Thursday, June 25, 2015

On Branding Our Cities... MWF Chronicles II

Dear Reader

I realize that the writing is not up to par. I apologize but I feel the need to curate this experience, not only for myself and for those that know me but for everyone. I feel learning must be shared and especially for those that applied for this program and did not get the chance to come. It is the very least I should do. So here goes;

On Tuesday, we met the Mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed and I was impressed beyond belief. Everyone here keeps referring to him and how incredible of a man he is and I finally found out why. He is a man of excellence. We had a Q and A session with him. This for me was a new experience because back home, sessions with leaders are not for you to ask them questions but for you to listen to their agenda and what they are presumably doing for you. *rolls eyes* Mayor Reed is an excellent orator. He spoke with passion and conviction about his work and it was easy to tell that he loves his city.

Prior to that we had met the CEO and staff of Invest Atlanta (It is the equivalent of the Uganda Investment Authority if Uganda were Atlanta)and been taken on a tour of the city of Atlanta. It is an impressive city by all means but what struck me most is that for every development, every company, the tour guide let us know how many jobs had been created as a result of it. Do we take this into account when "investors" move into our towns, our cities and our countries? How many jobs has MTN created, Stanbic, Standard Charted, EABL, CNOCC, BAT et al? Is it relative to the amount that they spend in the country? Is it relative to the amount that they repatriate back to their home countries? What is the FDI? Does Kampala as the capital city even have an office in charge of investments in the city? What are they doing? How are they attracting investment? I have questions!

We went to the Atlanta Business League and to the World Council for Young Leaders in Atlanta and it continues to strike me that even though this country is developed, they are extremely serious about enhancing that development. They are doing everything to position this city as a hub for commerce and growth. From social services, welfare amenities and infrastructure. As the mayor said, capital follows fixed infrastructure (now it makes sense why the Ugandan infrastructure budget this year was crazy. I see the purpose). They have spent millions of dollars on a street car that stops at all the major sights of the city, refurbished their airport and are building a stadium worth 1.4 BILLION dollars and all for what?  To attract more investment. Porsche just moved it's head quarters here and created 6000 jobs and they are looking for more of that. This is a city that is already developed! We are far faaar faaaaarrrr removed from that and yet we are complacent. We fight legislature to improve our cities yet we stand to gain the most from it.

The attitude of servitude and excellence is real. The city wants to be and takes pride in doing things right. All of the council people we met at the mayors office were exemplary. They would introduce themselves , express why they were elected and what they've done since. Even if they were politicking, it was a good show. I'm sure if I tasked many people in Uganda's government to explain what contribution they've made since they were elected, they would draw a blank. Even just for show.

And that is not to say that we were not taken to the bad parts of the city. We were. And then we were told the plans to rehabilitate and revitalize those parts. So yes, not all is well but atleast they can be seen to be actively trying to improve. And I realize all this is branding and marketing.We must brand our cities better. We must highlight them as states of progress and find ways to collaborate with our local councils to make this happen. It won't start with our leaders. It has to start with us. We need to find a middle ground with leadership because that's the only way permanent positive change can happen.