I was at a graduation party today. Silas, now with the title Eng. before his name has graduated as a manager of one of the fastest growing ICT companies in Uganda(or even the region, if you like). No, Silas didn’t finish top of his class. As a matter of fact, he’s supposed to have graduated three years ago. But retakes (and careless lecturers) at universities are real and we have them to thank for this company. One day Silas awoke to the fact that he would not graduate at the same time as his classmates. That day Silas cursed. “Phuck books”, he said. Then he went ahead to start the company which employed his classmates who had graduated. Some are even continuing on their Masters’ now, but he who only got a degree recently is their boss. *Insert Applause for Silas* If you are one of the people who missed graduation because you were unserious, or your lecturer messed you up, Phuck books. Yes, I said it. Get off your butt, employ your friends who have graduated. Please.
But that’s not the story.
At the party, I met Dan(not real name for the sake of our friendship). It’s been long since I last talked to Dan so it was all catch up and whatnot. Then Dan asked, “So you’re still doing your business ish?” Now Dan is generally a Slow Laner(if you’ve read The Millionaire FastLane by MJ Dermarco you surely understand. If you haven’t, do yourself a favor and read it.) With no attempt to detail anything I simply said, “Yes, would you like to make an order?” Dan laughed a sarcastic laugh and said, “Oh Ugandan products, no please. Just save me a job when you guys make it.” He thought it funny and I wanted to spit in his face. I didn’t because he said he was going to vote. It calmed me. At least he had some reason left.
(I’ll still spit in his face. When he comes for that job. Please.)
I thought about that conversation enough to know that it is true of how most of us think.
Case 1: The company filming the Uganda presidential debate was a US company. Is it possible that no Ugandan company was good enough to do the job??? I don’t think so.
Case 2: Recently my friends were giggling about a wedding that was IT. I missed it, so everything they described sounded nothing short of glam. “Tell me about the dress please,” my curiosity kicked in when they were stretching the description of the decor. “It was imported,” they said, evidently awestruck, more by the fact that it was imported than how it looked. “It must have been expensive,” they ogled. I asked to have a look at a picture of this dress. Nothing fancy. Okay, it was fancy but it could be made by those guys in Namirembe plaza. Please.
Case 3: Taata Owen recently opened a supermarket down the street. On this random morning, the house help comes to me and asks for money to go grocery shopping. I hand it to her. I was taken aback when she said it was less. “Why?”, I asked, “have the prices gone higher again?” No, she needed transport to go town. More confused. “For what?” Turns out she wanted to go to Nakumatt. No way boss. Taata Owen is the place now.
Case 4: I have cool friends (and they think they are cool too hihi) so we listen to cool music yo! It stopped shocking me when they go like “Who even listens to Ugandan music?” Because cool to them is not Ugandan. *sigh… Also, when I wrote Fatal Attraction* and took to Twitter to invite people for Abaasa’s Valentine’s special, somebody took it upon themselves to find out how much Abaasa pays me. Like really??? Really??? I’ve never even met the man.
(but I will. Sunday 7pm. Yasigi Beer Gardens Kololo. Be there.)
Case 5: Deborah recently cut her hair. The barber recommended she use Movit shampoo. She told me about it. “Like seriously, who uses Movit?” I told her Movit has won more awards for its quality than any other company I know. “But still, it’s Ugandan…” she whined.
Case 6: My reading list just recently got updated with African literature. Like 4 months ago actually.
Case 7: If you saw the books I read in 2015, most of them were business related and that’s because Allure Clothing, the company I run with the professor had just started. We are well into the second year, and trying to make it beyond the five year try-outs for start-ups. We woke up one day and decided the fashion industry in Uganda is not where it should be. Ugandan designers need more of the Ugandan market. And so we gambled hostel fees as capital. We enjoyed the first few months you know, with everyone being so supportive. Then it hit us real hard. It’s a Ugandan company. Most people are more willing to buy clothes(available in all sizes and colors) from Mr.Price than do a personalized tee at half the price with us. More willing to buy a struggling semblance of a Louis Vuitton than a nice looking African designed bag. More willing to Google designers anywhere in the world but Uganda. It hit us real hard bro.
If you’re insightful, you’ve caught my drift. Who bewitched you foolish Ugandans? Who bewitched us??? Why are we so willing to go out on a limb for anyone but our kinsmen? Why do we find everything so fascinating but that which is created by our country men? Who bewitched you foolish Ugandans? Who?
Maybe I’m coming on too strong, let’s start over shall we?
“You can’t hate the roots of a tree and not hate the tree. You can’t hate Africa and not hate yourself.” –@affricanfacts bio on Twitter.
Maybe hate is too strong a word, but let’s just say it works in place of whatever it is we feel towards ourselves quite perfectly. It could be ‘post-colonialism’ like they say. I don’t know. But here’s what I know: We are responsible for the way we think. We are responsible for the way things are. We have believed in a lie. Consciously or unconsciously. And it is holding us back. Not just as a country, but as a continent. We don’t have to be paid to support our own blood. It shouldn’t be that way. Because when they flourish, we do too. It doesn’t help us to be constantly bad mouthing and trying to tear each other down. We can do this together. We can stop being the continent that’s only rich in resources but never utilizes them. We can. But only if we start supporting those trying to do something for themselves. I probably don’t even understand what I’m talking about so well, I just believe it. That’s all.
In case you missed my point or jumped straight to the end(like I do sometimes) go back and read all of it, don’t be a foolish Ugandan. And this is your take home:
books education. Create jobs for graduates.(and don’t use offensive language)
Check out tracenode.com. Those guys are doing amazing work.
Follow @allure_ug on Twitter and place an order 🙂
Kidding, support the creatives of Africa.
Where is your patriotism???