There is no truer string of sentences than the statement alluded to Adam Smith, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we owe our supper but from their self regard for their own interests!” In few words, Adam Smith is saying, “there is no free lunch!” This is why you must look at askance when captains of industry start falling over themselves to offer freebies on an unparalleled scale. It could not be that they have since found God or that Angels have suddenly taken interest in guiding the affairs of the said captains.
The world is changing and the old easy tools of trade of coercion and outright force are looked on with disdain and outrightly frowned upon in the civilized setting we now find ourselves. Canon balls, navy and war which lent its self to the British buccaneers, during the opium wars in China cannot be used to argue a point. Except for rare instances, where the potential soon-to-be-exploited gives the slightest window of opportunity, like it happened in Quadaffi’s Lybia, persuasion and cunning, tact and diplomacy are the key ingredients for international trade. Even the use of mercenaries is now archaic and moribund.
A couple of years ago we witnessed huge tunnels being built in the urban setting of Kampala. These we later learnt were provisions for the good Kampalans to access free internet. Indeed soon enough some energetic young men, who looked like they had fed on well prepared millet, were setting up access points at key locations within the city. Sure enough the free wifi started showing up along routes and the discerning Kampalan may not need to pay for fairly reasonable speeds anymore. Such benevolence piped my interest and got me asking the WIIIFT; what is in it for them? Benevolence is not to be taken at face value. I have been taught on how colonial chaps exchanged mirrors for gold and diamond, and rubies and gem.
And before I have even come to terms with this benevolence I come across another benefactor, Facebook, who wants to offer internet using satellites to sub-saharan Africa. In their press release great effort was made in emphasizing that, ” Our mission is to make the world more open and connected.” That may be the mission but why do you have such a mission; what is the catch? What is your self interest in this matter.
In these changing times the internet is fast becoming the backbone of commerce. Everything rides on this platform. Ownership of this resource will give the captains of industry huge power and huge wealth; wealth beyond avarice. These contracts being signed need to factor in some control or at the very least, responsible governments need to pull resources so that Africa and Africans can play in the commercial field not as spectators but as true players. I have not quickly forgotten all the efforts taken to kill the projects that Quadaffi initiated; projects that would enhance the integrity and self interests of Africa and the Africans.
Africa and the Africans lost a huge opportunity to get out of debt perpetually when, the attempt by Mummar Quadaffi to introduce a single African currency linked to gold was thwarted. The dream emasculated by Marcus Garvy of a United States of Africa send jittery shivers along the delicate spines among the people who always want Africa and Africa to be subservient underdogs in world trade and commerce. Why must a country like Zaire remain in debt and poverty? How can Uganda import food stuffs and clothes? How can Germany earn more from coffee than Uganda when it does not produce coffee? Not a single bean and yet Germany earns bigger than Uganda; the 11 top coffee producing nation! Uganda produces 2.5 Mn sixty kilogram bags in 2014. If you tell me vision, vision I will poke you with a stick!
And so we are there wadding in a miasma of confusion and stoking over grown egos thinking we have set the stage for economic prosperity. Prosperity for who? Who are the bigger beneficiaries? Who is the Piper that plays the tune?
This is a war we fought with my political mentor and friend, Chairman Chapaa Karuhanga. We passionately argued and still do firmly believe that the economic prosperity of a nation can only come from organic empowerment of the citizenry. Our arguments and positions were crystallized in missives, polite and correct, to the President of this country. We had stark examples showing how the Aborigines, the indigenous people of Australia had been relegated to second class citizens; only getting their first medical doctor in mid 1990s. We carved the picture of the red Indians who are now a lost tribe in the land of their ancestors. We showed the disproportionate development that will breed inequity and injustice, hatred, jealousy and violence.
This free internet needs to be nationalized, otherwise we shall remain holders of archaic means of trade as the world leaves us wallowing in despair. I call upon you to join the frenzied agitation for legislation to ensure that we remain relevant and players in the international playing field. The rules are changing and we must change with it or else we are lost. The factors of production and commerce have changed. Have we changed in response to the changing times?
Dieu Et Mon Payee