katwe is our land of opportunity, and phionah mutesi will be our queen


If you didn’t read this first one here about the Queen of Katwe, then start there.
THE day is finally upon us, more or less. On October 1 and 2, the movie ‘Queen of Katwe’ will premiere in Kampala, Uganda, and it will make its European debut at the BFI Film Festival in London on October 9, 2016 – Independence Day!
This is not an occasion for us to scramble for tickets to attend the event and show off our newest purchase of imported clothing and make up – NO!
 So far, with the limited time available to an individual human being such as myself, reading through the tens of thousands of positive comments about the movie and its themes, focus, content and elements reminds me of what I said on these pages back in January – let’s wake up and use the opportunity given to us by the gallant Phionah Mutesi and her supporters in this cause.
The movie premiered in Toronto, Canada at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival and will enjoy what is called a “limited release” in North America on September 23, 2016. A “limited release” in the world of entertainment means that the movie will play in selected theatres across North America (the United States of America) so that the film owners and promoters gauge exactly how well it will be received before they blitz it full on to the rest of the world.
Not only that – from the comments it is receiving, this movie might make it to the Oscars…meaning that if we play our cards right we might be mentioned at the world’s most watched movie event some time next year – watched live in more than 200 countries last year.
This is not a joke, and it is not a minor achievement either, so our involvement should not be just tweeting and posting it to Facebook, #Uganda! Start planning how to promote this country’s offerings to those 200 countries at the next Oscars, lazima.
There are some short-sighted (mentally) people who have failed to see this for what it is and have therefore not even done the most simple of tasks like even creating a Map of Katwe…
Where is Katwe, exactly? Where is the house in which Phionah Mutesi was raised? Where is the first chess board she used ever, in her now globally famous life? What did she eat as a child growing up that made her so intelligent? Was it a Rolleggs (pronounced Rolex, but no-one ever sued for trademark infringement because of pronunciation)?
Should we be tagging our Rolleggs promotion onto the movie ‘Queen of Katwe’? Of course – THAT is what this opportunity means. The forward thinking people in charge of promoting Uganda, or interested in making some money out of both global and local events will see this.
See, while some characters here were making fun of Uganda’s Rolleggs activities last month, others were launching the dish in European capitals so well that we have in the last three weeks seen organic photographs of Rolleggs vans, menu cards and billboards taken in Denmark, Washington DC and London.

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Viral photograph sent by WhatsApp

My sincere hope is that those were taken in establishments owned by Ugandans who will be sending some of that money here to invest on the Stock Exchange or in poultry farms in the village, but even if that is not the case, we still have what economists call backward linkages.

Thank God that while the majority of us sleep or gripe when these things happen, there are some who spot the smallest sliver of opportunity and turn it into massive returns. The photograph from London (I think it was) showed a menu board offering up the Rolleggs as “Ugandan street food”.
That may look like a small matter but the chain of events involves someone walking down the street and spotting this then thinking, “This ‘Uganda’ place has street food? Interesting. I should Google it…”
Which means we should be working at making sure that when someone googles “Uganda” henceforth, they find the right things to make them gather up their money and bring it over here as tourists or business people or shoppers or hungry people with a penchant for Rolleggs in their different formats.
If, on their flight down here in an aeroplane that has in-flight video options, they watch the movie that is hot off the reels (‘Queen of Katwe’), they will spot David Oyelowo and Lupita Nyong’o and Madina Nalwanga wearing those beautiful Ugandan outfits and will figure that they should get themselves some of those while they are here.
As they think that they will be listening to the soundtrack and even though Alicia Keys has stolen the show by recording “Back to Life” spontaneously to much acclaim, she has said A LOT about Uganda. She even posted a photograph of herself wearing a gomesi, so our designers should be stitching up a storm to receive all her fans’ orders for their own editions of that beautiful dress style, along with other clothing as colourfully depicted by all the actors in the movie.
Have our Uganda Tourism Board, Uganda Export Promotion Board and Uganda National Bureau of Standards been holding meetings and workshops with the Private Sector Foundation of Uganda to actualise these possibilities?
Maybe.
Ask them. Send them emails asking them how YOU can benefit and get involved in turning this potential and possibility into actuality and profit.
The whole of Canada is now talking about Queen of Katwe and Uganda, so get in touch with the Canadian High Commission to establish what queries they are getting about Uganda so you are in position to respond and deliver whatever the Canadians find interesting in Uganda basing on what aspect of the movie excited them.
After the entire world has watched it, really, what will our excuse be? It’s bad enough that more than half of the movie was filmed in South Africa…let’s not have the same percentage of the opportunity and benefit go elsewhere as well.
YOU are a resident of Katwe. Phionah Mutesi is YOUR Queen.
PHIONA-MUTESI

visa fees into Uganda lowered by 50%, making Uganda tourism the cheapest thrill in Africa…another missed opportunity


The first part of that headline above is the kind of thing we call another missed opportunity.

Today is July 21, 2016.

I am approaching the highly exciting news that Uganda has amended the cost of single entry visas payable on arrival at ports of entry from US$100 to US$50, effective today.
This piece of news is of great economic significance for the entire country at large as it makes us more attractive for tourists in general because it enables our tour operators to offer more competitive packages (especially when you consider that you get a lot more wildlife and other tourism-related experiences for your bucks when you spend in Uganda compared to other countries in the region).
It also brings to an end many months of agonising, lobbying and jostling with the government to lower these fees – which were increased in July last year from US$50 to US$100.
I am not here to talk about the tourism aspects of the announcement, but the COMMUNICATION around it – because THAT  has made the excitement of this announcement is as tasty as a soggy piece of photocopying paper.
Which WAS the ‘official communication’ around this – A BLACK AND WHITE PAGE OF PHOTOCOPYING PAPER with not even a watermark to indicate that it was a genuine and authoritative government document. If it wasn’t for the two holes that indicate that a punching machine was used to make the document appropriate for insertion into a file, one would not believe it to be official.
Here it is:
Tourism Visa Fees Lowered
See, ‘Circular 3, 2016’ is on a letterhead of the Directorate of Citizenship & Immigration Control whose email address (which I am copying this link to) is imm@africaonline.co.ug – a domain that is surprisingly ‘co.ug’ rather than ‘go.ug’ that would make you believe it is run by the government.
Maybe the ‘co.ug’ means it is businesslike? No – the email address bounces back mail!
I swear  – see:
Anyway, the sogginess of the announcement is mostly because the people announcing it have taken that annoyingly lazy and ubiquitous path of scanning a document and WhatsApping it around and claiming to have communicated.
The missed opportunity here is massive – which reminds me of the saying often attributed to Thomas Alva Edison, that inventor of things such as the lightbulb: “We often miss opportunity because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work,” he is reputed to have said!
Whoever is in charge of announcing this Single Entry Visa change was clearly afraid of doing a little bit of work around it.
This is the kind of announcement that needs:
  1. To be accompanied by images and graphics of happy, smiling tourists of all ethnicities very excitedly receiving change or balance at Entebbe airport as they pay for their entry visa, with mountain gorillas and other wildlife in the backdrop waiting to receive them.
  2. To go into funny video memes depicting the excitement at paying much less to holiday in Uganda.
  3. To be translated into as many languages as exist countrywide and then circulated to all embassies.
  4. To get posted online onto ALL government websites.
  5. To get posted online onto ALL websites of Ugandan embassies and foreign missions.
  6. To be given to ALL tour and travel and hospitality companies to share no their platforms and websites.
  7. To be made colourful and vibrant and welcoming and enticing – which even nursery schools do when they paint their walls in bright colours and use smiling cartoon characters, so that parents and children alike choose them rather than a mango tree…
  8. To be carried VERY LOUDLY AND PROMINENTLY by the Uganda Tourism Board, the Association of Uganda Tour Operators, and everybody with an interest in seeing our tourism numbers grow.
  9. To be given to the three Tourism Marketing and Public Relations Promotion Firms contracted a few months ago to promote Uganda, so that they make a big meal out of it in those markets they are covering – the UK and Northern Ireland, Germany and Europe, and the United States.
It is not too late to salvage this and do all the above.
For God and My Country.
Update: @PaulKaheru asked for a sample poster and I have to share this, below, which was released an hour or so after this blog post and would have made for a much, much, much better announcement than the letter sent by WhatsApp – so kudos to the Minister:
Hon Frank Tumwebaze Visa Fees Lowered
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take up opportunities in tourism NOW, since Uganda has signed up international PR firms to promote our tourism


AS our Members of Parliament made their vows at the start of the week my mind was on two unrelated events on either side of their solemn activity, creating a sandwich of thoughts that I am quite happy to share here.
The MPs have sworn to work for us with the help of God.
Their combined job, as the Legislature, is to be representative of the people of Uganda; make the laws that we want to be used to govern us; and check the Executive we have chosen to come up with policies under which our society will be managed in a manner that will enable us to prosper.
Some of these Parliamentarians will be asked to join the Executive, while most will stay in the House where they will meet regularly to consider the affairs of the Nation in Plenary, through Committees, Caucuses, and getting feedback directly from us, their employers, directly or indirectly through the media and other channels.
For the next five years we will keep reminding the Parliamentarians of the humility they showed us during the campaigns and the ‘down-to-earth’ antics they adopted to convince us they are “of the people”, so that they don’t go off on lofty tangents that have nothing to do with us.
We will bring many issues before them and push them to deliver on them within their mandate. My first issue for them is what, for me, sandwiched their swearing-in – and it is an issue all Ugandans need to take up in whatever way they can.
Rewind to the first event: Over the weekend I was in Adjumani to pay my last respects at the burial of the wife of Mohammed Kabba, a friend and colleague. In the midst of his anguish and grief, Mohammed, a passionate Patriot with surprisingly diverse interests, took the opportunity to show us the ‘Adjumani Tree’.
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The ‘Adjumani Tree’. Photo by Simon Kaheru
He said the tree, a Tamarind, was many decades old, and it stood grandly in the courtyard of the Adjumani mosque providing shade to the mourners and a nice stand for a number of bicycles. The legend in Adjumani is that the tree marks the spot where, back in the day, the Madi (I believe they were) who had serious disagreements with each other would congregate to reconcile.
Whereas normally the Madi walked around holding axes, when they got to the Adjumani tree for a reconciliation ceremony they were required to take spears with them – the purpose for which I have not yet established.
In the backdrop of this little tale and its location was Deputy Prime Minister and one-time Minister of Tourism, Gen. Moses Ali. I walked over to him to make the appropriately respectful sounds, and mentioned that that spot could easily be turned into a tourism attraction. I left that thought there to proceed with the solemn issues at hand.
Had I more time on my hands I would have spent it going into some detail over the missed opportunities in Adjumani just because they had not recognised this tree as a potential tourism attraction.
On our drive up to the district we took the first of two turns left to Adjumani. We eventually discovered that this was a “security road” and is not generally in use now that the Atiak road is so well-tarmacked and the road from there to Adjumani is a much better grade of murram (laterite).
The thick, bushy vegetation beside this disused road keeps you searching hopefully for the sight of wildlife, and wistfully at possible forest trails that would be full of thrills and adventure, a massive campsite just waiting for tents, campfires and people.
Cue to the second event, two days later, sandwiching the MPs oaths – Uganda signing contracts with international Tourism Public Relations firms.
I was part of the process, in some small way, and proudly so because I believe strongly in the power of communication and the need for appropriate marketing. As the ceremony was taking place, I fielded a few questions from friends within the travel industry who were concerned that the US$1.5million was going elsewhere rather than to firms such as my own.
The firms, which my partners have written about here, are Kamageo, KPRN Networks, and PHG Consulting. Each is handling a different market, respectively: the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland; Germany, Austria and Switzerland; and North America. (I suspect I will be talking or writing more about this later on, judging from some of the comments I’ve seen on various platforms elsewhere).
The fears were besides the point, I explained, because the work to be done by the foreign marketing and PR firms is specifically within the realm of tourism and travel in those markets where they operate for the cardinal objective of increasing the number of tourists coming to Uganda.
That doesn’t leave us helpless or in a sitting position waiting for tourists to arrive; if we all identify tourist attractions and opportunities such as the Adjumani tree, and get our respective local leaders and entrepreneurs to develop them, then we will give these PR firms a lot more to work with as they storm the travel industry and media in Europe and the United States.
On the Adjumani Tree alone, if we can unearth the legend of reconciliation and, perhaps, get a few warring politicians to meet at that tree and emerge as best of friends, perhaps we can convince thousands or millions of unhappy siblings, couples and politicians to make reconciliation pilgrimages there?
Every district, Constituency and probably village has a likely tourism attraction that needs to be identified, developed, and then promoted – which is exactly what the foreign marketing and PR firms need in order to give us more value for the dollars being spent.
As the MPs take up their seats in those pews, have them think of this so they make it government policy and ensure it is implemented, just as we all should wherever we are in Uganda.
Find your spot in this tourism sector and occupy it.

your restaurant, hotel or feature review is the future of Uganda’s tourism industry – go out and do one today


THIS Easter weekend we are all taking off another holiday and will mostly be spending our time at leisure in different ways but with one common thread – there will be celebration accompanied by food.
That food will be consumed either at home or in restaurants and hotels, and this is where we should pause for a minute before taking another bite.
I write and talk a lot about tourism for a number of reasons, one of which is the benefits to the entire country that arise out of tourism if we all understand it as a revenue earner and do it right that way.
The tourism sectors of all serious countries around the world are given top priority for economic growth because they involve a wide range of sectors that benefit very many segments of people – from the farmers that grow the food that gets served in those hotels and restaurants, to the people who work there, and those that own them.
Last year I embarked on a mini-project of my own after realising there was a shortfall that I could help fill, and now must share this so that more people out there join in. A while back during an official visit to a strange country I found myself without dinner plans on one evening and needed to do some research to establish where to go.
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I got to tripadvisor.com, which I had used to make my travel arrangements, and the options were overwhelming but I was glad to have so many to choose from and whet my appetite at the same time.
At the start of last year I found myself in the same position in upcountry Uganda and went straight to the trusted tripadvisor.com only to find that the town I was in did not even exist! I was nonplussed especially when I drove out of my hotel and found there were many options in that town I could have browsed through from the comfort of my hotel room.
That website, tripadvisor.com, receives 350million unique visitors a month – ten times the population of Uganda.
Surprisingly, in that town even the large establishments with names that appeared to be international in nature did not exist on tripadvisor.com!
tripadvisor.com Restaurant Expert BadgeSo I began doing reviews of my own, which I found were just a drop in the ocean since there are 320million other reviews on that site.
Why?
Because the travel industry operates on word of mouth and tools like tripadvisor.com have enabled that word of mouth to travel like wildfire. Word of mouth, in the tourism sector, is valuable because it originates from ordinary people who are believed to be authentic, objective and impartial.
Many of the reviews tell the truth about the locations, so that if they are lousy the establishments themselves get to know and must fix their issues.
In fact, many of these hotels and restaurants get online because they have to respond to negative criticism – and then they find that they have to build their profiles and then they begin marketing themselves more seriously.tripadvisor.com Senior Contributor Badge
Ladies and gentlemen, THIS is exactly what the internet is for – for us to create and upload content to improve our lives and our environment, not just for us to download other people’s content so we admire their lives and their environment.
So last year I kicked off on this mini-project of reviewing as many eateries as possible and set myself a target that I am yet to achieve. I will not review the large hotels and restaurants alone, because they have large marketing departments and people to speak up for them in many big ways. I will, however, focus on the smaller establishments so that they get visibility on the global stage.
tripadvisor.com Attraction Expert BadgeAnd that is what you guys need to join in on – this weekend as you go about enjoying Easter, do a review of every restaurant or hotel that you visit, and upload it to tripadvisor.com. Nothing complicated – just rate the place, the service, the food and the price (by clicking on the stars or radio buttons online), and then write two or three sentences in whatever language you want. Reviews are not restricted to the big-time places only – if you are going to lunch at your favourite Rolex stand or Mulokony joint today, or if lunch is at the pork joint in your village (envy demon, get thee behind me!) you can still review those places and put them on the map as well.
The difference that will make to our tourism efforts will be massive – I know because with my feeble efforts I am now a highly-rated online reviewer and I get asked many questions by people wishing to visit Uganda, the answers to which I hope help them make the decision to actually visit!tripadvisor.com Readership Badge
If you are scared of tripadvisor.com, go to Google Maps and become a local guide – which works the very same way. Click on the name of an establishment, type out what you think about it, and submit.
tripadvisor.com Senior Photographer BadgeYOU might be the reason a couple of tourists choose to visit Uganda one day months from now, spending the money that the government will use to equip a hospital where your father might require life-saving surgery.
Enjoy the experience – and Happy Easter!
tripadvisor.com Helpful Reviewer Badge