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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Battle of the brains: let's play!


The annual Zain Africa Challenge (ZAC) returned to our small screens last Sunday with no surprising fervour. It is the same affable but sharp-shooting John Sibi-Okumu behind the host’s lectern, same suit and same approach.
This inter-university battle of the brains kicked off with Makerere University knocking down the University of Malawi with 660 points against their opponents 350. It was clear all five of our representatives have to learn to score in the range of 800 points and above to avoid the humiliation of the previous season from the more competitive West Africans and Kenyans.
Uganda is once again represented by Makerere University, Uganda Martyrs University, Uganda Christian University, Mbarara University, with Kyambogo University supplanting last year’s Busoga University for the fifth place. It’s a tall order but who knows, Kyambogo could be the latest surprise after new entrants, University of Ibadan yanked the crown from Kenya where it had been for two years.
It’s a little shocking, especially at this time when more girls are accessing university education and beating their male counterparts in UACE examinations, that of the 20 students on the five Ugandan teams, only three are girls. That’s possibly why Alice Dube on last year’s Mbarara team will be difficult to forget.

Anyhow, with $50,000 for the winning university and $5,000 for each of the players on that team at stake, the fourth edition of this 16-game knockout contest promises to be stiffer and even more crackling.
It appears the producers are well aware of this and have this time taken the competition to cyberspace: Facebook and Twitter where enthusiasts can hold discussions about the show and vent if they choose to.
With 32 teams from Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia participating, not forgetting that the show will as well telecast on Dstv’s Africa Magic and Africa Magic Plus, viewership is expected to heighten.

Viewers, as usual, get to play the SMS game to win a Nokia Internet-enabled phone and Zain airtime worth Shs100,000 on top of other prizes, and as well vote for their favourite ZAC player who will then earn a medallion and $1,000 from Zain.

Although the kickoff between Makerere and the University of Malawi lacked firepower, the fast-paced 30-minute battles are sure to pick rhythm considering that any little slip by any team could mean goodbye.
Already, it was awesome to watch the late Dr. Mathew Lukwiya’s son, Nyero Simon Peter on the Makerere University team fielding Sibi-Okumi questions with admirable fluidity. In fact, if it wasn’t for him, Makerere would for sure have been in trouble.
Catch the show next Sunday on NTV, 8:30p.m. as the University of Ghana tussles it out with Tanzania’s University of Arusha.

--Saturday Monitor, March 6, 2010