what 2018 will be in Uganda


Meme New Year 2018

IN talking about what to expect in 2018, let’s start from the bottom and go upwards, since Age has proven to be such a factor in Uganda during 2017, what with the Age Limit debates dominating everything we’ve seen and talked about in all settings for the last so many weeks.

I know for sure that in 2018 we will see a record number of births in Uganda because this appears to have been the trend that has over the years led to our population being so generally youthful.

It’s going to be worse this year because not only do we have more educated people filling the space within our borders, but the doctors are now being paid much more money than before, and the nurses and midwives have also brokered a good salary deal for themselves.

Using simple logic, that means they will work much, much harder at ensuring that people stay alive from the time they are born till the time they really have to die. 

Newborn infants will therefore live till their old age, ill-raised toddlers will not die due to the carelessness of their ignorant parents who let them cross the road willy-nilly or chew on dry cells imported from China; teenagers won’t be expiring due to drug abuse because there will be doctors on hand to plunge syringes into their chests…

The list goes on and on – just like the lives of many more of the little babies that will be born this year. 

Besides doctors being motivated by increased salaries, the science also bears this thought out: infant mortality dropped from 54 per 1,000 newborn children in 2011 to 43 in 2016. Imagine that! In 2018 we might be below 30!

The clever people will have already realised this and invested in stuff that will take advantage of the existence of so many young people – besides big ticket items like electricity out of massive dams – ranging from more schools to more toy imports and local toy manufacturing.

2018 is going to be the year of all manner of things that our parents – those of us old enough to actually be reading this article – would never have dreamed of.

When you speak with primary school children, for instance, and ask them what they want to be when they grow up, they will say stuff like: “NeuroAtomic Scientist” and “Robotologist” and “Life Tone Adjuster”.

Those jobs will not be in actual existence yet, but the kids will have their sights on them and so will the academicians. See, the future is already here, we are being told, and it will not require lawyers and doctors and people with other regular jobs.

A colleague of mine told me how her multinational employer (soft drink beverages) had this year started to do away with their big, global Audit Firm because of the concept of big data and computer-generated robotic analytics.

Because the computers of today are so clever, apparently, they only need to have more information fed into them and they will think and analyse just like a human being does but in the millionth of time we do.

The Audit Firm is flabbergasted right now but considering that in the developed world supermarkets are employing robots to carry shopping and manage the payment tills, think how many jobs we will have left soon.

Of course, we don’t have that problem in such a big way yet but technology is wiping out some of our regular jobs – “Nanti Google yajja!” (“Google came, so…”) is already pushing out jobs that used to be so knowledge based that some people were gods – Doctors, Lawyers, Economists…

Today before you take the Doctor’s word for it from Abim to Zombo, everyone will have first done a quick google to check the symptoms, making the conversation with the doctor a kind-of “I dare you to get this right” guessing game.

This lugezi gezi will increase almost tenfold in 2018, since we will have more smartphones in circulation and bundles (properly pronounced ‘bandwidth’) will be much, much cheaper and easier to access – not to mention the number of apps that are going to continually be rolled out by thousands of innovative ICT-nurtured youth. 

We ordinary mortals can only imagine the irritation by comparing it to the times we are doing homework with the children and trying not to google the right answers, only for the whippersnappers to challenge us – having googled the stuff themselves earlier in the day!

But we won’t break out into violent parenting methods, thank God. There are enough threats of violence around us without our adding to the pile – from the United States to North Korea and even some regional sabre rattling over here.

Luckily, none of these will come to fruition – most of 2018 will be like that time Kiiza Besigye and Kale Kayihura shook hands and smiled at each other just weeks after one of them had been let out of a police cell.

Speaking of politicians, after all this excitement of #Togikwatako we will have at least one surprise in 2018 – a young (REALLY YOUNG) politician with charisma, eloquence, poise and even serious local backing, stepping forward to declare his (not her) interest in the Presidential seat.

The name and identity of the candidate won’t be as much of a surprise as the fact that he (or she) puts themselves forward – and I am not talking about any popular musician here!

The youthfulness of the candidate is to be expected, what with our demographics, and we will then have to address ourselves to any other factors that come into play with these young new people.

That youthful politician will talk about cryptocurrencies as if they are about to be introduced in Amolatar and Isingiro, but again that will not surprise us either.

See, in 2018 there will be more cryptocurrency-genic people living and working outside of Kampala. One major advantage of all the internet connectivity we are seeing these days is the ability it gives people to work from anywhere they please.

Rather than live and work in Kampala, more young and upcoming professionals are going to move out of the capital city to take up residence in rural settings with less stress.

Because Kampala can cause you to have a nervous breakdown. All the traffic, bad driving, erratic road works and phone snatching roadside thieves will push many impatient and imaginative young people to take up cheaper accommodation well outside of the city and even Wakiso.

These young people won’t be employed by the big multinational companies – small and medium scale companies are going to be as flexible as their larger cousins, providing the internet access for their younger staff to be able to perform money-earning tasks from remote districts.

Some of these youngsters, unfortunately, will be the ones responsible for some high level crime as seen on TV. Not corruption related crime as such – that will still be in plenty since as a people and a society we have gone down that path quite consistently for many years now – but that terrible crime that makes us wince when we see it on TV.

The kidnappings we are going to deal with this year, and serial killers, and blackmailers are going to be much, much more serious than what we have talked about in 2017 – mostly in ignorance.

Now that we are binge-watching crime thrillers by way of pirated DVDs and subscribing to pay TV packages that are cheaper than the price of a litre of milk daily, there are going to be many more twisted criminal minds out within these borders. It will not be pretty.

Provided we don’t grow the type of gun culture that countries like the United States has developed, we will be fine. 

See, we will continue to be optimistic during 2018 and we will continue chant things like “Hakuna Mchezo” and “Buy Uganda, Build Uganda”.  We MUST.

I know – a lot of this sounds like a dream. 

But we should dream – provided we spend less time sleeping in order to have those dreams, and more time actually putting them into practice.

stop living a life of selfish mediocrity


THIS week I caught an interview on the radio in which an Iranian-born Professor and defender of human rights used a phrase that hit me right in the gut when it landed.

I knew both words in that phrase and have used them before, but the power of the combination of those word  s was stronger than most others I encounter on a normal day.

The interviewee told his life story and explained how he got from being a fairly comfortable young immigrant in Canada to pursuing a life fighting for the rights of people suffering as a result of war crimes.

He was hanging out with his young adult peers doing the cosmopolitan things that such people do, but kept hearing about people back home in Iran being persecuted and worse.

The day he heard that one of his close childhood friends had been arrested, jailed, tortured and then executed for writing a poem that was critical of the government, he made a realisation.

“I was living a life of Selfish Mediocrity,” he told his interviewer.

Selfish Mediocrity.

He was selfishly enjoying a life of mediocrity yet his peers back in Iran were risking their lives to make life right for millions of others.

That was how he quit a life of chilling and made it to a most prestigious law school in the United States and then went into Human Rights Law rather than a large, high-paying law firm and a comfortable future.

He has spent years since working in war zones and facing up to difficult people such as the European warlords in Bosnia.

Selfish Mediocrity.

That’s a phrase that’s been in existence somewhere in my mind but that I couldn’t coin even though it tickles me daily.

Just last week I found myself in Bwaise and Kyebando visiting some projects run by and for youth and women there, and making comparisons that were uncomfortable at some level.

In one of the projects I met a young man who runs a Community Based Organisation and had to ask him at one point in his little, cramped office, why he was doing that particular job with his education tucked away in his mind.

Ronald Kavuma gave me the right answer in the right order – he grew up there and wanted to help change Bwaise, and he needed to earn a living even if the money wasn’t really great.

I applauded him and thanked him after he had shown us round the projects – where they teach Bwaise youth skills like tailoring and craft-making, and collect recyclable waste, and in which they run a savings programme that helps the youth set up their own small businesses besides learning financial skills.

After that we went to Kyebando and met some other hard working young Ugandans walking around in dusty and muddy and sludgy environs.

These young people, most of them with university degrees, were elbow deep into various substances and materials but all focused on imparting skills to their country mates from less fortunate backgrounds.

One group was learning how to make sandals, another how to bake cakes using sand-heated charcoal ovens, and a third how to make oven and stove briquettes out of organic materials and clay.

They all said the same thing about their calling, and they were serious about it. There was no parking lot with nice, sleek cars nearby and the air conditioning was all natural.

This were their day jobs – what they had chosen to do for a living in their most productive and aspirational years.

They presented a challenge for many of us out here who are living a life of mediocrity and not doing much to change the lives of the less fortunate in our society.

And in their settings most of what they consume and utilise is local material, meaning that even their meagre spending goes straight to another Ugandan – whereas the well-heeled in this society continue to consume and utilise mostly imported products and send resources right past those in this community called Uganda that need it, and to other lands.

Selfish Mediocrity. That phrase will be on my mind for a while.

thanking one eva for representing Uganda so well in China – and calling on all Ugandans to wear that flag well


IMG_6470
The Selfie with one Yang in Beijing 

I APPLAUD a young Ugandan lady called Eva, whose second name I do not know and whose face I have never seen. All I know is that she is female, a Ugandan, and once lived in Beijing while studying something.

She now lives and works in Uganda at a location I will not reveal because I am not absolutely certain of it and have not secured her permission to do so – because I do not have her contact details.

Because she was a good Ugandan during her time in China, she saved me quite some difficulty last week by way of happenstance.

I normally go about on my travels wearing t-shirts boldly emblazoned with the Uganda flag for a number of reasons; top on the list is that this gives me an opportunity to start up a conversation about Uganda in which I get to stress the many good bits of my country.

It never fails, and during five days of travel last week I enjoyed many opportunities ranging from the hilarious to the deeply earnest.

There was the morning I was walking out of the breakfast room and a New Zealander pointed at me and shouted, “Hey! Uganda!”

He had me in a tight embrace before I could overcome my alarm, and standing together arm over shoulder he explained his excitement at seeing my tshirt with the Uganda flag right across the front.

“I am the Honorary Consul of Uganda to New Zealand!”

The odds were not high. He doesn’t spend all his time in Beijing so the opportunity to discuss Uganda with a Ugandan on a random morning in a country that was not New Zealand could not be allowed to go by.

Basil J. Morrison had many good things to say, of course, and asked about a few of his friends back home. Later in the day, atop the Great Wall of China, I bumped into Basil J. Morrison again – and with the same excitement as at breakfast, he spotted me easily in the crowd because of that t-shirt and his affinity for the Ugandan flag.

IMG_6323
The Selfie with Basil J. Morrison

The one involving Eva, however, was the most surprisingly pleasant.

On our way back out of the country we got a one-hour window between official events to swing by a shopping plaza. Just one hour, mind, and nothing more – including the time it took to disembark, get a meal, dislodge from the group and fight off the eager shop attendants all saying, “I give-o you good price-o, my brother! Come-o here!” The Chinese people seeking to give me merchandise in exchange for currency were ready to have me as their sibling, such is the pull of commerce in Beijing.

In the melee, one of my colleagues went off with my phone power bank. My phone being down to 2% meant I would be marooned if plans changed and nobody could reach me by phone to re-direct me to a different rendezvous point – a contingency we had agreed had to be avoided at all costs, and against which we had prepared by securing Chinese-registered SIMs.

It was on the top floor of the Plaza, at the food court, that I came across Eva’s name. Opting to pick up a quick meal to walk and eat with back to the rendezvous, I went to the food court and placed an order with the fellow there.

After taking my order, he pointed at the flag on my t-shirt and said quite confidently: “Uganda!”

I was surprised.

Some minutes before that another fellow had pointed at the very same flag and said, “Ethiopia?” I shook my head and told him, “No. Try again?”

And he went, “Ummmm…” so I said, “Read this!” pointing at the word under the flag that said ‘UGANDA’.

“Ghana?” he went, till I made him actually read it properly (vehemence without violence) and then found myself in a farcical conversation in which a Chinese man claimed all Africans looked the same and a Ugandan man informed him that all Asians looked the same, and so on and so forth till he succumbed.

Back to the food court, I later learnt the young man who so clearly identified the flag was called Yang and is from Mongolia. When I asked how he knew the Ugandan flag so well he said, “I have friend in Uganda.”

Impressed but short on time, I sent him off to complete my food purchase and picked up the conversation when he returned. His friend was Eva – and he proved it by showing me his WhatsApp conversation with her (‘Eva@Uganda’). The conversation was recent (I did NOT read the messages though!).

Sensing a window of opportunity, I asked him if he could charge my phone and he very readily said, “Yes! iPhone? I have.”

When the food arrived, I stuck around a little bit to give the phone time to charge up a bit, and eventually he joined me clearly seeking more Ugandan contact.

I asked him if Eva had been his girlfriend and he unabashedly said she wasn’t, just a good friend. They met when she was in Beijing and she was kind, helpful and generally a good friend.

“Ugandans are good people,” Yang said, and sat down with me for part of my meal, disrupting my novel-reading window somewhat and even learning a new english word (“ludicrous”) out of the first page of my Bill Bryson.

The 20% battery charge Yang gave me, because of the kindness of Eva’s gentle Ugandan heart in Beijing, went a long way in ensuring the rest of my journey went according to plan. Eva’s being a good Ugandan also made me proud to be a Ugandan wearing the Ugandan flag out in public thousands of miles away from home, and for that, I applaud her and all people like her!

See, in the early days of this t-shirt policy the first response I received was, “Idi Amin!” proclaimed proudly by people emulating half-wits recovering from a decade-long coma and doing a form of cognitive stimulation test where they had to respond to pictures. Later, the responses always followed a political path that somehow still led back to Idi Amin.

Last week, thanks to people like Eva and other good Ugandans out there, I spent five days going through Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, and in Beijing, China, and back, and not once was Idi Amin mentioned.

Even the people who couldn’t sustain a conversation in English had a way about it – like the fellow who pointed and proclaimed, “Uganda!” and responded to my, “Yeah! Beautiful country. Have you visited?” with “Kampala.”

“Er…so have you visited?” I asked, hoping this was a lead into a conversation as the lift doors opened.

It wasn’t. He pointed at himself, in his indeterminate but well-stitched suit and tie, and said, “Algeria!”

I smiled widely, knowing he didn’t have the English for this, and said, “Yeah, but we have better climate, better hospitality, and much better t-shirts! Come and visit Uganda!”

I hope when the Algerian googles the phrases he finds the last bit stands out: “Come and visit Uganda!”

Thank you, Eva!

keep an eye on exceptional Ugandans made in Uganda – and bring them back if they’re away


Photo by James M. Dobson for the Garden City Telegram - Isaya Kisekka
Photo by James M. Dobson for the Garden City Telegram – Isaya Kisekka
AT THE end of the first day of presidential election nominations this week I caught up with my emails and found a notification with a link to this article titled, “Ugandan engineer works to save Kansas aquifer”.
I could understand the words well but the day had been long so I took a while to unravel the confusion; the service that sent me this link normally updates me about white Americans, Australians and Britons saving Ugandan villages with shoes, compassion, brassieres, and very many other such items.
For the very same service to suddenly be declaring that a Ugandan was out there “saving” Kansas was odd – unless Kansas was short for Kansanga.
But it turned out to be a true story; a chap called Isaya Kisekka was working at Garden City, the story read, as an irrigation engineer for the Kansas State University Research and Extension’s Southwest Experiment Station.
Not Garden City in Kampala, Garden City in Kansas, the United States of America.
The entire story is a good, refreshingly surprising read. Kisekka studied agricultural engineering at Makerere University, having arrived at the course without the combination of professional career guidance and personal passion that normally helps people fashion paths to successful, enjoyable careers.
But he liked the course and eventually worked with a private company and also the Ugandan government. It was as a government employee that he opened his mind and eventually pursued further studies well enough to get employed in the United States and achieve such veritable mention online.
But now, I think it is important that Uganda keeps tabs on this guy (and others like him).
It is obvious right now that Uganda needs engineers of his kind to channel El Nino to stem the effects of drought in places like Karamoja.
But more long-term, people like Kisekka should be appointed inspirational ambassadors for Uganda to both Ugandans and the rest of the world. All government employees should strive to be as good as Kisekka at what they do, not so they get jobs in the United States, but so that they are good enough to do so.
The Kisekka’s of this world should be used to inspire other Ugandans to realise that even if you do study and live and work in Uganda, moreover in a government job, you can be good enough to stand out for doing your job well even without being submitted for an Award or a Medal.
The young man studied in Kampala and was good enough to go and work in the United States NOT doing kyeyo – that’s the type of image our children need to see.
Plus, the government needs to get such fellows back into employment over here, to sort out the aforementioned link between El Nino and droughts elsewhere.
Rather than continue being the butt of internet memes and snide remarks by people wishing to take over the management of the country, this government should attract all the efficient, useful and committed people like Kisekka into its employ and retain them there so that they save Ugandans rather than Americans.
In the article about him, he said a number of significant things, but one of my favourite quotes was:
“If you have opportunity, it’s up to you to work hard and use those opportunities. Education for me was very important. A lot of people without work look to America as this idea that you can make it regardless of your background if you just take the opportunity.”
Right now, today, we have the opportunity to be like Kisekka, to make our children follow the path Kisekka followed, to employ people like Kisekka, and to attract the Kisekka’s back to Uganda to save Ugandans rather than leave them in America saving Americans while Americans come here to save Ugandans.

Farewell, Spain, we are now very much both World Cup-less even though #SpainIsNotUganda


Dear Spain,

No hard feelings, right? If there are any, then tough. We are not the ones who scored those goals or failed to stop them going into the nets.

But at least you guys have photos with the World Cup in your cabinet, so kudos (clap, clap).

And since there must be space in your album, here are a few more photos to throw into the mix – kind of like making a Spanish Omelette…speaking of which:

Spanish Omelette

But if you’re not that hungry, then perhaps you can eat Ugandan (I sense a sneer on the face of the Spanish Prime Minister, but he would be pleasantly surprised after the first bite into this):

Spanish Rolex

He’d look a lot less grumpy after one of these, I’m sure; and hopefully he’ll share it with Vicente, del Bosque, who as he reads this blog must be thinking:

del Bosque & Rajoy

 

He probably didn’t get audience with the Prime Minister earlier otherwise like many other Spaniards:

Just Apologise

 

Anyway, last night we watched the game on channels such as UBC.

African_Children

 

It wasn’t an easy game at all for our ‘brothers’ and we felt genuinely sorry even though we ribbed them to no end…all unnecessary if Rajoy had only apologised as frequently advised from all corners.

Mama Fiina

We talked about a lot while watching the game, but kept a certain focus running.

Spanner

 

And also made it clear where we stood:

Spain Supporter...Not

 

So the inevitable happened, for reasons that had nothing to do with #SpainIsNotUganda – it was all practical:

Casillas

Before long:

Waiting for Casillas

 

Taxi

The options began to open up:

Visa Application

Either way, there was just one option left (besides the apology for saying #SpainIsNotUganda):

KEEP CALM

Ka-Jambo