class to boost development

by Ronald Ssekandi, Samuel Egadu KAMPALA (Xinhua) — The Ugandan government has said it is making a policy shift to focus more on creating a productive middle class as it grapples with fast tracking the country’s economic development.

President Yoweri Museveni, in a March 13 statement on how to pull millions of Ugandans out of poverty, said the move would in the short run affect traders who have profiteered on consumerism.

He argued that the country’s import-based economy continues to hemorrhage its forex earnings, and in turn, enriches external interests.

Focus has to be turned to building a productive middle class like manufacturers, farmers and exporters who by nature of their business would create jobs and look for markets, thus bring in foreign earnings, said the president.

Museveni argued that this would trigger socio-economic transformation that would see Uganda’s mainly peasant society metamorphoses into a middle-class and skilled working class society.

To enable the building of the productive middle class, key factors have to be put in place.

Uganda is already laying a social base to stimulate social economic transformation.

Apart from having peace and security, a key determinant in attracting investment, the country has improved its energy and transport infrastructure, liberalized its economy and improved the provision of social services like education and health.

“We are going to use it (social base) to transform the society permanently.

“We need correct policy stimuli to do so,” Museveni said, noting that Uganda is now in position to tackle the residual problems and convert into a middle-income country by 2019, and an upper middle-income country by 2040.

One of the policy shifts needed is the transformation of the country’s agricultural sector from peasant farming to commercial farming.

Agriculture is the backbone of the country’s economy, with close to 70 percent of the population deriving its livelihood from the sector, according to government figures.

The government has created several funds from which farmers can access low interest loans to boost their agricultural production. It has also revamped its National Agricultural Advisory Services to boost production. Farmers are among others given free farm implements.

Drawing from the Ethiopia example, Uganda is also shifting focus to light manufacturing with hope of transitioning to heavy manufacturing, high technology industries and provision of services.

Ethiopia made a policy shift to encourage industrialization. For instance, it stopped the export of raw materials like hides and skins which boosted its leather industry.

This has in turn led to the creation of jobs internally and increased foreign exchange earnings from the leather industry.

Assembly of motor vehicles in Ethiopia has also created more jobs in the country, and reduced the loss of foreign exchanged used to import vehicles.

Museveni argued that a similar policy must be adopted by Uganda.

He said Uganda losses a lot of foreign exchange by importing second-hand clothes and yet textiles can be produced from cotton produced in the country.

Government figures show that the total demand of textiles in Uganda, annually, is 226 million of meters, worth 270 million U.S. dollars.

“If all these textiles are manufactured here, we shall need about 400,000 bales of cotton, each weighing 185 kg. All these dollars will remain here and we shall create direct employment of 80,000 people,” Museveni said.

With favorable policies, Uganda also hopes to attract more Foreign Direct Investment.

Museveni argued that the domestic, regional and international market Uganda has will feed the huge domestic production that may arise.

“We cannot go wrong. Africa is the epicenter for the huge socio-economic transformation that is coming next. Let us not miss the bus again,” said the president.

Critical to all this, is the fight against corruption, a cancer which experts argue is slowing down the development of the country.

“This corruption will be eliminated.

“There will be no equivocation on this issue.

“The way we defeated the indiscipline of the army, is the way we are going to defeat corruption,” Museveni said.
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EARLIER REPORT:

Ugandan leader urges Africa on unity to boost prosperity

by Ronald Ssekandi KAMPALA Uganda (Xinhua) — Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni has said the bloodbath the Great Lakes region faced over the years, although undesirable, helped galvanize the ideology that Africa must solve its own problems rather than depend on foreigners.

Museveni said in a statement early this week that the wars in Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, northern Uganda, Burundi, and Rwanda showed that Africa must have the primary interest in solving its conflicts.

“Although not planned, (the conflicts) ended up getting rid of the quisling of foreign interests and creating conditions for Afro-centered thinking in these countries,” Museveni said, noting that Africa must take advantage of that unity.

Museveni said it is that unity that Africa must protect against the continued foreign selfish interests.

He argued that where populations are either similar, linked or compatible, there should be political integration, noting that is only a strong unified force that can push for its interest in the global arena.

“We believe and know that the East African Federation is possible and it would create a center of gravity for the black race,” he said.

The East African Community (EAC), a regional body bringing together Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and now South Sudan, plans to have a political federation.

South Sudan was early admitted into the EAC, bring the total population of the bloc to 160 million people.

The president said apart from the strategic security against potential imperialism, the prosperity of the African people revolves around the production of goods and services in order to earn incomes, create jobs and expand the tax base.

He said the intra-African market is growing, which provides an opportunity for African products to be marketed within the continent instead of being taken to foreign markets where they face unfavorable terms.

The Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) brings together 19 countries with a combined population of 470 million people.

The market is now being expanded to include Southern African Development Community (SADC) under the tripartite arrangement involving EAC, COMESA and SADC. This will have a combined population of about 632 million people and a Gross Domestic Product of 1.3 trillion U.S. dollars.

“The pooling of our markets does not only provide us with a bigger market for our goods and services, it also enables us to better negotiate for market access to other foreign markets,” he said.

Museveni argued that regional and continental integration is necessary for the development of the African people.

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