There is a website (or, depending on how much you care, a mobile app) in Africa… or not exactly in Africa… let me start again. There is a lot of ambiguity about the subject.
There is an electronic entity that can be accessed by internet connection devices within Africa that is called Jumia.
It took me eight drafts to settle on that.
What Jumia does is many things. Among them, it communicates, through metaphysical agents in the ether called “cookies”, with the spirits of our forefathers. When the ancestors hear you saying something like, “I feel like the beach this weekend” they report immediately to the cookie on duty, which then slaps an advert for a bikini into your facebook feed. It happens to me every single time.
Another thing Jumia has done is hire the most tedious, slow witted, dumbmule ever, one with not only a dry mango seed instead of a medulla but also a PTSD-level phobia of reason to act as a customer service representative at their call center.
But these are incidental to their main purpose. What Jumia mainly does is connect Ugandan merchants to Uganda customers through means of website or app (If you have the time and MBs to download and keep an app for buying a desk lamp. Nobody should have that time).
I have complained once or twice about Jumia, but to be fair, I use their services a lot; frequently enough to be regularly satisfied, to rely on them and to instinctively find myself thinking of Jumia before I even think of physical shopping.
Jumia operates like that in various countries most, if not all of them, African. So you have all these shillings, francs, kobos, naira, kwacha, cedis and mitwaalo swooshing up and down its veins and arteries. But, in spite of all its lifeblood being official African legal tender, it isn’t African.
One of the Jumia capos said it was during an interview about its listing for the Grand Altar of Western Capitalism– the NYSE, but a few of us quickly spotted discrepancies in the utterance, such as: its founders are French, it is incorporated in Germany, a significant aspect of its day-to-day computer maintenance is situated in Portugal and a few other offshore attributes were brought up to contest the claim that Jumia is African.
It apparently isn’t.
I am not here to argue about that. I am here because I am scared now. The implications of this. The ramifications. The permutations! If Jumia isn’t African, what is?
Let me tell you the story of Bridget Namuli.
I can’t forget the day I first saw her. She was at the boda stage calling each of them a different cattle disease and singling out the last one on the left for that ailment where the rectum collapses inwards. She was both threatening and preparing to throw some bricks at their stupid faces, and the prolapsed rectum was frantically reaching for his helmet. Street harassment, boda bodas need to learn, is a game of Russian roulette. With Bridget Namuli it is played with Vladimir Putin’s very own ssassi limu.
I said to my heart, “Dude, Don’t. Don’t.”
But it was too late. Heart was already through the three states: Paltipates, accelerate and syncopate. It was over. Brain just gave up and instructed mouth to sigh wanly. I was looking at my next few years of therapy. I was looking at my next nervous breakdown. I was looking at my future baggage.
After the bodas had apologised and she allowed them to get off their knees, we got to talking and chatting and I began the rapid descent into love with her.
Bridget was awesome. I thought I was the Tony Stark of kitchens, but she cooked better than I did. She had mastered luwombo, kalo, malakwang, …
I thought I had a forked tongue, but Bridget could curse a nigg at considerable length and with sufficient impact in eight different languages: Runyankore, Langi, Lubara, Luganda, Lusoga, English, and Kikamba.
Kikamba because,in spite of the fact that Bridget operated entirely in Uganda, she was actually incorporated in Kenya.
Her dad was one Mike Mutua, a roving loser with unruly testicles who knocked up a Ganda girl, one Janet Namuddu, while loitering through Uganda. He tried to do the right thing and take her to Nairobi with him to and raise the family but he was still a loser and had to be ditched and dumped. ‘Twas ever thus with trash. By the time Bridget was four years old she was back in Kampala being raised strong by her single mum.
Bridget was so Ugandan that she knew the lyrics to every Radio and Weasel song. And she knew what they meant. All the double entendres.
She has bribed LDUs, drank kwete, spent a night in Dangala, fired an AK47…she is way more Ugandan than a lot of us.
I on the other hand, grew up in Kenya. I was there from age two to adulthood. All the processes: the germination, the opening of the cotyledons, the first bud and leaf, the processes that lead to the emanation of the roots that a person will dig into the land beneath him or her happened to me when I was on Kenyan soil.
The thing that makes the love of home did not come to me in Uganda.
Now I have been in Uganda for as long as I lived in Kenya, I feel I am a part of Uganda, but not in the same way. Home is a part of you as much as you are a part of it. And that part of me is elsewhere.
I am part of Uganda in the way that I am a part of the enterprise that is Uganda, I am a part of the mass endeavour to draw this thing to success. I have a strong commitment to making it work. I want Ug to win because then I will be part of a winning country. So I pay my taxes, I abide by the law, I complain about government and I buy Uganda build Uganda.
But that raw, deep down, love you have right at the centre of your spine where the roots begin, that love that connects and lights up the whole self when the skin of the feet touches the earth of the land? I don’t have that. Not in Uganda. I have not felt it for 20 years.
So, how Ugandan am I? I am not even actually incorporated here either. NIRA sent my forms back twice because I fill in forms like a trained journalist: that is, I answer the question asked with the immediately available fact, not whatever you had prepared yourself to hear.
And I can’t get my passport renewed until I get that national ID, so I don’t have one of those either. I have no documentation establishing my Ugandanness.
Which means, if the minister who seems to have said it wasn’t just belching that when they withhold citizens’ rights from those who don’t hold the magic cards, I will be as good as a German, Djiboutian, or Wakandan.
There is also the fact that I am bailing on you guys.
Look, I’ve been here for 20 years and I have tried my best, but it’s come to the point where I just have to admit it. You are doomed. Uganda is set on an exponentially steepening incline sliding irreversibly into the darkness of Stalingrad at midnight. By the time I am celebrating the first anniversary of my escape you guys here will be surrounded by Stazi, Gestapo, the SS, KGB, Bureau of State Security, state informants, youth brigades and will have to greet each other saying “Long Live Our Dear Leader.”
Social Media clampdowns, press stress, party militia, and then ID cards? ID cards? Smells like Stalingrad, walks like Stalingrad, quacks like Stalingrad.
But I will be in Germany at the time, running a blog/podcast/video African dissident web platform from a flat in Wilhelmstrasse, Berlin.
We will broadcast under VPN to whoever has balls that haven’t been ripped off by torture. There will be an entire collective of us. Tanzanians, Burudinands, Egyptians, Sudanese, Zimbabweans, Algerians..
Radio Free Africa. Incorporated, staffed, and funded (from our salaries as fast food workers) in Germany. Will we be African?