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Let’s Run Uganda Like a Business, Shall We?

President Yoweri Museveni is believed to have spent more than $7 million on his 2016 presidential election campaign. Amama Mbabazi and Besigye spent $951,000 and $279,000 respectively. These individual expenditures came complementary to the Electoral Commission’s own budget which continues to bloat every five years. One thing is certain, if democracy has a price; it’s one that is proving to be costly for countries such as Uganda.

But how did companies around the world perform? 2015 was Apple’s most successful year with the company revenue growing by 28% to close to $234 billion. In its fourth quarter, Samsung had an operating profit of $4.4 billion. Microsoft, Alphabet and many other companies enjoyed great years.

Meanwhile, Uganda in the same financial year had a Shs.24 trillion budget. Of this, Shs5.6 trillion equated to the external financing. As of 2014, World Bank placed our GDP per capita (current US$) at $714.6. If Uganda was country compared over a 30 year period, it could as well have passed off for one of the most inefficient countries, one that has failed to break even (failed transformation) and one that has grown at the slowest rate compared to other companies (not countries).

But Uganda is not a company and that’s the whole problem. Whereas each Presidential Candidate makes campaign promises as they wish, no one puts them to the test and there’s no penalty for not hitting those promises (targets) they set.

So what if we turned things around a bit and chose to run Uganda as a business? I won’t repeat the arguments against running government as a business, they’ve been re-told millions of times. Instead, I will try to lay down the best case possible for running Uganda as a business.

First, we must begin seeing our Presidential Candidates as prospects CEO candidates for this company named Uganda. As such, it’s not the man with the most votes that gets to become CEO; it’s the man who’s most competent. Presidency is not a place for experimentation; it’s an arena where the smartest, trusted and tested should play. Therefore, Presidential candidates will have to clearly prove that they understand how the business works and they can demonstrate how they plan to grow its revenues. This should be measurable; there should be numbers to back up their assertions.

As a company, we shall set our own targets for this CEO (President). They could be some Key Performance Indicator (KPIs) of sorts. Since changes require time, we shall extend the terms from 5 year terms to 10 year terms. In our KPIs for example, we shall inquire, what is our starting maternal mortality, what should it be by the time the CEO’s contract expires? How much revenue should we expect in which industry? Failure to meet our KPIs should imply automatic non-renewal of the contract. This will be much better than term limits or age limits for presidency. Surely, why should a non-performing CEO be kept in power?

But we shall also begin to think strongly on other things. What is brand Uganda? What do we stand for as a brand? What do we represent as a brand? Probably, there could have to be a re-branding to reflect our core values and aspirations. We shall have to get clear about our vision and mission as a company. What is Uganda aiming for in the market? What is its unique selling proposition? When we get into bilateral trade agreements, what should we get out? How do we make the company more competitive?

Then we could scale down to assets, our key strengths. For a long time, we’ve not played to our strengths as a country. We’ve participated in wars where we have no benefits and no clear exit strategy. We went to a war in South Sudan and Somalia, both wars where we don’t know what success will look like and how long it should take.

We shall hold the Ministers (managers) to the same standards and so shall we hold our casual employees (citizens) to similar standards. At the end of every year, instead of the Kyankwanzi retreats, we shall have our annual shareholders meeting where every MP will represent his department to hear about the performance of this company and see how to redefine our strategies.

Probably, the new CEO will have to attack the wasteful spending (pull off a Magufuli style) and stop the hemorrhaging. However, here, the CEO will take caution not to hurt operations in the process.

And if we doubt that a country can be run like a business and it succeeds, then we’ve not understood the growth story of Singapore. The very ethos that was embedded in Lee Kuan Yew’s policies was the ethos of running Singapore like a business, making it efficient, competitive, profitable and eventually, sustainable.

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