Time to find a new Tourism Minister

If I were the Ugandan Minister of Tourism, I would have little trouble advertising the country to tourists.  Kevin and I went there several years ago and for anyone who is a fan of wildlife, it is a true paradise.  We saw lions climbing trees, we trekked with chimps, we saw gorillas in the (awesomely and correctly named) Bwindi Impenetrable Forest, we saw an amazing diversity of birds and animals cruising the Kazinga channel.

One thing we didn’t see (thank goodness) was unhygienic mass circumcision of teenage boys.  That is the Ministry of Tourism’s great plan of how to lure more tourists to the country!  Seriously! Lions, no; chimps, no; gorillas, no; adolescent abuse, yes!

Here’s more information:

“The Uganda and Kenya Tourism boards are looking to turn the tradition into an attraction. They have agreed to jointly promote Embalu circumcision ceremonies in Eastern Uganda and Western Kenya. President Yoweri Museveni himself has encouraged this ritual. He said it fits in well with today’s modern society where all men are encouraged to get circumcised for health purposes.”

This might be my favorite line: “Tourism experts intend to market the Embalu festivals across the world using Ugandan embassies in the hope that the ceremonies will bring in additional tourists.”

My take: time to find some new tourism experts!

Here’s a photo we took of our time there:

lion2_uganda

That would be a lot better for tourism promotion than the following:

circumcision

 

 

The White Savior Complex

TMS Ruge has an excellent and thought-provoking post about the white savior complex in Africa.  It’s provocative title is “Your White Savior Complex is detrimental to my development.”  A white colleague of his who work on microfinance in Uganda wants to be mindful of the white savior complex but also needs to have photos of her working in Uganda to make it clear to donors that she is doing her job.  She asks Ruge for advice and he provides some with brutal honesty:

“If the problem you are trying to fix over there isn’t fixed right where you are, what gives you the qualifying authority to go there? And by leap-frogging the issues in your backyard, are you really solving the problem or just moving sand grains around on a beachhead? Why are problems over there yours to fix?

You are raising funds to empower women but not raising funds to strengthen the social infrastructure that left these women disenfranchised. The skin you are in, allows you to simply inject short cut solutions to “other people’s problems.” Fundamentally, social infrastructures in your village made you a strong, independent woman with enough access to be able to think ‘why don’t these women over there have the same privilege that I do?’. You identified the illness, but opted for a corrosive bandaid instead of a difficult, but necessary surgical procedure.

There are many people in Uganda, like me, working to fix our broken social systems by incessantly petitioning our government to address them. After all, they have one job! Is what you are doing helping us strengthen our case against the government or weakening our agency and endorsing the government’s abdication of its duties? “

“Misusing” your rights to social media: Ugandan edition

National elections are going on in Uganda today and I thought it a good excuse to take a break from the endless presidential campaigning in the US.

Here is long-time President/dictator Museveni campaigning in his signature color:

Screenshot 2016-02-18 07.48.53

even though there seems little chance that he could lose the election, a president for life like Museveni takes no chances!  He has blacked out social media today because some Ugandans were “‘misusing’ their rights.”  I guess their rights to social media are determined by the state and anti-Museveni rhetoric is not appreciated.

Here are some of my favorite campaign posters:

uganda_elec1

why is this guy kneeling and clapping?  or maybe he is praying? What he is trying to convey?

uganda_elec2

good to know that this woman will protect us in case of aliens attack. I wonder what her credentials are that would support this claim?

uganda_elec3

Hmm, this candidate looks suspiciously like Rihanna.

I’m curious whether any of these three get elected.  Will supporters of the Rihanna be disappointed when they meet the real candidate?

h/t to Kenyan Facts (@KResearcher) for photos of these great campaign posters

 

 

Poor, poor, pitiful Yoweri

Awesome AP interview with another African “president for life”, Uganda’s own Yoweri Museveni.

He heads what is effectively a one-party state, has ruled for 30 years and is running for another term that will take him over the constitutionally mandated age limit for dictators (a funny concept that).

But when called out on his authoritarian ways he responded, “If anybody has been bullied, it is me.”

Asked whether he’s grooming his son to follow him into power he said, “it is not what I like, it is what my party wants and what the country needs,”

He also said that his fiefdom of 30 million people had, “so much freedom that it is almost a problem in itself.”

How you gonna get them off of the farm after they’ve seen Miss Uganda milking a cow?

Back in August, we reported that the Ugandan Army had apparently commandeered the annual Miss Uganda pageant and were going to use it as a vehicle to “promote agriculture” in accordance with the wishes of Uganda’s World Bank endorsed dictator, Museveni.

But even then, I never really thought they would actually do it.

But they did it. Every last bit of it.

“A former mushroom and poultry farmer has been crowned Miss Uganda following a major rebranding of the annual beauty pageant, which saw the glamour of the catwalk ditched for an army-sponsored boot camp on a farm.”

Now you may be asking yourself, what’s the big deal? It’s just harmless fun, right?

People, agriculture “employs” 82% of the Ugandan labor force while producing 23% of Uganda’s GDP.

Ugandan farmers need tractors and combines and milking machines (i.e. capital). They don’t need hotties pretending to milk cows.

And in the absence of a huge influx of capital, Uganda needs to get its people OUT OF AGRICULTURE and into anything else. Manufacturing, services, you name it. Just somewhere in the other 18% of the labor force that is producing 77% of GDP!

(I know I am slightly abusing accounting identities here, but the overall point is, I believe, a valid one).

Finally, I wonder if it mattered at all the the winner’s pops is commissioner of aid liaison in the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development?

Every problem has a simple solution

It is so nice to see a clear thinking, unbridled, military effectively solving their nation’s problems.

Take Uganda for example:

“We are almost signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Miss Uganda Foundation because we want to choose the next Miss Uganda basing on agriculture and this is intended to interest the young people into the sector,” Gen Saleh said.

So……..

Despite the entire history of development being predicated on getting people OUT of agriculture, the Uganda army wants them in?

And they are going to do it by commandeering the Miss Uganda contest?

And basing it on agriculture?

Are they going to have the contestants milk cows in bikinis? And then red-blooded Ugandan males will all be thinking, “wow, I gotta get me a farm!”?

What’s amazing is that this plan is actually better than President for Life Museveni’s plan which is to,

“deploy soldiers in every constituency across the country to take agriculture to a new level.”

Holy Spumoli

Hat tip to Justin Sandefur.

 

A Death Sentence in Uganda

The NY Times Lens Blog has a heartbreaking slide show and story called Breast Cancer as a Death Sentence in Uganda.

Apparently there is only one hospital in the country that treats cancer and, for a variety of reasons, women often wait until it’s too late to make the trip to the capital.  By the time they do, the cancer has metastasized and there is little that can be done.  Here are some excerpts:

“Jessy Acen would get one shot (of chemo) and then wait two weeks until she got the next shot, so instead of going back and forth to her village — which was a $10 bus ride — she would sleep outside of the hospital on a cardboard box while she was waiting for the next round of chemo. She had two sons back in her village that she hadn’t seen in several months and it was just a heartbreaking.”

“Some who have the resources are able to get radiation. Many of them have to bribe themselves to the front of the line. There’s one radiation machine that sometimes serves four different countries. People coming from South Sudan, Congo, Uganda and parts of Kenya all go to this one radiation machine so there are lines and lines of people waiting.”

h/t scarlettlion

Transparency..you’re doing it wrong!

I think all development economists and practitioners would agree that transparency is crucial in the distribution and spending of funds.  After reading this article about President Museveni in Uganda, though, I question whether everyone is using the same definition of transparency.

Yoweri Museveni, Ronald Kibuule

Here is the now infamous photo of Museveni giving $100,000 worth of cash in a white garbage bag to a youth group.  Note that he also gave out a minibus, a truck and 15 motorcycles at the same gathering.  The photo has stirred outrage in Uganda, as it is an obvious tactic to buy the youth vote in an area of the country where the president is weak.  The government, however, declares that the bag of cash was done in the name of transparency:

“Minister for the Presidency Frank Tumwebaze defended the donation, ‘Quite a few times people have requested the president for money and have stolen it. Giving it in broad day light means that the youth can see who has their money,’ he said. ‘The president is not taking the money to Las Vegas, he’s supporting income-generating schemes.'”

Unfortunately, Museveni has never shown a lot of respect for transparency.  For instance, he typically runs out of money halfway through the year and asks for supplemental funds.  The article notes that “Lawmakers approved $23 million for the president’s official household in the last budget, but at least $74 million has already been spent and more will be needed before the year is up, according to lawmakers handling the presidency’s latest budget proposal.”

The critics, making some sound counterpoints, note that:

a. “It sets a bad example in a country that depends on foreign donors to finance about 25 percent of its budget.”

b.  “There should have been a system to make sure the youth spend the money properly.”

c.  “There’s no system of accountability to make sure we get it back if these youth mismanage it.”

Indeed, it’s one thing to show the donation in public, it’s another to just hand over bags of cash with no accountability, no bureaucratic system of fund distribution, and no follow-up.