The Observer (Kampala)

27 November 2012

Uganda: Ssemujju Nganda - Kigali Is Another Reason We Must Retire 'Our Man'

opinion

After a 45-minute flight on one of the about 13 Air Rwanda aircraft, I landed at Kigali International airport.

Air Rwanda is a fully constituted airline flying to destinations such as Dubai, South Africa, Nigeria, all East Africa capitals, etc. Even playing my favourite Whitney Houston music couldn't stop me thinking about the killing of Uganda Airlines by this merciless regime. While in Rwanda they are building a country, back home we are building individuals.

Uganda Airlines was never eaten up by wild animals, but by people like Sam Kutesa, one of the longest-serving ministers in this regime. I was in Rwanda during the second week of this month together with colleagues who sit on Parliament's committee on National Economy. We basically went there for tutorials on good business practice. Tourism is one of the biggest sources of revenue for Rwanda and there are just a dozen gorillas to track.

The official figure puts revenue from tourism to about $250m. It was at $9m in 2001. What Rwanda has done is to prepare herself for seminar and conference tourism. And of course Kigali city is now being marketed as the cleanest in the region and, very soon, most organized.

Correct me if I am wrong, but you can't easily do seminar/conference tourism without a functioning national carrier. Many continental media seminars and meetings are being held in Nairobi because Kenya Airways is able to ferry in participants from all over Africa within a day. At the rate Rwanda Air is growing, very soon Kigali will be our converging point.

With one of the best airlines in the world, I think you know why Qatar is hosting the about 7,000 Climate Change delegates in Doha. I think Uganda will only be relegated to hosting heads of state coming here for Comesa, Chogm, etc, because many fly official jets. And heads of state tourism consumes as much resources as it brings in, if you remember what happened during Chogm.

Trouble is that Uganda thinks tourism is the presence of big national parks and game reserves. I hear London receives about a million visitors a day, and I don't think the city has a game park. Airlines aside, three initiatives won my admiration in Rwanda.

First was the Rwanda Development Board (RDB). This is just a building but therein sits all the agencies that you need to have your business/company registered. And there is a well-calculated deadline for everything. In six hours, you can register a company. In about 30 days, you can have environment impact assessment done if you are opening up a factory.

Situated at RDB you'll find officials from immigration, environment authority, registrar of companies, investment authority, ICT authority, tourism authority and utilities such as water and electricity and also banking. Officials from these agencies who sit here have full authority to issue permits and clearances.

The second initiative is the Economic Zone. The government has cleared a big chunk of land of all encumbrances for industrial use. The government has constructed roads (still not in good condition), connected the place to electricity and water supply, and constructed one waste water treatment plant.

In Uganda, the government, with permission from Parliament, borrowed about $75m to prepare Namanve park for industrial use. I think only about $1 million was invested there. The roads inside Namanve are dusty and almost impassable. And those who looted Namanve project money are known.

The third initiative is the Construction One-Stop Centre of Kigali. This is in charge of urban planning, physical planning and basically responsible for issuing construction permits and all sorts of clearances. Photographs of the current Kigali, how it should look like tomorrow and in 50 years, are pasted on the wooden partitions at this one-stop centre. This centre is supposed to help people transform Kigali from an informal settlement to a modern city and believe me, they are working at it.

Here you submit architectural drawings, proof of ownership, plumbing and electrical installation designs, etc. In about 30 days, you are supposed to walk out with a construction permit. There is a design of the Kigali they want. It is zoned into residential, commercial, industrial, etc. There are public transport designs - connecting Kigali to Tanzania by rail, bus lanes and stops, walkways, etc. And it is ruthless implementation.

Rwanda is without doubt a country on the move. I think it is this philosophy being implemented by youths aged between 25 and 35 that got 'our man' mesmerized. Almost all the CEOs, very young and energetic people, have studied in Uganda.

Do I need a better reason to demand the exit of 'our man'? I wouldn't like to see my children to go to Rwanda for kyeyo.

The author is Kyadondo East MP.

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