Uganda! don’t let the sun go down on another opportunity at the next eclipse


THIS week people in the United States enjoyed a solar eclipse so much that even I got a notification on Monday evening that I needed to prepare to look up into the sky right here in Kampala.

I thought it incredulous that we could be expected to see a solar eclipse in the middle of the night, and straight away forgot to look up at the appointed hour. Americans, including those Ugandans who have changed citizenship and location, created surprisingly excited chatter that made me focus on more important things than my WhatsApp groups.

Having survived the experience without a hitch, I was slightly irritated on Wednesday morning to receive a link to a story advising Americans not to throw away their solar eclipse viewing glasses, but to collect them for Uganda.

The impression the headline created in my mind was that I belong to a country of hand-me-downs for almost anything and everything. Considering that we had our solar eclipse before America did, surely we should be counted as being more advanced at least in that one respect? (please calm down – my tongue is stuck fast within cheek there).

I mean, we made our own solar eclipse viewing devices back then without anyone handing stuff down to us!

The cloud of resentment under which I approached the story was quickly eclipsed by a bright spark of hope at the news that we, in Uganda, would soon be having ANOTHER eclipse viewing event, but not of the solar kind.

Next year, Uganda will enjoy a Total Lunar Eclipse!

Uganda Eclipse

Now, this is not exciting news simply for the scientific value or for meteorological enthusiasm, if that’s the phrase an educated person would choose.

That story I read told me about a group of enthusiasts called Astronomers Without Borders, who are excited about such things. It is a global community with membership in most countries round the world. Uganda has two (2) members listed there, and bigger economies have hundreds of them.

Opportunity? But of course!

Not to hire tents and chairs and drive them to locations for speeches to be held starting with an LC 1 Chairman granting permission for the gathering to happen – NO!

This is a direct, automatic opportunity for our Tourism marketing people to go directly to everybody who might be interested in viewing the Total Lunar Eclipse in Uganda and invite them here with special packages and privileges. 

Restaurants and hotels must immediately begin designing special offers for all these people – who are even listed by name, if you choose to find them using the internet.

And we don’t even have to work hard at it. We can copy directly from what the Americans have just done – within seconds of checking I found a website that predicted that millions would be traveling to and around the country just to catch their solar eclipse.

One fellow suggested that, “The sum estimate from (his) analysis is that between 1.85 and 7.4 million people will visit the path of totality on eclipse day.” – that’s on https://www.greatamericaneclipse.com/.

A couple of other websites detailed many different ways in which they marketed or could market merchandising and experiences and hundreds of other economy-boosting things that made the eclipse a money-making activity for hundreds of Americans and their businesses!

What are we doing, ladies and gentlemen?  

We have had these conversations before, and it is scary to imagine that we still might not get it right.

There are few excuses – especially when the internet tells you that the Lunar Eclipse will happen on Friday, July 27, 2018 at exactly 11:21pm.

“This total lunar eclipse is fully visible in Kampala. The total lunar eclipse is sometimes called a blood moon, as the Moon turns red,” reads on website – basically writing out our Tourism Marketing copy for us!

We have a one-year head start, organisations like the Uganda Tourism Board and Astronomers Without Borders, and lessons from other countries that have just done this. 

Surely – what more do we need?

Shiyaya Coupon Book Advert FINAL.001

marketing Uganda requires more common sense, imagination, preparation and seriousness


Jakob_World_Cross_Country
Photo from https://www.sportstalenthub.com

AS a child I always found the examinations titled ‘General Paper’ intriguing and useful. I don’t recall really studying for it, but had to answer questions on a wide range of things that I always found more interesting than the regular subjects we were examined on.

I recall questions like, ‘What are the advantages to a country of hosting the World Cup?’ and answering them with relish even though I had no memory of class notes to rely on in providing my answers.

When I asked around for the rationale of this paper I was told that it was designed to broaden our scope of thinking; to make us more imaginative.

Later on in life, right up till last weekend, I often ponder that particular question and feel a little flabbergasted that we don’t appear to study this subject seriously enough.

Last Sunday the International Association of Athletic Federations (IAAF) World Cross Country Championships 2017 were held in Kampala, as most people resident here only realised on the day itself.

There was a hue and cry in most circles about the lack of publicity – with at least one newspaper article published in the same space that had carried stories about this event for a number of weeks.

I was too busy to assess why the publicity was low in Kampala or Uganda, and I wasn’t clear about the communication objectives of the organisers of this – the biggest global sporting event Uganda had ever hosted. Ever.

Most countries try to ensure that global sporting events of this nature are heavily attended so that they showcase to the world at large how fun-loving, vibrant, colourful, entertaining and high-spirited their citizens are.

Sports, in general, makes the worlds of television, tourism, investment and marketing go round.

Anyone who doesn’t understand that sentence there must be stopped from getting involved in any initiative to do with Sports, Tourism, Investment and National Marketing at ANY level. From the managers of the events themselves to the people who should have sold hundreds of Rolexes to everyone who came into Uganda to be part of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships 2017.

The complaints about lack of publicity made sense on some level but cannot be blamed on the organisers themselves. The announcement that Kampala would host these races was made back in November 2014, and it was made public in the media and on the internet.

Still, for some reason there are Ugandans who believe that we constantly need to be reminded about things that we have already been told. Those are the same ones who will tell you that when you agree to hold a business meeting with them, you must additionally send them frequent reminders about the meeting.

We need fewer of these Ugandans in existence. More importantly, we need fewer of them in positions of authority and in the private sector.

Instead, we need to culture and develop Ugandans who will read all newspaper articles carefully with a view to identifying opportunities where they lie. Serious Ugandans, on reading back in 2014 that we would be hosting the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, would have taken many sensible steps.

Besides those who would have stepped up their training, like Kiplimo, and aimed to win a Gold Medal without paying for an air ticket to participate for glory in a far off land, the rest should have locked in the contacts of the IAAF (which sent, perhaps, a hundred officials) and the individual teams – the biggest number ever at 59 teams of more than 550 athletes.

A simple internet search reveals the email addresses of most of these teams within three clicks.

After getting those contacts, any hotel or tour company or rolex stand should have sent them offers and invitations directly to take up product and service offerings. And that only if the official organisations were incapable, unwilling or unable (for reasons that cannot be stated politely) to make the necessary connections.

In organised societies, the reasons large events such as these are managed by professionals running the national organisations in charge of marketing, investment and tourism, is because every time the world is focused on one country for an event it means billions of eyes and dollars are pointed there.

It was good that the website www.visituganda.com was visible on the bibs of the runners, but after that the people in charge should have ensured that the photos of the race winners as they cross the finishing line are posted EVERYWHERE AROUND THE WORLD.

Our planning for events of a national nature needs to be more pointed and take into account the objectives for which these events are staged in the first place.

Perhaps we need more of these people to study ‘General Paper’ – common sense studies that build the imagination.

when are Uganda get a t-shirt to promote your country?


THERE is a group of people out there, prominent among whom are Tourism aficionados Amos Wekesa and Stephen Asiimwe, who have offered themselves up to be walking advertisements for Uganda to the international community in the simplest way possible.
These are people who travel frequently outside of Uganda through airports and other such communication hubs that are frequented by large numbers of other people who are likely tourists or, at the very least, travellers.
They are also people who by nature gain public attention merely by virtue of their presence alone.
Their simple activity: Wearing a Uganda t-shirt.
Prominently.
Amos’ rationale makes sense and if you try it out you will find that it works out just fine: turn up in your Uganda t-shirt in front of anyone who hasn’t heard of Uganda before and they will ask, “What’s that?”
That gives you an opportunity to deliver a well-rehearsed marketing pitch for your country that could drive up tourism or investment:
“Uganda is my country; it’s called the Pearl of Africa because it’s gifted by nature in terms of flora and fauna, and is located in the heart of Africa, mostly on the Equator, which means we have the best weather in the world all year round, which makes us the happiest, most polite and hospitable people ever. You’ve probably heard about Uganda because we’re one of the few countries in the world with Mountain Gorillas, Chimpanzees, Lions, Giraffes, Rhinos, and more than half the world’s bird species all viewable within hours of landing at our main airport, Entebbe.”
Practice saying that and see how easy it is.
Even where people out there have heard of Uganda before, you will find they probably heard something odd and negative about the 1429298538240country and they will be a bit surprised, “Uganda? You mean you can proudly wear that t-shirt out in public?!”
And the response is simple: “Yes…(followed by the other paragraph above).
I joined this group long ago and have a large array of Uganda shirts with me whenever I travel, but even take it a notch higher sometimes.
At an airport in Los Angeles a few weeks ago, I realised that the cafe my group and I were seated at was quite crowded and jumped up with my Uganda t-shirt on full display (body girth helps), then kicked off.
Rather than just walking around and hoping someone would ask a question, I contrived to take a phone call from someone asking me about the best place to visit on holiday.
“A good holiday destination? You want a place where you can have loads of fun whether you’re with family or just friends or on your own?” I started, quite loudly, in my best American accent (speaking slowly, just in case any of them were slow to follow),
“Uganda. I can’t think of anywhere else, man. Uganda… (insert the other paragraph above).”
The reaction was positive; at first I might have been mildly irritating, but being a good performer I threw in some interesting gestures and a couple of dance moves (it’s easy to not be shy in foreign lands). Before long I had their attention and sold Uganda enough to get a couple of thumbs-ups, smiles and nods as I returned to my seat.
Earlier on in my trip, I often got stopped and asked about Uganda with the usual appendage of “Uganda? Idi Amin, right?”, to which I always responded with, “No! Uganda! Simon Kaheru!”
By the time that conversation ended, the person asking would be set right about Uganda (see the other paragraph above).
And right now, I am toying with the idea of designing a tee-shirt with that paragraph above boldly printed on the front, especially because someone my size could certainly pull it off!