Let's make Uganda great

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Added 11th October 2019 12:59 PM

I knew Uganda to be the Pearl of Africa but I always felt it was being undersold. Within a few months of being here my suspicions were confirmed!

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I knew Uganda to be the Pearl of Africa but I always felt it was being undersold. Within a few months of being here my suspicions were confirmed!

BY Conrad Van Niekerk

Uganda celebrated Independence Day on Wednesday, October 9, 2019. As we continue to it this year, let's vow, together, to play our part in making Uganda the Great Country that it really is.

I have been in Uganda four years now, and no day has gone by without this thought on my mind.

The offer of my posting to Uganda went on record as the first posting I ever took without conducting the traditional 'look-see' process. For expatriates like me, when you are offered a job in a new country you take the opportunity to fly out and spend some time checking whether you would like to live there.

We normally visit the residence options, schools (if you have school-going children), assess living conditions, and generally confirm how comfortable the posting will be for you. Sometimes this means you ask for more pay to balance out hard conditions.

With Uganda, for some reason I can't explain till now, I just had a good feeling and said "Yes!" without the look-see. 'Are you sure?' I was asked, and my response was, again: "Yes!"

I had heard about Uganda and had only visited it briefly on business, where we don't get to see much of the country or its people, besides what the business is involved in for the few hours we were here.

I knew Uganda to be the Pearl of Africa but I always felt it was being undersold. Within a few months of being here my suspicions were confirmed!

And since then I have heard many non-Ugandans declare so in amazement. My favourite was about a year ago, at the American Chamber of Commerce Thanksgiving dinner, by the United Nations Resident Coordinator and UN Development Programme Resident Representative to Uganda, Rosa Malango.

She said that in her first six months here she had driven round Uganda twice. The first time she could not believe the beauty and potential she was seeing in the countryside, so she had to drive round again just to confirm her excitement!

Shortly after I started out here as Managing Director I told my team that our strategy needed to be, 'Let's make Uganda Great!'

At that time, Trump was campaigning to become US President and used MAGA (Make America Great Again). I didn't want to copy him so I dropped the 'again'. I didn't feel that the word was right for Uganda then; this country has been great before but in days that nobody seems to have put on the record.

I explained to my team that Uganda was on track for greatness and the signs were visible everywhere. I saw it in my business at Coca-Cola and I saw it on the streets. In the last thirty years I have visited 44 of Africa's 54 countries, and I feel the positive energy that Uganda exudes over all the rest.

But the task of making Uganda great, I tell everybody, is a task for us all. Everybody in Uganda has a part to play - big and small - in making this country take its rightful place in the world.

Let us all make Uganda Great! We all have a part to play, big and small.

In my own company I found some of the very best people I have ever worked with in all fields. It is no surprise that we have so many Ugandans deployed to other countries within our Group and so few expatriates (just two, out of two thousand staff - and I am told I am 75% local so far!) assigned to Uganda.

We have the very best weather on the continent, fertile soils in quantities no other country can boast of, the most hospitable people in the world, and the largest amount of goodwill any country can enjoy without working hard for it.

And we have a whole lot more that most people coming in from elsewhere can see quite clearly (especially now that the rain is falling).

So, after Independence Day, it would be great for all Ugandans to take a pledge to Make Uganda Great by working together to channel all the positives that this country has to offer so that Uganda takes its rightful place in the world.

If we all do this we will say to ourselves, every waking morning as we set out into the world: 'It feels great to be a Ugandan.'

The writer is the Managing Director of Coca-Cola Beverages Africa in Uganda – Century & Rwenzori Bottling Companies


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