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Friday, July 2, 2010

Kenya’s Egerton crowned Zain Africa Challenge winners


The journey of 5,000 questions that started the fourth season of the televised inter-university battle of the brains, Zain Africa Challenge, ended last Sunday with Kenya’s Egerton University being declared winners.

It cannot be said that this team enjoyed top billing for the much of the tournament compared to runners-up, Africa Nazarene University (also from Kenya), or even semi-finalists Makerere University. But Egerton focused on winning the race; never lifting their eyes from the ultimate prize and that made all the difference.

So when a smiling John Sibi-Okumu (the show host) cocked his voice and pronounced the new champions, the winning players became giddy with joy; not only had each bagged the $5,000 (Shs10m) grand prize, plus a $50,000 (Shs100m) grant for their university complete with the silvery trophy, Egerton had also to be envied for winning the championship thrice in four years thereby cementing their standing as Africa’s masters of well-versedness.

It’s one of those things that defy logic as to what happened to the Nazarenes, particularly Sammy Kitonyi Mwaniki who had given his past opponents bloody noses with his shrewdness at the buzzer and adroitness. On Sunday, he was a shadow of his former self as he faltered on several questions and chose a tricky category in the nail-biting Ultimate Challenge to seal his team’s demise.

The opponent took advantage and in the end earned a sound win of 740 points, a cool 230 points ahead of Nazarene. Egerton’s Philip Chwanya, Ralph “Bonaparte” Obure and George Ralak all wear glasses and looked like young professors. But it was “Bonaparte”—the shortest of all—that stood out with his conquering spirit and visible hunger for gold. His showmanship and the special edition that beamed the most dramatic bits reignited memories of how exhilarating and informative the quiz show has been to players and viewers alike.

For Makerere’s Lamech Mbangaye, it was “incredibly fun and intensively competitive” and Chwanya was delighted to learn that his brain can hold much more information than he has been giving it credit for.

But what struck most is the realisation that success is not so much about how informed one is but largely about the resolve to win and mastering the rules and strategies of the game, team coordination and buzzer skills. As Sibi-Okumu said, “If you don’t buzz in you don’t give an answer” unless the other team fails and the question is turned over to you.

And just in case you have forgotten, this season was recorded in Kampala; all the 32 teams were staying in a hotel and got to mingle, interact and generally have fun together. With them was a 152 TV crew from Africa, Europe and the United States to bring us the viewing experience.

It’s because Uganda was the host nation that the honour of presenting the prestigious Zain Scholars Trophy to the winners fell on the Chairman Zain Uganda, Mr James Mulwana. He congratulated the winners and thanked them for inspiring many Ugandans and making Africa proud.
Congratulations Egerton University.

--Saturday Monitor, June 12, 2010.