fodexpressions

DISCLAIMER: Your interpretation is entirely yours and not guided by the expressions herein.

Advertising, as is, in Uganda.

The past two Sundays have gone by without me putting to paper anything that has irked me in the course of the week. It is something that is unusual –I have published a blog post every Sunday for the past two years– which obviously did not only bother me but worry me too. Not so much for disappointing any faithful readers of my blog posts but that I had lost touch with one of the few things I am fond of –reading and writing. Because, I failed to do any reading for pleasure within the same period I failed to write anything. The plague worried me so much I got superstitious at one point, wondering if the rainy season had in fact come baring a reading and writing drought for me whilst the rest of my Agrarian fellow Ugandan citizens thanked the NRM government (ahem)… the heavens for sending us clouds everyday in the past weeks.

Having resigned to the conclusion that the rainy season is ironically a drought for me, I set out to watch TV on a chilly Sunday (at the time of writing). That turned out to be a blessing in disguise. I got something to rant about a few hours into my TV watching. How? Sunday is synonymous with boredom. The dullness is not only a preserve for you (and me of course) as there is barely an event happening that will brighten up your day. Similarly, it is the day TVs also air what I will call the chuff of TV programs especially the local TV channels. Most of what is aired is aired are repeats of programs screened earlier in the week for whoever missed to get abreast and for a change, the fresh program is a news bulletin –a bulletin on a day void of activity since Sunday is a non-working day. And, the local channels jumped on to the idea that screening kwanjulas (traditional wedding ceremonies) throughout Sunday evening was the best way to expend their broadcasting time taking a commercial break every other instant.

The commercial breaks are what irked me. They are the reason I got something to pen home –a blog post to clear the cob webs that had gathered in my blog. The adverts aired on our local TVs (those on radio too although they are not my focus today) are meticulously pathetic. One by one, they all seem to have been neatly put together to make you grit your teeth with disgust. Not one, not two or three but nearly all adverts on local TV make one wonder whether the current campaign against Arts subjects and courses at university should not be put on hold until a miracle happens in Uganda’s marketing field. Uganda needs more doctors, that I strongly agree but going by the adverts showing on TV, I do think Uganda is in dire need of a new crop of advertising gurus. Assuming what is being taught is relevant and can be applied in present times then we do need a new breed of marketeers to change what we the viewers are being served in an effort to make us consume whatever products the adverts portray. (Incidentally, I’m no expert in advertising; do not take this as gospel truth. I am speaking as a disappointed viewer/consumer who feels he is getting a raw deal.)

First case in point, the one that opened the can of worms; a father, on night duty serenades his daughter away at home via a phone call with a Luganda lullaby. The advert promoting a telecom product. And, is marketing one of the biggest telecom companies here in Uganda. My issue with it is; the advert is mechanical. There is barely anything natural about it. The voice of the father does not sooth but rather awakes a sleeping child. Secondly, times maybe changing but African fathers are yet to adopt domestic duties –including tending to the children. The lullaby in question put me to bed two or so decades ago but that was only after a soothing voice brought me to my knees. Which I doubt the father does in this case even if the daughter succumbs to his pleas. However the manner in which she succumbs too, is debatable. Under natural circumstances, the child who would have been floored by the lullaby would natural wander off into slumber-land but the child in this advert is stone-cold sober and fashions a strong goodnight to the father. I am no script writer but the little music; dance and drama I did in school taught me better. Combine that with commerce; in no way does that advert excite me to purchase the product being peddled.

The next perpetrator is a cosmetics firm largely dealing in creams and oils for ladies hair. It is a local firm. I grew up listening to one of its adverts where a man in Rukiga goes, “konka ***** konka *****” to this day, that advert is still playing. But, that is not their worst. It is one in which a local gospel artist screams her lungs as she does in her popular songs that makes me wonder if the producer of the advert is not suffering from hearing problems today. My guess would be, the script for the advert read, scream your lungs out until the whole Uganda learns about these beauty products. It is quite clear, what Ugandan businesses do is get a local celebrity to be the face of a promotion campaign which in itself is right but not a thing is taught to the face of the campaign about how best to portray the product. Like in the case of case of this particular firm.

Similarly, another advert that caught my attention –which will also be my last citation–, is a cosmetic product advert tailored for school age going Ugandans if I’m to go by the numerous adverts of this product that have featured a very young girl singing praises about how the product does wonders not only on her skin, but those of her school peers too. In adverts where she does not feature, other kids roughly her age suffice. All this product’s adverts have one punch line though, “we (or I) use ****** jelly because…” I do not have a solid case against the product’s adverts other than the fact that they are a poor excuse of a nursery rhyme. They remind of what we referred to as “speech day” back in primary school where pupils outdid themselves in reciting rhymes for their parents on the last day of school. Each word was animated with a matching gesture to emphasize the point. That is the script on which ****** jelly adverts are built. Let them come up with something new and fresh, the “speech day” concept has served its time and should be set free.

There are a host of adverts I could fault but will end at those. Before I pen off (I nearly let these slip through), those adverts with an animated accent of someone West Nile region or Western Uganda region, speaking either broken Luganda or English also need to be laid to rest. Sincerely speaking, this is 2015. Ugandans deserve better. Those adverts are not only inappropriate but have long expired.

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Don’t read.

Then God commanded, “let there be light,” and light appeared. God was so pleased with what he saw (can you imagine God too gets excited about His own creations), He went on to create you and me as well as those who do not know about this blog post. 2015 years after the birth of God’s son, Jesus, far away in the banana republic of Uganda, on a sunny Febraury Monday, the republic’s “chief giver”, having seen the somber mood of his citizen commanded, “Let Febraury 16th, from this day onwards be Janan Luwum day. I declare it a public holiday.” Of course his countrymen were so pleased with what they had heard they uluated and promised to keep voting him into power so he can continue giving them “peace and prosperity.”

His Excellence Yoweri “the chief everything” Kaguta granted us another public holiday last Monday (16th) at a ceremony commemorating the contributions of the late Bishop Janan Luwum. I beg that you excuse me for citing what might be a triviality from a whole lot of “serious stuff” spewed from the president’s mouth during the ceremony but that was the tipping point for me. Why? In the past, the “chief giver” has gloated about how many roads he has given this country since the birth of his “visionary” reign in 1986, how the number of graduates as well as young Ugandans have enrolled through various educational institutions has doubled, tripled and even quadrapled and how peace has been served on a silver platter not only in Uganda but even beyond Uganda’s doorstep. We have officially grown bored of hearing about the same gifts for the past 29 years. I’m glad, in one of his future reminders(read speeches), the president will declare how many working days he managed to scrap off the calendar (that is development although it depends on how you credit it). A change in the reminder is a welcome gesture in my view.

Why I’m I starting to believe Franklin Emuobar’s account of the events preceding his leaking of Desire Luzinda’s blueprints (read nudes)? When the two split, there was a bitter exchange of words and not forgetting, explicit images of the now infamous Luzinda. On the back of the breakup was a financial row relating to who was responsible for a debt that led to Desire Luzinda’s arrest. Both parties pointed fingers at the other. Luckily, she was SOS-ed by sympathizers however I do not know who she is going to blame for her latest financial troubles that led to her arrest yet again for being a bad debtor. I hope her sympathizers do not bail out on her this time round.

NRM Poor Youth or Poor NRM youth?! The title of the group is still confusing me but I will go with Poor NRM Youth. It sounds much more sincere. There is a taste of irony in NRM Poor Youth. The party is well known for using its financial clout to oil its political wheel or should I say will. And going by the current steadily growing unemployment trend amongst youth, it would not be a surprise to find them in favour of NRM, the ruling party, over other political parties. My advice to the youthful group going by the name, NRM Poor Youth, is they should revise their name. Poor NRM Youth would beg for more attention than their current name. (bambi) Poor NRM Youth, may your financial situation grow sharper than your political ambitions.

Speaking of political ambitions, does Hon Amama Mbabazi have a mouth? If he does, then let him speak for himself or publicly announce who his official mouthpiece is. With each passing day, one gets only more confused about the former premier’s political ambitions as regards running against H.E Yoweri “the only visionary” Kaguta come 2016. Discerning the chuff from the good grain is getting harder since he (Mr Mbabazi) is loudly silent. While it is easy to peek through what is bound to befall us from the NRM camp because one has to only put their ear to the ground and wait for Mr Ofwono Opondo to say something or in other cases Mr Tamale Mirundi (when he feels its his duty to speak for the presidency), Mr Mbabazi’s camp will only speak to you in harshed tones via his ardent supporters.

(let him tell us if he is standing so that we can prepare our vote(s).)

On a sad note, an “important” Ugandan made his way to heaven last week (hopefully he is going to heaven). Why I say an “important” Ugandan is because Mr Dan Kyazze anchored news for over 50 decades. That includes an era of political turmoil where what one said especially on state run media platforms (which solely existed then) determined if they would live to see another day. To imagine that someone informed the country everyday in storytelling manner as the late Dan Kyazze did also begs for plaudits. That voice will be missed on both radio and television. Dan Kyazze, May your soul rest in peace.

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For the love of…

For the love of our country, we wished them into parliament and bestowed all our hope unto them until they come again -in 2016, to ask for votes but for the love of their party, they have shelved work in parliament on numerous occasions and headed down to Kyankwanzi. Of course to forge a way forward. Keeping the yellow bus’ engine running for close to three decades is no mean feat. When they do set foot in Kyankwanzi, we cannot help it but shift our attention to what it they are deliberating on in as much as it is party business that is dwelled on. That is still our business because it is we who keep the party in power. Anyhow, whilst what has always come out of the Kyankwanzi NRM retreats has been embraced with mixed feelings, there’s barely a soul in Uganda which was not utterly shocked to learn that this year round the retreat was spiced up with a finger-licking boxing bout. In as much as the fight involved female Members of Parliament, it was no cat fight as reports claimed one of the “fighters” was knocked out -into a dire need for medical assistance.

I guess its high time Golola Moses joined politics since politicians are now spending time exchanging blows rather than ideas on how to attain the “Vision 2040” and build this nation. After all, he has always fought for the love of this nation.

And for the love of their own, they did sacrifice and invest in education. With a clear beaming at the end of the tunnel once a degree had been secured but for the love of deceit, their children went on to live fallaciously throughout their time at university. Just like the lives they lived, so did their parents believe their children were attending school. They even held a graduation party to celebrate a fallacy unknown to them. Today, that fallacy is under probe. I will assume for the love of this nation and honesty, a sane mind decided to blow the whistle on the sham degrees that from Makerere University.

600(degrees) there are, that have been recalled. That is only a knickknack if one is to imagine how far the sham dates back and how wide. Hopefully, Makerere University, spares us and genuinely “Builds for the future” by getting to the bottom of the sham. And, hopefully, it is brought to a stop because not only is Uganda bound to have a quack future but Nasser road, where most of the quackery in Uganda is brewed, may too run out of business if quackery is now being manufactured elsewhere (I’m not condoning craftiness, I’m merely raising concern for the job security of those manufacturing quackery).

And, for the love of love (yes, that exist, there are individuals obsessed with love), they counted stars and waited for the moon to come out. To wear red. Buy anything red. And give out anything red. They fell in love with a day, got a date, and set themselves up to enjoy their dates on when the much sought for date finally turned up. One might have wondered, what is this farce all about as they fussed about and sauntered up and down but only they do know. For matters of the heart are inexplicable especially to those who are not part of the party enjoying the whirlwind.

That was Valentine’s day and will always be valentines. For one not in love, you wonder what could make you wear red from head to tore, go out and buy red roses (plastic ones at that) and then walk about with a damsel donning red just like you before sitting down to dine with her at an eatery with red decor. If that doesn’t bore one’s eyes then at least it should bore their brains to death they would never consider obsessing about a day.

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Of shams and shambles.

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Kiboko Parade.

In the past, many a home, be it in the country or upscale urban home had a guard in one corner of the home- at times, disguised under a couch or behind a TV stand or seated atop a cupboard. A cane meant to guard the unwritten rules of the home from being broken. For the children in the home, it was a do or die matter- break the rules and get a lashing. There was no family court to listen to their plea for pardon whenever the judge who doubled as the prosecutor and felt slighted. Ironically, the firm presence of kiboko in a home did not guarantee that indiscipline would be absent. In most cases, the kiboko molded us into renegades; we always devised ways of neutralizing the effect. 

 Terror mayhem in the past seven days evoked memories of days when it was nearly a commandment that, “thou shall be lashed” when you misbehave. In retrospect to the terror alerts-one targeting Entebbe Airport, all “kibokos” were laid bare for anyone planning a reign of terror on Ugandan soil. Armored military vehicles, snipers and even camouflaged militia were all unleashed. The intent was clear, “lets show them what we gat.” Why on earth, would green grass camouflaged militia patrol the city and man security checks in an area devoid of any green grass like downtown Kampala? Why would a sniper blow his own cover by standing in the most noticeable of areas? I thought snipers are meant to position themselves atop a building? I’m either watching too much warfare documentaries or our security operatives are still watching Inspector Derrick- which even UBC dropped from its menu. Let me give them the benefit of doubt, after all what do I know about warfare apart from the junk I watch on TV mind you my junk is off National Geographic channel (pops collar).

Several reports have indicated the wanton security lax in Uganda. I won’t give them any credit. It is common sense to anyone, our fate lies in thy hands of our Creator. Our anthem reechoes that fact. Did parading of weaponry and mercenaries undo the fact that we’re at risk of attack? Or, did the terrorists catch a cold or fever which made them call off the attack because of our parade of mercenary. I’m forced to think we exposed our myopia. At least, they now know Uganda boasts of one black monster Ford truck that was donated by the United States which it will parade whenever there’s a threat.

Charity begins at home, so they say. I however want to warn you; in future you might be forced to literally keep that charity in your home. A new law that incriminates any philanthropist in the habit of giving handouts to street children is in the offing. I’m pledging my support to this cause, if there’s no profit in a business then why invest? No one will roll kids in mud and dress them up in filthy rugs to harvest money for him or her? I on the other hand, will get some sleep. I always go to bed with guilt. With flashbacks of pale faced children with mucus-full noses that I deny my coins in preference for Orange internet bundles.

I rolled on the floor in laughter the first time I discovered there’re girls in Uganda dropping out of school because of lack of sanitary pads. I’ll blame my insensitivity to their plight on my age at the time and ignorance. The Straight Talk magazine was my only source for that kind of information then. Today, due to exposure, I shed tears because of this problem our sisters are faced with. That’s is the very reason I’ll raise my cap to the gallant youths from Makerere University who have come up with a pocket friendly sanitary pad product known as the Makapad. I pray the product will save so man from dropping out of school. Makerere, indeed, “We build for the future.”

Today, I’m in the mood to kill character. Don’t blame my murders on xenophobia- I love diversity in culture. After seven days of looking at obituary newspaper front pages citing the execution of two Ugandan drug traffickers in China, I cannot help it but guillotine all those foreigners I feel have done injustice to Ugandans. First up on the chopping block is the Chinese “investor” who was caught with 1000 counterfeit phones last week. He is one of the reasons why there’s too much noise pollution especially in taxis today. The rate at which the “china” phones produce wacky shrieking kadongo-kamu and kidandali ringtones in taxis is agonizingly worrying. I would have loved to kill more character but I love my sleep. If slitting chicken necks gives me sleeps nights then killing two murders as was with our Ugandan brothers may make me go bananas. That is enough blood on my hands until next week.

#fodexpressions #week27

ISIS

A few days ago, I had an interesting chat with my little nephew. In recent weeks, he has become prayerful. Thanks so much to the culture of the school he attends. It is one of those “international” where pupils are expected to be the best that they can in and out of school. The school has made it a part of its curriculum to teach its pupils how to pray.

Luckily for him, the culture extends to home; he has started leading prayers in earnest. We always go to bed about the same time and that is when he’s called to duty; to pray for us all before calling it a day. To reduce the burden, we have taken turns in living by the say a prayer before going to bed tradition. Between the two of us, one leads the prayer for the other, every other day.

On the fateful day, it was my turn to lead prayers. As is the tradition, we pray for ourselves and everyone in our household, relations –those close and those far and wide, acquaintances –friends from school, teachers and work colleagues, Ugandans and humanity, in that order.

Unfortunately for me on the fateful day of this interesting prayer, I forgot to pray for the friends of us all. Before I could sign out, I was sternly reminded I had forgotten to pray for his friends. He then pointed out each by name, Zimora, Jabulani, ISIS… “ISIS!” I exclaimed.

Why would you want me to pray for ISIS, I asked (the prayer had officially gone into Half-time by this moment). “Because ISIS is my good friend,” he said.

That is when innocence came to mind and I realised here was a little unpolluted soul with a friend that has an explosive name. Being the child that he is, I figured he probably was not enunciating the name to the letter hence the christening of his friend with a name that smirks of terror once it comes off anyone’s lips.

For the record, I know nearly all his friends and teachers. We pray for all of them daily. I had not heard of an ISIS before, on the list of his friends. That is why I was shell-shocked at the first time of being asked to pray for this ISIS.

Anyhow, the prayer resumed and concluded unceremoniously once the miniature Half-time of interrogation came to a halt.

When the lights went out, I was left thinking to myself how parents of the 1986 regime have successfully outdone themselves; opting not to go for the tradition Tom, Dick and Harry name is their killing. Uganda’s new parents are now going as far as South Africa for Zulu names to confer upon their little bundles of joy. Jabulani (Zulu equivalent of rejoice), is one I found quite interesting but left it at that. I think I too would go for it if I brought a life into this world.

But ISIS! How? Why? Since when? What went wrong? Did Google shut down? Why would a parent go for a name that reeks of terror, through and through?
It is common place for names to be mispronounced and mis-enunciated. With hindsight of such a common faux pas, why then would a parent put their child on course to be referred to as a terrorist for the rest of the child’s life?

“What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” opined Shakespeare. But that doesn’t cut the grade for me. A name is more than just a label. In the world of harsh realities that we live in today, the names we bare can as much as open up opportunities for one or have doors shut in your face. It is the ugly truth.

From a young age, our peers taunt us and make fun of us given the names we have. The names are distorted throughout adulthood when the child in every adult comes afore. The taunting goes with us to our grave through the nicknames we carry into the next life.

A name, on that note, is not something anyone should take lightly. How often does your face turn when someone calls you by a name that is not yours or worse still when someone misspells your name. We all jump to action; in defence of our names. That is the very reason I believe parents should not come up with all sorts of names without considering the plaything they are making out of a child.

Thanks for reading

Thanks for reading

Cometh the Deadline, Cometh the Ugandan

Welcome to Uganda; a country where the more things change, the more they stay the same. My earnest apologies for being utterly pessimistic but I can no longer keep this to myself. Earlier in the year, when the world turned to pop culture and New Year resolutions were made, I made an unrealistic promise to myself; “See Uganda in positive light this year,” I said to myself.

In the same vein, I promised myself to churn out only positive writings about my country of birth. I do not know if I have stayed the course. I cannot recall when I fell to my old habits but this is yet another of my pessimistic writings about Uganda. You can find the rest littered across this blog.

In the days leading to the close of the fourth month of the 2017th year of our Lord, Ugandans were ordered to register their sim-cards by the communications regulatory authority, in under seven days or have their sim-cards cut off the respective telecom networks they subscribe to.

Ugandans shooed into cues, grumblingly. Telecom service centres were thronged in droves so much so that the cues snaked around buildings of popular service centres. Come rain, come sunshine, Ugandans stayed in line to have their lines re-registered. The exercise had taken off in earnest going by the numbers that cued up to have their sim-cards verified.

In the background, grumblings raged on. The call for an extension to the seven day ultimatum did not die out. But government refused to back down. It reiterated that the deadline would stay. But only until the deadline itself; at the umpteenth hour, it was announced the deadline had been pushed a month back. A sigh of relief was breathed in all pockets of the country and the anxiety that had built in the run up to the seventh day suddenly fizzled out.

It was in that moment when government’s arm was twisted that Uganda fell back to its old habits (See! I’m not the only one who can’t stay my course). Over the years, government has rolled out programs that have a clearly stipulated timeline however these timelines have only remained true in ink. In practice, the timelines have been adulterated, time and again.

From developmental projects to restructuring exercises, everything is pushed back. Road construction projects like the Northern Bypass took thrice the stipulated time to achieve completion. I doubt anyone can count off head when the first barrel of oil, harvested from the Albertine region oil wells, will make it to the market after the numerous extensions of that date. Registration of national for National I.Ds was extended more times than I can recall (worse still, commencement of registration for National I.Ds took eons to come into fruition). Switching from Analogue to Digital TV signals did not come pass until the hens had come home to roost; Uganda came second to all countries in the region when it came to switching to Digital TV.

For every extension made, Ugandans have in return kicked off their shoes and sat back. The projects and exercise have taken on a slothful pace only until the deadline is in clear sight.

The deadline for the re-registration of sim-cards, 19th May 2017, is now before us. The snaking cues that were seen earlier in the exercise are going to return. When push comes to shove, tempers will flare. The agitation and irritation is only inevitable. Expect nastiness to explode in those cues.
At the heart of an oncoming, albeit avoidable, crisis is our disdain, as Ugandans, for change. Changes that are only meant to better us as a country.

 The more these changes are rolled out, the more we fall back to our old ways and sneer at them. Unfortunately for those in government, they capitulate under the pressure of resistance.
Had the deadline for re-registration of sim-cards not been extended, many Ugandans would have had their lines disconnected on the seventh day but more Ugandans would have rushed to cue up and have their sim-cards re-registered on the eighth day. Phones have become a necessity, having phone contacts disconnected would have sent the country into panic mode and into cues.

When the deadline for Digital migration came into effect, Ugandans who had stubbornly refused to make the switch obliged. The same would have happened had ultimatum for disconnection of sim-cards been effected. Cometh the deadline, cometh the Ugandan; we are more responsive to the pressure of ultimatums than kind gestures from government. Extending ultimatums sends us back into sleep.

Thanks for reading

Black but not proud.

In the song Black and Proud, Mr Vegas (real names Clifford Smith) calls out fellow countrymen who are not comfortable in their native skin colour because of its dark pigmentation. He goes on to coax them;

“Black and proud, black and proud. Say it out loud, say it out loud. Black and proud, black and proud. Say it out loud, say it out loud.”

Before chorusing, “Because me nah bleach me nah bleach mi skin. Me nah bleach, fi look like a brownin. Because me nah bleach me nah bleach mi skin. Me nah bleach, fi look like a brownin.”

The lyrics are inked in black and white. There is little or no need for one to have a good grasp of Jamaican patois so as to pick the message. If indeed you’re black and proud of your race, please shout your voice hoax; say it out loud, at least, especially if you are under no pressure to bleach your skin so that you can appear a few shades lighter or like a brownin (a term used amongst Jamaican communities to describe a person of African descent who is light skinned).

The song was released at the height of a new trend in Jamaica that saw many a woman/girl bleach her skin. However, it was not only tailored to fit women from the motherland of reggae who were not comfortable in their skins but men too. In fact, it is said the track was released as a diss track towards popular Jamaican dancehall star, Vybz Kartel (real names Adidja Azim Palmer) who came under fire, in local Jamaican media, for bleaching his skin in 2011.

Whilst Black and Proud was a missive to Mr. Vegas’ fellow countrymen and directed towards another Jamaican music icon, it is one speaks to all black communities worldwide. Bleaching is one trend that seems to have found a comfortable seat amongst all black communities; from the Caribbean to the Americas and down to Africa itself. It appears to be growing with each passing year.

In recent years, a WHO report put the number of bleached women in Nigeria, one of the countries where the vice is at fever pitch, at 77%. A study about the vice in South Africa, done by the University of Cape Town in 2013, said 1/3 women in South Africa had bleached their skin. We can continue staring down the numbers or simply accept a social epidemic amongst black communities today.

Back home in Uganda, the numbers might not be any different from those realised by studies elsewhere. A simple glance a few steps to either side of one, when in public, stirs up more than mud from the murky waters. To your left will be an uncharacteristically light-skinned girl, to your right will be a pensioner with two-toned knuckles. A few steps away from them will be seated another lady with fairly darker complexioned feet and hands as compared to her face that appears shades lighter.

And on radio, an advert about a Mama something whose bleaching parlour in downtown Kampala is the one-stop centre for ladies and gentlemen looking to alter their skin complexion, will play at every commercial break. The social epidemic is now an economic boom.

That is the worrying trend that came to my notice when I took a seat, in a taxi, next to a lady fit to be my grandma a few weeks back. As the taxi heaved forward, wading around a dusty bumpy Kulambiro ring road, my ageing neighbour in the taxi stretched out her hand to get a grip of the metallic bar that separates the front seats in a taxi from the rest of the passengers. Lo and behold, it was a two-toned hand.

The sight forced me to steal a glance at the owner of the bleaching attempt gone awry. Her face was much worse off. Her chin and cheekbones were a few shades-off purple whilst the rest of her face had stubbornly remained caramel. Worse still, the grooves that set out a carpet of wrinkles on her ageing skin had also, stubbornly, refused to change from caramel to a lighter tone.

But that’s not the worst I have seen. I have seen red-hot pimples littered across a bleached face. I have seen acne born from bleaching attempts. I am certainly going to see a skin cancer patient soon as a result of a bleaching attempt gone wrong. I’m no prophet of doom, it’s only a matter of time.

After years of an ever growing bleaching trend, it is now clear, we as blacks have an underlying question regarding our self-worth. It is not a problem that is only specific to those who go out and bleach.

We might not have men bleaching their skins like women but they are the biggest fanners of the vice. Many a man on the streets of Kampala finds a fairly lighter toned woman superior in beauty to her dark complexioned compatriots. In turn, women of lighter complexion believe themselves to be superior to those darker than them. The now prevailing measure of beauty is skin colour.

The light skin-dark skin prejudice that has been born of the measure of beauty by skin colour today is very much everyone’s fault. If you’re a frequent social media user, you will not miss to see a chat about light skins come up often. You also won’t miss to see memes portraying women who have overzealously applied thick a layer of powder on their faces so as to appear lighter.

But therein, in the latest beauty stereotype, lays the question about our self-worth and esteem, as blacks (and Ugandans). If we have resigned ourselves to measuring beauty by colour and cannot stand having a dark skin complexion any longer, how much do we value ourselves against the views others have about us? How much pride do we take in ourselves? If we cannot be comfortably black in Africa, where else shall we be then? How else can we take pride in our race if we cannot be comfortable in the basic facet of belonging to the black race? Why have we left our self-definition to be determined by others?

Thanks for reading

Thanks for reading

It’s not just Dr. Stella Nyanzi, it’s all of us.

Today, Dr. Stella Nyanzi stands accused of a crime no other Ugandan had previously been charged for, computer misuse. Her case before the courts; referring to the Person of the President as a pair of buttocks, amongst other unmentionables. Her case in the public’s know; adding the First Lady, Mama Janet Kataha Museveni, to her long list of bashed public figures that had only a few months back had Professor Mamdani added to it. And, her case in the public courts dominated by Ugandans who have assumed a moral high ground; being vulgar and repeatedly peddling vulgarity.

But, and but, the charge sheet is incomplete and half-baked. If the law of this land is to apprehend only one (loud) person for a crime that is committed nearly every day amongst the online communities of Ugandan internet users, then I suppose Charles Dickens was right after all; the law is an ass. For it to obstinately be used as the tool of persecution of the day makes it nothing but stupid.

For years, many a Ugandan has called another a pair of buttocks albeit using a different language altogether. Some have gone as far as using much worse unmentionables than a pair of disorganized seating cushions the Almighty blessed all of us with. At worst, a Ugandan has run his/her loose tongue online nearly everyday to do nothing but lay bare, for all and sundry, the dirty linen of a fellow Ugandan.

Sometimes for the pettiest of misunderstandings, a character has been killed, online. The perpetrator has often bragged and thumped his/her foolish chest for silencing their nemesis. If the said nemesis dared to respond, threats of releasing graver intimate details are thrown up like a dice. That is how images of Ugandans wearing their never seen before birthday suits have often been released to prove the threats carried water.

Away from the prying eyes of open social media forums like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram -in Whatsapp groups, the wars are nastier. There are barely any threats. It’s all guns and black roses; a character is assassinated by group bullies and a rose put on the victim’s coffin as he/she is forced to “left” a Whatsapp group.

In the extreme, is a cold war that has raged amongst the online community of Ugandans on Twitter. In the blue corner are “Tweminists” (a group of youthful Ugandan ladies riding on the feminist movement to attack others and wear airs of importance) and in the red corner is the rest of the Ugandan community on Twitter that doesn’t believe being in disagreement with the views of a Ugandan Tweminist or keeping silence over a social injustice suffered by women outrightly makes one a misogynist.

Living amongst the Ugandan community on Twitter is next to walking on egg shells and banana peelings; a slip of your fingers either gets you killed, as a character, or leaves you shocked at how trigger happy most fingers, amongst Ugandans on Twitter are. It takes a thick skin not to be dragged into a bath in the mud as you will constantly be provoked to do. If you master how to tread carefully, your Twitter character lives to stand a taste of time.

The online community of Ugandans is largely reckless and insensitive to the wellbeing of other users. It’s more often than not animated with attacks and counterattacks (comebacks and clapbacks, says the millennials), and cold jokes (banter they call it). At the vigil of every character that has been murdered, memes and LOLs are passed around like cups of porridge and tea at an actual vigil as the perpetrators say, “it’s just Twitter (social media) after all.” They care less that there is a human being behind that character savagely killed.

But what do we end up with, Dr. Stella Nyanzi oscillating between Luzira and the courts to defend herself for a crime committed by all of us every day as we fan and instigate an attack against someone, online. It’s an ass; the law is nothing short of a pair of buttocks amongst other unmentionables.

Thanks for reading

About last night

When sleep finally begged to be slept, I had no choice but to give in. I stopped the series that I was watching -one of those that was a favorite for many a series watcher about three years ago but since I am always late to the party, I’m just getting hooked on it- and prepared to travel to wonderland. It was not the hardest of sleep trips to take as I had worn the last standing muscles in my body, my eyes, weary looking at a radiant screen for hours on end.

With journey mercies (read bedtime prayers) said, I slipped between my inviting warm sheets and geared up; throwing a heavy blanket over myself for a memorable but short trip on a chilly Easter weekend night. I knew the trip wouldn’t last long since it was only a few hours before the sun would wake up to wash it’s face with the morning dew on the easterly horizons before going out, with gusto, to comb through these lands before it finally clocked out and went to bed at dusk.

After a few hours on the road (is there such a thing as sleep-travelling just as there is sleep walking and talking) I finally I arrived at a bayside area somewhere on the much revered Lake Victoria. Little known to me, a group of friends had travelled ahead of me (perhaps we shared a telepathic dream last night). By the time I docked, they were already dressed down to swimwear to allow the sun tickle their skins. The already settled in party was elated that I had finally joined them (do I need another whole sentence to say yours [un]truly is the party of the party?).

[Let’s get this party started] Lake Victoria has been murky lately, with its water turning green and dark for most parts of the lake but this doesn’t hold back one from taking a dive in the lake when it gets scorching hot. I don’t recall exactly who went first but I remember diving in after Moses (real name), the seasoned swimmer amongst us all. Following close up to him, we swam down in a formation to a relatively small strip of rocky land standing a few-minutes-swim away from the mainland. The unspoken plan was to reach the rocky strip of land, take a walk around the rocks and jump back into the water. Unfortunately when we arrived atop the rocks I got lazy; the vantage point from the peak of the rocky island begged me to call for a timeout just so we could marvel at the wonder all around us.

After a few minutes (that seemed like hours) of marvelling at the breathtakingly beautiful scenery around us, we started our descent as we revelled in conversation and bewilderment. A few steps down the rocks, Moses goes, “Sssshhhhhhhh. Look down to the bottom of the rocks.” A cheetah was lulling right at the centre of the path we had used on our way up. The sudden silence didn’t spare us from sending it notice that it had company up the rocks. Once it got the notification it started walking up towards us. First, in a fashionable catwalk and then, in charged steps. That’s when the race for the peak started…

Foolishly we didn’t know going up the rocks was only a step closer to getting savagely devoured; we were unwittingly cornering ourselves to be preyed for a feast. With realization of our soon-to-be-departed from this earth moment, prayers were said, inaudibly and profusely. Tongues were spoken. A gravely loud hush fell over the rocks. When the moment finally came for me to be feasted upon, I heard a knock at my door and saw a fleeting image of the cheetah as it walked away dissatisfied with the meal that never was.

Good morning…

Thanks for reading

Letter to My Fellow Countrymen.

Dear Ugandans,

The third month of the year of our Lord, 2017, marked a rise in the tide against social injustice. Unfortunately, the rise in the tide against social injustice all but went uncelebrated because the winds of activism, blown by Dr. Stella Nyanzi, that swept across social media from her distraught mind, heart and soul, as a concerned Ugandan into the public domain were somewhat drowned out by the crude language which carried her grave outcry.

Disturbed by remarks made by the First Lady cum Minister of Education and Sports, Mrs. Janet Kaguta Museveni that government has no money to provide free sanitary pads as had been promised during the Presidential campaigns in 2016 to the school going girl child of Uganda, Dr. Stella Nyanzi took to her Facebook platform to call out the First Lady for her insensitivity (as a mother, First Lady and Ugandan in a position of service to the nation) to the plight of the disadvantaged girl child largely hailing from the wanainchi class of Ugandans across the country. But most importantly, to call out the government Mama Janet serves for being shifty on an extremely sensitive matter.

The sandstorm the initial missive directed towards the First Lady and government led to Dr. Stella Nyanzi’s summoning and interrogation by the CID over her missive, infringement of her right to freedom of movement –she was put on a no-fly list, subsequent missives from Dr. Stella Nyanzi towards the First Lady, a clear-the-air press conference from the First Lady in reply to the barrage of attacks and suspension of Dr. Stella Nyanzi from her job by Makerere University, on the one hand.

When you flip the coin, the barrage of attacks figuratively woven together from the finest thread of satire to poke the First Lady and Government into action but also appeal to the masses through social media, to arrest the situation, registered success. The First Lady got more than a poke; Dr. Stella Nyanzi’s Facebook posts pinched her into issuing a rhetorical press conference to “forgive” her unapologetically resolute attacker. The masses got to talking; online, in kafundas and through mainstream media. The kindhearted amongst those went further and lent a hand to Dr. Stella Nyanzi’s crowd-funded campaign to donate sanitary pads to the girl child of Uganda.

But as we get to talking or castigating Dr. Stella Nyanzi for her choice of unpalatable language given the context of our African culture and donating to Dr. Stella Nyanzi’s noble campaign, can we please acknowledge the growing tide of activism sweeping across these lands through the most unconventional of platforms? Most importantly, can we please get angry with the lackluster service we getting from government and take a similar stand against any social injustices in our midst? Can we say enough is enough? Can we take it upon ourselves not to leave struggle for a better Uganda to a few bravely astute Ugandans?

In the midst of this Dr. Stella Nyanzi on behalf of the girl child and tight-lipped cowering Ugandans Vs. Mama Janet on behalf of the shifty hard-hearted government hullabaloo, one post on social media and one rhetorical question from a panelist on breakfast show of one local TV station pinched me into penning this letter. The post on social media asks, how can it be that only one Ugandan (Dr. Stella Nyanzi) is expressively angry about the whole situation yet we all vividly know the plight of the girl child who has no access to sanitary pads? And the rhetorical question from the panelist on the breakfast show asks, how will the future judge Dr. Stella Nyanzi?

In light of the two questions, allow me add a third, how will the future judge the rest of us who looked on or looked the other way as the country fell off a social justice cliff into an oblivious abyss of arrested development for the most disadvantaged, the poor and voiceless?

To you my fellow Ugandan, please dig within your depth and unearth the Dr. Stella Nyanzi in you. Search for the activist in you to struggle for the right and just. Do not simply look the other way because you sleep soundly in your palatial home, wake up to life’s pleasures and have never seen your daughter or sister in distress because her menstruation period has come calling. If you can fight whatever struggle you pick without turning a few noses because of profanity that is even the better. But please, pick a struggle and put up a good fight.

Yours earnestly,
Worried Ugandan.

Thanks for reading

From conference halls to thin air

Last Monday they met again. As the sun made its way home, a cross-section of Ugandans in positions of affluence and power filtered through Kampala’s traffic in trickles to one of their usual meeting points. At the Serena, they finally took their seats at tables dotted with Africa’s wildlife giants depicted through wooden carvings. They all looked on in awe at the wooden carvings before them whilst the real elephant in the hall, Uganda’s unnerving economic development, stared at all of them in pity.

When all pleasantries and niceties their social graces could muster had been exchanged across the tables in the hall, the emcees of the day took their positions before the podium to kick off the official business; starting with official introductions of main speakers of the day but first a keynote speech from guest of honor that was preceded by speeches from the heads of the organization behind the forum.

One after the other, the speakers were unveiled through volumes of fanciful CVs. Within the youthful audience I was sat, at home, we couldn’t help but clap (mentally) in awe and envy of the rosy career journeys many a speaker had trekked whenever a new CV appeared on the screen. Some dating as far back as thirty years ago. That is as many years ago as the current political regime in Uganda.

When the main speakers had all assumed their seats on the podium, they dug in; offering their revered expert opinions on the day’s theme –Turning the Vision into Action. Clapping (in our minds), we went. Nearly at the turn of each sentence because of the sheer brilliance that spewed from each speaker. Not so much because of what they were saying (it was not exactly new to the ears of anyone that has paid attention to proceedings from previous such talks) but how they opined thematically from different perspectives without being tempted to bore the audience. Some of the opinions were not far from what texts books say but we still enjoyed the discussion because all that was said was tailored for the day.
As the discussion on the NTV Economic summit wore on at Serena, a retrospective commentary on the summit unraveled on social media. However the commentary on social media woven around the #NTVSummit16, by Ugandans on Twitter in particular, bore hallmarks of cynicism. It painted a glum picture of this particular dialogue (and those that have preceded it). Cynicism that I somewhat agree with. The rhetoric on Twitter sought amongst other answers, what has become of the issues raised in previous dialogues of this nature if nothing completely new is being discussed?

Ideally, the issues raised in such talks should incite introspection amongst all stakeholders. Consequently, it is expected that action is taken after reflection and review of what is seen as wrong. However, that doesn’t seem to be the case for Uganda. At the end of each such talk, those in attendance leave conference halls with an aura of satisfaction having smelt a whiff of hope because the actors who are singled out acknowledge they have erred and promise to start anew.

But nothing. Life goes on as usual. A few months or years down the road, the very same issues pop up in different narratives in conferences elsewhere. Sometimes, the very same opinions shared in previous talks are repeated by speakers called forth to diagnose the issues plaguing our country at another conference.

Do those tasked with the responsibility of driving us forward listen? If they do, why should they be told what needs to be done repeatedly? Are they simply stubborn? Will it take as many conferences as the size of the current cabinet or parliament to act?
Perhaps those organizing the dialogues should rethink their strategy to pitch their ideas to government. Talk is cheap, goes the adage but nearly all of the dialogues cost more than an arm and a leg to put together. The monies put together by organizers, in most cases Civil Society Organizations, have the potential to change the lives of Ugandans without government getting directly involved.

Assuming a conference on youth livelihood is to run for more than a day and cost close to UGX 100 million, would it make more impact if the organizers created a youth loan scheme for youth in one of the remote areas of this country or it would make more sense to invite the media, civil society figures, government officials to discuss on end about unemployment and the lack of vocational skills amongst Uganda’s in a plush hotel’s conference halls?

There is no doubt, talks like the NTV Economic Summit are needed to give those in positions of power an opportunity to pose, rethink, and restart the race for long sought after better economic times embodied through mantra like Middle Income Status but the approach may have to change in the case of Uganda. Rather than organizing all these conferences to drive one point home, those bankrolling these conferences should walk the talk by injecting the funds, that seem to be going to waste, directly in those areas they have for long urged government to act. Beyond that, the brilliant ideas shared in all these talks will vanish into the dust outside the plush conference halls as attendees leave to go back to their daily work.

Thanks for reading

Goodnight

“Don’t let the mosquitoes bite. Sleep tight,” he typed. He looked over the text a few times over a million before he finally hit the send button. He had typed and deleted a few of those before finally settling to submit this particular one. It had been his signature text to cap off a night of back and forth texting with his new fountain of affection for over a year now. Today, he had wanted to be different but words had failed him. He couldn’t tell whether it was his exhausted mind or sore fingers; tired from toiling for the next meal in the sweltering heat of the capital.

Had he been different today, he would have thumped his chest to sleep and given his brain a mental pat. He would have smiled even in his sleep. The past couple of days have been rough between the two of them. The tension that has built up between them, suddenly, is written all over their texts. Sometimes, it holds back responses. On other days, it solicits no replies. On such days, the texts exchanged are hollow. They convey no heartfelt message. The receiver cannot help but slip them into the junk text folder. Because that is what they are. Junk. It is certain they cannot nourish a heart that is growing cold.

In his mind, she is slipping away. But in his heart, she still holds sway. He had hoped a change in diction would also hold sway, on her end. At least for today. He cares less for tomorrow. Hopefully, they will both wake up in a better mood. And the story will be different. That has always been his prayer. That they both wake up anew. Thirsty for the affection they shared when they first met. And on the good days when their other lives had not drained the dying fondness they held for each other.

When they first set sight on each other at the little neighborhood supermarket, they lived for the future. They lived for firsts. He lived for the day he would first speak to her. The day he would first make an earnest submission that would leave her in no doubt he was genuinely fond of her. Her reaction. And the bliss filled days that would follow, if she said yes. She lived for the day he would state his case. Was he serious about her, and them? She was tired of running around with boys on the town. Having her heart drugged through the dust on the streets. She had said yes before he even asked anyway. But she lived for the day he make it clear only she caught his eye at that moment and only she would exist in his world.

They hoped for a future together. Whatever it held, they wanted to enjoy a piece of it together. But only a few months later, they now live for today. On days like this, they live for yesterday. They long for what was. Their hearts clutch on to memories and cherish the times gone by as their minds piece together the fire that has been lost.

Today, she ran off into slumber. He struggled to keep a hold of her but she went over the cliff and fell into sleep. When his mind got tired of fighting to hold on to her, her mind wriggled out of his grasp. He could tell he was losing a grip of her when her replies started taking decades to come forth. He humored her in an attempt to keep her awake but then the replies, which now came after decades of waiting, were nothing more than tired Ks and Lols. She only once attempted to cover up with emojis but even they couldn’t get her out of this one. This pattern had now become familiar. He could easily tell when she had grown disinterested.

He could do nothing but hurt on such a day. Because she had eloped with her pillow. She had picked the warmth of her sheets over his humor. She had been swept off her feet by the allure of sleep. She had all but broken the promise they made to make each other a priority over everything else. She had gone with the wind that blew her eyes shut. Fast shutting them, sealed, until the break of day.

On a day like this when he couldn’t help it but hurt, and long for just one more text from her probably when she woke in the middle of her sleep and realized she had run off to slumber leaving him stranded –staring at his phone, he perused his phone for all memory of her existence. He reread all the texts she had sent him since they first exchanged contacts. He relived the moments they had shared. He reenacted the fights they had put behind them. He was tempted to let go. To delete the texts. And lose her number to the machine. But suddenly had a change of heart, punched the word goodnight in the message box and pressed send.

#BUBU

Today, there are two things evolving at a breakneck speed. So much that if you went into coma you could wake up and be lost in a society where you previously comfortably existed. One is technology, and the other is pop culture and its constructs. One of those being pop language. The diction of the present day is nearly as hard to keep up with as the technology of the day. Just when you thought you had seen the latest smartphone you watch another get launched at a Tech summit. Similarly, just yesterday, you ran to Google and asked him (for some reason I think the search engine is masculine like God) what that word you saw being thrown around on Twitter means and today, you’re back again to ask about another.

A day does not go by without me running to an online urban dictionary to help me understand what the latest street lingual means, how it is used and where it was birthed. I don’t want anyone dropping bombs on me while I play dumb (apologies, this is about to become a strictly urban post. Run to Google if you find yourself in the dark alley of I-don’t-know-what-that-means). Dumb never gets you a comeback. Dumb only gets the floor mopped with your reputation. Thanks to social media, we now live for comebacks or should I say clap backs. The least you can do is be civil but not to play dumb.

Anyhow, two weeks ago, a lady I was previously acquainted with slides into my DM. She wanted to know how much the steering wheel covers I’m selling cost and how she could get her hands on them. We got to talking. I would deliver at any place of her convenience and at no cost to her. To which she agreed where I would be delivering her order. But for over a week we failed to meet. Something always got in the way. I started getting worried I was about to lose this particular sale. In fact, two sales because she bought two pieces at the end of the day. I pressed on for the meet until we finally got to sit down and do a handshake when the deal was concluded.

Seeing that the products I’m selling are new I always press for feedback from the customer. I want to know what the customer thinks of what they just forked out a few thousands of shillings for. This got us talking even after the real business was done and dusted. Later on that day, she calmed my nerves. The two pieces she had gifted to two people were very much appreciated. Both people were elated Santa had come before 26th December. I couldn’t help but thank her, again (I had done a whole load of thanking when the initial deal fell through).

It was then that she dropped my new word of the day. #BUBU, she had signed off her response expressing her satisfaction with the 100% Ugandan product. I didn’t waste no time running to Google for my daily lesson. But for once he was also in the dark. He asked whether I meant to search for something totally different but I stood my ground. When he failed to admit that he can’t fashion an answer I left him to nurse his arrogance. I went back to the lady asking what exactly she meant when she said, #BUBU.

Be Ugandan. Buy Ugandan.

That was it. How on earth did I miss that? I thought to myself, kano kapya. Even Google doesn’t know it, yet. How more Ugandan can this get? I must confess, as I tried to decode the text, my mind wandered off to hell and back but still returned with no answer. This got me thanking her again for not only doing business with me but also being economically patriotic. For staying true to her roots. Because for the past few years, a few initiatives, both private and public have sprung up to rally Ugandans to consume more Ugandan products but still, we are yet to embrace what is locally manufactured as much as we clamor for imported products.

When the debate on the economy comes up, time and again, statistics reveal Ugandans import nearly everything and export close to nothing. Our exports largely being agricultural produce. And Eddie Kenzo’s music (I pray for the day we export Maddox’s music). Within the same time, commerce and industry has grown, a lot of stuff now gets manufactured here but still, Ugandans who have “made it” prefer to go to China and Dubai rather than buy the very same item that is made in Uganda.

Some ship in these products because they have not explored the market at length to unearth Ugandan made gems or live under the pretext that the quality of product they want can never be made by a Ugandan. Others have been plagued by the infamous inferiority complex. Never mind that they have “made it” they believe boasting of imported products is the only way to be up-to-the-minute. At the end of the day, they end up with for instance synthetic furniture whilst they could have got custom-made furniture from fine wood at a local artisan’s workshop.

You can never tell what is out there unless you do your research. I was one time shocked when I discovered the fine dry wine I was sipping was largely made from soursop (locally known as kitaferi) and an assortment of other locally grown fruits. I can bet an arm and a leg, you will find many a Ugandan who appraise themselves as wine connoisseurs but they know nothing about such a product. But do not be shocked when that the very same people can review a bottle of wine in their sleep, know wine brewed as far back as the last coming of Jesus and breweries across the globe. What else explains such a person other than the fact that they have an imported expertise? That is why all their knowledge bares no mark of Uganda. They have never bothered to touch base with the Ugandan in them.

What am I getting at? Be Ugandan. Buy Ugandan. #BUBU

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If you are looking to try out a Ugandan product, here is one. A steering wheel cover made in Uganda using locally solicited material.

Breaking the ice

The year is 2009. It is still early in the year. March, to be exact. Humanity is clocking out the first decade of the new millennium. The rate of technological evolution has become insane. New inventions are now part of our daily lives. There is either a new product or service every instant for you to consume. Courtesy of this technological evolution, Ugandans are for the first time able to conduct person-to-person transfer of funds and keep an electronic storage equivalent to the value of their hard cash on their mobile handsets.

The new service is christened mobile money. In the next few years it evolves to perform other functions including payment of utility bills. In the year of its inception, 600,000 Ugandans register to use the service, according to Bank of Uganda statistics. The pioneer users conduct a total of 3 million transactions within the same year amounting to 133 billion shillings. By 2015, 21,100,000 Ugandans are the registered users of the service. They conduct a total of 693 million transactions amounting to 32,506 billion shillings in money exchanged through the service.

Within the same year, 2015, a national population census is conducted. The population of Uganda now stands at 34 million. A comparison with the mobile money user statistics clearly shows registered mobile money users, standing at 21 million, are more than half the total population of the nation. Nearly every street corner has a kiosk dealing in the mobile money business. Business transactions are now concluded with the question, “can I pay using mobile money?” Or, “are you a registered mobile money user (if yes, can I wire the payment to your number)?”

By this time, there are even jokes about the now popular mobile money service that are recycled on social media. In my favorite, a guy asks a lady who has caught his eye, “How can I get a hold of you?” To which she replies, “You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter but the easiest way is through Mobile money, here is my registered number.”

The remarkable growth of mobile money is only but one part of the story. It was never as popular a service as it is today. At the time of its inception, it was a totally different story. The skeptics were all but everybody. Those who used the service, at its inception didn’t exchange huge sums of money. Even they, had their reservations. Here was a new service that bore marks of banking functions being introduced in a country where banking is still a service the average Ugandan is yet to embrace.

The jury was out on whether the system was secure. Everyone’s fear was losing a penny to this new service. Personally, when I first used the service, I would anxiously hang around the mobile money kiosk I had used to send money until the receiver on the other end confirmed he/she had received the money. But alas, 6 years later, the doubts everyone had about the service then, calmly flow like water under a bridge.

Many a product undergoes the same cycle especially if it’s new. There’s always that one question that lingers on the mind of any customer, “DOES IT WORK?” It’s always a question of whether the product will satisfy the customer to his/her expectations. It takes more than convincing for a customer to become confident he/she is going to get value for their money. If it’s a new product/service, a customer will want to first hear the story of one who has used it before parting with his/her money. In the case of Ugandans, we must first be true to who we are –Africans, before paying for a new product on the market. Without seeing the product in use, we hold our reservations in high esteem.

The only product or service that doesn’t seem to be subject to scrutiny in Uganda are hangout spots. The moment a fresh hangout launches in any part of this country, Ugandans flock the place within no time. It becomes the “in thing.” It only suffers a decline in revelers when another hangout opens across the street. The trend is most traceable with bars.

When I got the idea to make steering wheel covers that would make me forget about the discomfort I suffered when I used the synthetic leather steering wheel covers that are sold by hawkers on the streets, I had a lot of fears but never expected the cold reception I got when the product was finally ready for consumption. Initially I thought the cold feet most of the people who had seen the prototype developed when I returned to them with the final product was because of the price tag. But even when the price tag was revised and slashed, they still did not place their orders. It was then that I started to probe for what I was missing all along.

The real issue started popping up when I engaged the next potential customers. They all asked one question, “does it work?” At first I felt offended when I thought I was being accused of attempting to dupe whoever had asked until I realized the question was being put to me because the product was new. It was not proven. In other words, they had not seen it anywhere else. It’s then that I started to whip out my phone and show off shots of a few pieces that were bought and how they had fitted well on the wheels of the buyers.

But the skeptics are still there. The question keeps popping up now and then. It’s only that I have now come to terms with what I’m being dealt. It doesn’t take me any trouble today to quash any doubts because I now know why they exist. A customer will always have cold feet if you’re selling something new. It may not take you 6 years like the mobile money service to become a household item but still, you must earn the confidence of your target market. It’s the only way you will fend off any skeptics.

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It’s only until i started showing off such pieces to potential customers that they believed what i was selling genuine. They had to first see it on another steering wheel.