Ugandan delight knew no end when the news came through that Miss Uganda Quiin Abenakyo had emerged among the top five beauty queens in the world, at the Miss World competition that took place in China.
There are beautiful women everywhere in the world; and, infact, Ghanaian celebrated author Ayi Kwei Armah might still be insisting that“The Beautiful Ones Are Not Yet Born” – the title of his 1968 novel.
For Uganda to emerge among top five in a very tight competition and for our own to be crowned Miss World Africa, meaning the most beautiful girl in Africa, is no mean feat. No insult intended to Mzee Ayi Kwei Armah, but Uganda has the beautiful ones aplenty.
And for the record, Abenakyo was not only physically beautiful, she was brilliant at every turn, responding satisfactorily to every question and showing that whichever beauty one looked for – inner or outer –she had plenty of both.
This is the first time Uganda has made it that far in a competition that at 68 years, is definitely older than many of the readers of this column and far older than our nation too, if you consider our date of independence.
For Uganda as a nation, the Abenakyo victory has done tonnes of good to the image of the country in the general and to the women of Uganda in particular. We can discuss the national image later, but first about the women. A management professor friend once told me about what they call the“Cockroach Theory”.
If you find one cockroach in the house, it is very safe to conclude that the house is cockroach-infested: call the fumigator. Do not wait for sighting of 1,000 cockroaches before you dial the pest man’s number. One sighting is enough to tell you that there are hundreds of roaches in the house.
The economist might be concerned that they are not even paying rent. When you have a beautiful Ugandan girl in the top five in the world, it is safe to say that Ugandan girls are beautiful. And the hypothesis’s nicely verified by taking a casual stroll around the countryside.
The Miss World Africa crown will also draw attention to how far Ugandan women have come; transiting from a constituency disadvantaged by history and cultural norms, to one that is empowered, energetic and ambitious.
Ugandan women have excelled in academics, politics,performing arts (especially music), fashion, business, public service,international diplomacy and almost every other sphere of life, particularly in the last three decades.
This is, without doubt, what the business world will call a“return on investment”. Over the last three decades, the Government has injected energy, time, resources, on top of policy and legal reform, to re position the Ugandan woman to what she is today. It is no longer a problem to have only girl children in a family — for those families that looked to boy children as a guarantee of sustenance — because society knows that girls in the Uganda of today have as good a chance as boys to excel in life.
A lot of discomfort, it must be said, was premised on the fact that girls were seen as nothing more than future wives, of men who would handle them anyhow, because they were inherently dis empowered by history and societal dynamics. Women of Uganda still do have numerous challenges — reports of sexual abuse, domestic violence, discrimination and many others still filter through.
But when you see fine young ladies, such as Abenakyo, taking the whole world by storm, then you know many Ugandan women are coming through just fine. Their resilience and resolve has proved too much for the obstacles and challenges that stood in their way.
Even those still behind will eventually get there. Heroes and heroines, such as Abenakyo, inspire their countrymen and women to dream; to have the confidence that if one of their own could make it that far, then they,too, can, if they simply have the guts to start out and never give up.
As a nation, Abenakyo’s victory has definitely put Uganda on the map and enhanced our brand worth associating with. In recent years, top tourism watchers have consistently set Uganda among the top destinations in the world for any tourist who is eager to get value for their money.
The National Geographic Travelers Cool List ranks Uganda among the 19 key destinations in the world that tourists would do well to visit-in 2019. Uganda is also named among the top four destinations in Africa for any ambitious tourist. Standing at sh 5.4 trillion (at least for 2017, with higher figures expected for 2018), tourism remains one of Uganda’s biggest earners.
Tourism depends heavily on branding — a country being able to catch the tourist’s eye as the place to be; and the Miss World Africa crown(our girl sure took them to school!) is sure to improve our ratings as a place that is a going concern.
Abenakyo’s success comes on the back of many other successes that we have registered as a nation. Once again, Uganda Cranes qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON), almost effortlessly. In netball, the She Cranes qualified for the Netball World Cup 2019, which will be staged in Liverpool, England — and that was on top of winning the Africa title. And news just in indicates that another of our young ladies, Harriet Anena, won the WoleSoyinka Prize for Literature in Africa for 2018.
And space will not allow complete documentation of the excellence that we are witnessing; but we have sufficient indicators of the big picture. Like individuals, sometimes a nation assumes an aggregate or collective personality, so that it grieves and mourns as one. The Miss World Africa crown will also be a good way to crown the year with a comforting thought; coming so soon after the Lake Victoria Cruise Boat Tragedy. And what’s more, Abenakyo’s victory is a symbol of the steady progress we have made as a country.