“When we have other people planning to go to the moon, and you have our people still fighting jiggers, then please accept my definition of backwardness!” Our aim is to build an integrated, interrelated, self sustaining economy; with the agricultural sector feeding into the industrial sector; with raw materials, and the industrial sector feeding into the agricultural sector with implements and tools of production!” These are some quotations that were made by Yoweri Kaguta Tibahuurwa Museveni Ruhemarwenjura.
At the time of making the promises the country was buckling under the weight of a collapsing economy and scarcity of basic goods including: sugar, soap and salt. These commodities had to be rationed and the long lines and queues at the Local Chairman’s house bore stark testimony on the plight of Ugandans. Key therefore was a need to rehabilitate and reconstruct the shambolic economy as a critical agenda! Unfortunately, we had in our hands full rebellion that fully occupied our leadership.
None the less, 32 years down the road a critical evaluation needs to be made of the state of the economy. I scratch my head to find the justification of a country rich in soil and climatic gifts of nature, two rainy seasons and yet we import garlic from China! Apart from the bio security risks such imports will herald doom for the state of our nation- this must be halted!
More than 10 years have passed since we defeated Gen. Kony when shall we turn our guns on the critical issues of Poverty, illiteracy and disease? How can we empower Ugandans when we are importing garlic and toothpicks? What happened to the promise of economic integration, inter-relation and self sustenance? Why, as a country are we short of exploiting our competitive advantage.
The lack development of agriculture exposes an acute lack of leadership, ineptitude, laziness lack ambition and planning. Let us use the case study of cotton. Before the parliamentary committee is a report showing neither a qualitative nor a quantitative improvement over the last 10 years. Indeed according to numbers in the Amin era Uganda produced quantitatively more cotton than today. The report shows the shortfall of bales as follows:247,381, 371, 636 bales and 406,907 bales in the years 2012/13, 2013/14, 2014/15.
The cosmetics approach and workshops will not do. A radical rethink and field based engagement of the farmers, guarantees for the market and policies to enhance the value chain to encourage the production need to be urgently addressed. We must stop paying lip service to the agricultural sector! The importance of it as an area of growth for the country cannot be overstated.
Am tempted to borrow the words of H.E Apollo Milton Obote, The Pearl of Africa can rise and shine again!