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Gideon Badagawa, champion of private sector, dies

Fallen economist and statistician hailed as tireless advocate of the business community

OBITUARY | IAN KATUSIIME | Covid19 continues to claim some of Uganda’s most impactful minds. Gideon Badagawa, executive director of Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU), succumbed to coronavirus on the early morning of June 21 at Mulago Hospital, a PSFU statement said.

Badagawa took the reins at PSFU in January 2010 and served until his demise.  He is credited for institutionalising partnerships with Uganda’s development partners like World Bank, African Development Bank, European Union, DFID, UK-AIDGIZ Endev, MasterCard Foundation and others.

Chairman of PSFU Elly Karuhanga said, Badagawa was “a dedicated, visionary, steady hand of the private sector.”

Soft spoken, humble, intelligent and articulate, Badagawa has been described as a champion and pillar of the private sector. He always exuded a calm demeanor even when valiantly standing up for and speaking for the private sector.

A regular speaker at gatherings of business titans and policy makers, Badagawa always made the case for providing incentives for SMEs, lower tax rates, skilling youth and heralding the private sector as the vanguard of Uganda’s economic growth.

He was articulate on various topics; the national economy, the budget, and regional integration and East African Community (EAC). He championed the interests of the East Africa Business Council, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) with PSFU being the focal point for both organisations.

He was his usual vocal self when the covid19 pandemic broke out resulting in lockdowns that crippled businesses countrywide. In October 2020, he took part in a drive on the streets of Kampala dubbed ‘Tugobe Corona: Wear A Mask’ with other PSFU partners.

In a comment mid last year, Badagawa said Uganda’s economy could not sustain another lockdown. As fate would have it, he died a few days after the second total lockdown in Uganda.

Badagawa worked at PSFU for 19 years and 11 of those he served as its executive director. PSFU is an apex body for the private sector made up of over 200 business associations, corporate bodies and the major public sector agencies that support private sector growth. It was founded in 1995. As the PSFU boss, Badagawa led the way on dialoguing with government, NGOs, civil society and development partners for business growth.

Badagwa’s business mind and expertise on policy led him to serve on various boards and councils as chairman; Competitiveness and Investment Climate Strategy Design Team 2011-2014, vice chairman and board member National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA), and Co-Secretary to the Presidential Investors Roundtable.

He also sat on the following boards; National Planning Authority, Economic Policy Research Centre, Uganda Energy Credit Capitalisation Company Limited, Business Licensing Reform Committee, Financial Markets Development Committee, Competitiveness  and Investment Climate Strategy Committee.

“Saddened to learn the demise of Gideon…he was the face of PSFU for decades, always available to the private sector. I recall fondly many meetings and functions when Gideon would support us,” Somasekhar VG, international business professional and former MD of Airtel Uganda, commented.

“He was a true champion and voice of the private sector. He worked hard to mobilise funds to support the containment of covid19,” Alice Angwech, executive director of SEE-IMPACT, a social enterprise focused on sustainable agriculture and improving livelihoods in northern Uganda.

World Bank man

Badagawa was a key intermediary in the implementation of a number of World Bank projects.

According to a statement by PSFU, he coordinated the development of a market-oriented coffee sector strategy for Uganda funded by the World Bank aimed at strengthening supply-to-market linkages.

He was also part of the implementation team for running World Bank-funded Private Sector Competitiveness Project (PSCP II) with particular emphasis on promoting public private partnerships to improve the business environment in Uganda.

He was also instrumental in rolling out the Enterprise Skills Linkages, another project funded by the Washington-based bank. This was a training program focused on youth, boosting their entrepreneurial abilities and market competitiveness.

Early life

Badagawa was born on May 8, 1966 in Kigulu, Iganga. He attended primary at Iganga Boys School from 1973-1979 and thereafter O-level at Busoga College Mwiri and did his A-level at Makerere College School. Badagawa enrolled for a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics at Makerere University where he graduated with a Second Upper in 1991.

In 1992, he got a job as a statistician at the ministry of public service. A year later, he joined the ministry of finance and planning. In 1993, he worked as a business and economic instructor at the Institute of Data Processing Kampala. Badagawa took a leap when in 1995 he was admitted for a Master’s degree in Development Economics from the University of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. He was based at the university’s Institute of Social Studies.

He later did a Postgraduate diploma in Environmental Management from the Maastricht School of Management in 1998 in the same country. He did several courses in economics. He also took a class called ‘Statistics for Environmental Policy’ at the Munich Centre for Advanced Training in Germany in 1996.

From 1992-2000, Badagawa taught at the Department of Planning and Applied Statistics at Makerere University. As someone who was making a name as a statistician, he also taught National Accounting and Income Analysis at Makerere.

In the 2000s, Badagawa served at PSFU in various roles as Senior Policy Analyst, Manager Policy Advocacy and Director Policy Advocacy. From 2008-2010, he served as executive director of Uganda Manufacturers Association, another influential private sector lobby.

He is survived by a wife and two daughters.

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