27 October 2012

Uganda: First World for Uganda a Dream


EUROPE is a first world continent. Africa is a third world continent. Africa may never be a first world continent.

Europe united as one block after the 2nd World War in order to preserve peace among them and this has enabled them to develop economically by working together as a block.

They have not allowed differences in cultures and religion to dominate them. Africa's differing cultures, religions, tribes, landscapes and peoples have, unfortunately, been allowed to dominate decision-making and policies.

This often results in conflicts and instability, within and outside the varying countries that make up Africa.

Until we can diminish the effects of this differing state of being, we will forever be vulnerable and our condition will not have improved for decades to come.

Indeed, long after colonialism, African conditions remain largely the same, if not worse than immediately after independence.

Statistics show that Africa's share in world total output in GDP, which is a country's total output of goods and services, has declined from 3% in 1975 to 2% in 2005, while its share of exports declined, from almost 6% in 1975 to a mere 2% in 2005.

A point worth noting is that, "60% of the countries in the World Bank's group of low income countries were African".

Even China, the number two economy in the world, has never associated itself with the notion of aspiring to be in the first world club.

But China has done a lot in most of the sectors of their economy, including their agriculture.

The West, made up of Europe, and the USA, amongst others, not only have strong economic and political institutions, which are free of patronage, corruption, and inefficiency, but also the majority of the people are educated specifically to be able to contribute to the economy and raising the standard of living for the country as a whole.

With an abundant human capital, the West has now moved to a knowledge based economy, something which is still a long way off, before Uganda achieves it.

Fifty years after independence, our economy should have been in a better shape, so that there should have been almost no corruption, no patronage or inefficiency.

But travelling through the suburbs of Kampala, you will be amazed to see women carrying goods for sale and young people hawking anything.

These are not the activities of a people aspiring to become a first world country. Most of our people in the rural areas have no access to mechanised machinery for agriculture.

By now the Government should have facilitated most districts with tractors, as agriculture has always been Uganda's economic strength since colonial times.

Uganda has forever had an abundance of natural resources, but the benefit and revenues of these resources are not "filtered down" to the people, because the enabling system and institutions, that could do that, has either been deliberately destroyed, or it has never been set up.

This doesn't happen in the first world, and instead the opposite is true. The Government has not bothered to mobilise and get the population involved in the development process, decision making, etc., so that people understood what these processes meant for them.

They need to be able to identify with the government policy. To be a first world country or continent, these are things a government must do.

In Africa and Uganda in particular, governments are still relying on the financial intervention of foreign governments and NGOs, and it is very easy to assume that the problems of the poor are the ultimate responsibility of these foreign governments and NGO's.

African countries still suffer the effects of tribal, regional political, religious and self interest groups.

As a result, benefits are not shared equally nor don't finish up where they are most needed. Look at Nigeria, Cameroon or Libya.

South Africa has almost all the known mineral resources in the world, but it is not filtering down to the ordinary people, and that is why there is labour unrest.

Almost all the minerals belong to foreigners and most of the capital is transferred back to the west.

This is basically a continuation of colonial policy, termed as 'neo-colonialism'.

The governments of almost all African countries seem to only plan for the period of time that they are in office.

They never project any planning for 10, 20 or even 30 years into the future. That is why the long term benefit of a continuing policy is lost.

Therefore, for anyone to claim that in 15 to 20 years, Africa and indeed Uganda will become a first world country, because of the discovery of oil reserves, is living in a fantasy world!.

The writer is a lawyer, economist and an author of Silent Sunset.

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