Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Music promoters and concert organizers in Uganda have asked the government to allow them a 10 day window at the end of the year, to organize and stage concerts.
This they say will help them in mitigating the effects of the lockdown on their livelihood, 21 months since public concerts were banned as a measure against the spread of COVID-19. According to the promoters, the cancelled music festivals and concerts have not only affected the people in the industry but also allied businesses like the media, foods and beverages, and transport, which greatly rely on entertainment.
The operators say that while some have managed to remain in business thanks to their essential contacts and diversified activities, there are those that are at the edge with no meaningful income.
The concerts were suspended in March 2020 as the government announced measures to keep coronavirus at bay, and while restrictions were announced on almost all other sectors, the entertainment centres remain closed, with no activity allowed. The government said that these will be opened after an increase in the uptake of COVID-19 vaccines.
The Director of Public Relations, Balaam Barugahara says now that the government has started securing vaccines in reasonable amounts, it could take advantage of concerts to increase awareness on the vaccines. If allowed, he adds, they will send out messages on the concerts with information on COVID-19 and the vaccines and that whoever goes to attend should have a vaccination certificate.
This according to him will increase the demand for vaccination.
The call came at the launch of their Sacco, National Events and Bivulu Promoters Multipurpose Cooperative Society Ltd. The Sacco was formed with the main objective of uniting artists and promoters and improving their welfare, but also taking advantage of the government financial relief and wealth creation programs.
The Sacco intends to give loans to members at interest rates ranging between 8 and 12 percent, compared to the 17-21 percent rates offered by commercial banks, and even higher ones by microfinance institutions.
Andrew Mukasa also known as Bajjo, of Bajjo Events, chairman of the SACCO says the objective is to uplift the welfare of mainly the youth across the country and make the industry more profitable.
The Deputy National Coordinator of the Emyooga program Abdul Bisaso decried the persistent conflicts among the artists and promoters, characterized by attacks on one another and mudslinging. Bisaso says this has created mistrust in government towards the industry leaders.
He however said the government will work with the Saco, and urged members to pay back the money to the Sacco whenever they get money for a revolving fund like Emyooga, so that more people can benefit.
The development has come after several attempts by different groups to access funds through different government programs and offices, including approaching prominent persons like NRM Vice Chairman Eastern, Mike Mukula and Gen Salim Saleh among others.
This also created deeper rifts within the industry as fights over funds ensued amongst them, which resulted in the formation of more associations. These quarrels have drawn queries from the public and eminent persons on the ability of the leaders of these groups to transform others.
General Saleh expressed his skepticism towards the motive of the leaders of the new SACCO. In his message through Gen Elly Kayanja, Saleh asked them to prove their seriousness and commitment before he offers his full support.