The Uganda Olympics debacle and why Idi Amin would change things.

The recent Olympics held in Brazil as with so many others before begun with optimism for Ugandan athletes and the nation at large but ended in despair and yet again embarrassment.  Uganda’s athletics community as with much of the nation’s sports structures are somewhat of a farce. The reason for such travesty can be attributed to the lack of support systems for the sportsmen and women in the nation’s struggling competitive sports arena.

A few months ago, I stumbled upon an Aljazeera article that revealed the plight of sustaining “membership” in the fraternity of competitive sports in Uganda. The piece focused on the challenges faced by Uganda’s only female boxers whose struggles have been reduced to lack of boxing gloves, trainers and have even been denied the honor of engaging in competitions. For any sportsman or woman, to be rejected the opportunity to participate in a competition can be equated to telling a musician not to sing. This is the sad reality of some of the struggles faced by Uganda’s sports community that could be described as deflated optimism.

1Image Source: Edward Echwalu

The lack of interest or moral incline to competitive sports in the nation is embarrassing. As much as vibrant support is always evident at the time of competition, as witnessed with the enthusiasm of a Uganda Cranes qualifier match or a rugby tussle with our neighbors Kenya, this by no means shows that we ignore to support our men and women when they need it. The embarrassment however comes when we fail to understand the morality of sports.

The global success and attraction of the British domestic football leagues that are a captivation to many Ugandans is not a recent development but rather a long tradition of homegrown moral support. As much as financial support is the epitome of a successful sports system, we should consider that without the loyal support from Manchester, Holloway and Liverpool’s ardent residents, the English Premier League giants of Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal would not be phenomenal today. For examples closer to home, we can look at Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt which all boast of vibrant domestic leagues that even attract Ugandan players who deem them lucrative platforms since they offer the opportunity to join a European football club.

2Image Source: Sport24.co.za

The success of these African domestic league leaders is not entirely financial but rather its radical fan base that makes it economically viable for investment. This has been the challenge faced in resurrecting Uganda’s domestic leagues with investors having a tendency of pulling out support due to lack of financial returns since the stands are almost empty of spectators. So if we fail to gain the moral support, what is there to be done?

The only thing that speaks louder to Ugandans more than even patriotism is money. By rewarding the nation’s sports competitors with financial gain could prove to be a solution. Financial motivation is largely a factor that explains the success of Kenya’s athletics community and reasons for its government support since monetary trophies attract a tax levy. Uganda has tried it a less grandeur scale as we remember with the likes of Michael Ezra’s notorious financial muscle to the Uganda Cranes and recent attempts by “city tycoon” Jack Pemba.

3Image Source: Nipate.com

Competitive sports has turned to entertainment in an attempt to forge an existence so much so that kickboxing is less attractive sport wise but more lucrative as a social event . We witness this through the success of Golala Moses a sportsman turned socialite.

Idi Amin is historically known for boosting the notoriety of Uganda’s sportsmen in the 1970s himself having been the light heavyweight boxing champion from 1951 to 1960.

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It was in the era of his brutal dictatorial regime that Uganda attained Olympic gold medal glory with the world record fete of John Aki Bua. The support the Idi Amin provided transcended financial, he could relate to the sportsmen because he understood their plight and aspirations. Noted for being an ardent boxer and swimmer, he provided a mentor figurative role that created a sort of assurance among the sportsmen that their nation was behind them. Without an Idi Amin, Uganda’s sportsmen and women have to see beyond support from the nation and dig deeper within themselves to channel their plight into a resilience to overcome their obstacles and maybe attain glory that has long been denied.

5Image Source: theguardian.com

Failure at Olympics does not entirely mean that the nation has not met success in other sporting completions. We boast of being the most holder of the Cecafa regional football championship. Duncan Mugabe represents a young breed of the nation’s sportsmen, with his success placing him as East Africa’s best. The nation’s women netball team last year reached the final of the world championships and proudly represented with a first win position. Not forgetting the one time successes of Dorcas Inzikuri and Stephen Kiprotich that had almost reignited the hopes of Olympic gold among Ugandans. Some of you may not know that Uganda has some of the world’s best female chess player, that is if you know Ivy Claire Amoko and of course the one champion Phiona Mutesi that inspired a Disney movie “Queen of Katwe”.

6Woman FIDE Master holder Ivy Claire Amoko

The success stories of Ugandan sportsmen are countless and some are even unknown. To demand success from them and ridicule their failures is selfish of us and only exposes our warped mentalities of nationhood and the meaning of true sportsmanship.

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Don’t blame the president. Blame the CEO.

Corporate giants in Uganda and Africa at large are normally portrayed as being focused in developing services or products geared towards the local markets. The reality of this facade is a murky world of kickbacks and strangled ideas. Companies such as some of the telecommunication company giants have created a market presence that could be compared to the scope of international fast food retail conglomerates such as McDonald’s.

This means that such companies tend to place considerable attention towards supposedly providing platforms, services and products that are geared towards the youth demographic segment. With the growth of social media as a medium for improved and dynamic engagement for customers, trend based campaigns have been growing as a major marketing approach. This means the brand could reach the masses using content that is tailored to appeal to a more youthful audience with characteristics that can be best described as being ardent users of social media. In which case, this translates into the “urbanite”, probably aged between 15 to 26 years.

It seems to make sense that the customer of a product falling within this segment would have a better understanding g of how such a company’s products and services are received or perceived. In the case of Uganda and its largely youthful population, such insights would be better highlighted or even discovered by its young professionals. These are drive to make an impact in their lives and possibly the lives of others.

Uganda’s middle class is growing, its rise can only help propel the nation to a much faster pace of development in the sense that this social class holds with it the best ability of understanding the desires, needs, mentalities, aspirations and purchasing decisions of the nation’s largely uneducated population. The middle class lives in Uganda and understands what drives its youth and what the nation’s young population needs and thinks. Such insights can only be translated by Uganda’s youth which provokes memories of the phrase, “the future leaders of tomorrow,” as we were repeatedly told growing up.

However, the reality of this understanding is either oblivious to some or of no relevance. This statement comes from personal experiences and narrated accounts that have made me question who the “real” agents of stagnated development in the nation are. Take the reality of a group of energetic and enterprising university graduates that set out to possibly create an impact on the nation’s digital media industry by creating solutions that are geared towards the youth. So they present their ideas to Uganda’s corporate “giants” with the hope that their proposed concepts will promote an appealing youthful “vibe” to the business operations of these companies.

I share this account because it is a reality that I have been privy to witness. Our aspiring young Ugandans set out to pitch their ideas to companies that claim to be part of the movement of helping Africans create for Africa. To any Ugandan with a knack for modern, upbeat and relevant content, such concepts make for good consumption. So why shouldn’t a company pay attention to such a message if indeed its recipients agree in being able to resonate with it?

However, these concepts get lost within the echelons of bureaucratic departments. Not because it was a bad idea but because it was a good idea and so it is strangled by some “arm chair” manager who thinks someone “more affiliated” deserves it. This system of kickbacks and mindset of “backdoor brown envelopes” thrives not only in government but sadly in the private sector as well. From NGOs to private schools, to succeed in Uganda’s business landscape requires that one must know someone who knows someone. This has turned Uganda‘s seemingly capitalistic market into an environment that is harsh to good ideas. Survival or making a good concept into a business success is a reality that is almost laughable in Uganda. Despite calls from the government and private sector for value addition and the drive for self started investment, the reality not told to Uganda’s youth at the pakasa forums is that your ideas are going nowhere unless you went to the same university with Samuel the CEO.

 

Where people live in Kampala according to the Old Taxi Park.

Kampala’s main mini bus taxi grounds commonly known as Old Kampala Park (Pank Enkadde) is a metropolitan marvel to anyone visiting Uganda. While praised at being one of the city’s central landmarks by some, others such as urban planners call it a spectacular failure in the development of the nation’s capital. The city’s main planning and administration body Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) previously known as Kampala City Council (KCC) has long been an opponent of the existence of the taxi park calling it the epitome of congestion, like a blot or stain in the central business district. However, many of Kampala’s residents and visitors view its existence and location as vital point of transportation and point of familiarization with the city. One could say that you have not been to Kampala if you have not been witness to the hustle and bustle of the Old Taxi Park.

parkview

To a certain extent, it is true that the earlier planners of Kampala city did not envision its expansion and so permitted the development of this staging area into the city’s main taxi park. Over the years, corruption and transport labour union wars between the central government and taxi operators known as Uganda Taxi Operators and Drivers Association (UTODA) and counter accusations of political motives have ensured the existence of the park to date. Despite vehement opposition to its continued operation, Kampala’s transport system lifeline has remained standing.  One of the main reasons it has continued to operate is because it provides many of Kampala’s commuters, residents and workers with a transport linkage to the various suburbs that dot the city’s borders.

Understanding Kampala’s residential areas, neighborhoods and suburbs can be best understood with a “walk” through the Old Taxi Park. Here, you will find a myriad of locations and places that provide a quick understanding of the city. Most international travelers agree that London city can be best understood and navigated through its train subway system known as the “Tube”. In the case of Uganda, getting a clear picture of its main capital is well illustrated through the Old Taxi Park.

Familiarizing oneself with Kampala can best be achieved by understand where its inhabitants live, work and play. Therefore, in order to understand where most people in Kampala live, we shall attempt to deconstruct the city’s administration structures, dissect its traffic patterns and map taxi park arrangement to better understand insights into residential demographics.

Kampala even as the nation’s main capital is still a district according to Uganda’s local government structures. This means just like any other district, it has sub counties, parishes and villages which define its hierarchical arrangement. According to city planning economics, instead of sub counties, Kampala is segmented into divisions each with its own mayor and local councils. Its small geographical size has limited it to five divisions known as Nakawa, Makindye, Rubaga, Kawempe and Kampala Central. The majority of its residents live in these divisions although a substantial portion of those working in it commute from districts outside Kampala mainly Entebbe, Wakiso and Mukono.

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According to the 2014 National Census Figures, Kampala’s residential population is distributed slightly evenly among the divisions as illustrated in the graphs below. Makindye stands out as being home to most of the city’s residents with Kampala Central division holding the least.

graph1

With these figures in mind, we can attempt to map the volume of taxis in the Old Kampala Park to these divisions and ascertain whether this is a true reflection. In other words, can we tell whether residents from Makindye are the largest by observing the volume of passengers and number of taxi staging areas in the park?

According to the staging areas in the Old Taxi Park, one can see the most of these are dominated by taxis from Makindye.

makindye

This is partly because of the nature of Makindye as a division. It is known for having the most neighborhoods in comparison to others.

makindyehood

On the other hand, in regards to the volume of passengers boarding and disembarking, taxis that plow the Makindye route, the frequencies are sporadic.  This is such that it takes between 5 minutes and less for taxi going there to fill up. This revelation according to the Old Taxi Park, deduces that most of Kampala’s inhabitants reside in Makindye Division

Nakawa Division according to residential population figures is the second most populous.

nakawahood

However, when compared to staging areas in the Old Taxi Park, passengers to the area are quite few.

nakawa

In terms of passenger volumes boarding and disembarking, we observe a different pattern. Some neighbourhoods in Nakawa division have more of their passengers board from the taxi park compared to others. For instance, those travelling to Luzira, Butabika, Mbuya and Nabisunsa tend to use the taxi park more compared to those traversing the Ntinda,  Bugolobi, Nagure areas. Therefore, despite the second most popular residential area in Kampala, this is not reflected in the Old Taxi Park. Taxi operators and touts explain this discrepancy due to the existence of taxi staging areas outside the Old Taxi Park such as those operating along Jinja road and Bombo road. This means according to the Old Taxi Park, the least number of Kampala’s inhabitants reside in Nakawa Division.

Rubaga division as the third most popular residential area for Kampala’s inhabitants provides interesting insights when analyzed in terms of passenger volumes and staging area placement in the Old Taxi Park.

rubagahood

The largest portions of staging areas in the Old Taxi Park are taken by taxis that operate in Rubaga Division. When it comes to the numbers of passengers boarding and disembarking, these seem to be the highest than any other area.

rubaga

This reveals a hidden insight into Kampala’s inhabitants, the truth being that most of working people in Kampala (by this I mean the informal sector such as hawkers, shop retailers, vendors and manual laborers) are residents of popular neighborhoods in the division such as Nateete, Namungona,  Kasubi and Kawala. This places the division as the second most popular residential zone for Kampala’s inhabitants according to the Old Taxi Park.

Kawempe Division is a popular area in the city known for all the bad reasons. At one time it was known as the epitome of Kampala’s decaying drainage system as witnessed in the countless press stories and personal accounts of the menace of flooding most especially in the rainy seasons. Kawempe boasts of being the only place in Kampala where you could once “enjoy” a boat ride without having to go to Entebbe more so leave the comfort of your home.

kawempehood

As the fourth most popular residential area in Kampala, its neighborhoods have long been a source of the city’s labor force and more common “Bwaise and Kalerwe riot enclaves” due its tendency of being a political opposition hotbed.

kawempe

According to staging area placement in the Old Taxi park, commuters to this area are reserved in numbers. However, the volume of passengers boarding and disembarking is sporadic and its does not take more than five minutes for a taxi to fill up which illustrates Kawempe Division as the third most popular residential area for Kampala’s commuters according to the Old Taxi Park.

Despite Kampala being the capital city, one would operate on the assumption that skyscrapers dominate the landspace. However, due to the historical urban planning decisions, the city still provides residential area for its residents are observed in some of its popular inner city areas such as Nakasero and Kisenyi.

centralhood

Taxi staging area placements and passenger boarding patterns are minimal due to the limited. One infact is much better off taking a boda boda or walking to these areas than using a taxi since proximity within the city is within reach.

central

This places Kampala Central Division as the least popular or affordable residential area among commuters in Kampala.

From such insights within Park Enkadde, one is able to understand the demographics of Kampala’s residents as well observe the representation of the city’s largely informal sector. The Old Taxi Park will continue to exist as one of the city’s main urban tourism landmarks and public transport provider not because of a matter of beauty or location but rather as consequence of convenience.

 

Why choosing to use a boda boda could mean life or death.

I stumbled upon certain insights that might change the way you think about boda boda’s. To best understand how boda boda’s operate can only be answered by the riders themselves. However, before we attempt to understand this phenomenon, it is vital that we understand the high risks of boda boda accidents in comparison to vehicles.

boda

(John Howe and Annabel Davis, 2002)

80 percent of boda boda’s accidents involve some form of injury whether minor or major, one simply cannot walk away unscathed. The possibility of injury and even death is made greater in the case of collision with a larger vehicle. Women face the highest risk of injury or fatality compared to men.

When combined with the exponential numbers of motorcycle imports, this has meant the narrow roads of Kampala have only become more congested.

Conservative estimates place the number of boda boda riders to be mostly aged in the range of 18-27 with these being the greatest at 99%. Most of these are male; roughly 42% have no children. More so, most of these accidents involve riders of a younger age group (20-25 years).

The occurrence of boda boda accidents shows a considerable relationship with the level of education in such as way that most accidents reveal boda boda operators have a lower level of education with most having not completed secondary education. This can be pointed to the explanation of limited opportunities for occupation mean that boda boda’s provide an easy means of employment.

boda2

This could also partially explain their blatant violation of traffic regulations in understanding the meaning of zebra crossings and traffic lights.Furthermore, few boda boda operators have participated in any form of traffic safety or motorcycle training activities.

Most passengers shun the use of helmets citing reasons such as hygiene, convenience and comfort. This has meant the even in case of accidents, exposure to face and head injuries has reduced among the riders but not for the passengers who are unprotected. This means the passenger is highly likely to face multiple trauma and severity when involved in a motorcycle taxi accident.

hel

 

Another perspective that I find relevant is the increased workload faced by these boda boda operators. Due to sitting in one position and riding for long hours, many operators complain of musculoskeletal fatigue which when combined with over eight to ten working hours of exposes them to increased physical and psychological fatigue that could explain increased accidents since their mental and physical capacity is impaired.

Boda boda‘s in large have thrived due to the failures in Uganda’s public transportation system, however while being an answer to Kampala’s break neck traffic jams, these two wheeled accident magnets have become the convenience of so many.

 

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.

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.