COMMENT | By Amos Wekesa | Did you know that over 70% of the crafts sold around Uganda to Ugandans and foreign tourists are actually imported from Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe and Congo?
One can only imagine the number of jobs Ugandans are losing as a result of this trend, and therefore, the significance of parliamentary aspirant Dickson Kateshumbwa’s recent youth initiative in Sheema county in western Uganda.
‘Katesh’, as he is popularly known, has done what Rwanda did. They brought in trainers to train locals not only to make crafts that tourists would buy but also export to other countries.
Kateshumbwa has shown the youth of Sheema that we can actually make what we import to sell on our local markets. I don’t think Kateshumbwa knows how much value he has brought to those that have been trained. The skills will stay with those youths and some will pass on those skills to the next generation.
We can talk as much as we want but this is what changes society.
Those of you selling crafts should make sure you visit Sheema and make orders from the youth and women of Sheema.
Countries like Thailand make sure that each part of their country produces something for export and tourists to buy. That has helped in the fight against poverty and if you want to become a leader, borrow a leaf from this man for your people.
I first met Kateshumbwa in those tourism lobbying meetings at Ministry of Finance and Prime Ministers office. He isn’t a man of many words but when he spoke, you could hear lots of sense. Even me the fighter, I would look in admiration.
Overtime, when we met in meetings, I would ask him to invest in tourism like I tell everyone but I knew he could add lots of value to the industry. Took him five years for him to make up his mind.
He has now built a lodge in Queen Elizabeth which employs many, and added another in Bwindi.
I remember him once calling me and saying Amos, I will be going to China for a World Customs meeting to do a presentation and I want that meeting to happen in Uganda next time, and it will be first on the African continent.
I told him, win the hearts by first playing a video on Ugandans beauty and then do your presentation. He did!
Uganda eventually hosted world customs meeting which many of us remember not long ago. That’s the side of Kateshumbwa I know and admire. He means business and him in parliament, tourism will be a big topic.
When tourism returns full time, Ugandan lodges should support the women and youth of Sheema by creating market for their products through our lodges across the tourism route.
Am not a big fan of our type of politics, but I enjoy seeing the productivity of people.