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China Daily Website

For the love of China

Updated: 2013-04-26 11:16
By Zhao Yanrong ( China Daily)

For the love of China

In Kampala, Victoria Sekitoleko runs not only a library featuring Chinese books, but also a cultural center where Chinese art is on display. Zhao Yanrong / China Daily

After spending five years in Beijing, victoria sekitoleko is spreading Chinese culture in Uganda

It is a typical downtown Kampala scene with crowds shuffling between shops - a clothes store, a furniture shop and a hair salon with loud music blasting out onto the street. But above the bustle, on the second floor of a building, is a very un-Kampala sight that could well be from any Chinese city - a quiet corner of a community library stacked with Chinese literature, where green tea is being served from a teapot emblazoned with a picture of a dragon.

The shelves are full of books from or about China, covering everything from children's stories to history and a thesis on the progress of Chinese urbanization. Victoria Sekitoleko, the owner of the library, likes to spend time here talking with young Ugandans about her life in China.

Sekitoleko is Uganda's former minister of agriculture and was in Beijing as a representative of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in China, Mongolia and South Korea from 2005 to 2011.

"I am really happy I have the job I do here and I think there are a lot of things Africa can learn from China," she says.

She is impressed by China's ability to feed its 1.3 billion people while many African countries rely on donations from Europe, which itself is struggling economically, she says.

"We have the best soil and land resources in the world, and we should at least meet the minimum requirement of feeding ourselves.

"When we cannot fully rely on food assistance from the outside, Africa should wake up and try to support ourselves like China does," she says, adding that she expects Uganda will be able not only to feed itself but also begin exporting food with the help of China.

About 20 percent of Uganda is made up of water bodies, which means the country's fishing and aqua-farming industries have huge potential. China is investing heavily in these areas and through them helping to develop the agricultural economy.

A Chinese company opened a fish farming demonstration center costing $5 million under an agreement from the Forum on China Africa Cooperation. At the center, located on the outskirts of Kampala, local farmers are trained in modern ways of fish farming using simple and affordable technology. Fish experts from across East Africa region also visit the center to talk about best practices.

The former Chinese minister of agriculture believes learning practical and affordable Chinese agriculture methods will benefit Uganda more than direct material support.

"Different from our traditional partners, like the European countries, Chinese companies want to listen to us and put our requirements as the priority of our cooperation," she says.

She quotes the saying, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime," as the way forward for Uganda's agriculture.

Introducing Chinese culture and philosophy to Uganda through the community library is a good way of inspiring Ugandans to learn from China, Sekitoleko, 61, says.

Chinese classes are held in the library each week and table tennis tables are set up for the waiting parents to use.

Sekitoleko also provides information on Chinese university scholarships for young Ugandans interested in studying abroad.

"The English information from the Chinese universities' websites is not enough sometimes for Ugandan students to apply," she says. "Because of the close relationship we have with the Chinese embassy, we are able to provide more details about Chinese scholarships to young Ugandan students."

Sekitoleko also runs a Chinese cultural center in Kampala, where she exhibits Chinese art and products.

During five years living in Beijing Sekitoleko made many Chinese friends. Although she retired from the UNFAO in 2011, she still returns to China twice a year.

Going shopping with "uncle Li" is one of her greatest pleasures on those trips, she says, and helps her to understand the Chinese market ever better.

When Ugandans complain about the poor quality of Chinese goods, Sekitoleko says she tries to find some thing better from China.

"In fact, it's just because they purchased low-end Chinese goods from irresponsible traders. I want to help them know the real value of products made in China and build their confidence in Chinese businesses."

On one occasion, Sekitoleko recalls, she advised a Ugandan businessman on where to buy food processors in China. He planned to go to the Canton Fair in Guangzhou, but she suggested he could find a better deal in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province, where the biggest food processing equipment base in China is located.

"People from Uganda have a strong desire to know China, but we don't have many places that provide a lot of information. To meet Chinese diplomats in the Chinese embassy you need to make an appointment and process a lot of things in advance in a very formal way."

"But in my Chinese center, people walk in with a general idea but walk out with much specific information. When people come to me for advice, I want to try to help, and that makes my knowledge and experience in China valuable."

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