By: Dorothy Muhawe
Sometime in June 1972, Idi Amin announced that God had visited him in a dream and issued a divine instruction: “Asians came to Uganda to build the railway. The railway is finished. They must leave now.”
These Asians, according to Idi Amin were “milking Uganda’s money.” They, through a most unfortunate British policy, owned 90% of all businesses in Uganda and paid 90% of all tax revenues.
This expulsion of 50,000 Asians came just 3 years after Dr. Obote signed into law his ‘Common Man’s Charter” that carried with it the ominous subtitle “First Steps for Uganda to Move to the Left.”
Clearly, these two events meant that our immediate post-colonial economy was undergoing a destructive tsunami. It was inevitable given that from the get-go, the British never empowered Ugandans to engage in gainful entrepreneurial activity.
By 1986, following a five-year guerilla war in the jungles of Luwero, our economy had shrunk by approximately 30% below 1970 levels. Therefore, the immediate task of the new National Resistance Movement government was to recover the economy.
At its most basic, recovering an economy – such as Uganda’s in 1986 – requires investment in electricity generation, road reconstruction, investment in piped water, restoring basic health services in hospitals /clinics, etc. With these in place, one can then begin to speak of regaining the trust and confidence of entrepreneurs to invest in the economy.
As part of its 10-point program, first authored by H.E. Yoweri Museveni and the National Resistance Army (NRA) High command in Luwero in 1984, the NRM among its many objectives, sought to build an “independent, Integrated, modern and self-sustaining economy”. To achieve this, meant that the NRM had to significantly invest in transforming the agricultural sector from a largely subsistence one to a modern one.
Reader, as you are doubtless aware, Uganda was intentionally primed as an agricultural country by the British. Crops like Coffee, Cotton, Tobacco, and Tea were grown on vast plantations for purposes of export, in raw form, to British industries in England.
This policy meant that our traditional food crops of matooke, Irish potatoes, cassava, millet, sorghum et al were all produced at the subsistence level. They were not a source of income for the peasantry.
It was this realization that led a young Yoweri Museveni on a mission to “kusimuka – wake up” the Banyankore of Ntungamo in the early 1960s and later on, those of Nyabushozi in the late 60s.
In order to wake up our peasantry from their “kugwejegyera – sleeping” to which they had been subjected ever since they missed “the bus of history”, the NRM government started with the Rural Farmers Scheme (RFS). This scheme aimed to give credit to farmers to boost agricultural productivity and farmer livelihoods. Farmers were given grants in form of items like beans, maize, and wheelbarrows among others, and these were provided through Uganda commercial bank (UCB).
From this sprung Entandiikwa which in turn was replaced with the Plan for Modernisation of Agriculture – PMA. To build on the gains of PMA, the government introduced National Agricultural Advisory Services – NAADS! Challenges in the distribution of farmer inputs such as seeds, suckers et al later led to the creation of Operation Wealth Creation(OWC).
In between the implementation of all these schemes, the government did create and support the microfinance sector docket in 2005.
To date, there are 735 microbanks, and 17,886 Savings and Credit Societies (SACCOs). In Gulu alone, there are 12,000 Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs).
All these investments – worth an estimated 21 trillion Uganda shillings – have reduced the poverty level in Uganda to about 28%. About 40% of these are in subsistence agriculture.
It is this high figure of 40% that is now the focus of our last mile strategy to widen and deepen Uganda’s economy. This last mile strategy is the Parish Development Model. Its total budget outlay is worth Shs 1 trillion.
This 1 trillion PDM outlay will deepen the decentralization process, improve household incomes, enable inclusive sustainable balanced, and equitable socio-economic transformation and increase accountability at a local level.
All these programs show the economic vision reflected in the NRA/M 10-point program – Musevenomics – is progressing well.
The writer works with Ministry of ICT&NG