By: Prof. G. Pascal Zachary
Popular beliefs about Africa remain dominated by images of disaster, disease and mayhem. Starving Africans, sick Africans, dangerous and combative Africans – these images, however unrepresentative, distorted, partial and even false – stick to the story of Africa and its sub-regions like glue. Relentlessly repeated around the world, these negative images of our many and diverse African realities exploit a pornography of pain, reinforcing comfortable stereotypes about needy Africans who can be easily assisted by outsiders.
Yet we know that the agents of African advance are home-grown. They are local talent, born and bred on African ground. The author of this story, Professor Venansius Baryamureeba, is one of these talents. His memoir tells an inspiring, visionary tale of an African scientist who goes “out” for his education and comes of age in a wealthy European country but only to choose to return to his native land. Keeping a promise to his parents to assist in Uganda’s positive transformation, Prof. Baryamureeba recounts a journey that many other talented Africans now make routinely. For in our time, African brain drain is steadily evolving into African brain gain!
Prof. Baryamureeba does a particular kind of science that is new to Africa – science about computers – how to design and program them, how to understand their behavior in networks, and where computers are going, technologically and as agents of social, political and economic change. In a world where digital devices and digital media provide the backbone for communications and commerce, Prof. Baryamureeba’s expertise could not be more central to national health and global community.
Through science, Prof. Baryamureeba found leadership roles in Uganda, both as an educator and in civil society. In his daily life, he emerges as a new kind of role model. He affirms the potential for every thinking and feeling person to possess both “roots” and “wings.” Prof. Baryamureeba is guided by his deep roots in Uganda’s soil and by wings that carried him to the forefront of the science of computer in a world where knowledge has no borders.
Brains lubricate the workings of the modern world. And cities are the natural home for energetic minds. One of the most welcome transformations in contemporary Africa is the emergence of creative cities. From Accra to Kampala, from Lusaka to Masaka, well-educated, imaginative and committed Africans play growing roles in the rise of world-class cities on the continent’s tradition-bound soil. A new generation of African intellectuals is making its mark on the world of their fathers. Of these, Prof. Baryamureeba stands in the front ranks. These intellectuals are poised to influence their cities and nations – to help them bend in the direction of progress, greater equity and prosperity.
Not only scientists power the reinvention of African intellectual life. Poets, writers, artists and entertainers also infuse African cities with vitality. As a visitor of these cities over the past 15 years, I have been blessed by various chance encounters of lasting significance. On one of my early visits to Kampala, I met Prof. Baryamureeba and, improvising adroitly because I simply appeared in his office at Makerere University unannounced, he enthusiastically shared his world with me, enriching my own. In the years since, I have learned from his evolution as a scientist, educator and civic leader.
In Kampala, all sorts of problems can be found; all manner of disappointments can be experienced. There is no shortage of pain and suffering in this life. But in Kampala, visitors can also encounter Prof. Baryamureeba and his “tribe” of worthy experts and thought leaders, men and women of notable talents who choose to live in Uganda, and in Africa, because not only can they make a singular impact on their fellow humans but they also can prosper and make real their dreams.
— G. Pascal Zachary is the author of Married to Africa: a love story. He is a professor of practice at Arizona State University, where he teaches classes on the future of journalism, history, innovation systems, writing and reporting.
The hard-copy of this book is available at the following outlets in Uganda: Aristoc Bookshop, Uganda Bookshop, Mukono Bookshop and Makerere Bookshop.