OPINION: By Moses Sserwanga
Kampala: As Ugandans mark the 32 Liberation Day Anniversary under the theme: Uganda’s liberation struggle; a significant contribution to our present and future development, it is imperative to remind ourselves about the essentials that are central to the transformation process from a peasant to a modern and prosperous society.
Uganda’s Vision 2040 was put in place to harness the abundant opportunities around the country. The opportunities include; oil and gas, tourism, minerals, ICT business, abundant labour force, geographical location and trade, water resources, industrialisation, and agriculture among others.
But the planners envisaged that one could not possibly realise the opportunities abound with our natural resources and hence underscored the importance of accelerating investments in the development of infrastructure for (energy, transport, water, oil and gas and ICT); Science, Technology, Engineering and Innovation (STEI) not forgetting human resource development, peace, security and defence.
President Yoweri Museveni who still rules since 1986 and below, Engineers working on Nyagak dam control room in Zombo district. The plant supplies power in West Nile.
The full realisation of the intentions of the well crafted NRM government Vision 2040 statement , will therefore, depend on the commitment and dedication of all Ugandans towards hard work, premised on having the right attitudes and mind-sets to improve our competitiveness and collective participation in national development .
This year’s celebration is being marked in Arua district where the NRM boasts of tarmacked roads from Karuma to Oraba at Uganda-South Sudan border, provision of electricity supplied solely by the Aga Khan’s West Nile Rural Electrification Company, upgrading of Arua airfield. But in the vast Sub-counties, the roads have remained in sorry state, the national road connecting Nebbi to Goli Customs and to Paidha in Zombo district has remained a deathtrap.
The Arua-Terego-Yumbe-Moyo roads remain in sorry state. Although the NRM government boasts of the achievements of development, they remain a right to every Ugandan and not a privilege. This is because Uganda, as we all know, is endowed with significant amount of minerals which can be deployed for value addition across many development sectors including but not limited to the automotive industry.
Uganda’s airborne geophysical survey, geological mapping and geochemical sampling estimates that there are over 27 types of minerals in significant commercial viable reserves dotted across the country. Iron ore deposits in Kabale and Kisoro areas alone are estimated to be over 50 million tonnes. And yet these are not the only natural resources available but there are other minerals which include; Beryl, Bismuth, Columbite Tantalite, Copper, Chromite, Diamond, Gold, Tin (cassiterite), Wolfram(Tungsten), Asbes-tos, Clay, Diatomite, Feldspar, Granite Gneisis, Graphite, Gypsum, Kaolin, Kyanite, Limestone, Marble, Mica, Phos-phates, Rock Salt, Silca Sand, Talc, Cobalt, Lead, Zinc, Platinum Group Metals (PGM), Uranium, Vermiculite and Nickle to mention but a few .
When fully exploited these minerals can provide a source of raw materials for many industries triggering an industrial revolution with pleasant ramifications. The automotive industry is one of those sectors with a huge potential as demonstrated by other East African countries the Mobius in Kenya and now Volkswagen in Rwanda. Don’t forget that Uganda was hitherto ahead of these two countries in the development of the automotive industry through the country’s vehicle production flagship-the Kiira Motors Corporation, (KMC).
As Rwanda partners with German car maker Volkswagen to produce vehicles in Kigali, Uganda too, has the opportunity to build a strong automotive industry with forward and backward linkages with other industries like mining which will have far reaching economic and development implications in revenue generation and employment for the fastest growing population in the world.
The huge global demand for vehicles is testament that once Uganda’s automotive industry takes off it could easily become one of the country‘s major foreign exchange earner. Some 79.6 million vehicles were sold last year alone and the demand is only expected to increase this year. This should be the bench-mark to fast- track the potential that Uganda’s industratisation trajectory presents.
A review of the development paths of many developed and emerging economies show that except for a few oil-exporting countries there is a direct relation between industrialisation and rapid development. A strong and competitive industrial base is therefore, important to create employment, advance technology and build a strong resilient economy.
But industrialisation cannot be realised out of the vacuum. There must be a conducive legal environment for the industrial sector development to take effect. It is a pity that not much has been done to develop the gazetted industrial parks which are supposed to be the bedrock for industrialisation.
Government must put in place and support outward oriented policies to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) and provide the entire necessary infrastructure in the gazetted national industrial parks for championing industrialisation. Otherwise, celebrating national liberation without tangible economic benefit to the majority of the people shall be rendered redundant. Happy Liberation Day!
The writer is a media and communications Consultant/trainer and Advocate of the High Court of Uganda. This article can also be found at msserwanga.blogspot.com