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Why the Government needs to invest more in communication

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Added 12th November 2018 09:25 AM

The press, as much as I don’t agree with them in this instance, are in the business of telling stories in byte size snippets to audiences whose attention is overburdened with a thousand images.

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The press, as much as I don’t agree with them in this instance, are in the business of telling stories in byte size snippets to audiences whose attention is overburdened with a thousand images.

By Olive Kigongo

OPINION

Uganda is a beautiful country to live in. Good weather. Friendly, happy-go lucky people. There is energy in the air that you don’t find in other places.

For us who walk these streets and try to make a living, to a large extent, this is what we know.

But then an incident happens, a negative incident and it is as if all this good energy counts for nothing. In the media abroad and at home, we become a pariah state in the blink of an eye.

It is amazing when you are abroad and you read about or watch the goings on in Uganda and you wonder whether it is the same country you know, the one you left behind barely a flight ago.

The way the media tells the story is as if these bad happenings are normal in Uganda that we are walking around in mortal fear for our lives, glancing warily of our shoulders, always on the lookout for danger.

As a person who has lived and grown up here, I can brush these images aside with a flick of the remote, for I know the images the media share are a snap shot in time and that the reality is very different.

This is not to diminish the ills of an overzealous security agent here or the sadism of a criminal there or by any means to downplay the pain and suffering of the victims, but it just seems unfair to me that every so often my country is portrayed as a godforsaken, hell hole only good for crime, sickness and disaster.

I beg to differ, but that is not my reality, nor that of most Ugandans around me.

What worries me more though as a businessperson and at the Uganda National Chamber of Commerce & Industry (UNCCI), is that this unflattering narrative of our country is dissuading our business partners, aborting many a deal and generally depriving us of the much needed investment and business partnerships we require to take this country to the next level.

The knee jerk reaction is to blame the press, but I think that is a losing strategy.

The press, as much as I don’t agree with them in this instance, are in the business of telling stories in byte size snippets to audiences whose attention is overburdened with a thousand images.

In an attempt to break through all this noise they choose the most sensational bits – often than not the bad news and package it in a way that creates shock and awe.

That is what they do to earn their bread.

But you cannot blame people for thinking they may be an ulterior motive.

Other governments have sought to control the media and snuff out any such adverse publicity and have succeeded or failed to various degrees.

I think that is not an effective strategy and will inevitably discourage the media from providing that important function of giving us real time information. A useful function that the business community would struggle to operate without.

I propose another route.

I suggest that government and all us stakeholders need to invest more in communication, so that we broadcast our true reflection in a timely and effective manner. We need to invest in data management, so that people seeking information on this country can find anything on it at the click of a button.

We need to invest in generating images and a narrative of his country that is truer than the gory news the outside is fed about us, but that is also enjoyable and makes one come and see for themselves.

And we need to do this in volumes that can drown out or at least provide a more accessible alternative view of this country.

Everybody is doing it except us, it seems.

There are countries I visit in the west and I daren’t step out of my hotel room. There are countries I visit that right from the airport I feel unwelcome and even unwanted. There are countries I visit and I cannot stand the food, the air and frankly speaking, the people.

But to see how they are depicted in their advertising, films and documentaries and you wonder how such horrible places can even get an inch of good media.

And in many of these places the press go about their business just as our does here. Going by the same principles of what constitutes news and with even more ferocity than our local media.

I suggest for example that government invests more in the film industry. The vibrant colours and sounds that are all around us, that we take for granted if captured and shown to the world in film, documentaries and even music video, while not whitewashing our image, will allow others to at least give us a second look.

Information is now flying around the world at the speed of light. They say that a lie will be half way around the world before the truth has tied its shoe laces. We need to give our truth a better chance.

The writer is the president of the Uganda National Chamber of commerce & Industry (UNCCI)

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