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!

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


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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.

why i’m scared of owning a restaurant


Taste Budz Ntinda
Photo from Foursquare

I’M scared of running a restaurant, coffee shop or eatery. I’m so scared that I’ll only do it if I am the person cooking, cleaning, and serving customers. Me, myselef.

It’s been a dream of mine for a long, long time – owning a profitable enough eatery that I can live off it doing all the other stuff that I enjoy.

Sitting on the terrace at the Taste Budz of the Capital Shoppers City Mall in Ntinda and swatting away numerous houseflies settled it for me.

Even as I chose the location I knew I wasn’t going to enjoy it, but I needed somewhere to sit and wait till my next meeting nearby. I was quite certain I wouldn’t be enjoying any food here, so I planned to drink just a pot of spiced black tea with honey (I’m also cheap like that).

So I took up position, slapped open the Macbook Pro and watched the waiting staff watching me through the grimy window. It was a public holiday, and they were mostly chilling – some seated at a table chatting and texting while one of them folded up those little thin serviettes into triangles.

Three others were behind the counter chatting and moving things about for some reason that the person who invested money in this venture might not have included in the Staff Manual or books of accounts.

This is one reason I am afraid of owning such a business. I cannot imagine paying rent, electricity bills, internet costs (there is a paper glued to the window here that says ‘Free WiFi’), food costs, staff salaries and so on and so forth, then having just one customer sit at the tables at 1100hrs on a public holiday.

(In your mind, reader, change tense now because I am doing so here)

A minute in, a chap walks up to me slowly with a worn menu card and generally mumbles something as if unsure whether I am a customer or…(I don’t know what else I could be).

“Do you have black tea? Spiced?” I ask.

“Yes,” he says, toying with the menu card.

“Please give me one black tea. Spiced.”

I know that the menu is not impressive but now that there is Free WiFi I feel it would only be fair for me to appear to be spending good money here.

So I ask for it.

He must be intelligent, because he appears surprised and tries to hand it to me but I pretend to be busy with the laptop and gesture to the table so he places it there.

Nothing to report, except that I check for my hand sanitiser and find comfort that it is present before I handle the menu card.

That’s another thing I’m scared of. I cannot imagine owning a restaurant and then getting told my menu cards are fake, with their laminated plastic covering and funny spellings. Then supposing these things are so expensive that restaurant owners can only change them once every twenty years or so? These might be things that non-restaurant owners don’t know and only discover after investing in the business. Then people start talking about your entire family because the menu cards at your restaurant are so old and sticky and worn and dirty and smelly.

I am also scared of being a restaurant owner getting sued for spreading some deadly disease by way of a bacteria infested menu card that I placed in the hands of a customer.

A few minutes later, I gesture to him and ask for the Free WiFi. He puts his hands together as if to rub off some of the bacteria from the menu card he had picked up and says, “I don’t know the code.”

He seems upset by this lack of knowledge – as would I be, if I were him.

“But it says there that you offer Free WiFi.”

“They don’t allow us to know the code.”

I look at him silently for a bit so that we can both spend some time thinking about this situation rather than brainstorming or arguing.

Eventually he figures out a solution.

“Let me call someone to give it to you.”

He returns with the black tea, presumably spiced, and sugar. All in those metallic contraptions that must be the cornerstone of some empire somewhere that convinced Ugandans that this is proper etiquette.

When did we start using these damn things and when will we realise we need to destroy them all? Why do those tea pots NEVER pour out tea properly? How come we all know this but still use them? What were the manufacturers thinking when they made them? Where are they made anyway? <— Five W’s and H. Tick.

“Please give me honey instead?”

“We don’t have honey,” the fellow says, and makes to leave.

“I don’t take sugar with my tea, so please get me honey,” I say with a firmness that normally works with the children and people who expect to be paid in exchange for goods and services. He was clearly neither of the above.

He looks at me as if I am being dense and decides to explain a little further, so as to clear out any doubts and confusion on my part.

“We normally get the honey from upstairs but it is closed. Those people haven’t come yet.”

My confusion deepens because whereas I am vaguely aware that there is an upstairs section to this Mall and perhaps even to this restaurant itself, I see no reason for this detail to be shared with me.

“Then I have to cancel the tea.”

He looks at the teapot, cup and sugar arrangement briefly, then at me. Then he leaves.

“Excuse me!”

He turns back.

“Seriously – please get me honey instead of sugar, or take back the tea. And don’t take long because if it cools and you bring honey I still can’t drink it.”

He leaves and returns two minutes later with a fresh, non-uniformed employee. Not likely the Manager, but clearly higher up the ladder – maybe from upstairs?

She doesn’t have honey in her hands and comes right up to me before I realise that this is the custodian of the Free WiFi code (Taste110). At this point I enter into a moral dilemma – if they don’t bring me the honey I will send back the tea; will I still be entitled to the Free WiFi?

I debate for a few seconds then take the path of the Christian. She understands me quite well, exchanges a look with the waiter, then they walk off together for a few seconds.

She returns with a small piece of paper bearing the Free WiFi code (Taste110). The waiter follows closely behind her and removes the metallic tea pot, sugar bowl, and the cup and saucer.

I am scared of running a restaurant where they do that – spend my investment while not bothering much to get a return on it. I am scared of having employees who allow a customer to sit on the chairs, use the electricity and space, and EVEN the ‘Free WiFi’ without trying too hard to get some money out of his pocket.

These things really scare me. To think that I could be the owner of this place, which is about 200 metres away from the Capital Shopper’s Supermarket that sells honey at about Ushs5,000 a jar, yet have employees withdraw tea and sugar from a paying customer…

I fear to imagine being the owner of that restaurant – what did they do with the tea that had been brewed? How do they recover the cost of heating the pot of water involved?

The fears continue to rise as I log on and start typing out this lengthy review, and somebody else walks in, taking up a seat on the verandah. Within one minute a different waiter walks over in that slow, hesitant way we tend to use when employed in such jobs. He moves faster than my waiter, and seems more awake. They talk a little bit and a menu card is placed in the customer’s hands.

Eventually, the customer asks for a soda and hands over a Ushs50,000 note right away. I can’t be the restaurant owner who doesn’t get feedback from the staff about how people keep looking at the menu but they don’t order.

Or maybe it was just a slow morning with picky, stingy customers?

I still feel a little bad about using the ‘Free WiFi’ so I call this more sprightly looking waiter and ask for a bottle. He brings me my bottle – Dasani – and places it on the table.

I probably wouldn’t have used a glass if it had been placed on the table, but I feel a little slighted that none is offered.

Ripping the kaveera off the top of the bottle makes me gag as it is DEFINITELY SMELLING OF SOMETHING UNHYGIENIC!

WTH?

I push it away and take another sniff and indeed, I feel like calling up the people at NEMA…or UNBS. A friend comes over to say hi and I ask him to smell the bottle. He is aghast. The waiter appears to notice, and comes over to check (marks given for that). I ask him to smell the bottle as well – “Nothing.”

“THAT smells okay to you?!”

“Yes, sir.”

I am at such a low point in my life that I can’t raise a tantrum, so I smile and bid my friend farewell.

And the waiter shocks me with: “I can get you another bottle if you want.”

Courtesy. Politeness. Attentiveness to the needs of a customer. Why is this surprising? Astonishing? Downright shocking?

I would hate to be a restaurant owner where my staff’s courtesy is a surprise. It’s hard being an entrepreneur sometimes…too many times. Especially in the food business – I’ll only do it if I am the person cooking, cleaning, and serving customers. Me, myselef.

Get Involved. Don’t Simply Complain


Pote's Sphere

It’s annoying how much we  complain……especially about our government.

I just watched a TED Talk this morning where the speaker said that the average age at which we achieve great things in the world is 35 years old. Now, I’m almost 40, and I have not yet achieved any great thing. That means that there’s someone under 30 who is going to achieve something great in his 20s for me to be able to maintain the average 35 years old. And that is assuming I achieve something great some time soon in my early 40s.

Anyhow, being almost 40, it also means that I am around the age where we are supposed to be in the thick of management of our country and driving development in our country. But instead of being one of the drivers of development, me and my generation spend a lot of time criticising government but without providing even…

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let’s get smart about graduation gowns…and ‘official’ dress in general


A FEW months ago I was at an event in the Parliament of Uganda during which warnings were issued against participants making their way into the August House without first clothing themselves smartly in ‘official’ attire.

Official attire, according to the honourable gentleman who reminded everyone of the rules of the House, included a necktie for men. The Parliamentary Rules of Procedure, however, do not actually require us to wear neckties but people get kicked out every day over this lack of ‘smartness’.

Just to be clear, the Dress Code listed under Section 73 of Part XII of the Parliamentary Rules reads as follows:

parliamentary-dress-code

The incident returned to me last week because of the number of people in Kampala who were unlucky enough to be robed in what we call ‘Graduation Gowns’ on the days when it didn’t actually rain or get so cold for the black robes to be worn with comfort. I suspect that besides the people who actually sold or hired the robes, the other trades that did well because of the dress code on Graduation Day are the vendors of anti-perspirants and bathing soaps.

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A cross-section of our numerous Graduands from one of our numerous events (Photo from http://www.campusbee.ug)
I once had to wear a ‘Graduation Gown’ or Academic Robe myself, as a Graduand, and certainly didn’t find it comfortable at all but had to follow the ‘rules’ until I got out of the University gates sans proud parents. My gown festered thereafter in an old suitcase with my mortar until I later needed to play at something for a fancy dress party.

That’s me, second from left, properly attired.

Even back then I couldn’t find anyone to explain to me why we dressed up this way. The explanation for the necktie is equally wanting, as most people will tell you that it makes men “look smart”.

Nelson Mandela, may his soul Rest In Peace, helped break that stereotype by going about in his colourfully styled formal shirts that we eventually picked up, and looking smarter than most besuited politicians. Many West Africans also break from this medieval European concept of smartness and instead go about in their formal robes most of us call ‘Agbada’.

Reading up on the history of the necktie is irritating. Most accounts can’t explain why we wear them but point to some Croatian mercenaries hired in the France of Louis XIII (in the 17th Century!) who wore a piece of cloth round their necks for some unclear reason. Maybe they generally had hideous Adam’s Apples and took to hiding them with this thing that King Louis XIII named ‘La Cravate’.

I have always suspected that the reason for the damn thing is to keep those men in Europe warm, along with their three-piece suits, since their climate is generally frozen or dripping wet and cold. Or, maybe, the Croatians needed to hide protruding Adams Apples.

Apart from the people in the Rwenzoris, Kabale and Kisoro, therefore, the rest of us should by now have another mode of ‘smartness’ that would be more comfortable and logical – like a nice, formal shirt or tunic like the Kanzu (provided for in the Parliamentary Rules).

We don’t. Instead, we must wear neck ties and sweat in our offices, courts of law, Parliament, and other places where we should be encouraging brains to work smartly with minimal discomfort and distraction so we can apply them to our numerous problems and development needs.

It is those same rules that had Graduands spending sums of money ranging from Ushs75,000 to even Ushs300,000, by some accounts, on ‘Graduation Gowns’. Most universities demand that Graduates attending the official ceremonies be robed, mostly because they need to be identified easily and for the ceremony to be presented in proper pomp.

I did think, during my Graduation ceremony, that the money spent on my dressing could have been better spent on renting a small abode closer to my proposed place of work (or just out of the parents’ eyes so I could continue with the life of a misguided young man), but rules were rules and I had to be ‘smart’.

Still, I did hope back then that one day we would have Graduands robed in gowns lighter and more suitable for our weather. The history of that gown, according to some sources on the internet, starts in the medieval universities of Europe when education was conducted by the churches and so the dressing was adopted from the clerics then.

Because the buildings they operated in were mostly large and unheated, one had to wear those thick robes in order to keep warm. That was smart of them.

More to that, though, was the need to separate the students from ordinary people by way of dress code – hence the term ‘Town and Gown‘. The townspeople wore their ordinary clothing, while the students wore gowns – which separation often led to clashes between the two groups as the students usually acted arrogantly over the poorly educated, lowly citizens.

Our universities actually do have ordinary Academic Gowns but students don’t always wear them – they only show up during protests and other small events, and when they do they are of the light variety.

Where ceremonies take place out in the open tropical air, therefore, the thick gowns should be found as inappropriate as they feel worn on top of heavy cotton, double-lined suits all buttoned up over neckties.

One day, hopefully, some scholars of history, fashion design, economics, and common sense might find it in themselves to get together and do a more serious thesis on this. They will present a dissertation that leads to a revolution in our institutions of higher learning so that our Academic and Graduation Gowns are more suitable to our circumstances.

The smart people that take that assignment up will probably earn immediate employment in our Private Sector Foundation, Investment Authority, Export Promotion Board, Ministries of Agriculture (for putting local cotton to use), Trade & Industry (it should be obvious why), Gender & Culture (for localising a foreign concept) and Finance (again – obvious) or in the private sector itself.

They will deserve such recognition and postings because the definition of ‘smart‘ to do with “having or showing quick-witted intelligence” is much more important than the one about “well-dressed, neat and stylish”. Or, in my humble opinion, it should be.