Even without reading the entire article, the headline is piercing enough. This is one of the stingers from veteran Ugandan scribe, Charles Onyango –Obbo, who needs no further introduction. We quote him here verbatim: ‘What do Somalia Sheep, goats and Ugandan doctors have in common?’, ( Daily Monitor, September 30, 2015).Uganda, peaceful and gifted by nature, can only export domestic workers (with university degree to boot) to the Arabian Gulf where desert, sandy and war-torn Somalia exports live animals (5 million annually earning $ 360 million). He pits this against the strange fact that a Ugandan inventor, Dr Misaki Wayengera could only actualise his concept of an Ebola testing kit thanks to Canadian government funding, after his own motherland let him down.
My ancestors in Nkore-Karagwe hold that Akati ku kakuteera omu riisho, kati ‘hweza’, literally translating: a twig strike in the eye sharpens your gaze. And if we needed a wake-up strike, this bitter truth is one.
But trust us, life continues as usual, with our ‘debates’ on all the milliard media platforms focusing on where we excel best…yes, you’ve guessed right!
Hardly had this sunk in than an even sharper strike was unleashed from a related corner: Tanzanian scribe-cum-lawyer, Jenerali Ulimwengu, a columnist in The East African. Reacting to the Chinese reversal of the one-child per family policy, his bitter truth reads, verbatim:
“…For every young man or woman whom we have failed to accommodate in our ramshackle schools and non-existent factories, we now have to build prisons to contain the ever-growing lumpen element on our streets. Chinese look at us and see a market of fools who will buy their cheap goods made in factories that employ their youth, and we, the job exporters, make it possible for the Chinese to give themselves a two-child bonus because they have earned it…’ (The East African, October 31, 2015)
Call it coincidence. The day I read this, I had a business meeting with our chief rat in the Mitchell heydays at Makerere. He is a top technocrat in a core ministry here and I literally greeted him with the biting truth about us and the Chinese. ‘But we have our BTVET…it will sort out all this’…, was his retort. ‘In the importer-consumer economy that we are, BTVET will simply be another high-sounding donor-euro lubricated white elephant…’. I argued, citing the cases of my youth-day workmates, Kennedy and Luswata.
Kennedy, while employed as a mechanic, had a side-business, a metal fabrication workshop run by his brother, a DIT-Lugogo graduate in welding and fabrication. Business ran fine, till property developers in Uganda started importing all their fittings from China, only using his quoted measurements to specify their orders to Chinese fabricators. The last straw came when his corporate client, a telecom company, decided to source their point-of- sale signage pieces from their parent country. He could not compete. He closed shop.
Luswata’s experience is akin to Dr Wayengera’s. He has marketed his concept device, dubbed environment saver to those who matter, with no success.
The prototype product, tested on his own car, is an exhaust system fitted with a German-make catalytic converter that neutralises poisonous exhaust fumes. His goal is to have all vehicles in Uganda fitted with this system, an initiative that will both eliminate pollution and create thousands of jobs in factories fabricating the environment saver.
‘How sharp a strike do we need to wake up?’… chief rat had no answer. Not even his magic wand, BTVET.
Luswata, may Wayengera’s luck rub on you one day!