For the last few days, Uganda has been awash with comments on the country’s pavilion at the Dubai 2020 Expo . Many voices judging snippets of the display on social media had no kind words.
They were particularly taken aback by the show of items such as powdered milk and tea leaves on pallets that were either bare or not neatly wrapped.
A minster then came out guns blazing and literally told the public to shut up. Others accused those who made disparaging remarks of lack of patriotism and not being proud of their country.
Well to each his own. I think one can only pass worthy judgment if they get to see the whole pavilion and also know the plans for the same for the next six months.
It is possible that Team Uganda is saving the best for last. So from my side they get the benefit of doubt.
This is given because this opportunity is one where every country tells the world who they are and what they can give better than anyone else. I am sure the young people I saw in Dubai know this.
Uganda by any stretch is an agrarian country with some of the best soils plus climate being placed at the equator. We also are the home of the second largest fresh water lake in the world which gives us a variety of nutritious fish.
For all that we do, we are farmers and farmers feed the world. The food that we have is of the best quality because it is organic. I recall riding on a train in Southern Germany seated in the coach with a gentleman who was deep in his book minding his business -like most white people do.
The African in me wanted to break the ice so I made the comment that I loved the green in the countryside that rolled in front of the train window.
The man replied that this was nothing. If I wanted to see real green, then I needed to go to Uganda. He said there, it was green all year and that you got real great, fresh, unprocessed food. ‘They grow so much food that they put the surplus on the road for people to pick, -which they rarely do because they also have their own!’ He concluded with a chuckle ‘the green in Uganda is sexy!’
That was the view of a man who had been in the country for one and a half days on his way to South Africa!
That was humbling but very educative. Many times we Africans think of the very big stuff that we assume makes us look sophisticated and forget the simple things and their importance.
However high tech a country may be, there is no day that people will go without food. Good food is good medicine.
Dubai 2020 Expo should be our platform to squeeze our way into the global food market that is worth billions of dollars.
Ironically, it is taking place when we are blessed with the curse of Covid-19 pandemic.
Blessed, because Covid-19 has taught the world about the importance of good nutrition. Everywhere it has been emphasized that eating a balanced diet is one of the defences against the deadly virus.
Our pavilion at Dubai 2020 should have been awash with all variety of foods ranging from our sweet pineapples, to our bananas which grow effortlessly.
The global trade in bananas, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), is worth about $5 billion (Shs17 trillion) a year. Pineapples is about $2.1 billion (Shs7.5 trillion) annually. Seafood (which includes fish) in general is the most traded food commodities valued at $153 billion (Shs550 trillion) annually.
Instead of politicians and all manner of technocrats, local farmers, cooks and nutritionists should have designed the Ugandan pavilion as a farm maned.
We should be cooking all the meals for the show goers if at all it is permitted for them to sample organic food and learn how it is prepared and the benefits too.
We should be telling the world that one of the reasons why the prediction by the wise heads in the West, of Africans dying like flies due to Covid-19 and lack of adequate healthcare systems, fell flat on its face, is because our people though poor, actually feed very well. Then let them know that they too may enjoy the privilege if they did business with us.
The visitors would then sample the organic food such as green vegetables, fruits, fish, meat and of course grasshoppers -a very stale tasteless version of which costs me an arm and a leg in a European restaurant.
Otherwise trying to impress the world with manufactured items, which in most cases are simply assembled or are a result of minor value addition is not sustainable. We have no advantage there. Most of these maybe obtained cheaply and with better quality from China, the factory of the world.
We have to learn to keep it simple but strategic, aka KISS. There is no need of showing the world what they produce better and cheaper than us.
If we did this we would never have suffered the ignominy of a minister turning himself into a pimp in a glorified red lights district by baiting would be tourists with big bottomed women as a sweetener.
Uganda at 59 is an endowed country, all we need is to learn how to keep it simple but strategic.
Mr Sengoba is a commentator on political and social issues