the group, we told him, had wives, girlfriends, daughters and other female interactions that they needed Teddy Bears for. Besides, we explained, if you vended these wares and told these customers that they would make good gifts to hand in as they got home late that night…

His eyes lit up as the brief conversation developed. We even suggested to him that he should spend more time studying the soft, cuddly toys and figuring out a way of making some of his own.

Surely that is possible, isn’t it? Yes, he responded in a low tone of voice as he studied his wares more closely.

We left it there, but I have his number if you are in the market for a Teddy Bear, and high hopes that one day Robert Mwesize will be the owner of a factory manufacturing Teddy Bears somewhere in Kampala, or at least operating a slick distribution system of soft toys to a growing customer base.

Shiyaya Coupon Book Advert FINAL.001

from outer space to your rolex stand – there are many ways to open the mind


Kiira EV car
A Kiira EV Car (Photo from http://kiiramotors.com)

BACK in 2012, Ghana launched it’s Ghana Space Science and Technology Centre and Ghana Space Agency. Two weeks ago the West African nation launched its first satellite into outer space.

In Uganda, it’s been a few years since the Kiira EV solar-powered car project was first started, and I have never had any doubts over its necessity for us.

I know we are not going to be selling cars in competition with the Japanese or the other usual suspects any time soon. But there is a logic behind such projects and ventures that glues other bits of the economy together.

Those of us who scoff at the Kiira vehicles as White Elephants before retiring to our cubicles by way of little white second hand Japanese imports could do with a jolt.

I got one watching a television programme last week that was explaining how Pizza ovens are made.

Disclaimer: I don’t like pizzas as much as I do the Rolex, for obvious reasons (yes – taste, as well as the Uganda factor). The programme just happened to roll up as I was immobile in my seat sans remote control.

I discovered that Americans in the United States eat approximately 100 acres of pizza each day, which is about 3billion Pizzas a year, or 350 slices of them per second. Pizza, as a food is a $32 billion per year industry. Across the United States there are about 70,000 pizzerias – not to mention restaurants and hotels that also make and serve the stuff.

With that in mind, the TV documentary told me, some oven manufacturing people realized that if they developed ovens that cooked pizzas faster, they would sell more ovens to more pizzerias. 

Somebody in the industry asked how the people who go to outer space manage to cook their food under those conditions, and then realized that NASA (the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of the United States) had a solution. NASA kept sending people into outer space for long periods in spaceships with small, confined spaces and little time to cook. 

How did they do it?

NASA had developed some form of cooking using a hot air system (“impingement”) that speed-cooks food – four times faster than normal. The oven manufacturer took that technology and applied it to their ovens on the ground and…voila!

There are other technologies that came from NASA to the catering industry in the United States; one of them arose because one of NASA’s suppliers of natural gas realized he worked late hours and didn’t have time to get home to cook dinner.

He decided to create an oven that would allow you to cook dinner while driving home. How? Using the internet and the remote control technology that runs space equipment, and starting up the oven using using a cell phone or other device over the internet.

The reasons the United States goes into outer space are many, just as are the benefits.

The Kiira EV solar project can provide this very trigger, if we pay more attention to it than the light-headed assumption that we are going to be exporting cars to Japan.

Last week I spoke with an old man I deeply revere who told me about an assembly plant he intends to invest in. Among the benefits of this assembly plant, he explained, would be providing employment for people manufacturing seat belts, seats, seat covers, and other bits that we already make in Uganda to a certain extent. The list included the fabrication of exhaust pipes – a product we actually CAN make even using recycled materials that normally go as ‘scrap’.

As he was talking my mind was on the pizza cooking technology and another product that we have paid little attention to and yet has arisen in this very market we are in.

On the road where my main office is located I smile every day when I spot a ‘Musana Cart’. The ‘Musana Cart’ is a Rolex stand but with a big difference. It is powered by solar energy employed quite simply – a couple of panels on top of the stand that provides the energy needed to fry the chapati and eggs.

That solar energy replaces the need for charcoal, which is an additional operational cost and comes with health risks, storage issues and so on and so forth. The story about the Musana Carts needs to be told fully on its own – it is very uplifting.

But the fact that projects like Kiira EV Solar can lead to so many other applications and innovations spurs the imagination. And that’s why we need to welcome and celebrate all initiatives of this nature.

Next stop – outer space.