first, let’s focus our irritation on the urban planners


AFTER a three-hour journey covering ten kilometres of a tarmac road last week, I was sufficiently incensed at one group of people in particular, and hereby call for our national attention to be turned straight onto them.

See, there is no way we should be suffering with this phenomenon that links specific and predictable factors to the creation of the heavy traffic that disrupts so many lives in so many ways.

We all know when it is going to rain and we all know when schools are in or out. Rain and other weather patterns are regularly made available to us by way of the internet via mobile phones and computers.

For those still living in the past, every night there are television news bulletins that even show us graphics of raindrops, as if to accommodate those within our society who are so dim-witted they cannot recognise the four letter word ‘rain’.

As for school holiday schedules, those could be harder to identify if one doesn’t have a child resident in a boarding school. But for all the irritation they cause road users, surely we should do what I do and keep checking with parents of these children to mark the dates when they will be thronging the roads to take pilao and Minute Maid juice on visitation dates, or to pick them up for holidays.

My three hour trip last week almost put me in trouble but the person I was going to meet was also delayed, and so we agreed to change our meeting time and venue.

That day school hadn’t yet broken out but I presume most parents had whipped out their extra cars a few days early in order to test their suitability for ferrying teenagers back for the holidays.

This coincided with a rainstorm of significantly heavier proportions than normal suddenly erupting mid-afternoon and trapping us in gridlocks created by the stupidity and selfishness of road-users who couldn’t see or think beyond the number plate immediately in front of them.

A really bad traffic jam – in a photo taken from bloomberg.com and, luckily, NOT in Kampala

Many others suffered worse. My friend, Matthew Lorika, got caught in the horrendous traffic en route to a business meeting along Jinja Road that he couldn’t miss otherwise a large crop upcountry would have suffered.

Assessing the heavy Jinja Road traffic and the rainstorm looming above, he ditched his car and hopped onto a boda-boda so he could get to his destination quickly, finish business and return before the downpour. The traffic was so bad that even the boda-boda got caught in it!

He made his trip and presentation of his sample for processing and export, but had to hang around for hours waiting for the rain and traffic to clear.

In those traffic jam situations I normally join everybody else in giving way to Ambulances and every time I think to myself how unlikely it is that the sufferers inside them will make it to hospital in time to recover.

And last week I considered who those occupants might be, going through many professions. Some made me smile – like if taxi drivers could ever go on one of those life-saving rides, would they thereafter be more considerate about parking in a way that blocks traffic flow? That almost had me giggling with glee at the possibility.

But not as much as the thought of what would happen if Urban Planners were caught in life-threatening situations, put into an Ambulance, and then found the traffic so bad they couldn’t make it to the hospital on time.

That got me thinking a bit more. Who are these Urban Planners, in Kampala or Uganda?

Because I haven’t studied it professionally I had to google the phrase ‘Urban Planning’ and found it defined as: “a technical and political process concerned with the development and design of land use and the built environment, including air, water, and the infrastructure passing into and out of urban areas, such as transportation, communications, and distribution networks.”

I can only presume that we have such people employed in our central and local governments because I see it is available for study at University level in Uganda. While other institutions offer related courses, Makerere University lists a ‘Bachelors Degree in Urban Planning’ as well as a ‘Masters of Science in Urban Planning and Design’!

So where are the people who study these things? Where did they find jobs? And if the people who took those jobs in places like Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA) and all districts simply didn’t study for their jobs professionally, then we need the Police and Inspector General of Government and other forces to flush them out of office.

Surely the least these Urban Planners could do for us would be to announce when traffic will be heavier because of school schedules, so that we make conscious decisions to stay out of it? But no – they didn’t study any of this in school at any level, obviously.

Which makes me wonder what THEY do when caught in that traffic? Are they not irritated by it all? Or are they the ones speeding through with Ambulances and convoys with pseudo-strobe lights?

Do our Urban Planners own the fuel companies that benefit so much from the time we spend idling and crawling in traffic jams?

One way or another, there is something not right, so while the IGG and Police work out how to deal with this, since as road-users we can’t check for the weather forecast or school schedules or change our selfish driving habits, I propose a bridging solution:

Let’s give Urban Planners special number plate markers like the ones of ministers, so we can see them on the road. And let’s create some reverse sirens and strobe-lighting so that when they approach we make them stay at the very back of any line of motor vehicles they meet.

If we can just pile up all our traffic irritation onto this one group of people, it will most certainly be a beginning to getting them to solve this issue. If.

maputo, inspiring kampala and giving us hope off just one street


MY first visit to Maputo, in Mozambique, did not allow me to visit the entire city by much measure – certainly not fully in the manner that would allow me to analyse everything it had to offer, but the one street I visited for many days made me quite happy.

It is not a secluded corner of paradise carved out of the usual squalor but it qualified for my pleasant approval for a number of reasons I must share with the people at the Kampala Capital City Authority in whom I have a lot of faith.

My hosts, dealing with more than 200 guests for the week, thought of everything including the proclivity of some of the group to pursue health-related activities such as those said to be essential for the avoidance of cardiovascular diseases.

“Leave the hotel and turn right, then jog or walk along the pavement until the Monument,” read the directions the Coca-Cola Beverages Africa team gave us before we left our various countries across the continent.

I read them with the thought that any instruction of that nature about Kampala City would be incomplete without caveats to do with boda-bodas, mentally challenged motor vehicle operators, disenfranchised pedestrians, and street-side property owners so lacking in scruples that visible infringements on public property laws and regulations have not phased them in decades.

On my first evening, pleasantly relieved that the commercial discussions of the day had ended on time, I changed into health-oriented clothing and followed the given directions.

I was half-willing to give up the minute a boda-boda or tree showed up in my direct path, because the people of Mozambique speak Portuguese and having only learned three words in that language I was not ready to engage in arguments to secure territorial control – especially since I couldn’t sustain successful ones at home in the same scenario in languages I am proficient in.

The memory of finding a series of electricity poles in my footpath along an upmarket road in Kololo has never left my mind, and tempered my patient attitude.

See, the idea that these electricity poles could be smack in the middle of a path – not a pavement – on a street or road that hosts a major Ugandan bank, upmarket restaurants selling expensive food, and real estate properties valued at rates that compete globally with cities like New York, London and Paris, is humbling.

Maputo, though, is not any of the usual ‘developed country’ cities, yet this street I was on actually existed and gave me an experience I believe could exist in Kampala, if not Uganda.

I took off on a gentle trot keeping the ocean to my right being careful not to psychologically burden myself with the expectation that the ocean would be on my right all through. Surely I would occasionally find some blight such as a massive cement structure with a hundred stories facing the road and blotting out the sunset on the sea-side?

IMG-0935
The seaside foot and bike path in Maputo (Photo by Simon Kaheru)

Disappointing. My right hand side was clear and my trip kept getting disrupted by the sounds of the ocean waves lapping against the sands, making me turn often to watch the white rush of water breaking and going back towards the Asias.

I kept turning back quickly to the road to ensure that no boda-boda would run into my knees and create a medical emergency or, more worryingly, cause my blood to blot the otherwise clean inter-locking paving stones forming the public pavement.

I went three kilometres before realising the risk of that was absolutely zero. And, unlike places I am used to, without revealing where I live and normally operate such manouvres, even if a boda-boda had sped up towards me using the pedestrian road option we would certainly have had enough space to share the width of the pavement!

It was confusing but I kept my cool all the way and constrained myself to stop my excitement attracting attention from various onlookers. There were quite a number – people jogging, others sitting on public benches as couples in comfortable arrangements and viewing the ocean, street entrepreneurs selling coconuts and other local street snacks, and small crowds waiting for taxis they refer to as ‘My Love’ .

They call these ‘My Love’ explained Sergio Fernandes, Coca-Cola Beverages Africa Public Affairs Supremo, because passengers get squashed in the vehicle and hold onto each other so tightly that they might as well refer to each other as ‘My Love’.

Returning to the wide and clean pavements from that digression was easy because there was so much space to meander in and out of safe spaces without stepping into the road – onto the sandy beaches, into roadside tarmacked parking lots, and following curves built into the road to ease foot (not motor vehicle) traffic.

The Mozambiquans have paid so much attention to pedestrians and non-motor vehicularised activities that along a three-kilometre stretch of ocean-front road they have stopped buildings being erected and even built public metallic exercise and game machines.

IMG-0936
Seaside public exercise and play machines in Maputo (Photo by Simon Kaheru)

I have seen these before in Beijing, China – metallic exercise benches, climbing and lifting frames, swings and what not that everyone and anyone can make use of to achieve physical fitness over time – without paying a gym subscription.

Their very existence encourages residents and visitors to the city to use this circuit for their daily or periodical health routines – besides or on top of the existence of that ocean.

Because such people normally walk around with bottled water and other snacks packaged in disposable, non-degradable materials, at two specific points the Mozambiquans provided creatively designed garbage receptacles for plastics, organic waste and paper (all separate).

IMG-0947
Eye-catching and innovative waste separation bins in Maputo (Photo by Simon Kaheru)

And along the route, to cater for the weather, there were trees with canopies providing the type of shade that would have cost a hefty sum if inorganic materials and labour costs had been involved.

It didn’t take me all six kilometres of ocean front to make up my mind about spending time, and therefore money, in Maputo. That one stretch of road was so fulfilling that I would find it difficult to essay another within that city, in case of disappointment, yet it made me believe that they existed.

And that is what I trust that the Kampala Capital City Authority in whom I have a lot of faith will pay keen attention to in due course, for God and MY Country, as well as theirs.

Obrigado!

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

uganda: time to open the national office of event planning and fill it wisely…but urgently


Museveni Selfie
Photo from http://www.matookerepublic.com

IF you were like me and found it surprising that there was a major Commonwealth event taking place in Kampala this week, then please accept my sympathies for missing yet more opportunities for this country.

According to the official website: “The Commonwealth brings together government ministers, senior officials, young leaders, and youth workers from across the globe for the 9th Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting.”

The meeting involves the Youth Minister’s meeting, the Youth Forum and the Youth Stakeholder’s Forum. This meeting, I have discovered, takes place every four years in a different country each time – and the one in Uganda this week is the 9th in the series.

There are 52 countries in the Commonwealth, so a basic mathematical analysis into this means that the next time Uganda might get a chance to host such an event will be the year 2181.

These thoughts came to me because during this week I also received news of the Tokyo Olympics 2020. This news was broken to me NOT by way of a sports publication but through an ICT magazine – www.computerweekly.com.

The article in this magazine was titled, ‘How Japan is gearing up to secure the Tokyo Olympics’, and explained a non-obvious link between computers and the world’s biggest sporting event.

The story told us that the ever-efficient Japanese, hosts of the 2020 Olympics, were focused on securing electricity and communication systems THREE YEARS ahead of the event, to ensure there are no cyber attacks or system failures in 2020.

Three years to go, and they are already planning for contingencies. Some articles even state things like, “The 2020 Olympics are around the corner…

The Japanese have planned their 2020 event to such levels of detail that even the possibility of cyber interruptions is being looked into.

When I remarked on this to a youthful colleague, on the day the event opened and a photograph circulated widely of the grey-haired Kirunda Kivenjinja at a podium opening the event, he laughed.

“Even you, “ he said, “You can’t claim to be good at planning, so don’t start that kaboozi…”

He was right about one part, but we really have to stop and think a little bit.

The Permanent Secretary for Youth, Gender and Culture, Pius Bigirimana, wrote an article about the Conference and concluded with: “Let me also mention that right now and in days to come, all Commonwealth focus will be on this important event and this will further showcase Uganda to the world.”

Right.

Another youth asked me, when I mentioned the Conference to her, whether it was really trending worldwide on the social media platforms that most youth spend their time on.

Luckily, the President himself stepped forward with a selfie stick and created at least one superb image that went viral for hours on end via digital media, starting with his half million Twitter followers.

The rest of the stats of impressions and views of the hashtag @9CYMM are pathetic.

Yet we knew FOUR YEARS AGO that we would be hosting this most important event in the country with the world’s youngest population. We knew FOUR YEARS AGO that this event would make Uganda the focus of at least 52 countries for a long period in the run-up to the Conference, then during the three days of the Conference and meetings, and thereafter when they return to their homes, and update their Facebook walls and photo albums. We had FOUR YEARS to plan our hashtags, and menus, and itineraries and millions of other opportunities.

I say millions of opportunities because there are millions of youth in Uganda alone who could each have been brought on board in some small way to take advantage of this event – not necessarily by attending it, but even by tweeting it or gramming (from Instagram) elements of the meetings, or using the hashtag to promote bits of Uganda that would be highlighted to the millions following @9CYMM in the 52 Commonwealth countries.

Mind you, this opportunity is so massive that we are amazing in the way we have let it pass. From a tourism or investment point of view, for instance, the Commonwealth countries are english speaking and can communicate with us rather easily, and have certain other similarities that make it easier for them to send their nationals here to benefit us. Plus, many of them presumably don’t have stringent visa requirements and other prejudices that would keep other ordinary people from bringing their funds to Uganda.

I’m sure some segment of our millions of youth here would have appreciated the opportunity to make souvenirs for the people who came for the Conference to buy. Better still, they would have certainly been happy to take them round the country on tours, and sell them Rolexes and other home grown delicacies. Even just Re-Tweeting or Liking posts about Uganda so that the rest of the world’s seven billion people get a good impression of this country would be putting this resource to good use.

I checked the impressions of the hashtags and googled for the #CYMM and was disappointed at the numbers. Little of the above was done.

As usual, though, I took up hope. Since the Japanese are global experts at getting precision right and exact, should we not aspire to be like them? Perhaps we can take some lessons from their Tokyo 2020 Olympics planning and then apply some of them to our upcoming events. Maybe we can create an office in charge of events planning, whose first role would be to compile a list of all events coming up in future.

For instance, what are the Independence Celebrations on October 9 this year going to look like? What about the UMA Exhibition in the first week of October? These events are just two months away but try googling for the theme or other aspects around them and see. THAT is what the Office of Events Planning would concentrate on. Identify opportunities around events, publicize them so that the general public can work out more, and make them nationally profitable.

Since we have up to 2181 for the next @CYMM, we can even send a few people to Tokyo 2020 specifically to pick up ideas from the ground there, for use in 164 years’ time. We appear capable of waiting another three years, since we allow these opportunities to casually go by without batting an eye lid.

a little bit more about that colonial racism and Kampala…just a little bit


Benard Acema* whipped up quite the storm this week with his post The Racism Behind Kampala; most of the responses being the “What? How Could I Not Have Seen This Before?!” kind that satisfied the mind of a person who yearns for social change out of consciousness.

Some of the responses, though, ranged from those stating there could NOT have been racism in Uganda to others who claimed to have read all six thousand (6,000) words and taken away just one sentence in summary.

My favourite response came from Frank Morris Matovu, an Architect whose reaction was to calmly upload onto his Facebook wall 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.

Benard Acema’s intellectual and literary effort has proved̀ invaluable in many respects, including possibly causing a change to our education curriculum if the noises made by some of the people in charge are anything to go by.

Benard Acema tells me he had not read Kendall’s book by the time he wrote his thesis.

define-thesis

Those with literal minds and short fuses should go with the first dictionary definition of the word above, when dealing with Benard Acema’s work. The young man did what few others essay (no pun), linking his observations to thought and realisation and a little bit of research and then leading the rest of us to discovery.

Benard Acema’s thesis will be further dissected, proven or contested by various others in the worlds of social media, academia and even public administration, all of which will exclude me for now.

I only came here to share a few pages from Kendall’s book to aid your reading of Benard Acema, and to tell you to get a soft copy of the same directly from Frank Matovu. (He does not sell the book, but to aid his work compiling and storing such works, please feel free to make a modest contribution by way of Mobile Money to his number – 0758 483 934.)

But before you read the book, don’t be afraid of words like racism, colonialism and imperialism. Acknowledge the fact that they were a reality back then when the colonialists first took over Uganda. Nothing about that should be surprising. What we need to do, as many of the commenters said, is get rid of those ‘isms’ and their negative impacts where they may exist which includes dealing with both the big and the small items. 
define-racism

define-colonialism define-imperialism

Do all three ‘isms’ still exist in Kampala, or Uganda? Benard Acema had valid points to make in that regard, that led to all that debate.

And now, on to the historical facts about settlement in Kampala (and other urban centres), and the question of racism or otherwise:

the-development-of-kampala

Of course there was land reserved for Africans and other land for non-Africans.

the-development-of-kampala-kibuga

the-development-of-kampala-ii

🙂

the-development-of-kampala-iii

Read that one again, please?

And then take these:

the-development-of-kampala-iv

the-development-of-kampala-v

the-development-of-kampala-vi

Mind you, the mere mention of race might not necessarily prove that there was racism afoot, but again that was the reality of those times, as stated later on in the book from the actual Minutes of a meeting of the Central Town Planning Board:

the-principal-of-racial-segregation racial-segregation-again

Naguru, for instance, was reserved for Africans:

the-development-of-kampala-vii

And even if race was not the only consideration there was a way, for a while, of working the formulae out that kept zones racially distinct using economics – since certain professions or trades seemed to be restricted (I said ‘for a while’) to particular races. The restriction of construction styles in some residential areas meant that if you couldn’t afford to build a certain type of house you couldn’t live in a certain neighbourhood…

the-development-of-kampala-viii This planning was neither restricted to Kampala alone, nor Uganda as a country.

In Jinja:

jinja-residential-areas

45

And, again, economic reasons were part of the equation:

50

The same applied elsewhere, in many different ways, but as thousands of Ugandans have declared this week: It WASN’T OBVIOUS!

Which is why I still applaud for Benard Acema, because he tells me the thought occurred to him and kept niggling till he had put his thoughts down in writing – and they appear to be quite accurate. THIS is the stuff that academic study and problem solving is made of. The man clearly did not waste his education, and my hope is that he will continue with it at the same pace while the rest of us play catch up or raise younger children to be like him.

In the time being, all history, social studies and political science teachers, please make some small changes to your teaching texts?

*Benard Acema – Note that I use his name in full so as to ensure it is never forgotten, such that we all strive to educate our children to these heights so they are known for good work such as this.