26th January 1986. A day famously celebrated in Uganda every year, marked the beginning of a Renaissance in Uganda. With a confident swagger, the victorious National Resistance Army/ Movement set about with a rebuild of our morale as a people and of our economy. To do this, they authored an ambitious but strategically thought out manifesto – 10 points program.
The 10 points program “could form the basis for a nationwide coalition of political and social forces that could usher in a new and better future” for Uganda.
Of immediate concern was a restoration of democratic rights to citizens as well as guaranteeing security of person and property. Indeed, these were point 1 and point 2 of the 10-point program.
In restoring democracy, initially through participation in Resistance council committees at village level expanding to election by citizens to national resistance council (NRC) -which was parliament, the NRM was truly on the way to “defending and consolidating our national independence.”
To restart our economy, currency reform policy was instituted in 1987. This policy had an immediate and significant effect of reducing inflation from a high of 190% to 21% just 2 years later. Additional fiscal and monetary reforms over the years now have Inflation now reduced to single digit. Since 2011, core inflation has averaged at 6.95%.
Stable Inflation has boosted what was a nascent industrial/ manufacturing sector – a break away from what was traditionally an economy built on export of raw agricultural produce such as coffee and cotton.
Progress has been made in diversifying Uganda’s agricultural exports although still dominated by food exports, the share of non-food merchandise exports has been increasing in recent years. Exports of agricultural raw materials, ores and metals exports have declined, an indication that there is more value addition taking place.
Uganda’s manufacturing sector is small and dominated by micro, small and medium enterprises, which make up 93.5% of the sector with agro-processing being a particularly important activity in the sector.
To further boost the rise in industrialization, government has undertaken a number of activities that include but are not limited to gazetting industrial parks at kapeika, Namanve, Mbarara and Tororo, liberalizing of the energy (power) sector to bring in private sector capital and expertise at Bujagali, Maziba and elsewhere, a progressive tax regime aimed at attracting foreign direct investments as well as entering into trade accords with the European Union (Everything but arms), United States (AGOA) and more importantly within regional blocs such as East African Community (EAC), Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and most recently Africa Continental Free Trade Area (ACFTA).
Victory by the NRA, as has been variously noted, was a precursor to other revolutions in other parts of Africa including, South Sudan, Somalia, but perhaps most famously in Rwanda. In all these, the NRA and later on Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF) have been instrumental in cultivating and sharing of a Nationalist and Pan African agenda.
In education, government in 1997 introduced Universal Primary Education (UPE). Faced with initial rejection by some in the political; space, government pressed on and today Ministry of Education estimates that as of 2016, 92 percent of the total population of children of the official primary school age were enrolled in primary schools.
The percent of girls enrolled in primary schools (94.6 percent) is five percentage points higher than that of boys (89.6 percent). Despite the observable fluctuations in primary seven completion rates, in the recent years, at least 6 in every 10 pupils who enter primary school, remain in school until they complete the primary cycle of education.
A conducive school environment is partly responsible for a reduction of prevalence in child labor as is the 2006 national Labor Policy, which provides for collective and sustainable action to combat child labor in Uganda, which was developed by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (MGLSD).
Along with adoption of universal secondary education (USE) and a healthy increase in the number of both private and public Universities, Uganda is continuing to address challenges arising out of an illiterate non educated labor force. Uganda is now an education hub at all levels within the region
Clearly then, the NRM is on course to “build an independent, integrated and self-sustaining national economy.” By actively pursuing an economic strategy of mixed economy, industrialisation as well as unparallel growth in the services sectors of Tourism including Hotels, Inns, Lodges and Telecoms. Uganda is now one of the worlds top destinations for investment.
In July 2016, president Museveni identified what he termed “10 strategic bottlenecks” hindering accelerated economic growth in Uganda and Africa. These include lack of infrastructure, fragmented markets, ideological disorientation and export of raw materials, among others. These are the challenges for which government is seeking for.
As we celebrated in Ibanda on Sunday, it would be wise to take stock of these achievements and reject those that would seek to derail Uganda’s march to progress.
The Writer is a Communications Assistant at Government Citizen Interaction Centre, (GCIC), Ministry of ICT and National Guidance.