The Northern Bypass route that joins Jinja Road to Masaka-Mbarara highway has fast-tracked the development of the city suburbs

The Northern Bypass route that joins Jinja Road to Masaka-Mbarara highway has fast-tracked the development of the city suburbs

The country?s biggest challenge is making majority of Ugandans see and seize the economic opportunities that a stable political environment has provided. Decision makers in the Government are slow and sluggish.

Moving around the country, the road network, electricity, water, health and education facilities, urbanisation and rural productivity are getting better, expanding and reaching more people than ever before.

The recently released national population consensus report by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) demonstrates this phenomenon and absolves National Resistance Movement leaders. Nationally, the prospects for a better Uganda are within the horizon.

The political and economic transformation of a country are directly related to the education level of its demographics. However, with priorities being put in infrastructure and healthcare, it is not possible for the Government to support the whole value chain.

The destruction of long-term wealth creation is enormous and in excess of the annual financial allocation as there is a widening gap between the inputs and output from these efforts. It is becoming clearer that rather than concerted efforts in a few areas, the Government has spread itself thin trying to do everything with limited available resources, resulting into mismanagement. This is especially through duplication, wastage, low accountability and corruption.

The question that emerges around on which we must have sustained conversation is; Where should the Government allocate its resources and how should it integrate private and public sector investments to produce the desired multiple results of revenue, employment, skills, profits for entrepreneurs and inclusive growth?

Having interacted with many people who formulate, implement and monitor policies, my conclusion is that the maze of bureaucracy, legislation and processes created using historic models is shocking. No wonder everyone would rather dwell in the past than grab the bull by its horns and bring changes into the future. President Yoweri Museveni who tries to do so, is ridiculed.

Today, I will reflect on expanding education, foreign investments and large scale agriculture, agro-processing and agri-business because thankfully, as a result of President Museveni?s persistence, the people of Amuru have agreed to give land for sugarcane growing and sugar production in a scale never seen before in Uganda.
The UN world population projection according to The Economist, June 18, 2013, is that by 2050, world population will increase by 2.4 billion. Half of this increase will be in Africa. Africa will have 20% of the world?s population. The youngest population too.

Back Uganda, the UBOS report shows that Uganda?s population is growing much slower than earlier projected and incomes are rising faster. The national poverty level has reduced to below 20%, especially in the south western parts.

The business outlook is good, especially industrial development, agro-processing, agri-business, infrastructure and tourism.

With continuing population growth, economic output and school enrolment rates, it is expected that one in five people will come from the countryside to urban centres. It is evident this business model sees these migrants as sources of revenue. The irony is that these ?poor? people are, in many ways, paying for and subsidising the rich in towns. Most unfortunate is that few of these ?poor? ever return to invest in their places of origin to add any value.

Given the current overflow in towns, there is need for rural growth models that create modern economic opportunities and hopefully keep majority of the people in the rural areas. Clearly, legislation and policies need to be amended or enacted for new and expanding foreign and local investors to establish facilities across the country outside the current urban centres as just one step to build capacity.

There are many advantages of taking quality enterprises to the countryside. Firstly, they are highly ranked, at least regionally and take with them big capital, best practices, systems and business ethics which they will use to mentor the locals. The model should entail that the quality they take to the rural areas should be the same from the parent companies. There should be provision for on-job training and transfer of workers to acquire better work culture. This will slow down rural-urban migration and retain skills in the rural areas.

Given the lower costs of land, food, accommodation and utilities, there are no valid reasons why ?rural areas? should not be attractive to the industrial production ecosystem, more so as businesses find it more expensive to invest in new facilities. There should be a rewarding system for small and medium firms that create jobs beyond set targets.

The Government should institute programmes requiring all large firms given public contracts in defence, police, prisons, judiciary, education, health, energy, mining, oils and gas, roads, railways, and water to contribute directly or to a centralised investment fund to uplift agreed standards and targets in quality and skills.

Education institutions that receive state support must be required to produce innovative ideas to drive their business models and provide apprenticeship for students to shorten the learning curve.

Ofwono Opondo, The New Times


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