All eyes on UG, and you're invited
I am a bit anxious - and more than a bit curious - to get back to Uganda next month. There won’t be a grand welcoming party for my arrival into Entebbe International Airport. We won’t be driving our banged and bruised Toyota Corona over any freshly cut flowers on Entebbe road. I am but your humble CHOGM Virtual Tour Guide. A young, idea-driven entrepreneur and I see lots of hope and opportunity in Africa.
Next month, the eyes of the world will be on Uganda for the biennial Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (or CHOGM, as they call it). The meeting brings together the heads of state from 53 nations (and includes her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Charles to round out the list of VIPs.) CHOGM is an unprecedented opportunity for Uganda, its leaders, and its people to showcase the country’s unlimited potential, its lovely hospitality, and its transitioning and growing economy. Uganda’s CHOGM, unlike any other CHOGM on the African continent before, can serve as a visionary example for the continent’s development.
Over the past 16 months if you’ve been to Kampala, or even if you’ve just read a few of the articles about CHOGM preparations, you’d know that Kampala has quite literally been under construction most of the time. Indeed, an already dusty, polluted and congested capital (though still charming in my eyes!) is updating its roads, and building new 5-star hotels, and generally getting a bit of a face-lift.
However, as significant as the physical changes might be, the preparations that I am most impressed with are Uganda’s technology re-birth. From the deployment of Celtel’s Third Generation wireless technology, to improvements of its tech backbone and signing a deal with Blackberry, Kampala is technologically on the move, and very different from the Kampala I last visited in 2006. These are exciting times, and I look forward to taking advantage of these technology options and using them to be your eyes and ears throughout CHOGM.
So, aside from seeing old friends, eating lots of naan and chicken tikka, going to my favorite coffee shops (yes, big ups to Café Pap), etc. what do I really want to see at CHOGM?
• Sports. I am a sports fan. Soccer, basketball, tennis, golf, you name it. I am active in the sports for social change movement through organizations like the Homeless World Cup (HWC), and I was proud to organize Uganda’s participation in the 2006 and 2007 HWC. I believe the role of sports in economic and social development is key; and I just don’t think enough people yet are taking it seriously. Rumor has it that sports and development can go beyond this years CHOGM agenda aside from celebrating the 2010 South Africa World Cup, I want to know what is CHOGM planning to do to make sports for social change more of a reality?
• The Youth forum. An all-star cast of change-makers have been invited to address the Youth Forum. Wangari Mathai, Mohamed Yunus, and Betty Bigombe – the environmental visionary, the BOP Guru, and the Peacemaker. This is a really exciting opportunity for the youth participants so what kind of action will the forum shoot for? What impact will the recommendations of the youth forum have for the other CHOGM meetings?
Additionally, why are these young leaders not also participating in the Business Forum? (*Note, my suggestion to the CHOGM Secretariat, perhaps a Youth Business Forum in 2009?) Youth, after all, especially in country’s like Uganda, are the innovators, creators, and consumers of the products produced by the companies attending CHOGM.
• The Business forum. I work in and with Emerging Markets, and I am interested to learn more about the projects that the private and public sector are working on together and how it connects to Africa’s economic development.
• Three forums, or really one? Finally, I want to explore my personal belief that while there are 3 summits taking place during CHOGM, the Youth, the Peoples’ and the Business, they are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they are all interrelated and inputs from everyone are important for the long-view. I am interested in seeing how the results form these three separate forums might be combined and shared to take the maximum effect from such a meeting (As a young entrepreneur and NGO leader, I would like to attend all three).
Three weeks from now CHOGM will be over. I will have toasted Lucky Dube at Fatboys, the private jets will be back in their home capitals, and Kampala returned to its habitual organized chaos. So, I look forward to sharing with you stories from CHOGM – some of the off-beat conversations - and what’s happening next in Uganda. Join me for that ride down Entebbe road…..