So as the curtains come down on 2014, it would seem it was just another typical year – corruption, dirty politics, maddening traffic jams, floods, a failed health system, brutal police beating down Opposition demonstrators, the usual.
But we need to step back, because when you get too focused on studying the rooms, there is no way you will see the building.
In late July came news that a genetically modified banana enriched with vitamin A that could dramatically reduce infant mortality and blindness in children in Africa was to undergo its first human trials in the USA.
The banana was developed by scientists at the Queensland University of Technology, in Australia.
The results of the trials should be about now, and there are plans to have the bananas growing in Uganda by 2020.
There is an interesting footnote to this new-age banana story:
Five Ugandan PhD students have been working with project leader Prof James Dale on the nine-year project.
And that is our subject for today. In 2014, I saw the first sure movement away from the shouting and talking, to more dispassionate scholarship, research, documentation, and tinkering in Uganda.
Perhaps the most public element in this story was the Kiira EV SMACK electric vehicle. However, one hopes that soon the Kiira Motors Corporation will pick up on the fact that the race for electric and hybrid cars is not over the cars themselves, but the battery – and focus on that. But, at least, they are in the game.
More importantly, the year is ending with the publication of former Daily Monitor editor (now an editor at parent company Nation Media Group in Nairobi) Daniel Kalinaki’s book Kizza Besigye and Uganda’s Unfinished Revolution.
I was glad to hear from the publishing grapevine that it is the fastest-selling book by a Ugandan of recent years in the bookshops.
Kalinaki is a guinea pig, because how his book plays out could revolutionise publishing in Uganda.
First, he is self-publishing. Secondly, it is the first big book on a major political story by a journalist who is not an active participant in the events but a chronicler.
But perhaps the best proof of this drift in the year came most from a most controversial figure – Timothy Kalyegira.
When I was editor at the Daily Monitor, I worked with Tim on his first major project, “The Uganda Almanac”. Tim was ahead of his time, because the mindset behind “The Uganda Almanac” is what years later when the Internet came of age produced platforms like “Wikipedia”.
But Tim, driven as he is, is also a handful to deal with—and a man with perhaps too strongly held views.
It was, therefore, heartening to see him returning to the spirit of the engaged but also detached documenter of the “Uganda Almanac” with his photo page “Kampala Express” on Facebook. It could turn out to be something very interesting in the years ahead.
You could count in this class comedienne Anne Kansiime, Uganda’s putative filmmakers, and video creators like Eddy Kenzo. Also, the interesting developments in the technology space – I am intrigued that Kamwokya is informally turning into Uganda’s “Silicon Valley”.
All these together are what Uganda has been lacking folks who look at the drama of the society and its politics and innovate solutions to them, document and organise its images, sounds, and the cracking skulls and immortalise and make sense of them for the world without jumping into the fray with the warriors.
Finally, it is beginning to come together in an autonomous creative movement. In that sense, it has been a great year.
Mr Obbo is editor of Mail and Guardian Africa. Twitter:@cobbo3
SOURCE: Daily Monitor