Shall we survive the UPE machine?

 

Unemployment is as endemic as dust in Kampala city. With the streets filled with droves of jobless graduates and the bona basome machine churning out more of its babies, the clouds are getting darker. With an outdated education system, crippled teacher labour union and a corrupt education system. Uganda has navigated the choppy waters of globalization with all but a drowning sailor’s prayer.

As a product of the system, my experiences have to a certain extent influenced my placement in society. From the moment you join school to your graduation day, the song of survival is the only one you hear. How to survive promotion to the next class, surviving the pass mark, escaping the clutches of UNEB (Uganda National Examination Board) and beating that lecturer to his game as the coursework assignments are cunningly eluded. And so this mentality continues even after school. The survival mindset is what you meet among our youth, government officials and business. You could all most tell a Ugandan by the way we think.

Promises have been made with UPE (Uganda Primary Education), USE (Uganda Secondary Education) and of recent university student loans. The curriculum however remains as rigid as Mugabe’s presidency while money is continually pumped in as it is lost to “ghost schools.” Teachers barely live below the minimum wage with cries to have a salary silenced by the government rhetoric of building roads first. As if good roads do any good to a sub-standard educated graduate who cannot even build a road since the Chinese expatriates take the job.

Even Ugandans cannot build their own roads, it is that bad.

Resorting to survival, a large number of youth have resorted to odd jobs, petty crime or manual jobs in the Emirates as security guards and house maids. The youth have lost hope in a life after education to the point of neglecting university after high school. However, as much as university enrollment has increased over the years in Uganda, the trend of dropouts should be worrying us, equally. The cries of unemployment are getting much louder; this was the major campaign issue in the recent 2016 general election. So much so that the president appointed the first lady as minister of education, maybe be to bring “hope” to the institution as a government priority or to sort out the messes of the system, we are keenly watching her tenure.

Youth unemployment is a major issue in Uganda since we “boast” of being the youngest nation with roughly 70% of the population below the age of 18. The education system however is not of much help; STEM subjects are all but theoretical and barely meet global standards. Like a Mexican wave, the outcomes of this “millennial” system have reached as far as being the cause of low industrialization, a measly innovation growth movement and a pool of unskilled youth. By choosing theory over practical skills, Ugandans are rendered disabled in building their nation. Recent discovery of oil has meant expatriates fill up the technical positions as Ugandans fight for United Nations jobs with bachelor’s degree in conflict management. As I mentioned earlier, it’s all about survival. “How do I get a job,” not “how do I help build my country.” Vocational institutions are neglected and even mocked by the youth for being a last resort for academic failures.

And so while we remain oblivious to the shortage of skilled labor, so much so as even nurses, the UPE machine continues spitting out its products on the streets of Kampala.

Ingredients to a perfect storm yet to come lest we are not being battered by it already.

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Mutitizi : Family and the business headaches ?

#DailyPost.

There was the idea to start a small scale chicken farm, rabbit breeding, passion fruit farming, just to mention but a few. Trusting that family would provide the best support system I went to them.

However, now every time I met them, instead it seemed like I was meeting the ‘review board’.

These are some of the experiences I have met in my plans to start businesses with some of my family members. The challenges of starting a family business lay in the advantages it provides. Call it making a deal with the devil.

In regards to capital sourcing, I have found that it is much easier to convince family members of a business venture, even if you are not sure of its long term sustainability let alone its viability to begin with. With the support of my family, I have managed to put into place some business ideas such as a chicken farm primarily to sell eggs, and then I convinced them to provide me space to make charcoal briquettes.

As I mentioned earlier, the honeymoon is short lived when questions begin arising, “where are the profits ?”, “how much was made today ?“, and “why don’t you look for a job?“. The list cannot be exhausted.

The accountability required from a family business could run one to insanity. With the lack of knowledge of business dynamics comes the naive questions and threats of withdrawing financial and resources support. And so I now find that some journeys need to be taken alone.

Who lives longer the brave or the weak ? My fear to enter into the unknown, to take the step into the darkness alone has left me in a state of cowardice.

Naye gwe ssebo!

It is not acceptable that we should take the lack of truth among our country men as the norm.Am sure you will find no Ugandan who has not been a victim of the cunning antics of our sales men and women in some cases. The point am trying to make is drawn from several experiences I have been fortunate to meet.

Fortunate, because these encounters have shaped my persona and ridded me of any naivety. Every Ugandan who has ever gone shopping, taken a taxi or even asked for directions has met the countryman, who will lie to you for no reason.

This morning as I was sitted in a taxi thinking about where my decisions have now reached me .However, the actions of this conductor chap cut short my thought process. This man decides to instruct the driver to stop for passengers so that he can fill up an already full taxi.

I am used to this, so my patience prevailed. So I was keen to listen to how he promised his new passengers as to how their discomfort would be short lived since he was yet to offload at the next stage just a few 100 meters ahead. However, this never happened. We exceeded the few meters and continued the journey as usual. I don’t know what pulled my interest to the mindset of this man, probably the “Ugandaness” of his actions.

So I sat there wondering, why tell your new passengers “mwe sikemu, waliwo agenda okuvamu wali my maso” and yet you know this is not the case. To be honest I felt like asking this man if he paid attention to the statements he makes or if he takes his passengers for doldrums with no capacity to make decisions.

This is one among the multiple encounters that have lately been meeting. You go into a shop and buy Beats be Dre headphones expensively so as the sales man convinces you. “zino zikuba nyo.

You go home and use them for less than 2 weeks and now you have only one ear piece working. You ponder if you should go and confront his bad salesmanship or reflect on wether your naivety of sales men has reached you to this point.

Carrot zabuze,” defends the market lady of her exorbitant prices. I simply smile at loss of a better reaction.

Wandegeya nkumi nya,” says the Boda Boda man, for a distance equivalent of garden city to Hotel Africana. For these one’s I just walk away, even negotiating would them is too precious time to give them.

 

So Ugandan,” is how one would term such characters. I find however that I live in a desert.

 

Scorched of authenticity, flooded by duplicity.

Nfunila wa ?

In trying to put together what to write about, I failed to find anything at the moment. However, since I always post every Thursday, I thought I would maintain my “tradition” lest my motivation to blog declines.

I had the pleasure of attending the Ugandan Blogger’s Happy Hour: July 2016 Meetup. My discovery of this “community” of bloggers can be best described as accidental. While doing research for a previous article on how Uganda needs bloggers as much as tweeps, I was compiling a list of the top bloggers in Uganda, only to stumble upon this event.

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A quick research revealed it’s background to a 2007 YouTube video made by a visiting Danish exchange student. The video basically documents her experiences meeting with the community of Ugandan bloggers then. What caught my interest while watching the individuals in this clip was not only the passion with which they spoke about blogging but the maturity of their ideas. The likes of Comrade, Darlene Komukama and Carlo Kutesa among others inspired me to know more about the Ugandan Bloggers community.

It was reassuring to find out that the Blogger’s Happy Hour was still operational and somewhat “active”, and so on Thursday I enthusiastically made my way to Yasigi Beer Garden where it’s meetups are normally held. I had the opportunity of meeting some good members of the blogging community such as Joel, Edna, Sheila, Dilmandila ,Josh, Florentina, Solomon, Paul, Edmond, Kahill and Kenny.

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Am always excited to meet a group of individuals brought together by a common interest in something. It is not common in Uganda to find people sharing a vested passion. This explains why many people move on and why many organizations diminish. As I was told when I inquired of what happened to the group in the video I mentioned earlier. I understand many times people move on beyond the point of “groups” due to other commitments, marriage or simply growing up. However, this creates a situation where the mentality becomes all about survival which kills any potential good that could have come out of these groups.

“Nfunila wa ?” , is a common response in Uganda you meet when you ask people about why they either leave a company, a business partner or even a church group. The desire to attain success has mentally crippled the youth in Uganda such that every young person wants to make it “big” using shortcuts and “deals”. No one shares common interests anymore, we see it government through corruption as officials take office only to enrich themselves and not to provide service to those who elect them.

We see it in sports clubs as players abandon local clubs to play for international teams which leaves the domestic leagues poorly skilled and non-vibrant to attract even Ugandans.

We see it in the droves of able bodied young men who decide to export their physical manpower as security guards to Iraq or as cheap labour to the Emirates rather than taking time to tap into the vast opportunities in the country that the Chinese, Indians and Europeans some how “see”.

We also see it among the promising minds of former bloggers who have abandoned the trade to go and do “better things” such as holding down a job or looking for rent money, as if blogging was a lesser trade. Ask David Okwii how his small blog reached him to the level Africa’s fastest growing multi author technology website which earns him more than that 500k job you fervently seek to give so much effort.

Let it be said, the youth in Uganda do not garner much enthusiasm from me, although they cry about change, they are not ready to take the lead. All we know is how to praise others and how much they have achieved instead of looking at how under achieving we are. As President Museveni commonly refers to Ugandans who support the English Premier League but cannot even name the goal keeper of the national football team.

That be said,

..the insight I gained from my experience at the Ugandan Blogger’s Happy Hour, is that of a community of Ugandan bloggers with promise, falling victim to the whims of mediocrity and simple mindedness.

Am a kichupuli.

I was once a slave to false.

So I sought out to seek the truth after getting tired of leaving a life of slavery. Life was fair to me, I found the truth. As pure as it could be.

Am now slipping back into the life of slavery. My rebellion has reached me to extremes I had vowed to never return to.

There is no state of mind worse than regret. It stings more than any rejection or pain I have ever felt. My tongue is too heavy to say am sorry. Punish me I plead, although I know a slave is in no position to ask the measure of rebuke form his master.

Why is the truth no longer sweet to me ? How did I become seduced by this lie I live. Today is another chance to be genuine, or so I tell me self.

Efforts! …….shouts out Truth.

Look where it has reached you,  reeking of pathetic-ism and weakness. Were is the slave who once fought for freedom ?

Efforts! is what I want to see. Prove your love to me it says. All your words are lies, even your cries.

Am now a slave to false, longing for another battle to fight for my freedom.

Never again will I judge a slave.

 

 

 

 

Made in Uganda. For Uganda ?

Knowledge is power and communication is key. These two vital ingredients are yet to fully take ground in the nation. Whereas the communication sector is extensively growing with over five GSM voice/data communication providers and multiple internet service providers, others may argue that this is still a dip in the ocean.

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Internet coverage nationwide remains below 30% and call network quality remains a “nagging” concern. It is in such a market that app developers are struggling to make a foothold. On top of this , limited access to information has meant that a large part of Ugandans remain powerless to make informed decisions whether in purchasing products, setting up a business or choosing to take a trip.

As the government and private sector continue to grapple with reaching services to the masses, development of certain sectors remains stagnant and untapped. The four major sectors important to Ugandans on the basis of usage statistics are;

  1. Communication
  2. Information
  3. Entertainment
  4. Utility/Financial services

Let’s look at how companies and individuals in Uganda have utilized these sectors according to customer needs.

Communication is catered for by the success of telecommunication service providers who enjoy a market share in providing the channels (voice, SMS and data) in extending coverage to the “reachable” areas in the country.

The information sector is largely a free market that enjoys the frills of competition between media houses and private citizens. With social media platforms and a loosely regulated sector, success is measurable. Such as ticketing service Tikiti.

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….cinema scheduling service Cine App

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….and local stations that also serve as entertainment sources

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However, even with this “open market”, opportunities to information dissemination remain largely untapped.

Information that drives an emerging economy includes technical skills, financial market, products, services and technologies. These in Uganda are barely available and if so grossly outdated. Based on experience, such information is only accessible through national census figures or government ministries. The lack of independent information collection, archiving and dissemination bodies means the existing information is questionable lest reliable.

The entertainment sector is by far unregulated and “chaotic” which has led to calls among local artists and citizens to cry foul over the abuse and misuse of creative content through lack of a copyright legal system. In this case, entertainment information providers are restricted to websites such as Big Eye, Proggie, Campuss Bee and Chano8.

The financial service/ utility market are largely established on the success or “relevance” of the mobile money platforms. Most of the available apps have tapped in to this platform in diversified forms such as payment of utilities such as water, electricity and pay TV.

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The utilities sector is vibrant also largely in part to the fast growing e-commerce industry with players such as Jumia, Olx, Yoza and Lamudi (real estate).

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Several locally Ugandan apps have failed to take off mainly due to inaccurate market assessment and lack of suiting the product or service to existing or desirable need. This has meant that several developers have failed to sustain their products for more than a year if they are not a major player. The international success of apps such as Matatu made by Kola Studios provides insight at how Uganda can tap into the global marketplace using “authentic Ugandan content.”

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However, even as it continues to shine on the international success, its preceding app games have failed to garner the same user enthusiasm, largely in part to the “generalized” feeling of being “common”.

I think for any Ugandan app develop operational or likely to make entry into the industry, success can only be attained when we fit our products or services to the “needs” and “purchasing patterns” of the Ugandan economy. This calls for sustainable business models that are based on appropriate strategies to engage communication and access to information and services.

However, it is not entirely a gloom and doom affair, success stories still happen.

 

 

Why Uganda needs bloggers as much as tweeps.

 

With the advent of social media platforms to Uganda and the wider Africa, came the opportunity for every African with access to show the world a piece of their country. Africa has never been showcased as deeper, clearer, indicatively, positively and negatively as ever before. Social media has allowed the world to see Africa in its raw form; the good and the bad as seen by Africans and not Europeans or Americans.

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Through social media, corruption and political have been exposed and ridiculed, new creative talent has been discovered, communities are much more informed, social causes a creating a big and the news media has been redefined. This is all good; however along the way Africans are yet to define the continent and what happens there.

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Source: http://www.ruthaine.com

Enter blogging.

The African mentality more specifically to Uganda is largely biased in response to reading or writing. This is in part due to the extensively theoretically founded education systems were creativity is shunned upon and focus is instead directed to meeting the academic passing grade. Social media has created an environment that spurns creativity since the users hold the power to craft their message to according to preference and influence.

The downside to social media in Uganda and African at large is it has created a “bandwagon effect” of consumerism and “fitting the trend,” which has meant that the stories we are meant to tell as Africans have been lost in the clutter of western media craftiness.

My question arises from this dilemma, why even with the power of telling the African story in the hands of Africans is the story still being told by the West and its media.

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As a Ugandan social media user, I particularly monitor how Ugandans use these platforms and it is a sad affair. One finds that when established international media organizations such as CNN with the exception of BBC which has a rich background on telling the African story; the main sources of “credible” information on what is happening on the continent are non-African .

This was reflected in a recent Twitter conversation where an African American Talib Kweli made a claim that the Lord’s Resistance Army rebel group in Uganda was engaged in targeted killing of gay people.

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Much as this claim is short of ludicrous, it revealed how little the West knows about Africa.

So this elicits another question, why doesn’t the West trust /rely on Africa to tell its story ?

 

Reason: because Africa does not know how to tell its story. The Twitter engagement I mentioned earlier was an embarrassment for Ugandans, who tried to defend the falsehood of Talib’s claim but still could not prove to be reliable of being “well informed” about their own country.

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It seems no Uganda has found it of any meaning to document the atrocities of the Lord’s Resistance Army and support their findings with credible video, imagery and causality numbers as well as accounts from victims of the war. The insurgency of the Lord’s Resistance Army as well as other countless untold stories reveals an insight into the bias among Ugandans and Africans at large of defining the image of the continent or their countries.

American or European media has largely been reliant on blogs, not as a source of stories necessarily but as a means to check the authenticity of its sources. As much as we think that the western media is controlled by the conglomerates, this is not entirely true. With the exception of international media, the domestic front of news in the western world is a co-op with the main news outlets relying on the blogs to validate their stories.

Everything is documented in the western world to the point that the continent is nearly out of stories to tell, and so they come to Africa to tell its stories.

In my experiences of writing research papers on various topics, I have found it nearly If not impossible to access information about broad topics in Uganda. No data repositories are existent and the content in place is outdated. Our national archive is so ill equipped, Wikipedia would provide a better alternative and so I search for blogs in the hope of finding any information but this never yields fruitful.

This could partly explain why even the authenticity on government figures of growth is contentious, but even then who is there to argue against what is says. No one has credible information. If Uganda had as many bloggers providing rich, well researched and insightful stories on Uganda, maybe our story would be told by us.

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Yes social media has the power to bring down a president or send a tweep that has never been to China. But are these the stories that define Uganda, maybe ?

 

Meetups: the social media day Kampala 2016 experience

Meetups are defined as a networking or meeting of people in a local community with shared interests.  Launched  by Mashable Social Media Day in 2010 as a way to recognize and celebrate social media’s impact on global communication, the 3rd edition of  the Kampala community comprising of users, content creators and “brand pushers”, met on 24th June 2016. Organized along the theme of “the rise of the Influencer.,” the panel comprised of notable bloggers and digital marketing practitioners.

Being my first Social Media Day meetup, I enthusiastically looked forward to attending the event and gauging the minds, ideas and drive of the “social media junkies” community as it was termed. I made some observations about my experiences, which I can only best illustrate in a bulleted format.

According to advertisement, the event was to begin at 5pm. It only begun at approximately 6:20. Let’s leave it at that.

The moderator was humorous, eloquent and quite knowledgeable of the event and the discussion topic. However, his humor exceeded the boundaries of engaging the audience and “killed” the seriousness of the event. In spite of his good moderation of the event, he did not provide the audience adequate opportunity to ask questions. Instead, he relied on personal friends as sources of questions.  This could maybe have been corrected had the event started according to the stipulated time.

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The social media community in Kampala is a network and not a community than it should be. This means the growth of the event is restricted to inner circle “word of mouth” awareness that limits a broader pool of knowledge and legitimacy as other social media day communities boast of. The negative impact of such a structure means that meetups become more of a social event to meet colleagues and “Twitter friends” rather than an atmosphere of  concept engagement, thought provoking and idea nurturing.

The invited panel this year either didn’t do their homework or overestimated their online presence and impact. As mentioned earlier, the greater part of the main speakers were bloggers and digital marketing practitioners lest be called experts. They spoke from a pedestal of being a trend setter or market changer which is not the case. All their views and responses were textbook, which were not wrong. The failure was to baptize themselves as social media influencers in Uganda. To begin with, these panelists are most active on Twitter which means they are not influencers as they may think.

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This is why.
Social media platform usage statistics place Facebook as the most used at 94.63% with Twitter at 3.98%. So if they are influencers, why are they not very active on Facebook which boasts of the largest social media community ?
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Infograph representing largest social media audiences in Uganda

SOURCE: StatCounter

Follow link to access statistics
Yet again, according to social media usage statistics, the biggest influencers are the main brand names in Uganda which include media houses such as The Daily Monitor and telecommunication firms such as MTN. The most “followed” social media non-coporate individual is local and international comedian Ann Kansiime with an over 1 million member audience. This means if there is any influencer likely to cause a shift even if minor in Uganda’s social media community it is this young lady.Maybe not, but the figures speak volumes.

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Graphical illustration representing most followed social media Facebook pages in Uganda

Follow link to access statistics
Moving on to Twitter, the story is almost the same, big corporate names and political leaders dominate the largest audience with the likes of media houses. Some social media users such as Andrew Mwenda and Allan Allan Kasujja who maybe unknowingly share their views on this platform, have shaped the political mindsets of many Ugandans to a point that they stand out as reliable political pundits in current affairs and “foreseers” of the political outlook of the country. Are these not the influencers. One may argue that Uganda being one of the youngest countries is “driven” by the youth. However, this is not the case. Because of lack of authentic, creative and relevant user generated content, social media which is meant to be free from the corporate entities has been hijacked in Uganda by the very organizations that influence trends as seen in the figures below.

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Graphical illustration representing most followed Twitter accounts in Uganda

Figures aside, the social media “landscape” in Uganda is still young to be nurturing influencers. Rather, as is the case in of greater Africa, these platforms have largely been helpful as a efficient awareness tools whether through being use to call attention to a social, political , domestic or lifestyle campaign.

So maybe influencing for now should be redefined as awareness. Until we can develop the likes of Zimbabwean Strive Masiyawa through his “A taste of the Strive brand” , South African Garrett Cliff,  Angelique Kidjo impacting through Everyday Africa, Tony Elumelu’s Africapitalism, Paul Kagame’s most engaging president on Twitter,Jason Njoku of iROKO.tv .

Then we need to redefined what we are influencing.

Getting money off your knowledge is not bad, many Ugandans sing of how they did not “study for nothing”. However, if you seek to be a real influencer, it is more about the name you build through sharing knowledge with your follower base and seeing how it changes their lives.