Congratulations to all Ugandans upon the record set as Ms. Quiin Abenakyo, a muzzukulu from Mayuge steadily stole the heart of the world and became the first and only Ugandan to shine at the Miss World beauty pageant! Sanya, China reverberated as Abenakyo moved from underdog African girl position to the continent’s best bet and third overall.
For some of us who followed the proceedings right from the start we hoped that she could win top spot but her third was a very strong and precious one as she was the first ever to go that far. Others have not been that lucky. While luck was on her side, her brilliance and outlook spoke for themselves-she was confident, eloquent, with poise and with a strong purpose. Her cause of “fighting teenage pregnancy” resonated with the world and, for me that is a cue for what kind of social campaigns to prioritize.
Had I been one of the judges, our girl should have taken number one spot. Perhaps there are vestiges of favouritism in favour of fairer-skinned people but the result Uganda got was good enough since it was a surprise. Countrymen voted convincingly online but countries of over contestants were not asleep either. Can we do better next time? I think we can if we do the right thing.
As usual, preparation for the pageant was almost down to a few individuals and little institutional input. Abenakyo had herself and the support of a few to count on; Uganda Tourism Board (UTB) chairman, Hon. Daudi Migereko, assisted with a visa while Ms Brenda Nanyonjo of Miss Uganda franchise saw to the finer details.
While shortage of attention and benefaction at this stage does not escape a critical eye, Abenakyo’s example deducts the excuse that people must be showered with money and other benefits to carry the flag. Nothing beats the beauty of overcoming the odds to emerge tall. Money helps but when one is serious, nothing can stop them. I suggest that next time organizers should take into consideration the unique challenges that contesters go through as part of building an inspirational story around their success.
In sports circles, usually the cry is that there isn’t enough funding to support teams going for competitions. While that may be true, good players cannot fail to make it despite the tendency for a performance-based reward system where they are mollified and gifted only after excelling.
A serious policy to support the arts and sports should be instituted to raise and market our stars aggressively and not leave them to chance. Viable talents should be backed and without looking at the President as the only source of support. A rigid system considers “these things” as wastage but the world as it is works on image and visibility; he who invests wisely reaps big. We should have experts to accurately assess competitions and determine which ones are worth betting on but we must make sure that in all major contests we are represented. If we don’t win, at least there should be something positive for Ugandan to be remembered for.
And it is not only Abenakyo who has been keeping Uganda on top of recent; in the literary world, Ms Harriet Anena, won the Wole Soyinka Prize in Literature for Africa in Lagos, Nigeria, during the same week for her book, A Nation in Labour . Anena competed with writers from all over Africa and shared the prize with literary giant, Prof. Tanure Ojaide. It came with prize money which I am sure will fire up her creative juices. I don’t know how she prepared for the contest but I know that it was a dueling process which required resources and she most likely received no institutional support but here she is.
Ugandan writers are accustomed to isolation and unsung status, some with manuscripts they cannot get published due to lack of means. Anena and Abenakyo should be recognized as ambassadors in their areas of specialization to encourage self-drive and passion in the creative sector; not forgetting, among others, musician Bebe Cool, who recently won an AFRIMA award as Best male artiste. He may be accomplished and, therefore, not a surprise act but that does not take away that he strives to keep Uganda in the eyes of the world for good reasons.
While others are paying millions of dollars looking for publicity, Uganda is paying little to nothing and we keep getting the coverage. Nothing should be taken for granted, however, as everything happens for a reason. On top of continuing to secure an environment that enables Ugandan youngsters to grow up able-bided, strong, beautiful and bright, policymakers should move to invest beyond the traditional sectors that have been exhausted and cannot bring anything new to the table. The world is waiting to see if Uganda’s emerging good fortunes are accidental or integrated in the people’s psyche.
The author is a Senior Presidential Advisor Political Affairs and Personal Assistant to National Chairman NRM.