Dec 27, 2011

UHMG's GeNext Campaign is not just about advocacy for smaller Families

On Christmas day, my family decided to drive to the village to spend the day with the old people (grannies). Very cheerful lads there who are counting nine(9) children to themselves and all alive including my sweet mother. Church time: At church, half of the holy place was filled with children aged between 1 - 14 years, all lively  and happy running up and down shouting. One thing that amazed me, very few or none of these kids looked sick or malnourished. With the a few friends I gone with, an argument about small and bigger families with many children started. So many issues were put into perspective including the GeNext campaign on TV, Radio and Social Media. After church, I logged onto Twitter and what do I find,  a debate about GeNext. I missed that debate.

The GeNext Uganda Campaign
advocates for smaller families
The GeNext Campaign is an advocacy program being run by Uganda Health Marketing Group (UHMG) with an objective to convince and recruit young men and women to become activists because it is their “right” to be able to live a good life. And to live a good life in this context means that they have the “right” to have small families; or be a member of a small family. By having or being a member of a small family, they will be able to have a good education, can go on to be trained for better jobs, have more money for food on the table, will be able to ensure the quality of life for their children, will see a better and stronger Uganda, etc. 

Very well thought program but I must say there are major bases that are not covered in this campaign namely; targeted audience, communication medium and culture.

The audience targeted in this campaign is young adults and these seem to be people in a semi-urban or urban place based on the medium of communication being used. It should be noted that actually big families are in the rural areas and these big families are as a result of ignorance about family planning measures and lack of accessibility to family planning and birth control facilities. The people in urban places have access and capacity to acquire birth control and family planning facilitation and on top of that, they face a challenge of the cost of living in urban areas. Due to the mentioned reasons above, urban people would be compelled to have the small families GeNext is advocating for. There is no need to campaign for that here.

I see fancy adverts on giant billboards, social media and TV with healthy looking youth acting to be in frustration for lack of jobs. Let me get something clear here, I do not think advocating for a small family will find me the job that I need urgently unless we want to assert that being a GeNext advocate is the job itself and on top of that, having small families does not necessarily mean the children shall have enough food, good education etc when the facilities to provide the good things are not even there. Where would they come from anyway if you do not have the people (population) to work and avail the facilities? We also have to keep it in mind that Uganda has not reached the level having technology to provide the good facilities in question.

Thirdly it should be noted that Uganda has got a history of one of the strongest cultures in Africa or even in the world. From the African tradition, having a big family was held with a lot of pride and some families actually perceived it to be some sort of “security”. A big population, could also be passed as national resource because that way the country will be assured of  available and cheap labour to enhance development. China today is the best example I can give. The only challenge should be to avail measures of finding enough resource for the growing population but not entirely controlling it. The rural Ugandans have the strongest cultural attachments and for as long as they are not a target in this campaign then I find it a waste of resource.

UHMG argues that in the GeNext campaign, they are primarily targeting young adults because they are adaptive to change. I get the point but all of us need to remember that UHMG is a “Health Marketing Group.” I hope all of us understand what this means. On top of having health campaigns, UHMG also has a range of products on sale majorly aiming at family planning, STI/STD and HIV infection prevention. I do not think I would be wrong if I passed the GeNext campaign as a marketing strategy. Here is how I connected the dots.

Based on the medium of communication, I have come to notice that this campaign targets urban youth and majorly youth in schools and those out of school looking for jobs. This is because they are the working class of tomorrow and they are the ones with or shall be the ones with the capacity to buy the range of products they sell. Someone who has been educated automatically understands that a small family is the way to go because of the increasing cost of living in Uganda. So this shall compel the person to have prevention measures of controlling birth which leads to a big family. How does one do that? Simply use condoms, contraceptives, moon beads, etc the very products being distributed/sold by UHMG. The campaign is not targeting rural people because they do not have capacity to buy “O” condom or Injectaplan and that is understandable because like any other marketing or sales person, why would I go to a trade area where I have no mileage.

I want to conclude saying that if this campaign is genuinely about advocacy for smaller families then it should have started from my home village.

Til next time!



  1. Gud one there... i love ya observation especially towards the end. Marketing strategy indeed. But strongly, where is it written that every small family equals a good life? I know many big families living the life i would want to instead... @uskobayashi

  2. Part 1

    Well stated Cedric, I admire the way u have clearly dissected the campaign and pointed out the marketing aspect brilliant! Now lets focus on the point that you raise of starting from the rural sector, valid point but we have about 8 partner organizations working in the rural areas (PACE MSI CDFU STARS etc.) it is over kill for the rural people (I think)

    Now we sat down used the principle of early adopters (An early adopter is an early customer of a given product, in bcc this person would be referred to as a trendsetter.) and the basic principle is that the trendsetters would be recruited, trained and equipped with advocacy tools and skills and then deployed to the rural areas to advocate for a quality population which starts at the family level.

    Genext goes way beyond just marketing fp products because it goes on to help the rural folks understand the advantages of a quality population and deals with the broader issues in play; in just 6 weeks we have trained and deployed over 400 advocates. Further to this we have learnt that there other factors that need to be addressed that far out weigh our mandate as Genext, thus we have set up Genext clubs all over the 15 major towns, 3 in Kampala are under way to help the youth relate to another and seek counsel, the clubs organize talks in various areas that we may not particularly be experts but can facilitate their happening amongst these are entrepreneurial talk etc.

    That said this a fluid strategy that will change as we live in a very dynamic environment as such we will deal with the different environs as we deem fit but most importantly we need to raise the awareness of the benefits of a quality population and it begins at the family setting. If the basic principle of life are set right at the family level then we will get the right citizen, hence a great future for UG. I believe it takes less energy to get the trendsetters on board because they are exposed to the reality and if they touch 10 who touch 10 etc. we are done

    I focus on this because if my neighbor has rats in his house an I keep quite, am a fool because those rats will then finish him off and then come to attack me I need to be vigilant and stand and say my friend we need to work on the rats and sort them, am I my brothers keeper? Yes I am! Picture this I have my well-groomed children growing up well and upright my neighbor has a bunch of losers, they will soon or later drown out mine. Lose the picture come back to reality ask yourself what can I do? Go back to the village and talk your fellow youth the facts don't lie take a look at this:

  3. Part 2

    1.7m of all households take just one meal a day. 7.6m people survive on less that 2100/= a day (the international poverty line). 390,000 students who finish tertiary education each year have only 8,000 jobs to fight for. For every doctor there are 120,500 patients

    Experts indicate the number of primary school pupils will increase from 7.5 million to 18.4 million in 2037. "As a result, the country will need more teachers, schools increasing expenditure in education,” According to Population Secretariat, the government's demographic department, about 22m of the Uganda’s 's population is largely dependent on the small working population of 12m. "This means a lot of effort and resources need to be devoted towards meeting the basic necessities to this youthful population,” By 2050 Uganda's population is expected to be 103 million Uganda's current population is 34 million. Population with access to water supply 18m

    Environmental activists argue that due to population explosion the country has lost nearly a third of its forests, in the last two decades. The country had more than five million hectares of forest in 1990, but only 3.5 million hectares remained by 2005.

    Uganda has the highest teenage pregnancy rate in sub-Saharan Africa, with half of its girls giving birth before the age of 18. Only 41% of births are attended by skilled personnel. In Uganda, 47 per cent of females in the age range of 15-24 years had already given birth at least once by 2006 and 15 per cent of the males at this age bracket were already fathers, with the world’s highest youth unemployment, also has the youngest population in the world, according to a new World Bank report. Unemployed young people among the ages 15 to 24 has been recorded at 83 per cent in Uganda, says the newly launched, Africa Development Indicators

    “Given the challenges faced by the youth in labor markets, success in pursuing employment for young people will require long-term concerted actions spanning a wide range of policies and programmes,” said the report.

    Daudi Ochieng

  4. Cedric, great piece I now have a clue of which dimension I should take in my blog after reading this and Albert's.

    Daudi, I like the dimension of statistics but we need to go beyond the statistics, as a student of strategy dynamics we need to model all these attributes to know which variable have the strongest influence on the size of the family. At the surface these are startling statistics but if we go a level deeper to appreciate level of influence you will be amazed.

    For me this discourse is great for the GenextUG campaign!

    Lets continue talking

  5. Thanks Michael for mentioning these factors. Stats look good in general terms. But individuals and individual families will still be suffering the same problems we're facing today even if, in the best-case scenario, your campaign succeeds.

    That's not a "good life". It's not a revolution.

  6. Thanks to all of you who have commented and contributed

    Let me start with @uskaboyashi, true like you have said, a small family does not necessarily mean good life. There are many other factors that could let a family be happy as long as there is resource. Me I think emphasis should be on resource allocation and provision; health centers with medicines, schools, water, roads, etc

    Daudi, Statistics well put but Like Micheal has said we need to get beyond the statistics.

    I would also like to add that training advocates from urban places to move to villages to teach or preach or train.... etc in the villages is not the solution. It would work better with fellow mates educating them about this... or even GeNext would have started from there.... I still insist that resource has been wasted on the urban audience when the problem starts from the rural areas.....Not many people are born in the urban places... they are actually in the rural areas. So, in order to have them get smaller families...avail family planning facilities that are cheap for them to acquire but not marketing the expensive ones you have for the urban in the name of advocating for smaller population.

  7. I remember this advert of family planing those days where 2 men were being compared, one with many kids toiling to keep them up on board and the other with few very comfortable. Now that was on point... otherwise, GeNext is off if they claim to be for and about people...or else, i say they are good at being selfish and selling own products with no improvement to society. @USKOBAYASHI

  8. Cedric, thanks for the limelight. Myself, i have seen all these genext ads and tried my level best to pick
    the message they convey to no avail. I remember sometime back , there used to be an advert of two men; one with a smaller manageable family enjoying a delicious meal of chicken and good food where as the other with a big family was having a miserable meal of some beans and posho. If Genext would adopt such an ad for its advocacy for smaller families; then i believe four years down the will be still fresh in our minds the way we have these other ads.
    @Daudi; this ad i see of kids scrambling for the little food on the tray: i have heard myself of a Dad down in the rural area arguing that once he provides enough food for the kids to eat and get satisified; they will end up being lazy hence they need to grow up knowing that food is scarce and learn to work does such an ad apply? @Alex

  9. Cedric this is a rather sober and sensible blog post about GeNext. You have understood what is about, and you are able to voice your opinion precisely, in a way that everyone can understand.

    You even brought out a conspiracy theory: "They are targeting people who have purchasing power!"

  10. Every time you mention how overblown this GeNext thing is, people say “Have you been to the villages and seen how people live?” As though GeNext is in the villages.