By Ade Daramy, Writer, Broadcaster and Press Officer
Is one question I will always get asked at least one question: “You’re not a Ugandan, and yet, you are here every year, why is that?”.
Ove the years, my answers have changed, as the convention itself has changed. However, at the root of it all, the answers are ‘the same but different’. There have been increasing elements of positivity that I take from each event.
So, you ask, what have I learned?
Fundamentally, I have taken away the lesson that a patriot is one who always has their country’s best interests at heart.
Love of country transcends party affiliations. It is therefore pleasing for me to see that the realisation finally seems to be sinking in, that this convention is not a tool of government but an independent, stand-alone effort; designed by patriotic Ugandans to highlight and showcase trade and investment opportunities in their country. If the country prospers, all will benefit, regardless of party or tribal affiliations.
Those who have assumed, in the past that the event was either run or controlled by government, have now had their eyes opened to the truth. My one criticism of such folks would be; if you do not know, ask, do not assume.
The biggest lesson for me and for other Africans is that an event of this scale and ambition can succeed while being run and organised by Diasporans; no other African nationals are doing what Ugandans have been doing for the last eight years and that is something to be proud of. This is something nationals of almost every country based in the UK have thought about; Ugandans, have not waited ‘for when the time is right’, they have done it and showed, you can always claim the time is ‘not right’ and it will never be; you have to make it right!
Mr Willy Mutenza and his dedicated team – in which I play a very minor part – are to be commended for their efforts over the years and, for establishing this event as a must-attend in the annual calendar.
As well as attending, I urge other Africans to attend, which is why this year, I was glad to see in attendance, friends from Sierra Leone, Angola, Tanzania, Kenya, Gambia, Rwanda and other countries. We can all learn from this initiative. We have long realised that ‘trade not aid’ is what holds the key to our continent’s development and progress. It is therefore gratifying to see, each year, almost every sector of business represented.
Earlier on, I mentioned about the changing nature of the convention. Let’s take an example from this year’s event; we had the session ‘Hard Talk’. This gave members of the audience the audience the opportunity to ask the sorts of tough questions they may have felt previously unable to ask or that the programme did not accommodate.
I give credit to the panellists for being on stage to take the questions and, for the most part, not attempting to do that thing that has most discredited politicians: not giving a straight answer to a straight question. This time, the questions were met head on and, in the main, responded to.
Given the recent political events in Uganda, it was impossible to avoid the ‘Bobi Wine factor’ – Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu.
We do not need to rehash here, the details as they are known to every Ugandan and friend of Uganda.
What I particularly liked about the ‘Hard Talk’ segment, was that it allowed our politicians not to equate questioning or criticism with ‘insults’ or ‘disrespect’. Members of Parliament and supposed to be servants of those who elect them and yet this is rarely the case in Africa.
This brings me to a point I made at the end of the ‘Hard Talk’ session, in response to a comment by a panellist that “…burning the flag is a criminal offence…”. My comment was that this should not be seen as such in any mature democracy but as yet another form of legitimate protest. Corruption is a far more pernicious evil in Africa and a much more serious criminal offence; we should repeal these archaic laws; they have no place in our legal systems.
Let me end on a positive note: if you have not attended the convention in the past, please make sure you do so in the future. Not only that, if you go to the convention’s website: https://www.ugandanconventionuk.org/ – there, you can read reports from the previous conventions and book to attend next year’s.
I hope anyone reading this now gets at least a small idea of why I ‘attend every year’.
See you next September!
See you next year on the 14th Sept at Troxy https://ukconvention2019.eventbrite.co.uk