UNICEF Uganda #Imagine Campaign

Whilst in Uganda I was invited to attend a press conference at UNICEF where they launched a new social media campaign. It is part of a global campaign celebrating 25 years of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. To mark this occasion they have launched the #Imagine programme, which is an interactive digital platform designed to connect people around the world. The idea is to record your own version of Imagine by John Lennon. The famous dance DJ, David Guetta, will then make a mix using all the voices.

They are hoping to get 1 million voices for this global sing-a-along. UNICEF have an established team of celebrity ambassadors including Katy Perry and Shakira who have already contributed their voices to the mix. UNICEF Uganda have the support of several top music artists in the country  Benon Mugumbya, Lilian Mbabzi, Navio, Irenentale, Mun G, Jackie Chandiru and Peter Miles. They have recorded their own version of the song.

In Uganda, they are aiming for 100,000 voices to publicly advocate to lift 8 million Ugandan children out of poverty. Jaya Murthy, Chief of Communication for UNICEF in Uganda said “This is a new type of public advocacy initiative that aims to unite thousands of citizens around the world through the power of digital media and music. We hope it will capture the public’s imagination to imagine a better future for children where all children’s rights are realized.”

I personally think 100,000 voices is too ambitious and I asked Jaya how they will reach the more remote marginalised communities. He agreed it will be difficult but is up for the challenge and I respect that! There was a large media presence at the launch but I think it will be necessary to reach the smaller regional media companies and community radio stations as well. It will be interesting to see if the power of celebrity advocacy works in Uganda. It will certainly help with seeding the campaign: Navio alone has 37,000 followers and between them they have 90,000.

This is an innovative campaign to create a social movement and I really hope that the target is met.

Below is the video for the global campaign.

Africa’s largest ever Lip Dub Social Media Campaign

I absolutely love the Jessie J Lip Dub from Microbanker involving over 500 women in Uganda, so I contacted them to ask for some more details about the campaign. Here is a detailed insight into the success about the campaign from an interview with Duko Hopman, Director of SYPO.

1. What made you decide to use a Lip Dub as a fundraising idea?
We were looking for a way to show the strength, not the weakness, of the women involved in the project. A fun and positive message instead of images of suffering children. A Lip Dub video seemed like the perfect way to be able to show a lot of the borrowers’ businesses in a fun way, and appeal to a wide audience through social media (given the recent popularity of Lip Dubs). Read this article explains what it is, and why it is important to do this.

2. Is it really the largest Lip Dub in Africa?
We had a long look around Youtube and Google to get some inspiration from other Lip Dubs and to confirm that this would be the largest, and it certainly seems to be! We couldn’t find any that came even close… Although there were some pretty good ones out there.

3. Did you ask the women in Uganda whether you thought it would be a good idea? Did they come up with any ideas?
The ‘loan officers’ in the project – the people that work in the organization to actually give out and collect microcredits – had converations about this idea with many of the borrowers. It was an instant success – hundreds of borrowers immediately signed up to participate. Mostly because it seemed like a good party (which it turned out to be), but also because the idea of showing sponsors what their villages are like, in a high quality video, really appealed to them.

We always try to be the opposite of patronizing with our borrowers – they pay for a product, and they know they’re paying for it. They are very vocal about raising improvement ideas or demanding changes in, for instance, logistics of the repayments. We treat them as clients, and they treat us as a company from which they buy a product. It is however a product that they value very much, and that they certainly do not want to lose. This means that most of them really appreciated the opportunity to contribute to this fundraising effort, which would guarantee continuity of the project.

4. Tell me about the challenges of filming 500 people? Why did you choose to film so many? What were the language barriers? How long did it take?
It was as much fun as it was stressful. We had a camera team of three (director, camera woman and choreographer), and eight local and Dutch volunteers. Still it was chaos for most of the week. Cows running through the set, pigs that wouldn’t stop screaming, children running the wrong way and of course some very challenging lyrics. We had four recording days, which could last as long as eight hours in the burning heat. We asked a couple of ‘chapati’ (local pancakes) and other food stands to set up shop in the middle of the set so that everybody could constantly get food and drinks. Towards the end of the afternoon many of the women started complaining that they had to go home to make dinner for their families. But by the time we were done everyone would be so excited that no one ended up leaving and we would all stick around and dance – why waste the perfectly good sounds systems we had installed? I think the excellent director, a Dutch guy called Ivan Mikulic, aged at least ten years in those four days, but it was well worth it.

5. How many people were involved in the filming/production side? How much did it cost to produce?
The director of the video, Ivan Mikulic, did some short videos about SYPO’s projects several years ago for Dutch television. He got really enthusiastic about our way of working, and agreed to gather a team (camera woman Berta Banacloche and choreographer Mexim Janzen), and they all charged us basically for expenses only. Editing of the video was done in the spare hours of a Dutch studio, and by a studio in Kampala. Other costs were for two Ugandan artists that were involved in the video, other local help, food and drinks for all the women, accommodation for the team, and of course all the attributes in the video. All in all it came down to 8,000 euros.

6. How long did the post production take?
One of the great things about a Lip Dub is that it doesn’t take much editing, since it’s basically one shot. Some color corrections and digital enhancements was all it took. Perhaps 4 days? We uploaded it only after we launched the website www.microbanker.com, which is why the video was recorded in June but only uploaded in September.

7. You’ve had over 100,000 views. Is this more than you expected? How did you seed the video? I see that the video was shown by Al Jazeera / BBC East Africa / HuffPost. Did any other media organisations write about the video?
The funny things is that in the end you have very little control over the spreading of a video like this. Of course we actively spread the word, but in the end most of it was organic. Some guy (we still haven’t figured out who) downloaded the video from Youtube, uploaded it on his Facebook, and ended up getting 90,000 shares. We sent out press releases, but I think none of them got picked up. Instead we got hundreds of great comments from across the globe and from corners we never expected it to come from, including great requests such as your own. Al Jazeera/BBC/HuffPost were some of the big names, but articles on One.org and several large Dutch websites certainly helped. We were hoping for 100,000 views, but never expected it to go this fast. And counting the Facebook shares, we’re well over.

8. Do you consider the video a success? If so, how? Have you received many more donations? What others ways can you measure ROI?
It’s a tremendous success. The video was primarily made to promote our new fundraising website www.microbanker.com – a website that was made to actively involve sponsors in microcredit. On the site you can select and donate for business plans, track progress of ‘your client’ over time and recycle the repayments to new business plans. You can even ask questions to your client. We received 24,000 Euros in donations through this site already, and we’re hoping for many more. This will be an important driver of our growth to 3,000 borrowers next year. But apart from donations, the video had other great results, especially in setting up new partnerships. Organizations contacted us to work together – from requests for advice by other microfinance institutions to for instance interesting new collaborations, such as with ‘Text to change’, an NGO that uses SMS services to inform pregnant women about maternal health or farmers about commodity prices. We hope to start working with them in the near future to provide these services to our borrowers.

Please help Microbanker take this project to the next level by becoming a microbanker on www.microbanker.com

Social Media in Uganda – Part 3

My second meeting in Uganda to discuss social media was with business man and entrepreneur Collins Mugume. He describes himself as a ‘business junkie’ and has a number of enterprises: a software development house, a price comparison site, Africa’s equivalent of Spotify and a mobile money transfer platform. Collins believes that social media is becoming more and more important for business and political discourse in Uganda.


Collins used to publish a PC/Tech Magazine, so we had a long discussion about technology advances in Uganda. He talked about how technology infrastructures have improved greatly in recent years and are set to improve further. In May this year two mobile operators Warid and Airtel announced a proposed merger which will create competition for MTN, who have the largest market share. This was followed in June with the launch of a new 4G network, Smile Uganda. Smartphones are also dropping in price with entry level phones at around £100. These advances in technology, increased competition and lower prices should all have a positive effect on technology diffusion and social media utilisation in the future.

Collins is an early adopter of technology and has been active on social media for several years. He used to regularly attend Tweetups with other entrepreneurs, journalists and activists in Kampala, but says that they haven’t been so popular in recent months. At one of the meetings a group organised a campaign against a proposed bill that would ban mini-skirts as part of a wider anti-porn legislation. The Twitter campaign #savetheminiskirt gained a lot of attention on both social media and the wider media. The campaign is a great example of collective action or as Bennett and Segerberg (2012) call is “connective action”. It seems to have worked as the ban has not been imposed (yet). Twitter was also adopted in a campaign protesting about inflation and rising fuel costs using the hashtags #walktowork #walk2work and #ugandawalks.

It appears that political discourse on social media is affecting change in Uganda. At the moment a lot of people in Uganda are using social media to observe and listen as opposed to joining the conversation. I am sure that we will see a dramatic growth in social media in the next few years. Will the Social Media Monitoring Centre quell this political discourse and social protest? I don’t think so…..


Reference: Bennett, W L and Segerberg, A (2012) The Logic of Connective Action. Information, Communication and Society 15(5): 739-68


Social Media in Uganda – Part 2

Whilst I was in Uganda for two weeks I thought a lot about how social media can help development. I’m interested in social media for development in many contexts e.g. how an international NGO uses social media to raise funds or how social media is used within a developing country to empower citizens, mobilise, report corruption and disseminate information during disasters etc.

There have been a lot of positive uses of social media in recent years (Ushahidi, Arab Spring, Chile Winter, Occupy Movement, Anti Corruption) but there have been many negatives too (London riots, pornography, bullying and so on).

What is the reality in Uganda? Is social media a tool for development? I mentioned in my previous blog  the number of Facebook and Twitter users in Uganda. It is estimated that Uganda has 25,000 active Twitter users out of a population of 38m. Whereas in the UK it was estimated that there were over 10 million Twitter users in 2012. Facebook apparently has around 1.6m accounts in Uganda (other reports say 584k), but many people cannot access their account on a daily basis and certainly not at the speed and convenience that we can in the West.

But there is no doubt that social media is making a difference in Uganda! Ruth Aine, a freelance journalist and blogger outlines several cases of social media for social good in Uganda in one of her blog posts. I was lucky enough to meet Ruth and to have a quick discussion about social media just before she set off to Kenya for a conference. Ruth strongly believes that social media is making a difference in Uganda. She talked about the ever growing number of people joining Twitter and how they are using it to make changes in civil society. Twitter is mainly the domain of middle class youth and university students, but it is also being adopted by organisations who want to have a voice that resonates outside of Uganda too. The problem with some regional offices is that they want to reach out via social media but often their content is controlled from the top so they fail to get the message out.


Ruth also talked about some of the older generation in Uganda who believe that social media “erodes values and morals”. They don’t believe the younger generations have the experience, expertise and knowledge to influence policy change. Some people even believe that “technology has come to disappoint us.”

However, things are changing, Alan Kasujja who now works for the BBC encouraged the Prime Minister Amama Mbabazi to hold regular Q&A sessions on Twitter. Mbabazi has over 14,000 followers and is apparently among one of the friendliest and interactive politicians in the world. Some people are critical of the government on social media and they announced in May that they intend to set up a Social Media Monitoring Centre to ‘monitor activities’. There’s a fine line between monitoring, censorship, regulation and control. On the one hand Mbabazi is encouraging openness and debate, on the other hand the Centre will undoubtedly instill fear in people who are being too vocal.

Howard and Hussain (2013) in their text Democracy’s Fourth Wave ask “Where is social change possible through new communication networks? How have social movements operated across global contexts since the growth of digital media?”. These are good questions, and with the relatively fast technology diffusion in Uganda it is hard to predict the future.

I asked Ruth what she thought social media in Uganda would look like in 5 years time. She believes it will be a formidable force with a big voice: a small army making things happen. I look forward to 2018 to see if she is right.

Social Media in Uganda – Part 1

I arrived in Uganda just over a week ago to help produce a documentary about Living with HIV, the Mango Tree. I have been researching use of social media whilst I have been here as background to some interviews I have set up with some journalists and IT entrepreneurs who are avid users of Twitter. Social media (or at least Twitter) is still restricted to the middle classes and the elite and has limited use for development at this present time. In this first blog in a series on social media in Uganda I will share some basic facts and figures.


The population of Uganda is 38million. According to www.socialbakers.com Uganda has 584,000 Facebook users. I’m not sure whether these are active users or not. TeamUOT.com are currently tracking over 25,000 Twitter accounts in Uganda. The most prolific users tend to be people working in the media, celebrities, IT specialists and entrepreneurs.

Nearly everyone has a mobile phone, with 16 million active mobile accounts in Uganda, however smartphones are not very common. Apparently smartphones have dramatically reduced in price over the last year. The Galaxy S3 was 1.8m shillings (£450) last year and is now available for around 1.3m shillings (£325). Although this is a big drop in price it is still unaffordable by the vast majority of people in Uganda. As we know from the European mobile market, prices can drop quickly and in 5 years time smartphones might be the norm here. Will access to smartphones alone aid development? Maybe.

The next obvious barrier to social media for development is internet access. I was amazed at the speed of the wifi in the guest house when I arrived. I did not think I would be Skyping with my family quite so easily from my mobile phone. However access to wifi has been sporadic since the first few days and download speeds are often poor. Upload speeds are even worse. Access to 3G is readily available at reasonable prices (for those with a decent wage). The largest mobile provider MTN has an 80% coverage. Incidentally MTN’s Facebook site was the first in Uganda to reach 100,000 fans earlier this year.

Can social media help development in Uganda? My initial thoughts are mixed. Internet access is getting better, but there are still regular electricity outages affecting access. 3G is widespread (80% coverage) but it is only really affordable for the elite/middle classes. I have arranged to meet with a few social media users whilst I’m in Uganda and I look forward to writing about my findings.