good Ugandans are orderly…can be more orderly and organised


SOME people consider the compulsion to keep things orderly to be a personal disorder and they use that connotation to intimidate people within our society who insist on having things done properly.

Wikipedia confirms this by saying of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), “In English, the phrase obsessive–compulsive is often used in an informal manner unrelated to OCD to describe someone who is excessively meticulous, perfectionistic, absorbed, or otherwise fixated.”

OCD from buzzfeed.jpg
Photo from buzzfeed.com

I don’t encourage the intimidation and often find reasons to highlight the value of ordering things a certain way. My children now being old enough to get sent to my wallet, for instance, approach it with repeated warnings that the privilege will be withdrawn if they don’t order the notes therein following the pre-set rules.

Whereas we are used to seeing that predilection for disorder in ordinary places, it is particularly disturbing when it shows up where people are educated and carrying out activities for which they are paid serious money.

For instance, when the person in a shop is handing me back my change (or balance) and places the notes in any order facing different directions and upside down and with some of them folded two ways, one folded three ways and the fourth with an ear bit bent back, I show little surprise.

The habit I have of then slowly making a show of unfolding and flattening the notes, then re-organising them so they are in order from the largest to the smallest note could be considered to be “Passive Aggressiveness” but I take it to be a brief practical demonstration or orderliness the shop attendant might benefit from.

There are other instances where I can’t do this because it is impractical and because I freeze up in horror – like when a financial institution or an educational one pays tens of millions of shillings for newspaper advertising to publish lists of names and numbers.

I share this pet peeve with, among others, Paul Bagyenda, an ICT Guru with a penchant for orderliness that he hides from the general public. There was a time when we’d act as a support group for each other on the days such publications interfered with an otherwise good tropical day in the sun, because he is as avid a reader as I am.

We once called up a Kampala bank that kept doing this – publishing pages upon pages of names arranged in no specific manner even though they had the option of alphabetically using Surnames (most logical), Forenames (harder but do-able), or numerically using Account Numbers (well…).

Our wrath once got directed to another financial institution for listing defaulters alphabetically by district, but then using some randomly illogical method underneath the district title – not even attempting to list them using an ascending or descending order based on the amount by which they had defaulted.

This week I found a lesson in patience when I experienced first-hand in person the time-wasting result of this lack of orderliness.

Back in November last year I made a decision to quit using the Gaz petrol station nearest to my home because the attendants refused to discourage people from driving in using the ‘Out’ side of the station – which always caused exit angst when one wanted to drive out having entered through the ‘In’ side in an orderly manner.

Gaz
The Gaz at Seeta – taken from http://www.nileenergy.co.ug

Worse, they had no problem using the first pump when a single car drove in, even though that blocked access to the second pump ahead – causing delays in the fueling process as one had to wait while two pumps with pump attendants in front of you stood idle.

By the time I quit I had signed up for their loyalty card service using a phone app and was accumulating points as I awaited the card itself. So for months now I’ve been getting notification messages that my card was ready for pick-up but was too pre-occupied and disinterested.

Until I had ten minutes to spare this week and had a Christian urge to forgive and forget.

I was asked to park my car and go into the office for a few minutes to sign for my card, which was fair enough so I complied knowing I would be telling a manager that day about how to improve their service.

The young man in the office had clearly had a long day and didn’t mind making this obvious to me but I kept my cool and watched as he commandeered a lackey to sift through a box of plastic cards wrapped up in bundles of 200 each.

At the start of this process I hoped to myself that these were thousands of people who had also quit the station on the same premises or principles as I had.

After many minutes of observing the process my optimism gave way to despair. They had identified my card number using the details I gave them and now needed to physically go through each stack of cards to find the individual one assigned to me.

A third person had been added to the list and, because the office was too small to hold many more people than the four of us and six other people doing similarly tiresome paper-laden tasks, nobody else could join the assignment.

To make matters worse, the fellows were ripping the rubber bands off the stacks, shuffling through the cards to identify my number, and then putting the rubber band back and placing the stack in another box – without placing the cards in better order, following their numbering.

“They are all mixed!” complained the manager, which the other two fellows echoed verbatim.

“They are all mixed!” they said.

I could believe that, watching them mixing the cards up even further as they sought my single card, and had to take matters into my own hands.

Sifting quickly through two batches of cards told me the numbering sequence of each batch of 200 within two minutes and I tested two others to confirm it, then simply checked the top card in two other batches to find the one that most probably held my own.

I found it.

The manager was somewhat astonished, because at first he had watched me and seemed to roll his eyes at how I was too lazy to go through each and every card in each batch I had held up.

By that time I didn’t feel generous enough to launch into a session of lugezi-gezi and just signed documents in a couple of places but insisted on walking him out to the forecourt to explain the reason I had left the station in November last year – hoping that at least that simple level of orderliness would one day be enforced.

He politely appreciated my issue, and promised to effect change. Right there and then, the fellow who should have taken up my first fuel purchase using the loyalty card attempted to exhibit his deep-seated disorganisation but the manager was on hand to set him right.

For the next five minutes, at least, I observed utmost organisation at play, and I kept hope alive.

One day, we will all be organised, orderly and we will all stop thinking that it is a disorder. ‘We’ being Good Ugandans!

would that the new were better than the old…cue Mulago Hospital and nostalgia


IMG-7040.JPG
Guess what place this is?

LAST weekend I found a way of combining roast meat, drinks and a discussion about plastic recycling with an interesting fellow called Frank Morris Matovu, at Zone 7’s Shisanyama (a whole other story of its own).

Frank is an architect, an artist, an avid reader, a curator and a collector of old books.

I first came across him when one Bernard Acema wrote a piece about Kampala that I published on my blog as ‘The Racism Behind Kampala’. Frank read the piece and uploaded more than ninety (90) pages of a 1955 book titled, ‘Town Planning In Uganda; A Brief Description Of The Efforts Made By Government To Control Development Of Urban Areas From 1915 to 1955‘, by Henry Kendall OBE, F.R.I.B.A., M.T.P.I, Director of Town Planning, Uganda.

Intrigued that he had possession of such a book, I tracked him down and he told me his secret. It’s a secret, so obviously I won’t write it down here.

Suffice to say that I intend to benefit from his method as often as possible, and that last weekend was a roaring success for me.

My one caveat when we agreed to meet over meat was that he bring me a good book. I was so eager to receive it when he arrived that I breezed through a greeting and then expressed concern that he appeared to have no book on him.

He protested the lack of pleasantries (that’s the word he used, so you can see why I chose to meet with him), then like magic whipped out the book.

I took it from him carefully because even in the darkness of Zone 7 I could tell it was a delicate manuscript. It was a landscape manuscript that had come unbound and lacked a front cover, but the top page presented a black and white photograph of a familiar landmark that took me a while to recognise.

It was the Mulago Hospital in 1962. (That photograph up there at the start of this online version).

The book, detailing the plans for the construction of the 1962 Mulago Hospital, made for pleasurable reading all through – right from the lucid, well-written preface by then-Minister of Health, E.B.S. Lumu, dated 23 August, 1962.

There are many small details in that document that made me smile and also saddened me – including the fact that this Cabinet Minister didn’t feel the need to write “Hon.” in front of his name, and made no spelling or grammatical error in his three-paragraph preface.

So much has changed over the years, and it’s fun to compare and contrast right now that we are about to launch a new new Mulago Hospital.

Then, the introduction reads, Mulago Hospital was “one of the largest and most up-to-date hospitals in East and probably the whole of tropical Africa” and Kampala was described in glowing terms as “a garden city, spaciously planned, with many trees and open spaces which remain green throughout the year.”

I read that phrase standing atop Naguru Skyz Hotel overlooking most of Kampala and I felt even more sad.

I went back downstairs to read on and enjoy nostalgia and marvel at how much detail the people of the 1950s went into to build Mulago Hospital. There are drawings of how the buildings were arranged to facilitate breezy air flow for the comfort of the patients and “architectural treatments used to achieve sun protection”.

IMG-7042

By the way, the list of people on the Committees to do this work does not include a single Ugandan.

While planning the “Patients’ Environment”, “Colour would be used to create an interesting and cheerful atmosphere.” and “Noise in a multi-storeyed hospital, especially in the tropics where windows are generally open, is a difficult problem. In Mulago it was thought that the breeze links would act as sound barriers…and noisy supply departments would be placed on the periphery of the hospital.”

Speaking of the supply departments, the planning process went so far as to study the diets of the Africans, Indians and Europeans, and design kitchens to handle them.

IMG-7041

“The African diet…is at the present time made up principally of matoke (plantain), lumonde (sweet potatoes), beans and sauces. The diet also includes meat and fish.” reads the book, stating that the hospital would receive “gigantic” quantities of matooke – 1,250,000 pounds per year, which necessitated planning for the disposal of the peels.

THAT is paying attention to detail.

Also, you will be amazed to learn that Kampala was so pristine back then that the following statement was written: “The Kampala Township water supply, which is obtained from Lake Victoria, is one of the purest supplies gazette anywhere in the world, and no water treatment has been provided.”

Imagine that!

The cost of construction was 2,315,000pounds sterling (1957-1962 value) of which 22% was spent in Uganda – including the portable wooden furniture manufactured by the Ministry of Works and Uganda Prisons Industries section. They were thinking straight back then, rather than importing everything.

There is a lot more in that book, and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading it repeatedly, while hoping that the book on the new Mulago Hospital will be as neat, detailed and pleasurable – 56 years later.

exploration drives innovation, so let your kids explore even if they might never return


WhatsApp Image 2018-04-11 at 22.42.51
Me taking a selfie with a most amazing person – in Maputo, Mozambique

A FEW weeks ago I met a most amazing person in Maputo, Mozambique and sat flabbergasted along with 200 other people in a large conference room as she told us her crazy, feasible and totally undesirable (to us) plan for the rest of her life.

Her plan was so unfathomable and yet so amazing that I entered into an uncomfortably nauseous mental space trying to work out whether I wanted her to meet my children and inspire them or to stay tens of thousands of miles away from them so she doesn’t spread the crazy ideas she is implementing.

She came over to a Coca-Cola Beverages Africa conference as a Guest Speaker and to be quite frank our expectations of her when she was announced were on a whole different planet from the person who jumped up onto the stage.

Most of us confessed to ourselves that when we read, “Dr. Adriana Marais” up on the electronic stage backdrop, we expected a scientific nerd-type person kitted up as Doctor-people tend to be.

In her jeans and casual shirt rolled up to expose many bangles, and a wide smile that didn’t distract us from her braids, she appeared to be the ordinary type of girl you would be happy to chat with at a bar on any evening. (There is a whole other story about THAT too!)

She stood there on stage in front of the massive screen and started talking about space travel, saying things in English that we found hard to understand for a while until we just had to accept that we didn’t want to understand or believe her.

Since her childhood (five years of age) she has been excited and enthusiastic about space and space travel. Plus, along the way, she was so disturbed by our poor resource utilisation on earth she figured we would one day run out and became determined to be part of the solution.

Hence her mission to leave Planet Earth and go to discover new life forms elsewhere.

She was not talking about a bus trip or a plane ride.

Adriana Marais from www.adrianamarais.org
Dr. Adriana Marais – taken from http://www.adrianamarais.com

Dr. Adriana Marais is “an aspiring Martian”. She is one of six Africans who are part of a group of 100 candidates to join the ‘Mars One’ project – to establish a human colony on Planet Mars by 2025.

They will go to Mars and live there, NEVER TO RETURN.

You need to sit down to try to understand this properly – just to try – but for the longer story one has to go to the online edition of this (www.skaheru.com).

She described the trip to Mars, and their planned mission, and said many other things that made us all wonder how crazy her and her mates were – which she always considers a compliment.

“The ones crazy enough to think that they can change the world, or create a new one, are the ones who do,” she told me. In any case, she told our audience, space travel on its own spurs innovation here on earth; in the year Apollo 13 happened, so more children in the United States were inspired to do Engineering and the results govern some of our lives today – from the mobile phone and computers we use to the power of the internet.

The training for living on Mars is long and intense, and the trip there alone takes seven (7) months. As she said this, all the people in the room who had complained about the long, two-leg five-hour journey to Mozambique felt quite silly.

And on that trip, she casually told us, “your muscles degrade over the seven months, but since we are not coming back to earth so…it’s okay!”

And when they get to Mars, they will embark on creating water and food and even breathable air. Their disciplines are different – hers being Physics and then Quantum Mechanics – and the selection will be done so they can start a new life and population and world on Planet Mars from almost nothing.

They will send certain machinery and equipment months before they go, which will be assembled by robots when they land there (this is not a lie or a dream – people are seriously doing this while here we have friends who can’t scan a document straight the right way up…).

“We all have resources of life and resources of time. Be careful with them!” she told us, and got my skin tingling.

Travel, mind you, is embedded in her very DNA. Her family left France at some point hundreds of years ago and arrived at the Cape of Good Hope on Voorschuten in 1688 – a trip of very many months to a place where the availability of resources and was very uncertain.

I made the determination to one day get my children to meet her or read a lot about her, so they are as motivated by her very existence as I was.

When I asked her, later on, if she had ever disadvantaged as a girl or woman, she told me she hadn’t.

“In the morning before my first day of school, my mother told me never to let anyone tell me I couldn’t do anything because I was a girl. I remember thinking that was strange and wondering why she had said it. Then lo and behold, on the first day of school the (female) teacher asked the ‘strong boys’ to help move the desks. Remembering what my mom had said, I jumped up and said ‘I am strong’ and helped to move the desks. And this is the spirit in which I live. We need to avoid judging others or allowing ourselves to be judged on the basis of race, gender, culture or background,” she said.

This is what I want my children to be like – but I don’t want them to go all the way to Mars never to return. Not yet.

Here’s the interview in full:

***

  1. Have any of the first 100 of you been taken through psychiatric tests? Most sci-fi films we watch (our experience – the majority of us lay people – with outer space) contain people who engage in terrifying criminal acts because of mental health issues, and most people would ask how sure you are this won’t happen to your group.

“Are you crazy?!” is a common question I am asked as a volunteer to move permanently to Mars. Perhaps. But I take this as a compliment. As we’ve heard, the ones crazy enough to think that they can change the world, or create a new one, are the ones who do. A good Martian settler will have showed an impressive level of sanity and purpose by having trained for decades before leaving Earth in STEM, medicine, counseling, team work, fitness, growing food, working in isolation, telling jokes when things go wrong, and much more, to ensure the survival of the team in the harsh conditions there. 

  1. When did your love for space travel and such extreme exploration actually begin? At what age or stage, considering that you made your decision as soon as you read the headline about MarsOne?

When I read in the paper for the first time about the possibility of applying to go to Mars on a one-way mission, I froze. Suddenly a strange early childhood memory rushed back to me so clearly: We were riding plastic scooters up and down the driveway where I played after school some days, and when we stopped I asked my two friends, “If you could go into space on a spaceship to see what was there, further than we’ve been before, but you knew that you wouldn’t come back, would you go? Just to see what was there…”

They wrinkled their noses and scooted off, not understanding what I meant, while I said determinedly, “I would!”. We must have been five or six.

Humans are explorers by nature and now for the first time the possibility to expand our society beyond Earth has arisen. I can think of no greater purpose than being a part of this adventure, whether going in person or creating awareness that enables future generations to go. 

  1. What did you study, exactly, and why?

I studied physics initially because of thoughts of becoming an astronaut,
 but soon became interested in quantum mechanics after learning about the impossibility of observing something without interacting with it, and therefore disturbing it in some way. I have been fascinated with the implication ever since – that the observer
 is always inextricably part of the system under observation, and that the way a question is posed can influence the answer, from the level
 of human interaction all the way down to measurements performed on single particles.

I began to study photosynthesis on a molecule by molecule, photon by photon level as a part of a field called quantum biology. This led me to the famous question, “What is Life?”

In my opinion, if life can exist on Earth, in an unimaginably large universe, it must also exist or have existed elsewhere. The study of living systems on Earth, and the mystery of how life emerged here, is always going to be severely limited by a lack of precise knowledge of the conditions under which it emerged around four (4) billion years ago, in a possibly singular event. 

Billions of years of evolution of life on Earth have culminated in the possibility of us calling another planet home for the very first time. Untold discoveries lie in wait, including the possibility of finding evidence of life there. The reason I want to go to Mars is simple: The allure of the unknown is far more powerful than the comfort of the known. And the possibility to contribute to the first off-Earth settlement, and potentially find evidence of life on another planet, is something I would give up almost anything to do.

  1. What did your parents say when you told them you were applying for MarsOne and would never return?

They are worried about the logistical feasibility of the mission, and that they would miss me, but they are also proud and fascinated by this proposed adventure.

They likened the mission to that of our ancestors, refugees who escaped religious persecution and all the people they had ever known in Europe to come to South Africa in the 1600s, with no idea of what challenges lay ahead and no chance of affording a return trip. I must have this inclination to explore in my blood.

They know me best of all, and have said it is totally in line with my character to have volunteered for this mission.

  1. What did your bank and landlord (separately) say, whether you have a mortgage or not?

Well, apparently plans to leave the planet doesn’t effect one’s credit rating, so I plan to keep paying my bond in cryptocurrency from Mars if I haven’t done so by the time I leave 🙂 

  1. Did your parents support your choice of education or study course all through or did they ever try to push you in another direction?

My parents have always encouraged me in everything I have done. I wouldn’t be the courageous person I am today without my parents having always allowed me to ask an exhausting amount of questions and to make my own decisions.

Imposing your ideas on how another human should live based on your personal experiences can restrict that person from achieving their full potential. Love is accepting and supporting! I am grateful for having such wonderful parents! 

  1. When you leave Planet Earth and get to Mars never to return, what do you think (at this time) you will miss the most?

Things I won’t miss include: Inequality. Advertising. Pollution. Long queues. two-minute showers in drought-stricken Cape Town (Jokes – our showers on Mars will probably be shorter) 🙂

What I will miss is life – all the people I love who have meant so much to me, all the animals we share our habitat with, all the plants with which we have been living side-by-side for so many eras… I’ll miss being able to breathe and smell the air, the feeling of the wind, sea and sun, the feeling of the ground on bare feet. I’ll miss good steak, and good wine, which I understand after my time with several winemakers, may be hard to produce on Mars… (The oak barrel is an issue).

  1. Did you ever feel disadvantaged as a girl or a woman at any point in your life? When was that and why? (I ask this because I am a father of girls, brother to my sisters, son to my mother(s) and husband to my wife, and I want them to emulate you but NEVER to leave me so absolutely!)

No I have not, but I do have unstoppable determination and a thick skin when I need it.

In the morning before my first day of school, my mother told me never to let anyone tell me I couldn’t do anything because I was a girl. I remember thinking that was strange and wondering why she had said it. Then lo and behold, on the first day of school the (female) teacher asked the ‘strong boys’ to help move the desks.

Remembering what my mom had said, I jumped up and said ‘I am strong’ and helped to move the desks. And this is the spirit in which I live. We need to avoid judging others or allowing ourselves to be judged on the basis of race, gender, culture or background. 

In order to create a future of which we can be proud, we need all of our contributions, and for this we need to view each and every human as the unique, precious resource of intelligence and life that they are.

***

i’m so UGANDA! #ondaba? that means…do you see me?!


Ondaba swaminarayan
Photo of Ondaba champions taken from ondaba.wordpress.com

ON a sojourn in Nairobi and South Africa a short while ago I took along with me a newly-acquired hoodie branded ‘I’m So Uganda! #ondaba?’

Normally, I take my travels decked out in a series of busy t-shirts branded “MunyaUganda” underneath the Uganda flag and accompanied by a tag-line such as “Mpaka kuffa”, “So Life is Tye Maber Loyo” and “kandi I’m Gifted by Nature”. Some of the t-shirts also carry tag-lines taken from our National Anthem such as, “Peace and Friendship” and “Together we’ll always stand”.

The #ondaba brand, though, is clean and stands out distinct as I discovered all through my time away and in that hoodie – starting with a young lady in a Duty Free shop at Entebbe who said, “Wow!” as I walked past and smiled back, thinking it was all about me and not the #ondaba hoodie.

One particular day on that trip I walked to the Nairobi Hospital to visit an ailing friend and then walked all the way to Kenyatta Market to experience the ordinary man’s juicy nyama choma, before circling back to my hotel through the Uhuru Park.

Part of the motivation for my trek was to test the street crime system and prove that this was no longer Nairobbery as we used to know it.

It wasn’t, but I was still trepidatious for a long distance because of the number of looks that came my way until I realised they were all aimed at the hoodie – the other part of the motivation for my trek. It wasn’t the stitching or the mix of the deep blue colour with red lining and yellow lines – it was that declaration: ‘I’m So Uganda! #ondaba?’

I eventually got back to my hotel justifiably thirsty and headed for the swimming pool bar to rehydrate. There, a dapper fellow in expensive sunglasses who was facing me as I walked in turned away from his companion to declare: “Wow!” followed by, “Eh! Eh! Eh! I like that!”

I thought I had mis-heard and found that the only seat I could take was at the table next to theirs but before I could take it he waved and started up a conversation – around the hoodie.

What did the words mean? What triggered it? How could he get one? His companion, a polite and equally well-spoken young lady, readily agreed with him.

They were not Ugandan but were *this* close to changing citizenship over ‘#ondaba’. We progressed the discussion as I texted one of the architects of the campaign to hand this guy over to her, as we had arrived at a point where the Kenya version was on the table and he was ready to draft partnership documents.

Later, as I left for South Africa, the ‘#ondaba’ hoodie caused tears to well up in the eyes of an attendant at the airport lounge. As I was responding to the young man’s demand that I explain the entire campaign to him, a guest at the lounge came over for service at his station and interrupted us.

Halfway through serving her, he did the impossible and self-distracted back to me to discuss ‘#ondaba’ further – till I sent him back to keep his job. He was taken by the campaign because he had done something similar back when Kenya erupted into post-election violence.

On his own, earning a humble salary as a blue-collar worker, he designed, printed and distributed t-shirts free of charge to his fellow Kenyans to build or restore their patriotism. He wanted to join the ‘#ondaba’ campaign.

“This is so patriotic, man! I love it! You know, we Africans need to build more patriotism,” he told me in his impassioned speech.

“When that problem happened here and people were dying (the post-election violence in Kenya in 2007) I felt so bad. My people were dying but my people were the ones killing them! I decided to make t-shirts with a message telling all Kenyans that we are one. Tribe doesn’t matter more than who we are as Kenyans. And even as Africans,” he said, this young man with a humble job but very noble aspirations.

I left him after exchanging contact details and a few hours later I was in South Africa where the keen interest in the message on the hoodie was consistent.

There, in South Africa, at least three people stopped me for more about ‘#Ondaba’ on that first night – and I got to my hotel late that evening.

The story behind the campaign should be a challenge for all of us in our respective countries. The group that made ‘#ondaba’ got together under the comments section of Amos Wekesa’s Facebook posts rallying Ugandans to promote tourism on their own if they thought the government wasn’t doing enough.

Herbert Opio, Denis Mubende, Patrick Ngabirano, Prossy Munabuddu, Belinda Namutebi and a few others discussed ideas and created a powerpoint presentation that they delivered to the Minister of Tourism at the time, with a plan to go all the way to the President.

They realised very quickly they would hit a dead end after lots of talk.

So they brought it to the people instead and agreed on #Ondaba as a social media hashtag, for Ugandans to use whenever and wherever they pleased to show what they were doing having fun and enjoying Uganda.

Then they made t-shirts and hoodies to take it further and…voila! People like Muhereza Kyamutetera and Solomon Oleny joined in and now it’s a whole organisation that is poised to go continent-wide!

The rest is history in the making and you will hear or read or be part of it as it grows. All because ordinary people like you and I and the young man making coffee in the airline lounge, took action to promote their countries.

That’s PATRIOTISM.

We can all play a part – we don’t need lots of money; we need lots of heart for country.

choose wisely – ugali or posho?


Ugali
A plate of Ugali (Photo from http://jikonimagic.com)

LAST year, in two different WhatsApp groups I belong to that have nothing in common save for myself, two very disparate people sent two messages a couple of weeks apart saying exactly the same thing.

The first is an old-time friend who runs a family-owned Ugandan road construction firm that has grown consistently in leaps and bounds over the last twenty years. During the course of his work he has traversed Uganda while building roads, prospecting for more business, and playing golf.

The second is my cousin and friend, who turned his childhood passion into a line of employment and has spent his life listening to, playing and producing music for the rest of us. Again, in the process he has visited many parts of Uganda and made a wide variety of contacts who relish his company – especially on Friday nights in Guvnor nee Ange Noir.

Both these gentlemen surprised me when they expressed their angst because I could never have linked them to the issue they raised.

“Why,” they both asked, “are there so many trucks here (naming two different, distant districts they happened to be in at the time) taking out raw, unprocessed maize in bulk? Honestly speaking, can’t the government or someone else introduce a law or a rule that stops this happening? We need to make it illegal for raw maize to be exported like this!”

This discussion could even end here because the logic should speak for itself, shouldn’t it?

In ensuing rants the numerous suggestions around solving the problem were amusing, spot-on and irritating in different measure – the latter being those comments from the type of ignoramus who confidently weighs in on the politics of Donald J. Trump and Vladimir Putin over a glass of whisky from Scotland imported through Dubai and making money mostly for people who buy shares on the London Stock Exchange.

“Are you growing any maize there? Don’t disturb us!” said one in another forum where the topic grew as quickly as Ugandan maize tends to.

The sensible ones suggested measures like investing in maize processing plants in those districts where the vast quantities of maize have attracted Kenyan-managed trucks and their wealthy buyers.

That would certainly make a lot of sense, said economic-savvy types, because it would employ more Ugandans, earn the farmers more money upfront due to the ready market, and earn the government even more because those plants would make use of all this electricity we are generating now.

Another contributor took the next leg and pointed out that the logistics end would benefit as well because instead of Uganda playing host to so many old, crumbling lorries carrying sacks of raw maize thrown “anyhowly” onto their beds, our processed product would attract much better logistical handling and management.

See, the thing about processing is that you get to a different level of client who asks for things that make high-level education all the more important – warehouse management including the use of forklifts and pallets, automation of systems and processes, presentation of certificates and other documentation that forces one to adhere to international standardisation…the list is long.

Not only that, came another suggestion: If there are so many Kenyans working so hard to take Ugandan maize out to Kenya, that means we have a brand attribute that can be developed into something much, much bigger! Indeed, whereas we all know that Uganda’s maize and other crop production is mostly due to our soils being so amazingly fertile, perhaps there is a magic in our crops that would increase their value on supermarket shelves if we branded the finished product right and added the words, “Grown In Uganda”.

We smiled. It was all WhatsApp kaboozi and the intellectual daydreaming eventually evaporated like the substances that normally inspire it. But I kept my eye on the maize story in the Kenyan press, and have accumulated piles of newspaper clippings updating Kenyans on a daily basis about the price of maize – raw and processed – and the availability of the stuff.

The Kenyans eat just about as much ugali as we do posho, but they are more in number and tend to have more money overall relative to the rest of us due to their economy having grown the way it has since the 1960s, among other reasons.

Their planning methods appear to be ahead of us as well, if those stories I have read for so many months are anything to go by. The Tanzanians know this and recently banned the exportation of maize from their country because they have worked out that they might not have enough to go around for themselves if the rains don’t work out as planned.

Kenya went as far as to import some maize from Latin America last year (some of those stories are more scandalous than economically educative) but as of a few days ago they announced that the government would fund a deal to shore up their maize reserves.

It is no secret – the deal was brokered by their Ministry of Industrialization and will have the government there financing Kenyan farmers so they can buy 6.6million sacks of maize “cheaply”. The deal was signed with the Grain Council of Uganda – whose identity and purpose I will google in my spare time so we can one day have a discussion over a plate of posho…or Ugali.

Why the deal was brokered by THEIR Ministry of Industrialization should be obvious, but I am looking forward to the discussions in our WhatsApp groups when all the wise Ugandans with access to the internet and drinks start getting angry and spend that money on anything but maize processing.

Perhaps, as one person in the earlier WhatsApp discussion said, the talking and monied classes would pay more attention to all this if they ate more posho ourselves. By the time that happens, we might have Ugali on offer instead.