Every year, the Dutch Embassy in Uganda asks all local Dutch businesses to sponsor the celebrations of King’s Day. In return, your company name will be shown on a banner during a party where the Dutch citizens in Uganda indulge in sponsored booze and ’bitterballen’. Because the party was organised so poorly last year, it has been a huge disappointment for me. So this year, I’ve decided not to ‘donate’ any money anymore.

    Firstly, I think that the embassy in Uganda can easily pay for this herself, given the huge budget that she spends on pointless projects and her enormous waste. Secondly, last year they had to throw out all but fifty ’bitterballen’ because the Dutch guy who was in charge of frying them, plugged ten deep fryers into a single plug and blew all fuses at the ambassador’s residence.

    Given the high risk of fire and accidents, it was decided in all wisdom that no more ’bitterballen’ would be fried that night. So, someone had sponsored the ’bitterballen’, another company paid for the transport, then a jerk at the embassy forgets that you should not connect ten frying pans to one electrical circuit. Fifteen minutes after the start of the party, we all stood in the dark and cried out in unison: ‘Did the ambassador pay the electricity bill?’ Yes, electricity was paid for, but the fuse box was on fire. Laughter all around.

    The other problem with this kind of sponsoring is more serious than this. Many development agencies (NGOs) look at the Dutch companies in Uganda as a continuation of the colonial era. They think we exploit people to gain a ‘cheap’ place on the Dutch market. They don’t realise that we provide work to 1,200 people, who in turn support about 7,500 family members. We have two clinics and two daycare centres for babies. We also have a savings bank, and people can borrow money to buy a home, etc. We offer more than an average salary compared to local companies.

    The employees who work for the NGOs think it is normal that they drink and eat ’bitterballen’ at our cost, but they have never contributed a penny. That’s why I’ve decided, as a gesture of protest, that I had to make a statement. I’ve now spent the money for sponsoring on items for a local school: Immediate aid without any money lost on bitterballen.

    Feico Smit,
    Director of Royal van Zanten, Uganda