Thursday, April 30, 2009

News Editor’s New Media

Ali Balunywa in Kampala

John Kakande is the New Vision’s news editor. He joined the New Vision in 1994 as a freelance reporter. He was later recruited as a parliamentary reporter. He also used to run a political column before being promoted through the ranks to the post of news editor. John holds a Bachelor of Arts degree and a postgraduate diploma in journalism. The interview;

 Ali: What precisely do you do as a news editor?

John: I assign reporters their day-to-day work. I also commission writers to write articles. I brief reporters before going to the field and debrief them when they return. Reporters work on the stories and after file them with my deputy or myself. If the stories are okay, we line them up for publication. If something is missing, we advise the journalists accordingly. So basically, I manage the newsgathering and processing process.

How do the new media tools assist you in fulfilling your duties?

The new media has eased our workload tremendously. Right from typing in the stories by journalists, mailing, editing, subbing and printing, new media is applied. We always research online to get some background information for some stories. The fax machine has been phased out, so all correspondents and upcountry reporters use email to send their stories. The mobile phone is also used all the time for briefing and debriefing and sometimes for sending photos and MS to alert editors of stories. The digital camera revolution has made photojournalism much easier. The New Vision pays the cost of mailing.

How has the computer revolutionized the newsroom?

By enabling reporters to type in (typewriters were discontinued in 1997), correct and through the intranet share the story. Reporters and editors also meet online through the intranet and exchange ideas, edit stories and send emails.

The Internet has also facilitated newsgathering. For example yahoo news and Google alerts keep me abreast on any news about Uganda, Kony, Museveni and Africa. It is one of the cheapest ways of getting news. 

The New Vision is in the process of developing an efficient content management system ultimately reducing the need for reporters to print out stories.

 

 

 

 

Lillian's New Media

Ali Balunywa, in Kampala, Uganda

Lillian Namusoke is a sub editor at the New Vision. She joined the establishment in 2004 after completing her university education. She is in possession of a Bachelor’s degree in languages and a diploma in reporting and creative writing. The interview;

Ali: When and how were you recruited to work for the New Vision?

Lillian: I was recruited in 2004 and reported for the New Vision for 4 months before being made a sub editor after an in house training session. Mr. David Billington, a British training consultant, carries out the training sessions. 

Tell me about the sub editors’ office 

I am one of the 6 news subeditors at the New Vision. We sit in the editorial office just next to the newsroom. There are many other subeditors for the Sunday and Saturday Vision and for the other regional newspapers under the New Vision Group.

Tell me about your job 

The New Vision has its own house style, which subeditors have to follow. The fonts (Nimrod MT) and body are consistent all the time.  The layout follows the modular form, which makes comprehension for the reader easy. When we use photos to illustrate stories, they must all be the same shape on the same page.

How do computers assist you to do your job?

New Vision has its own computer system that is shared by the editorial. Writers write their stories using the Microsoft office word programme, send them to the editor for editing, they are grouped and sent to the relevant subeditor. Subeditors check for the grammar and later use the QuarkXPress programme for designing the layout.

How much work does the subeditor do?

On average a subeditor lays out 2 pages per day. After laying out the pages we exchange them amongst ourselves for further proofreading and later send them to the deputy chief subeditor. When ready, the pages are printed out, as they appear and handed over to the chief subeditor for final approval before printing 

How does the new media contribute to the effectiveness of your work?

Subeditors use the mobile phone frequently to consult with the writers over stories we sub and also for clarification with editors. Most times, stories need beefing up with background information, so we frequently use the Internet for information. Personally I use social networking sites like face book for reducing stress. We also often use the fm radios to update stories especially court cases or accidents.

 

 

“I cannot do without New Media,” Barbara


                                Barbara Among, Senior reporter, New Vision

Ali Balunywa in Kampala, Uganda

Barbara Among is a senior reporter at the New Vision. She is a prolific writer, blogger and New Media user. She was recruited in 2008 after working at the Monitor and The East African newspapers.

On the Internet; 

Barbara said she uses it all the time for her research. She uses many search engines including Google and Yahoo. She also subscribes to Google alerts on conflict in Uganda, Kony, Museveni, and oil refinery topics among others. She also subscribes to Africa Intelligence.com; AllAfrica.com, BBC News, The UN website (On conflicts) and Al Jazeera news feeds.

She prefers Mozilla to Internet explorer and uses the Alta Vista programme to search for news.

On mobile telephony

She is full of praises for her mobile telephone and Zain, her mobile telephone operator, through whom she has mobile access. Her phone has modes for reminders, internet for receiving jokes, horoscopes, ring tones, banking rates, stock rates and other information.

On writing stories

Barbara no longer uses pens and paper. She claims she types in her stories direct even while interviewing some one. After typing in and correcting the grammar, she sends the story direct to the editor through the intranet. Before the new system was in place, reporters used to type in stories, print them out then take to the editor hard copies, which would be used for editing.

On what New Media is close to her

She claimed that every morning she ensures that her bag has her mobile telephone, a notebook, a digital camera, a digital voice recorder and laptop.

On ICT role

Barbara claims to use different ICTs as she does her work. For example she says sometimes she conducts interviews via Yahoo chat online. Thereafter she copies and pastes and feeds the interview into the system.

She also uses social network sites like face book, LinkedIn, Yahoo Messenger, Skype,Gmail, chatting and generally to meet people.  Barbara also frequently blogs via www.bamong.blogspot.com 

Last word

Barbara passionately reminds me that she cannot do without the New Media and that if everyone could be logged in all the time, the world would be an easier place to live in and the work would not be difficult to do.

 

 

New Vision Senior Reporter's New Media


Ali Balunywa in Kampala, Uganda

Anne Mugisa is a senior reporter at the New Vision. She is a Bachelor of Arts communication science graduate. She was recruited in 1998. 

Anne has been reporting for the New Vision for over 10 years. She is happy with the new technological developments because they make her work much easier. She especially uses the computer to type in her stories, spell check, and mail to her editor. She also uses the search engines for her research. 

She does not blog, but always reads people’s blogs. However, she has no time for social networking sites.  Sometimes these and the overall Internet are sources of her stories.

Anne also uses the radio, intranet, email and mobile telephone in her day to day work at the New Vision.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The New Vision Resource Centre and ICT

Godfrey Malime is the chief librarian at the New Vision. He joined the organization in 1992 as a trainee librarian. He went through the ranks to get to his current position. He graduated with a Bachelors degree in librarianship and information sciences. He is also in possession of a postgraduate diploma in journalism and media management and another postgraduate diploma in Tourism management. The interview:

Ali: How did you get where you are?

Malime: David Mukholi, the current Sunday Vision editor, trained me as a librarian. At the time of joining the New Vision, he was the chief librarian. All credit goes to David for all my achievements as a librarian. He trained me so well, that when time for him to move on came, he recommended me to take over his post as chief librarian. My qualifications and experience made me the best candidate for the job. 

I can see the library is now bigger and better organized, who takes the credit for the current set up? 

The current set up is my own effort. When more space was offered to us, I personally re organized the library.

So what does the library constitute of?

The library constitutes of newspaper clippings, pictures, old newspapers, books, journals, magazines and pamphlets. The most frequent visitors are journalists and researchers. Old newspapers are bound monthly in hard cover volumes. Newspaper clippings and pictures are kept by subject to make it easier for a researcher or journalists to search.

The rest of the New Vision has embraced the digital culture apart from your department, why is this so? 

Firstly most of the researchers who visit the New Vision seek for physical evidence in most cases required by courts of law. We copy for them this evidence and verify it by certifying it as a true copy. Such evidence is admissible in court.  Courts in Uganda are yet to admit digital evidence.

Secondly, due to budgetary constraints, the library is not on the priority list of departments to be fully digitalized. Today we have only 3 computers for internal use. Our clients cannot do their searches using the computer, but because we are quite experienced we know exactly what they want and where to find it, so we always assist.

Are your services free?

No. From 9.00 am to 12.00noon, outsiders can access the library at a fee of the equivalent of 1 dollar. Photocopying is also charged 1 dollar. Certifying and photos are charged 2.5 and 10 dollars respectively. New Vision staff access it free of charge.

Tell me how you use ICT in the library

The library still needs appropriate software for archiving. However the resource centre is not taken as a priority by the management. What we do now is to pdf the digital newspaper and manually archive it. We use Adobe Photo shop programme to archive photos in different folders on the intranet. Hard copy photos are now minimal. We have requisitioned for a bigger scanner to enable us scan all past newspapers to be stored digitally in their entirety.

The mobile phone has also been an essential tool because the librarian is accessible any time by the editorial department.

The library additionally uses the Internet to subscribe and receive magazines and newsletters for reference. We also expect soon to acquire computers to be used by our clients to access information more quickly.

How do you rate the new technological innovations?

Today, the library has changed its role as a traditional bookkeeper to virtual and digital access provider. It is therefore important to digitalize all the functions of the library to be able to fulfill this new role.

 

 

 

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Tete-e-tete with Gervase


The New Vision’s corporation secretary, Mr. Gervase Ndyanabo is a calm well-composed gentleman. Before his current designation, he was the chief internal auditor. He has served the company for 20 years. He was indeed the right person to approach for the historical background of the New Vision 

Ali: Gervase tell me about the history of the New Vision.

Gervase: The New Vision was established in March 1986. After the National Resistance Movement (NRM) took over government, the then minister of information invited a veteran journalist, Tumusiime from Nairobi to start the paper. Shortly thereafter, Mr. William Pike who covered the NRM bush war was invited to take over as editor in chief. The New Vision then was a department under the ministry of information.

Previous governments had contracted the Soviet Union to supply equipment and technicians for the state newspapers. So the first equipment that was used by the New Vision was Russian.

In 1987, an Act of parliament was passed establishing the New Vision Printing and Publishing Corporation. A Board of Directors was appointed to run it. New Vision then stopped being a government department under the ministry and became a government parastatal. Since then the company has always been making profits that are ploughed back in the organization.

New Vision started as a weekly and later progressed to a bi-weekly, 5 days per week, Saturday and Sunday metamorphosing into a daily. Within one year it started the regional papers beginning with Orumuri for Western Uganda, then Etop for the East, Rupiny for the North and Bukedde for the Central region. This decade has seen New Vision premiering with Lifestyle magazines like; Premiership for soccer, City Beat for listings and Bride and Groom for weddings. They started as inserts in the newspaper, but they are now independently available for sale.

What is the status of the organization now?

In 2002, the ministry of finance repealed the Statute that set up The New Vision Printing and Publishing Corporation (NVPPC) turning it into a limited company from a parastatal organization. It thus became the New Vision Printing and Publishing Company Limited. The ministry of finance took it over for purposes of divesture.

In 2004, 20% of it was listed on the stock exchange. Last year there was a rights issue affecting ownership structure to raise money for expansion. From 80% ownership, the government’s share fell to 53%. Under the Statute, The New Vision is a strategic organization where government must retain the majority shareholding.

What are the products of New Vision?

The New Vision publishes 8 Newspapers and 4 magazines. It also has a first class commercial printing section. A resource centre for photos, past newspapers and research also generates some income. In the last 2 years, The New Vision set up an English radio and a Luganda language radio station. A Runyankore radio was acquired with the purchase of Radio West. Television transmission equipment was bought and testing the airwaves has started.

What infrastructure does the New Vision own?

The New Vision has purchased most buildings around it. It can be accessed from 3 streets. Currently, a new factory block is being built where state of the art printing equipment will be installed.

How many employees does the New Vision retain?

The new Vision has more than 800 employees including freelance journalists.

How are ICT tools used in fulfillment of your work?

In the publishing of the newspapers, from collection of stories, writing, editing, typesetting, pasting, color separation, photography and any other related work, the processes are digital. New Vision has deliberately modernized the whole system by providing a network that is accessible to all journalists, editors, prepress and printers. All the work is all done on computers and sent direct to the printer.

ICT has been a great facilitator of the printing process. ICT has made work process more efficient and effective and it has brought more business opportunities for the organization. Very soon documents including vouchers and signatures will be done electronically. In the next financial year, a document management system will be brought on board.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Makerere Students Embrace the Digital Culture


On Wednesday 8 April, I escorted Ben to Makerere University Faculty of ICT. During our discussions with the deputy dean, we were introduced to the communications manager. After explaining our fields of study, I was requested to make a presentation to the final year class of mass communications on the subject of the new Media. I could not let such an opportunity go by, so I immediately accepted.

We made an appointment for the following Tuesday, but it was later postponed to this week. I was indeed excited to be back to the institution I left 25 years ago. My first impression of the students was their appearance. One could mistake them for secondary school students on a day out. They were so young and seemed so vulnerable.

I was escorted to the class by the head of department, Mass Communications, Ms Marjorie Kyomuhendo. I had prepared around 20 power point slides for my presentation. The projector was connect, but alas! It could not connect to my laptop. The projector did not have a USB jack!

I immediately took control and asked the students to make a sort of circle so that we could like seeing each other. After the introductions, I told them we were very lucky because the projector didn’t work. We therefore had to improvise. I assured them this was not a lecture but a session for sharing experiences. I explained that our session would have 4 phases: the first is by them telling me what they were studying; the next was I to tell them about New Media, the third how to connect the two and last discussion points.

The discussion was interactive. I made sure everyone had something to say, however silly. And before long the ice had broken and we were all laughing. They contributed information over media and their course. I asked leading questions to enable them understand the media better.

I took them through the history of both the media and mass media, while allowing them to add their own dimensions. I used the knowledge I acquired from Aaron Barlow’s book “The rise of Blogosphere” to build a case for the metamorphosis of the media industry culminating in what is called the New Media.

I brought up examples of media theorists from Vannever Bush, Marshall McLuhan, Bolter and Grusen, Foucault, Deleuze and others. I also provide a few examples of their theories like the memex; the medium is the message, remediation, discipline societies and rhizome respectively.

Finally we came to the New Media proper and tried to define it. Everyone by now was very active and from the students all sorts of New Media examples were elicited. The mobile phone, radio, Internet, blogging, digital camera, digital television, etc where mentioned. It was quite interesting when the students made the connection themselves between the New Media and Public relations, which is their specialty.

Lastly, the students discussed the best New Media tools that enable a PR person to do a better job. And these were: FM radio, mobile phone and Internet in that order.






New Vision's Vision Revealed


Ali Balunywa in Kampala, Uganda

For the first time since travelled to Uganda for my research, I woke up with a purpose. I was invited to attend the editorial meeting at the New Vision Newspaper to meet all journalists. Editorial meetings take place every day at 8.30am. The meetings are meant to map out activities for the day, deploy journalists and to do a postmortem of the previous day’s newspaper.

At the meeting the news editor reminded the journalists to email their stories to the editors and avoid duplication. The journalists complained about the IT department making news stories read only which ends in one story being saved under a different name every time a different person edits it. I was deployed to the parliament to attend the plenary session with the parliamentary reporters. However due to mis-coordination, I failed to go and opted to attend a committee meeting the next day.

Later, I conducted my first interview with the New Vision IT manager. His name is Mr. Paul Ikanza. He is a holder of a Bachelor of computer science degree from Makerere University, Uganda’s leading educational institution. He is also CISCO certified, level two for network professionals on top of a Masters degree in data computation.

Interview

Ali: What can you tell me about the IT department here at the New Vision?

Paul: The It department here started in 1999/2000. The computer penetration then was small. Lay out of the newspaper was done by a group of typesetters. Every section of the editorial had a typesetter. The typesetters were using “Adobe Page maker” software for laying out the pages. Internet was more or less a luxury until 2003 when the Internet edition was started. Foreign news and sports was downloaded from the Digital Satellite Television (DSTV). Satellite dishes for Reuters, AFP and Xinhua news services were situated on top of the New Vision office roof.

What is the situation like now, 10 years later?

The Internet traffic is now much heavier after upgrading from 92 KB to 3MB bandwidth. However to ensure that the network remains efficient services like Face book, You Tube are blocked because they consume a lot of band width. Internet usage is therefore monitored to maintain effectiveness. The network is now mainstream not only for typesetting, but is also used by subeditors and editors. A reporter types in a story and sends it together with pictures to the respective sub editor through the system network.

Apart from the editorial, who else uses the system?

All departments at the New Vision need to log onto the system to operate. Today all banking is done electronically. Production machines cannot be turned on without logging onto the system. Typesetters are no more, so sub editors have to lay their allotted pages. Page maker software is no longer used. The latest version of Quark Express typesetting software is currently in use.

How is the news processed today?

A reporter searches for news, types it in and sends to the news editor. After editing the news story is forwarded to the subeditor in charge. All the transmission is done electronically. The subeditor places the story on the specific page and when the full page is done, mails it to the chief subeditor who after approving sends it to the pre press through the network shared folder. Pre press staff creates a plate straight from the computer.

Are the regional up country offices linked to the system?

All upcountry offices are connected to the Internet, but not to the main server at the New Vision. They cannot long onto the system. Stories and photos from upcountry are instantly emailed to the New Vision as soon as they are written or photos taken. Previously, the New Vision used to send drivers to pick photos by car from all around the country.

What other technological advancement haven’t you talked about?

We currently have what is called the mobile office. All senior staff at the New Vision own blackberry handsets, which can log onto the New Vision system outside office hours. Normal email can also be sent and received from the set. Breaking news can be reported at any time of the day from anywhere without any impediment.
We also subscribe to 2 closed user groups. That is Mobile Telephone Networks (MTN) and Uganda Telecoms (UTL), whereby all our 500 staff is connected. New Vision pays a lump sum per month and within the group calls whatever the duration are not charged. This reduced the amount of money we used to pay prior to this.
All departments of the New Vision like production, circulation, marketing, engineering and marketing cannot work without a computer. One must log on before doing any work for the New Vision.

How do you envisage the future of the New Vision with the new technological developments?

By July this year, we expect the fibre optic cable to have arrived in Kampala. This means that Internet will be much faster and we shall be able to free the journalists to actively participate in social networking sites and access You Tube in addition to speeding up the system.

Soon a full color-printing machine shall be installed. It will be fully automated and all pages to be printed in color at once. We also hope in future to develop a content management system where a reporter can log onto the intranet system and submit a story even while outside the New Vision establishment within or outside the country.
Archiving is also one of the things that are yet to go fully digital. All our records since independence are kept in hard copy form until the year 2000. It is our hope that they will all be scanned and kept digitally for future reference

What are your concluding remarks?

The mandate for ICT at the New Vision is information and communication and making communication accessible and sharable. Initially it was only data, but we have now added audio (own 3 stations) and soon video (TV) .














A Day at the Uganda National Assembly


This morning I was deployed with veteran New Vision parliamentary reporters to cover the proceedings at the house of parliament of Uganda. I was attached to Joyce Namutebi, a senior reporter. She took me through the rituals of parliamentary reporting. For the committees, it is not so strict. One can go with a camera, recorder, mobile phone, computer or other devices to the committee rooms. However, if one is to attend the plenary, all these gadgets are not allowed. Only pen and paper.

A parliamentary reporter tag was provided for me and off we went. Committee meetings are supposed to start at 10.00am, but by 10.30am, none of the committees had started. I was more interested in the ICT committee and after moving up and down, decided to go to that committee and wait. Having visited a number of committee rooms, I was surprised with the bareness of the ICT room. The rest of the rooms had modern equipment like microphones, speakers and screens, all high tech equipment. The ICT committee room had none of these amenities. A far cry from what the committee represented. Attendants were few and there was only one journalist!

Honorable. Edward Baliddawa a Member of Parliament and veteran computer expert chaired the committee. This morning’s session was discussing Uganda’s ICT ministry proposed budget for 2009 – 2010.

The chairman observed that the ICT ministry which supervises the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) has a budget of only Shs 6.5 billion (approximately € 2.5 million) per year compared to UCC which has a shs 46 billion allocation. It was observed that the parliamentary act that established the UCC did not envisage the creation of an ICT ministry. UCC was set up in 1995, yet the ministry was created in 2006.

Most functions of the ministry are being carried out by UCC, yet it is supposed to be a regulatory body. 1% of the annual income of all telecommunications operators is remitted to UCC in a fund called Rural Communication Development Fund (RCDF). This fund is supposed to take communication nearer to the underserved rural areas where major players don’t reach because of its unprofitability.

The committee agreed to recommend to the plenary to review the UCC act in view of the current dynamics. UCC would remain the industry regulator, but the ICT ministry accompanied by the budgetary allocation should take up the function of implementer.

The ministry of ICT was also found running parallel to the ministry of information. The latter was in charge of the government satellites, which should ideally be under the ICT ministry. To harmonize this situation calls for a review of the media act according to the members.

Monday, April 20, 2009

New Media at the New Vision


Ali Balunywa in Kampala, Uganda

 

After finalizing the formalities with the administration, the human resource manager of the New Vision handed me over to the Mr. Ben Opolot, the Chief sub-editor. She made for me an appointment to meet him (Ben) on Monday 20 April 2009 at the New Vision head office.

I was there at the agreed time of 10.00am. I explained to Ben how I wanted to do my research. Since all permissions had been granted, he thought all we needed was to let the editor in chief know and off I start.

He accompanied me to the chief’s desk. To her amazement, I greeted her in Dutch as an icebreaker! The editor in chief is Ms Els deTemmerman, a Flemish from Belgium. I explained my mission and she accepted to extend her cooperation and help whenever necessary. 

Ben went ahead to introduce me to journalists who were around, allocated me a desk and asked me to draw a programme for the entire period I will spend at the New Vision. 

My first impressions at the New Vision were the modernity of the working environment. The editorial offices are situated in a modern building with open office floor space. Departments like Newsroom, subeditors, features sports and business divide the office. All desks are equipped with the latest flat screen computers, printers and air conditioning.

On each desk are a number of fixed and mobile phones. When I asked why one should own more than one phone, they explained that same network calls are always cheap, so it is advantageous for one to be connected on each network. 

The editorial room is a beehive of activity. I was told that because of the strict deadlines, journalists and editors have to move with haste all the time. On the walls of the newsrooms you find a notice saying: “DEADLINES – OR YOU ARE DEAD”! Almost all journalists have a flash disk either on a keychain or dangling on a string or necklace around the neck.

Access to the New Vision is restricted. To access any office one needs a security clearance or a smart card. Security at this hi tech organization is paramount so, it is not taken lightly. For a visitor, someone must at all times open the door whether to get in or out!

 

Thursday, April 16, 2009

New Media meets old Media


Ali Balunywa

I started working on my research proposal last year. By the beginning of this year, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. And that is to research on the impact of ICT use on the print media journalist. I started establishing contact with the New Vision, the largest print media organization in Uganda.

I telephoned the Managing Director in January and briefly explained to him what I wanted to do. He asked me to put it in writing, attach the research proposal and send them to him by email. I did that immediately. I telephoned him again in February and in March sent him another email.

Before the end of March I received an email from the Human resource manager explaining that the MD had passed on my case to her for handling. I sent her my travel itinerary. She explained that she would be away at the time of my arrival but she provided me with her telephone contacts so that I call her and she coordinates with her colleagues.

On arrival I called her right away. She explained to me that my case was being handled, but that the person in charge was also not in office that week. After a week, I called to find out if I could start my research. I was asked to write a summary of my proposal and go to the office.

I did exactly that. I was told; I would be called after the managers had discussed my case. I tried to point out that I flew into the country for a limited time and that almost 2 weeks had gone by, but she responded that she was helpless! I left dejected wondering how I will manage the situation.

I contacted another media house and they were quite glad to be of help. However, I also had to put it in writing as a formality. I am still waiting for the response. Hopefully Monday I start after spending 2 weeks redundant.

Did I hear someone saying too much play without work makes Jack a bright boy?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Entebbe Airport Terminal: Transit Bank or Bar?

Last summer when I travelled to Uganda, I was very happy and impressed with the newly refurbished Entebbe airport terminal building. It was sparkling and made me proud. I visited the toilets and was actually able to brush my teeth from there because of the high level of cleanness and hygiene.

The uniformed immigration and customs officials were courteous and fast while executing their duties. The atmosphere in the building was welcoming and made me proud to be Ugandan. The high standard exhibited by the staff was comparable to Europe or other developed places.

When I returned to Entebbe last week it was a different story. Inside the arrivals hall was all chaos! There were different colored arrival forms to fill in without any explanation about the difference. (Later when I asked I was told there was no difference!)

The arrivals hall looked so ugly painted in Barclays bank logo and colors! You get the impression that you are in a bank! All the walls, columns and floor are covered in blue. The Barclays bank advertisements don’t mention anywhere that you are at Entebbe airport or in the arrivals section of Entebbe, or that the airport is run by the Civil Aviation Authority. It is not far fetched to assume that Barclays bank owns the place.

When my American colleague tried to pay for his visa, his dollars were rejected because they were printed before the year 2000! He pleaded with the office that this was legal tender accepted by all banks internationally, but his pleas fell on deaf ears. The officer was adamant. He asked Ben (my colleague) to go to the cash machine and draw cash.

After the clearing with immigration we went to get our luggage from the belt. And my…! The place looked like a Coca-Cola warehouse or worse still a bar! The Coca Cola advertisements on the floor, wall and roof made the place look so ugly!

I don’t know how much was paid by the advertisers to make the place look so ugly! But in my opinion it is not worth it. May be it would tolerable if the two companies had endeavored to renovate the place then place their ugly advertisements. But waiting so many years for the government to invest billions to make the place look beautiful and welcoming then make it ugly again is unacceptable. The Civil Aviation Authority should reconsider their action for the sake of people of Uganda.

 

 

 

 

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The 45 hour flight to Africa

Ali Balunywa in Kampala, Uganda


Ben and I booked the same flight to Uganda. We booked Egypt Air. The flight was supposed to take off at 3.30pm from Schiphol airport (Amsterdam) on Saturday 4 April 2009. We were to transit through Cairo in Egypt lasting one hour and proceed to Entebbe in Uganda.

We boarded the plane in time and sat for almost an hour. The pilot had realized that the altimeter was not working and it needed repair. We were asked to disembark and given vouchers for a meal at any restaurant at the airport.

We waited for almost 5 hours before the fault was repaired. We again went through the airport security to board the plane. Like the first time, I was searched thoroughly and asked by the customs officers how much money I had! Ben was angry and wondered whether it wasn’t discrimination since no white person had been asked a similar question!

We arrived in Cairo at around 3.00 am. Egypt air organized the Sheraton hotel for us. We were allocated rooms and informed that we would fly the next day in evening via Nairobi in Kenya for Entebbe.

We had a good morning’s sleep and next day after breakfast decided to visit the pyramids at Giza. We hired a taxi and off we went. Foreign currency is not accepted, so we had to look for a machine to draw local Egyptian pounds. At the entrance to the pyramids there is a local bank whose ATM was not functional. Electricity had gone off and the teller could not change our money. Nobody had any idea when power would return.

Later we identified a man who changed our Euros. He certainly cheated us, but we had no choice. We were 4 people having met a German lady and her daughter who too were travelling to Uganda. We paid the equivalent of 12 euro each to enter the pyramid area. We took some photos and bought some trinkets. We were mesmerized by the sheer size of the pyramids and the history it stores. The Sphinx stands proud in front of the biggest pyramid. One might assume it is the custodian of history.

Later we visited the famous 5 star Oberoi hotel in Cairo for refreshments. Back at the hotel we had dinner and returned to the airport. To Ben’s dismay, I was again thoroughly checked at the check in counter, yet he and the Germans made their way through without being checked.

After an uneventful flight, we arrived in Nairobi at 4.00 am. Our Entebbe flight was departing at 8.40 am, so we had several hours of waiting. We collected our boarding passes and went to the departure gate. The expected was done; another thorough check on me was conducted again to Ben’s disgust. He actually commented that this was the worst discrimination case he ever encountered!

Our sense of humor was restored when we were offered seats in the first class section of the plane! A welcome drink; Champaign, water, juice or soda was offered. The region’s newspapers and international magazines were offered to us. A wide variety breakfast was offered. This time real steel cutlery and china crockery are used. We were pampered and spoilt by the hostesses who were at hand to satisfy all our needs. Unfortunately we did not enjoy for long as the flight took only 50 minutes.

At Entebbe airport we paid for our visas with so much ceremony. Ben had US dollars that were rejected because they were manufactured before 1990! His pleas that he was American and that dollars were genuine fell on deaf ears. He instead used Euros to pay and we proceeded to collect our baggage.

Not to disappoint at the exit, I was again singled out and my luggage searched again by the customs. But finally, we had arrived in Uganda at 10.00 am on a Monday morning having left Amsterdam on a Saturday afternoon!

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