How Investments in Agriculture can ease Uganda’s unemployment

Leave a comment

Owachgiu Dennis

Most countries lag behind economically because they fail to exploit their competitive advantages. Massive Youth Unemployment in Uganda today correlates directly with the country’s inability to create opportunities in sectors where they have competitive advantages. In Uganda, agriculture is a key competitive advantage because of the large tracks of fertile arable land available countrywide. Uganda’s land can record high yield even without fertilizers.

Since it employs nearly 80% of the population, Agriculture is the sector that can be relied to ignited an increase in household incomes for the greatest number of people. Investment in Agriculture can positively impact on many sectors of the economy simultaneously. Great and mighty economic powers such as the United States of America owes their economic growth to Agriculture.

Farming in Uganda is still largely subsistence

Uganda certainly has numerous untapped opportunities. It is noteworthy that the handful of small holder coffee farmers in Uganda have already made Uganda Africa’s leading coffer exporter and brought in considerable income. Uganda’s production level and earning can still grow up significantly for coffee, just as for other agricultural products. Investments towards processing such products locally could further allow Uganda to export finished products rather than raw materials. Exporting finished products would earn even more money for the country and create many new jobs at the processing plants.

The growth of agro-processing industries to process agricultural products will itself create jobs for multitudes in other related industries. By-products in other manufacturing cycles are automatic raw materials for other products. Other business will emerge to handle Packaging, transporting finished goods etc. When the goods are exported the country will earn the much needed foreign exchange for the economy and improve the balance of payment position.

The fact that countries that are not as endowed as Uganda are doing well means the sky is the limit for Uganda. Arid Egypt grows and exports agricultural products all year round using water from rive Nile, and Uganda has the source of river Nile right here. Israel products several tones of fresh water fish in tanks, and Uganda has the largest fresh water body right here. Botswana exports more tones of beef products globally, yet Uganda has more cows than Botswana. Israel exports more Diary products yet Uganda has more dairy cows than Israel.

It’s time to take advantages of these competitive advantages to uplift the economy. With the bulk of our population being youthful, availability of labour force is in itself another competitive advantage at our disposal. The kind of agriculture that will create enormous opportunities will have to be commercialized intensive agriculture, not the traditional hand-to-mouth subsistence agriculture. This requires real investments and the national budget should reflect agriculture as a priority area.

The huge amounts of money the country can potentially earn from agriculture will automatically spur the growth of other sectors, notably the service sector. Uganda already has a vibrant service sector, but since most people – about 67% live on a 2$ a day- the service sector can’t continually grow in an economy where the majority have a low purchasing power. Agriculture is that one sector that can unlock the purchasing power of the largest portion of the population since it employs the majority. The increase in purchasing power would then increase revenues in the service sector.

Agriculture can thus accelerate economic growth, which will create several new opportunities for citizens.  Most prosperous people who will earn a decent income from agriculture will reinvest the money in other new ventures. It is these new ventures that will create more employments opportunities for our young people. It is on that premise that agriculture must be embraced and allocated up to 10% of the budget annually. As a productive sector, the more money invested in agriculture, the more money government will earn back in tax and non tax revenues. The increased revenues can then be allocated to other crucial budgetary sectors.

The next logical question is where do we get the extra money to invest in agriculture? In my opinion we have three clear feasible ways. One would be to temporarily cut down the state’s administrative costs and use the money to invest in agriculture. Office automation would cut down the required number of personnel, thus saving some money. Reducing on the number of political appointees, by trimming down some non-essential and redundant personnel such as the “senior advisors” who offer no advice at all.

Another strategy is by implementing agricultural and economic zoning in different regions. Zoning will encourage bulk production with the additional advantage of economies of scale. It becomes easy to attract foreign direct investments for agro-processing industries to areas with enough raw materials.

The third strategy would be to formation of individually owned agricultural cooperatives through which many smallholder farmers can pool money together to either carryout farming together or to process agricultural products. The government can set up a cooperative bank or a Bank that is agriculture-friendly to provide financing to the agricultural cooperatives. Alternatively, the government can channel cheaper credit in form of Agricultural loan facilities through existing networks of commercial banks.



The Politics behind the closure of Bridge international Schools in Uganda

Leave a comment

By Owachgiu Dennis

Right in the middle of the year in August, parents of Bridge International schools’ pupils woke up to the shocking news that their schools had been closed by authorities.The High court in November upheld the directive to close the schools. The high court ruling prompted wailing pupils to petition the speaker parliament over the fate of their school.

While the ministry was literally enforcing its regulatory mandate by demanding a private institution to adhere to the minimum prerequisite standards for licensing, most people conversant with Uganda Education systems wondered whether there wasn’t any other ulterior motive rather than standards per se. To begin with, each parent who took their Children to a Bridge school had ditched a supposedly “free” Universal Primary Education (UPE) school in their neighborhood. That alone implies parents perceive Bridge schools to be superior to UPE schools. In fact even the officials at Ministry of Education cant allow their children to go to UPE schools, because they are know how mediocre it is.

Many parents perceive UPE is a colossal failure, and have been looking for alternatives, as most of the other private schools are expensive for most parents.  In Uganda nearly 67% of the population are subsistence farmers who just live hand to mouth. Such parents certainly cant afford the expensive private schools. To such parents, Bridge was an welcome solution to their problem; providing quality education at affordable rates.

To any astute observer, one wonders how the Uganda’s Ministry of Education gets the audacity to close a private school on grounds of inferior education standards, considering the dilapidated and continuously deteriorating standards of Ministry of Education’s own UPE Schools. Performance standards and literacy and numeracy skills of pupils in UPE schools portrays an education system in an incessant downward spiral in terms of quality.

Another surprising  premise for the closure was that the curriculum at Bridge International schools doesn’t meet the right standards. UPE’s standards itself leaves a lot to be desired. A survey done by Twaweza found that pupils have the minimal literacy and numeracy skills.

The Ministry also hinted that Bridge International Schools utilized unqualified teachers. That draws attention to Ministry of Education’s own quality of teachers. As if their incompetence is not enough, teacher absenteeism is worryingly high in most rural government schools. One wonders if inspectors of schools and Education Standards Agency are doing their work. With all these, not a single UPE is on record as having been closed for failure to meet the minimum standards.

Granted, Bridge might have its weaknesses worth correcting, but from the above, it appears that Bridge international schools greatly exposed the weaknesses of UPE schools. For instance, whereas UPE schools are supposedly free, the fact that parents ditched UPE schools and took their children to Bride schools it itself a vote of no confidence in the quality of Education of UPE schools.

It’s hypocritical that the Officials at Ministry of Education are so fast at detecting faults by private sectors yet they are snail-slow at rectifying the numerous well-known flaws with Uganda’s own deteriorating education standards.

Rather than mudslinging Bridge International Schools, Ministry of Education officials should instead emulate the innovations by Bridge. While teacher absenteeism in UPE schools hovers at a whopping 29% at UPE schools, Bridge devised a smart solution that enables teachers to login when they report to school and log out when they are going home. It’s such an innovative approach that government should consider relocating.

Above all, Bridge International schools has demystified the notion that improvement of education standards requires a ridiculously huge amounts of money. Bridge has deliberately tied limited resources to construction of classrooms, but has instead invested massively in developing systems that fosters learning process. Bridge makes use of technologies such as tablets, which simplifies lesson planning for teachers and offers teachers a platform to access reference learning materials.

Bridge schools may be closed, but merely closing schools can’t improve education standards at school in Uganda. Uganda currently has less than 300 inspectors for all schools public and private schools in the country. Even the few inspectors at the Education agency are underfunded, with a minuscule budget of not more than 4 billion.

Of Uganda’s budget of 1 trillion, over 900billions goes for teacher salary alone, leaving limited resources for other function such as curriculum development, inspection, infrastructure etc. In the vocational Education sector, a new curriculum has been unveiled with a resultant surge in the cost of running public vocational schools, yet the Ministry hasn’t set aside appropriate budget to augment the implementation of the new curriculum.  ICT is an examinable subject at both O and A level, yet most government seed schools do not even have computers, let alone electricity connection.  These are some of the more pressing issues Ministry of Education should delve into.

Known for their cost-effectiveness, private sector actors can be partners towards improvement of Education standards. Bridge has a proactive approach to curriculum development with their own curriculum writers. This is a far cry from the National Curriculum Development Center whose under-funding has stifled their ability to regularly update the curriculum.

Education is one of the most crucial pillars of sustainable development, and investment in the highest quality of education is the entry point for human capital development. It’s these human resource pool emanating from education system who will augment the economic transformation process.

It’s time for different stakeholders in the education Ministry to lead by example by improving standards in UPE Schools. They should also refrain from escapist mentality that has kept Uganda’s education in its current pathetic standards. In any case, donors who are backing Bridge would have committed their resources to other sectors if Uganda’s primary education was deemed to be of adequate standards.


Leave a comment

Religion is ordinarily a matter of personal conviction to a deity, and as such shouldn’t necessitate any form of third-party human meddling. But the trickiest part of contemporary Ugandan churches is that even conmen have discovered a lucrative goldmine in setting up Churches purely for economic motives. It’s hard to tell whether some conmen have become pastors or some pastors have become conmen. While everyday street conmen can be easily busted with the help of law enforcement officials, a conman owning his church can fleece people unimpeded for years.

Citizens are visibly fed up with some their religious leaders but they have few options to settle their grievances. The worst part of it is that faithfuls are lately getting inclined to unorthodox means such as arson, and other crude violence means to show their discontent. Most of these behaviors are outright criminal and should be discouraged.  Here are samples: In Kisoro they pricked the butt of their Bishop with a needle, In Kabale they torched the official residence of a Parish Priest, in Kitgum they locked up their Anglican Bishop. In Arua the Christians staged a “walk-to-work” style demonstration against their Catholic Bishop.

Even atheists are getting bewildered by the recent state of defiance in churches.  Here are a bunch of people preaching forgiveness but they can hardly forgive each other in practice. The point of contention is that whoever raises out their otherwise valid concerns and grievances implicating a church leader is likely to be brushed aside as a tool being used by the devil to taint the image of the “man of God”. The religious leader in question would boldly declare “Any [Satanic] weapon formed against me would not prosper”. To their benefit, Religious books have diversity of scriptures which anyone can interpret to suit their circumstances.

There is something much more complicated happening to Muslim Clerics in Uganda. Very many clerics have so far been shot to death in an almost analogous fashion. While the actual killers remain to be known, each time a cleric is killed, other Clerics would be arrested as suspects. While others are behind bars and arraigned before court, the trend in killings seems to continue unabated. Speculations are rife that there must be other hidden hands behind the deaths of these clerics apart from the suspects so far on detention. If the now detained suspects were the sole instigators of the killings, there wouldn’t be further killings now that they are behind bars.

The radicalism continues to rage in is an unprecedented magnitude. In Kyegegwa, a religious sect orchestrated a full-blast attack on a church, in very much the same way Boko haram has been doing in Nigeria.

How do we solve such complex maters? The ultra-radical and extremist solution to the problem would be setting up a Religious Police like Saudi Arabia. A liberal solution on the other hand is through a loose network such as Interreligious Council through which different religious institutions would come together for dialogue. Uganda already has that later but they haven’t been quite successful at resolving conflicts among different religious groupings and factions.

Some evangelical pastors, the segment with wildest capitalist orientation, are becoming synomimous with trading accusations and counter-accusations against each other via different media channels. Some have so far dragged each other to court although they all preach about forgiveness in their churches. The love for money among some of them can only rival that of drug dealers and mafia organizations.

It’s noteworthy that there can never be 100% consensus on matters of religion and each one is entitled to faith. Even within the same religion, new factions will always sprout up, just like Tabliqs within mainstream Islam, Evangelicals from Anglicans, Charismatic from the Roman Catholic Church. That said, in situations where the actions of unscrupulous individuals are likely to adversely affect other people, there ought to be a mechanism for regulating the erratic ones.

While we can in no way tell who a fake pastor is, we can see them by their fruits. Financially impropriety is one area that makes it is possible to separate the seeds from the waft. Others have had police cases lodged against them and subsequently convicted. There should be a means of restraining the thugs from ever owning a church again.

Obviously unhappy with the skyrocketing conman-ship by pastors,  a section of citizens are now suggesting the drafting of a private members bill that will create Religious Institution’s Regulatory Authority. The proposed Authority will not interfere with constitutional guaranteed freedom of worship per se, but will strive to stamp out commercialization of Churches. The growing number of conmen who masquerade as pastors to fleece desperate citizens will finally be restrained.

It is suggested that while Churches will not be taxed, they will be legally required to regularly declare monies received in their churches to the congregation. It would also be imperative to require them to file returns on the amount of income (tithes and offertories) collected to the Authority. This data could be useful for Bank of Uganda for planning purposes, as there is currently no means of estimating the exact amount of money Churches collect from their flocks.

Owachgiu Dennis


Older Entries Newer Entries