Uganda: Comment - There Are Some Positives Out of the Lockdown

Comment — Prof Kaddu was my lecturer at Makerere University in 2008, and one thing he taught us outside the normal syllabus was to take advantage of every situation. This Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns have virtually disrupted every sector including politics, religion, social settings and even education programs.

However, there have still been some positives out of this scourge.

Family bonding

Some parents were habitually absent from their homes, children and spouses. Leaving home very early and returning when family members have retired in their beds. In most cases these absent parents would be merry making with pals, mates or just boozing. Children eventually grew up lacking parental touch and this would catch up with them at adult stage. Children lacked guidance, counselling, help and someone to confide in. With COVID, and associated lockdowns, children have enjoyed their parents and vice versa. This was and has been a blessing in disguise. Families now have meals together, play, sing, discuss, jog as a family. This is a positive take away from corona pandemic.

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Cost cutting

If there is a lesson that Covid-19 has taught many is living within their means. Extravagance is in Ugandans DNA. Because some people have money to expense, they ceased to mind about cost. Covid19 has created artificial scarcity of essential commodities. In fact, having money in pockets or bank has not been largely helpful. This has taught many to learn on how to economize of whatever is available to them. Those that have been occasionally/regularly seeking medical attention oversees have since returned to local medical facilities in respective of billions of monies on their respective accounts. Therefore, every available usables at home is used sparingly. This has also happened within companies. Cost mindfulness is very essential in the journey to financial liberty. My stay at Stanbic bank brought me closer to the former Chief Executive Patrick Mweheire and one area that he was so sensitive about was cost management, cost avoidance, cost cutting and cost taming. His crusade throughout the years was to tell everyone to save a cost and generate revenue. His argument was that how much revenue one generates, if cost/spending appetite is not checked, the end day balance sheet will be in negatives. I think Covid-19 has taught us to cease lavish or exaggerated spending.

Local solutions for local problems

President Yoweri Museveni is a champion for the local solutions for local problems but Ugandans were not grasping this notion. With the emergence of Covid-19, the long time cry of Museveni is slowly being understood. The sanitizer factories coming up to the current Covidex craze are all signs and symptoms that Ugandans can do it themselves. In the same spirit, Ugandans went back to local medicine.

Until I joined secondary school, I was raised and treated basically on local medicine. Kaaka-Jaaja or grandmother regularly (every 3 months) would give us omutohoro-a natural deworming therapy made out of mululuza. This mixture of mululuza and water was the best de-wormer. There were other herbs for flu, cough, malaria, skin diseases, eyes, wounds etc. these herbs were very effective. But the 'elites' binned these remedies and families resorted to western medicines. Covid19 has steadily sent us back to the old tradition. Many Ugandans are herbalist by profession now. They recommend, administer and testify how taking this and that herb have been helpful. Dr Ogwang has captured the media because of his herbal solution called Covidex which is slapping Covid-19 on both cheeks. To me this has been another millage we ought to celebrate from corona pandemic.

Working from home

Before Covid-19, it was suicidal not to show up physically at work. Most companies installed clock in and out machines to check physical attendance of its workers. A mere coming late led one to either disciplinary committee or reduction of monthly remuneration. Surprisingly, when Covid-19 hit, the new trend of working from home was activated. The results so far registered point to increase in productivity of those working from home. Working from home has cut out time spent while driving to and from work. I know families that set off to work as early as 5 am in the morning especially those from Mukono, Gayaza, Buyala on Mityana road. On average any person staying 10 kms out of city center at least requires 1hr 30 minutes to complete a one-way journey meaning that 3 hours are spent while travelling. The travel alone would not be an issue but its associated with a lot of shortcomings like fuel cost, boda accidents, phone snatching, vehicle vandalism, lack of parking space etc. working from home solved these challenges at one go. I doubt in the absence of corona virus, the working from home story would be sold anywhere. Even long after corona has gone, work from home has come and will never leave.

Increased agriculture players

Because people have time, they chose to invest it in agriculture. To comprehend this, stand on any road out of Kampala, motorcycles, pickups, solon cars heading or from gardens are everywhere. Poultry farming and piggery have been the most picked up activities. The cost of eggs is now a low sh8000 per tray this can be linked to the many players into this sector.

On line education

It may look uncomfortable especially for the young children of lower classes but its another area that has made education easy. Waking up children at 4 am to prepare for school hence denying them enough sleep will be history. I am certain that even when education is fully opened some schools and institutions will offer both physical and on-line classes, which I think is ideal and required.

No doubt Covid-19 has hit us both the rich and the poor, the young and the old, the beautiful and the ugly. But some positives have been registered. Those that will survive this scare will certainly live a different life. They will appreciate why washing hands is important, and at national level, the usual travels to Europe and Asia will be avoided. Some of my friends who are traders now get their goods form China without stepping at Entebbe airport. The ticket money, accommodation, losses in exchange rate are things of the past.

As Prof Kaddu said, let's take advantage of every situation. We will all for long narrate how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted our lives.

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