Integrity, change in mentality and attitude are some of the key elements that will spur Uganda to the first world in the next 50 years according to a number of lead experts.
While speaking at a public dialogue on Oct 31 in Kampala, on the theme “Uganda after 50 years: Economic challenges and Opportunities,” Elly Twineyo Kamugisha, the executive director of the African Centre for Trade and Development (ACTADE), a Kampala-based trade and policy think tank noted that although government has set ambitious targets of achieving first world status in the next 50 years, Ugandans must begin by acknowledging past mistakes.
“Despite the fact that we have abundant resources, why have we failed to develop?” he said.
He noted that South Korea, Hongkong, Singapore and Taiwan were all at the same level of economic development as Uganda in 1962, yet 50 years later, Singapore’s GDP alone is 45 times more than Uganda’s ($225b against $5b).
“We need to understand what exactly went wrong such that if it is a moral or cultural issue, we address our shortcomings fast before embarking onto the next level of economic development,” he said.
Kamugisha further noted that Ugandans need to begin living within their means if they are to fulfill the ambitious goal of hitting the first world.
“Prosperity is a choice, if you don’t choose it; it will not come your way,” he said. He added that one other vice that Ugandans need to get rid of fast is the attitude of, “I have to help my people, clan, tribe or religion.” Rather, Kamugisha says, a system of meritocracy should be nurtured so that competent get hired to do the right work.
Kamugisha also noted that although Uganda’s fast growing middle class is very important in fostering economic development in the next 50 years, Uganda needs a self-propelled middle class and not a politically propelled one.
“A middle class that is politically propelled collapses with the political system,” Kamugisha said. Referring to how much corruption has retarded the country’s development (both in the private and public sectors), he argued that all Ugandans will need to work together to fight the scourge. The integrity of all Ugandans needs to be revisited because without it, the country is not going to move forward.
Paul Busharizi, the Business Editor at The New Vision argued that the reason as to why the nature of Uganda’s economic growth has not been as inclusive as it should be is because the growth has concentrated around sectors like construction, services and manufacturing—sectors which tend to be concentrated in urban areas.
Yet the agriculture sector, which is the backbone of the economy, employing about 80% of the population is rural based and has not attracted enough investment over the same period. Busharizi instead noted that agriculture production has dropped to about 60% over the last 25 years.