By Ronald Ssekandi and Yuan Qing
KAMPALA, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- Zhang Shumu is a Chinese businessman here married to a Ugandan lady. This is a rare but important signal of the deepening people to people relations between China and Uganda over the years.
Next month, the two countries are set to mark the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations which also coincides with Uganda's 50 years of independence from the British colonial rule.
Many Ugandan traders are now opting to go to China instead of the legendary Dubai to do business and, in return, many Chinese are also coming to the East African country to engage in trade and investment.
Over the years, apart from high level government officials exchange visits, the Chinese government has provided training opportunities to Ugandans.
This has had ripple effects with many Ugandans now transferring skills back home to lift millions of people out of poverty.
James Mulebeke is one of the beneficiaries of the relations between China and Uganda in the information communication technology (ICT) area, a critical sector in fast tracking economic development.
He studied in China for his master's degree and upon completion in 2005, major telecommunication and ICT companies wanted to employ him, but he chose to work with Huawei, a Chinese telecommunication and ICT company.
Back home, he has risen through the ranks and he is now the vice regional director of the company in the country after working in neighboring Kenya.
"They (Chinese) are taking development wherever they go, this is good friendship and good business partnership," he said.
He said, on average, every year the company creates between 2, 000 and 3,000 direct and indirect jobs where the local people gain skills from the Chinese experts.
In the agriculture sector, which is Uganda's major economic activity, the Chinese are imparting skills on the locals. They teach the locals how to use simple and affordable Chinese technologies to boost agricultural production.
At Kajansi located on the fringes of the capital Kampala, China established a 5-million-U.S.-dollar fish farming demonstration center, dubbed China-Uganda Friendship Agricultural Technological Demonstration Center.
At the center, local fish farmers are trained in modern ways of fish farming using simple and affordable technologies.
"These people have taught us the best practices of fishing farming. Am certain this will drastically improve on my household income," said one of the fish farmers in the central Ugandan district of Mpigi.
"For me I have no problem with the Chinese, whenever I have something to ask I go direct to them. I think our relation is good despite the different cultural backgrounds," said Dismas Mbabazi, a senior official of the National Fisheries Resources Research Institute.
The institute runs the China-Uganda Friendship Agricultural Technological Demonstration Center on the Ugandan government side.
In southwestern Uganda, a Chinese road construction company CICO (Chongqing International Construction Corporation) is involved in a big project employing directly and indirectly over 1, 000 local people. It is another clear example of the good people to people relations.
The company is tasked to construct a 103 km road linking the western town of Fort Portal to Democratic Republic of Congo through the mountainous district of Bundibugyo.
Chinese workers are seen working alongside the local people consulting each other.
Wang Yibo, the manager of the road construction project, told Xinhua that the rules that apply to the Chinese workers and the local employees are the same.
He said this is perhaps why the company has not had any major incidents with the locals.
George Kabagambe, CICO's head of human resource, told Xinhua that previously the Chinese used to shout at the locals mainly because of the language barrier, but this has stopped.
He said any misunderstanding is solved amicably.
In the health sector, people in the eastern Ugandan district of Jinja sing praises of the Chinese medical team.
Janet Kanene, , went to different hospitals in Uganda in search of medication for her hurting back that has been aching for years.
On recommendation from a friend, she met a team of Chinese doctors who administered acupuncture treatment.
For the past 28 years, there has been a Chinese medical team at Jinja hospital which serves approximately 2,000 patients daily from 13 neighboring districts.
The doctors who are directly remunerated by the Chinese government provide free treatment to the locals, relieving the workload on the thinly staffed hospital.
"If you have a specialist who sacrifices to serve in a rural setting like Jinja, that is a very big sacrifice and it has been grossly welcomed by us," Michael Osinde, the Jinja Hospital director, told Xinhua in an interview early this year.
"The people of this region have enjoyed the privileges of even modern technology when it comes to equipment which we have received from China. It is something that we have enjoyed from the tax payers of the Chinese government," he added.
The specialists have since been moved to the capital Kampala where they are working at the new constructed China-Uganda Friendship Hospital.
In the central business district, one can see the increasing bond between Chinese and Ugandans.
In the dusty streets in downtown Kampala, Chinese are seen trading with the locals. There is an increasing number of Chinese shops dealing in various merchandise.
In up-scale Kampala, Chinese restaurants are sprouting, an indication of the increasing demand for Chinese food by the locals.
Of course, all cannot be well. Sometimes there are some misunderstandings between the locals and the Chinese just like in any other community.
Victoria Ssekitoleko, a former UN diplomat in China, set up a Uganda China Cultural Center in Kampala to help understand the cultures of the two countries and deepen the people to people relation.
It is this deepening people to people relation that is and will be the cornerstone of the China-Uganda ties.