It’s been three days since I first heard about the insulting sms message sent by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy (shown above) to his finance minister: "Stand your ground, we’re the number four power in Europe. Spain is not Uganda." Business Insider translated the statement as follows: "We’re a major power, not some random IMF-case banana republic." (A friend and blogger, Rosebell Kagumire, first posted it on Facebook, where I saw the link to the article.)
It was an affront to me as a Ugandan. Indeed, a number of netizens — both Ugandans and non-Ugandans — took to Twitter with the hashtag #ugandaisnotspain to protest the remarks. Ms. Kagumire set up the hashtag on Twitter in order to prompt Ugandans and friends to comment about the article:
Meanwhile, Al Jazeera captured the early sentiments towards the now infamous text.
The Spanish minister’s condescending text feeds into the pernicious stereotype of the Third World as a lost cause.
The country that he dismisses is not contemplating a bailout from a major power, nor is it teetering on the brink of expulsion from an economic union. To be sure, the global economic crisis that has taken its toll on countries like Spain has had ripple effects on countries like Uganda. But while Spain has its begging bowl out to the EU for money to keep its banks afloat, the small banking industry in Uganda is still intact. Despite the fluctuation of the Ugandan shilling last year that saw protests flare up around the country, the banks still managed to post profits. They don’t need any bailouts.
When the world looks at emerging markets, it is the countries like Uganda that offer hope for the future of growth. It is therefore important to correct the perception that Uganda is a lost cause. That’s a long way from the truth. Uganda is a resource-rich country with a vibrant culture. A couple of months ago I produced a photo essay for the Global Press Institute capturing the construction boom in Uganda. Over the last few weeks I’ve blogged about the different steps that Ugandan youth are taking in science and technology. While the only pictures Mr. Rajoy may see on his television in Europe are of a miserable Africa (and I doubt that he gets the real picture from his country’s consulate in Uganda), there is another reality of a progressive Uganda that rarely makes it into the international media.
The fact is that most Ugandans live off their own land, which they own with no debt to any banking institutions at all. The current situation in Uganda is far from the current situation in Spain. When I blog this time, it’s in the defense of my country.
Follow Jackee Batanda on Twitter at @jackeebatanda.