Development” is not working for Ugandans

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Development” is not working for Ugandans

In his 2020 independence speech, President Museveni boasted of “unprecedented growth of the manufacturing sector”. He reported that at least 168 manufacturing industries and factories had been established in the financial year that ended June 2020. The economic “miracle” is perhaps one thing that the NRM government has been most proud of. However, a closer look at this economic growth reveals that the heralded growth is but a mirage. In this article, I will demonstrate to you that the NRM development is not working for Ugandans but a few. The policies pursued by the current government are designed to create the rich and the poor; with the poor serving the rich. This was the case with colonial Uganda and little or nothing has changed, except that this time the policies are being pursued by fellow black men.

To start with, I would like to state that Africans did not fight against colonialism because their countries were not growing or developing. Similarly, the struggle of the black people in South Africa was not because South Africa was not developing but rather because the development was “pro white people”. In Uganda, the colonialists established schools, introduced cash crops, built some organized settlements like Kololo, Bugolobi among others. However, this development was for the white man. The affluent areas were for the exclusive enjoyment of the white people. Indigenous Ugandans were forbidden from having shops in the middle of Kampala. This was a preserve of the white people and the Asians. The indigenous Ugandans were relegated to slums to work as farm boys and housemaids of the whites and the Asians. The struggle for independence was thus a struggle against white domination. It was a struggle against the systematic injustice against the black and the skewed development that worked for other races and not for blacks.

In absolute terms, there is evidence that Uganda’s economy has grown. The country’s GDP stands at 37.37 billion USD. On the other hand, Kenya’s GDP is estimated to 100 billion USD by the end of 2021.

It is important to note that economic development is or must be a means to an end rather than being an end in itself. Development should relate to quality-of-life issues, such as security, health, education, social stability, equality, empowerment, dignity among others. When this approach is taken to analyse the performance of the NRM government, one realizes that the much-heralded economic miracle is just hot air. It’s a bubble and below I explain why.

The economy is working, but for a few people

Like the pre-independence economies, the present economy works for a few people and not everyone. For example, despite making up less than 1% of the population, Indians are estimated to contribute up to 65% of Uganda's tax revenues[1]. Foreigners in Uganda enjoy tax holidays, they are allowed to repatriate profits (see: Minister assure Indians on 100% profit repatriation[2]). It is therefore not surprising that our biggest export these days is young girls going to work under very difficult, slave-like conditions in the Middle East. Is it surprising that we don’t have Ugandan strong and viable Ugandan companies investing in other countries? Kenya alone has 4 banks operating in Uganda! Uganda has systematically created an exclusive club of investors. A few years ago, government authorized one company to produce marijuana for medical purposes - even when the market is enormous and hundreds of Ugandan farmers could benefit as out growers! Do you now get surprised that government has brought laws to regulate the growing and selling of coffee?

It is therefore not surprising that the government has failed to revive farmers cooperatives? Stronger cooperatives would be able to provide inputs to their members and be able to import their products thereby cutting off the connected and powerful middlemen.

Uganda currently runs a very unequal education and health system; those with money can afford the best services within and outside the country. The poor on the other hand, are at the mercy of ill paid teachers, ill equipped schools, under paid and demotivated health workers, ill equipped hospitals, etc. The education system makes it almost impossible for poor children to make it in life. Poor children who come through the system must be heralded as geniuses.

Based on the above, one can only come to one logical conclusion; whereas we have experienced a growth in production, Ugandans are not in charge or responsible for this growth. The benefits for this growth don’t accrue to Ugandans. Poor Ugandans can’t afford the schools of the rich. Their hospitals are separate. Their markets are separate. Is this different from some of the elements of apartheid in South Africa?

The increase in the crime rates and high unemployment must sound a wake-up call for our leaders. It is time to reconsider our development policies. Make it possible for Ugandans to access credit, revive farmers cooperatives, ensure access to inputs, and ensure that all schools and hospitals meet certain minimum standards. These things are not rocket science.

Otherwise just like our forefathers fought against the oppressive colonial regime, we need to wake up and fight the injustice of the current regime. Let us work together to get a government for the people and by the people.

The Alliance for National Transformation is committed to correcting these injustices. We invite Ugandans to come on board. It is not yet “uhuru”.


For God and My Country.

People First, a New Future.

The writer, Titus Gerald Tumusiime, is a member of ANT.



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