Although this post is about Uganda, please, let me take you back a bit to a related incident.
A few years ago, I was in Iceland and every local and international news coverage about “Africa” was on the Ebola crisis. Yes, I agree, Ebola is and was deadly. It caused so much havoc I can never comprehend why.
I had listened to the news in other European countries and it was the same. Not one time did they mention the specific African countries involved. Which were 3 by the way, not the entire 54 countries on the African continent. I was angry, very angry. I started talking about setting up a media house to just focus on positive things that were happening on the continent, to balance out and drown the negative voices and stereotypes about the African continent.
And so it didn’t help when someone I was getting to know invited me to dinner and displayed sheer ignorance, less than 30 seconds after getting into her car. She asked me absurd questions about Africa. A continent I live in, read about and had only seen about 8 out of the 54 countries at the time.
I know a curious person when I see one. This wasn’t one. It was obvious some people are just not interested in knowing about this continent. She was one and I didn’t need the Pope to confirm that. Her tone and body language spoke volumes. Her questions were “if we had entrepreneurs in Africa”. I said, of course, you’re looking at one. She quickly dismissed that and said I was international so it didn’t count. I have built a business in Ghana for 8 years at the time and I live in Ghana. How did that not count? I so wanted to roll my eyes to the back of my head. But that won’t solve anything, except risk my eyes disappearing into its socket. I need my eyes to see more of the world.
Then she became the African expert and said most entrepreneurs might just have tabletop businesses. I cut her off mid-sentence and said, “look, every business you have here, we have it too, it is really not new to “us” There were app developers as well as your tabletop business.” The questions got silly and my patience was running thin. I wanted to disappear from the car. First I felt anger, then I thought it was my job to educate.
As if to cement her status as an “African expert”, she tells me when her husband came back from “Africa”, he hugged the toilets at home for weeks. I asked her which country her husband visited and she couldn’t even remember and I called her out. “ Your husband went to Uganda to do missionary work and he was probably living in some very very remote village,” I pointed the toilets in Iceland has nothing over the one I have at home. Africa is huge and it is not one big village of huts where we all know each other and use questionable sanitary conditions.
I agree, not everywhere is super developed just like in most parts of the world! Development is in stages.
I don’t want this post to derail into issues or learning best practice, resources, mindset and conditioning. In any case, we have our ways and culture, which sometimes is more environmentally friendly, so it’s not always bad news.
We were heading to dinner and as much as, I love to educate people on my continent, this was getting exhausting. Plus you can only educate the willing.
If you are wondering, she has never been to any country in Africa. She has only been to the USA! I encouraged her to speak to other Africans, and also do EXTENSIVE research on the Internet.
And as far as Uganda goes, I knew my acquaintance was hanging on to a one-sided story. And so I bring you PARTS of the other half.
Way before that bizarre interaction, I have always been curious about Uganda.
My experience like I said, is a small part of the other half as I spent a few hours in Entebbe and not other towns and villages or even Kampala the capital city.
I, however, knew very little about Entebbe, so I thought, instead of going to Kenya and waiting 13 hours for my flight to my next destination, I could break the journey up and have a feel of Entebbe. The plus side is, I didn’t need a visa for Uganda as a Ghanaian.
I got to Entebbe airport at 3 am. There was no Wi-Fi at the airport. What was I to do?
It spent a few minutes people watching. It was interesting seeing the faces of those who had come to experience Uganda. So many dreams, so many expectations so many myths to be shattered including my own. I dreamt to touch on Uganda soil and I too was here.
I spent hours sitting, reading, planning and mainly waiting at the airport for day to break.
I continue to watch cleaners get to work and lost luggage being sorted out. Strangers became acquaintances. A member of staff probably felt sorry for me and started talking to me.
Next thing I know, we were sharing stories about family ties and the pressure and extra responsibilities one has as a firstborn child, like the both of us were.
My new friend who is a ground handler helped me connect with his friend, who agreed to take me on his motorbike for a small fee. It was way better than getting a taxi at that time of day.
And as soon as day broke, I hit the town. Everyone told me never to use the motorbike in Uganda. I clearly didn’t listen. I took the forbidden bodaboda aka motorbike and did a city tour with a local, lad a good laugh was and back in time to check in.
The immigration officials I met were friendly. It also helped that I was with airport staff. My new friends came to see me off before heading home after their shift.
Like Rwanda security has heightened at Entebbe airport. There were 2 police stops before you get to the main airport departure lounge to be scanned and checked again. It can be a bit crippling, but it also makes me wonder if my country is doing enough.
I noticed there were people on the same flight as me from Kigali to Entebbe who were also waiting for their connecting flights. I realized you’re never really alone on this journey. I later found out most of them were also going to Kenya but stayed at the airport. My adventurous self got rewarded with fresh and crisp morning air and saw the mighty Lake Victoria.
A lake I had read about in my Geography class. It was exciting to know in a matter of weeks, I will be seeing the Victoria Falls to put it all in perspective.
I saw Ugandans up and early going for Mass.
I also got to see the UN base in Uganda, the biggest golf course I have ever seen. I was told this is where most golf competitions in East Africa or even across Africa are held. Uganda is beautiful and lush.
There were similarities between Uganda and a few other countries I had seen; modern developments, malls etc.
Uganda is not just about gorillas, dirt roads, aid agencies and missionaries.
The people are very friendly and enthusiastic. I loved it and as much, I wished I had a longer layover to visit the famous Makerere University in Kampala. Hard as I tried, that didn’t happen and I know I have a reason to go back!
I have always been a big advocate for seeing places for yourself and in a little time, I got to have a glimpse of Uganda. One that many tourists don’t see.