A citizen of the world

2011-02-19 13:29

I first came to South Africa in 1993 on a

short term assignment for US Aid.

I was living in the US and I came on an

assignment focusing on international development and the emerging black business

community at the time.

I speak English and Luganda fluently, am

proficient in French and I speak some Swahili and I’m learning Zulu every day.

My first trip here did it for me. In the

US I had reached an elevated level professionally but I needed international

experience to compete with the young kids coming into the corporate environment

who had all Peace Corps experience.

I knew SA could give me what I needed and

I’d also be at home, it was the best of several worlds.

My favourite place in Joburg is my home

in Melvillle.

I’ve lived in many places and this is the first time I feel a

sense of community.

I’ve lived here since 1993 I know my neighbours, they know

me and my children, and I feel a sense of security.

I love the variety of this country: the

Wild Coast, Cape Town, but best of all I love Mpumalanga.

It reminds me of

Uganda, its green, hilly and people are still involved in subsistence farming

and have a real ­relationship with the land, it makes me feel at home.

I love the sense of hope and

expectation here.

Coming from the US where there’s an old established way

of doing things, SA has an economy emerging in interesting ways.

There’s so much

innovation and young ­people have horizons way beyond what we had. It’s

fascinating to contemplate what this country will be in the future.

The thing I loathe here is the lack of

­interest in Africa.

The continent has so much to offer culturally, but I’m

constantly meeting people who are making their first trips abroad and going to

Italy, or the US, or England.

I often wonder: how about ­Mozambique? Uganda?

Kenya? These are the destinations I wish people were ­choosing first.

Looking into the business environment

from the outside, you see a vibrant economy on the verge of an explosion.

But

once you’re inside you find it’s extremely insular because there are obstacles

to the exposure required for people to understand what the world has to offer.

There’s been an incredible evolution in

the business environment since I first came in 1993.

I see many young

professionals with world class experience who can compete and add value to

businesses anywhere in the world.

It’s hard to call any one place home.

I

am an international citizen of the world.

I spent 14 years in the US, nine years

in England and 14 years in SA.

This is my home, it’s my children’s home, and for

the first time I am part of a community and will do everything to remain an

integral part of that community.

I’ve grown so much here, the experiences I’ve

had have shaped who I am.

What I’d like South Africans to know

about Uganda is that it is stunningly beautiful, that we are not a solid block

of people.

We have diverse languages and cultures just like SA. It doesn’t

matter if you’re Muganda, Musonga or Ankole, we’re proud of our roots and our

language and you see it in everything we do.

If I could take a South African to

Uganda, I’d take them to Kampala, it’s vibrant and fast-paced.

Then I’d

take them to Lake ­Victoria, the source of the Nile.

It’s had a biblical impact

on civilization and seeing it grounds you.

It runs through Uganda, ­Sudan,

Burundi, Rwanda, DRC, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia and Egypt.

The food I miss most is matooke; steamed

green bananas it’s the staple food of the ­Baganda.

I have two children – a daughter aged 12

and a son, four – and I hope that they learn to see themselves as South Africans

first, but also as citizens of the world who can have an impact beyond SA.

I’m afraid I cannot not say that Nelson

Mandela is my favourite South African. I wouldn’t be honest if I went out of my

way to look for someone other than Mandela.

He emancipated SA, but also freed

all of us and we claim him in Uganda, and all over the continent.

I’m lucky because I was married to a

South African so I have an extended family and South African friends.

The food I just don’t get is mogodu.

­Entrails? I don’t think so.

Nobody has ever been extremely rude to me

here.

But I am surprised that I’m ­expected to speak Zulu because I’m

black.

And when I say: “I’m not from here.” People say: “You must learn.” And

right behind me comes a white South African and they are not expected to speak

Zulu.

I’ve taken ­lessons and I’m making an effort.

It’s ­impressive how

multi-lingual people are here.

It’s an asset and a solid foundation for a truly

multicultural rainbow nation.

I’ve never experienced xenophobia, but

­every time I’m stopped by the police, the fact that I’m not South African

becomes a focus for discussion, along with where I work, who I’m married to and

why I don’t speak Zulu. I do feel intimidated and ­victimised.

But I usually

stay calm and ­remind them that I’m an African who contributes to the SA

economy, that I’m a tax paying citizen who has never committed any crime, except

for occasional speeding.

I go to Uganda every two years and I take

my children.
 
It’s important for them to know Uganda is also their home and my

parents enjoy having their grandchildren and I love that connection to Uganda.

I’d tell anyone thinking of moving here

never to underestimate the professionalism they will find here, or the

opportunities.

And that they should also be very aware of the labour legislation

and immigration laws that could be obstacles if they don’t come with a full view

of what it takes to start and run a business here.

I’ve agreed to do this, because I think

it’s important for foreigners, especially African foreigners, to be seen as

individuals who have come here with good intentions, who have made their homes

here and who are committed to this country.

 

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