30 Years of Liberation, Recovery, Reconstruction and Now Steady Progress

Duncan Abigaba

By: Duncan Abigaba

On the 12th May, buy President Museveni, a man who has given his entire life to the service of Ugandans was sworn in for the 5th time as President of the Republic of Uganda.

As we all know, President Museveni hasn’t been only a politician or a mere leader but has been a socio-economic transformer, turning Uganda from an archaic state, into a modern, functioning and developing state.

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President Museveni started engaging in community mobilization as early as 1966 while as a high school student together with his colleagues mobilized communities around North Ankole area to adapt modern methods of farming.

The communities in turn shunned pastoralism, fenced their land, acquired land titles, engaged in mixed farming to grow food crops, and embraced modern methods of farming including use of acaracides, vaccination among others.

Important to note is that this story has been anchored on the mission of NRM. The mission of NRM is “to transform Uganda from a poor peasant society into a modern, industrial, united and prosperous society”

What constitutes an industrial society then?

Generally, industrialization is the process through which a society or a country or world transforms itself from a primarily agricultural society into one based on the manufacturing of goods and services or it can mean reshaping of a country’s economy by shifting from workers into new economic sectors such as tourism, education and manufacturing.

What leads to industrialization then?

  • External and Internal Security; to feel safe from the immediate threat of foreign invasion or destruction from the immediate chaos; to be sure that contracts will be honoured, debts will be repaid, a good justice and law system, honest administrators, and of secure social, religious and cultural relationships.
  • Increased agricultural productivity; the transformation of a traditional agricultural society into an industrial economy must be paid for by agriculture.

It is domestic agriculture that must produce more food, for more people and for non-productive food producers, the urban industrial labour force.

Increases in the agricultural productivity usually require; land reform; abolition of small peasant holdings and the consolidation of the land into larger, more efficient units, controlled by better educated entrepreneurial farmers who have both resources and inclination to experiment with new methods; New methods; this includes introduction of new crops, rotations, other farming practices which enhance and preserve fertility of the cultivated area; Increased infrastructure.

This includes; barns, hedges, drainage systems, communications etc. This doesn’t only enable the land and the labour force to work more efficiently, but facilitates the movement of food surpluses to the market and encourages general commercialization of agriculture instead of traditional subsistence practices.

  • Population increase; more people means a larger domestic market for industry. It means more, and probably cheaper, industrial labour. Population growth and economic development aren’t independent. They influence each other.

It is no accident that the world’s most successful economies e.g Japan, Taiwan, Singapore-are also some of its most prosperous.

  • Good supplies of fuel and raw materials; the first industrial regions of Europe were its principal coal districts-this was as true for Germany, France, Belgium, as it was for Britain.

This was because steam power could only be distributed mechanically by shaft or belt drive-i.e couldn’t be transferred for long distances as later became possible with electricity.

  • An efficient system of transport and communications conveying raw materials to producers and finished goods to consumers should be cheap. The building of the European railway system in the mid and late 19th century generated massive demand, directly and indirectly for manufactured products and became a driving force in the process of economic development.
  • An educated labourforce; this means better quality people. Better equipped to use more complex tools, machinery and technology. Ability to push technological development on their own account.

Well educated communities see rapid development whereas poor educated ones see stagnation and decline. High levels of literacy facilitated industrialization in the Scandinavia even when it started late in the 19th century.

  • Non-restrictive institutional arrangements and effective banking system; institutional arrangements can be legal whereby for example, a large number of investors can be brought together to jointly find the funding for a particular enterprise.

While the banking system includes both the resources and the stability to act as effective lender, Banks might also provide invaluable services in settling payments between enterprises, raising cash for wage payments, organizing the transfer of funds etc.

  • Government Policy; government can either frustrate or greatly enhance the process of industrialization. The legal codes that they establish, their regulation of industrial labour and working practices, taxation policies, trade and tariff arrangements, attitude towards the external movement of labour and capital etc!

Why then aren’t we an industrial state?

This is where President Museveni still ticks even after 30 years at the helm of the country by trying to answer this question. In 2001, during a cabinet retreat in Gulu, he directed 23% budget cuts from every ministry towards financing defence operations.

Eventually, within a few years, the country had been totally pacified. The Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) fighting in Western Uganda were annihilated a year later. Joseph Kony and his ruthless barbaric militia, the LRA that had specialized in mutilating and boiling human bodies chose to resume talks with government after falling out of the talks in 1996.

However, due to their unseriousness, the talks collapsed again and in late 2008, they were completely wiped out by operation lighting thunder, a joint operation by the UPDF, Sudanese and Congolese government troops, pushing them further into the jungles of the Central African Republic.

The Karimajong who had held illegal guns for time immemorial including resisting disarmament by the British colonialists were eventually disarmed. Karamoja is now free of any illegal guns, on a path of development.

There are tarmac roads for the first time; every district in Karamoja is connected to national power grid but Kabong. Government is now only addressing the natural calamities of prolonged drought and limited natural water sources.

On internal security, professionalization of the police force is ongoing. The police have been receiving specialized training from our development partners. They have also acquired specialised equipment to counter terrorism, helicopters that can handle emergencies and so force.

Therefore, with internal security strengthened and UPDF ranked 16th strongest force on the continent by the Global Fire Power, Uganda’s security is strong enough to secure any investments and to enable the process of industrialization.

The President has been publicly advocating for abolition of land fragmentation. Land fragmentation disables productivity and is against commercialization of agriculture. In case of deceased estate owners, the children should be able to transform the estate into a private limited company, produce massively and share the proceeds.

Also, cash crops like tobacco that yield less on small scale must be produced massively whereas, smallholder farmers should engage in high yielding crops like bananas, coffee etc. There are also other interventions like provision of a tractor, an earth mover to every district purposely to assist farmers.

Industrialisation can’t thrive without a good transport and communications network. The government of Uganda is pursuing an overly ambitious $3.2b standard gauge railway project.

The railway will be connecting Uganda to all her neighbours and will run straight from Mombasa. With this new system, an importer or exporter will have their cargo reach Kampala from Mombasa or vice versa within 24 hours unlike in the current setting where one has to wait for close to two weeks.

Also, with the dams of Isimba, Karuma and other small hydro dam projects going on, Uganda will be able to produce cheaper electricity. One of the greatest impediments to industrialization in Africa is high cost of electricity.

Apparently, the cost of electricity is; Commercial consumer- USh 587.0/kWh, medium industrial consumer- USh 544.9/kWh, and large industrial consumer- USh 369.4/kWh. This is higher than our regional neighbours comparatively. For example, in Kenya, the cost is; commercial consumer-USh276/kWh, medium industrial consumer- Ush 225/kWh and large industrial comsumer- Ush 213/kWh.

However, upon completion of the above power projects, Uganda’s power generation will rise to over 2,000MW from the current 851MW. This means we will be able cut the cost of industrial production power by two-thirds. This will see sprouting out of very many small and large scale industries.

The government is now pushing for a better skilled population. With the introduction of UPE and USE mass programmes, and a liberalized education system, the country boosts of over 40,000 university graduates annually as well as literacy levels of over 75%. However, most of these don’t possess skills to run an industrial state. We highly lack the craftsmen, the engineers, the architects etc. Now under the skilling Uganda programme, government will enroll the graduates in humanities to undertake other hands on work courses.

This will boost our labourforce. The industrial revolution in Europe in the late nineteeth century wasn’t led by social workers and other graduates of humanities but by semi-educated workers with vocational skills; the builders,  the plumbers, the electricians etc. This is why government is also introducing a free technical school at every constituency level; to impart vocational skills to every youth freely.

President Museveni has been singlehandedly pushing for the economic integration and political federation of the East African community. Now, with inclusion of South Sudan, the regional block’s population stands at 162 million people.

This is a regional market. This market is available to all Ugandan traders exclusive of trade barriers-tariff and non-tariff barriers. The East African community has already achieved a common market protocol, a customs union (single customs boarder points) and is now gearing towards a monetary union, with political federation as the last stage of integration.

Also, Uganda enjoys unlimited access to the 600 million people COMESA market. President Museveni remains fully committed to ensuring favourable government policy towards gearing investment and industrialization.

He has always been criticized for the government favours towards investors including tax holidays, free land etc. Also, our authorities including the directorate of immigration and Uganda Investment Authority take very long to process the requisite paper work for the foreign investors to start their projects.

However, important to note is that whereas our opposition and other sections of the public criticize such, other governments offer these incentives and other comparative advantages like low cost of electricity. How can your country attract such investors then?

Unfortunately, those advocating for change have never addressed the above core issues or presented their proposals in that regard but instead duel on trivialities of human rights, constitutionalism and so forth.

I don’t think that’s Uganda’s core problem at the moment. Our problem is to urgently industrialise. Industrialisation will create jobs for our young people; exportation of cotton for example exports the jobs of spinning, weaving/knitting, printing, finishing, marketing etc; will provide market for our raw materials and help us catch up with the developed world.

Finally, I ask our development partners to embrace this path. Britain or America didn’t prioritise the constitution or human rights in the 19th century. They were busy building factories, constructing railway lines, resettling small farm holders in towns to enable commercialization of agriculture in the countryside and so forth.

Joseph Stalin transformed USSR (now Russia) from a third world country into the second world super power in 20 years without following any constitution or observing any human rights. This is what Africa needs!

Duncan Abigaba

The writer is a Deputy Presidential Assistant in-charge of research and information


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