Tuesday February 27 2018

Technology innovations to boost regional industrialisation

Prof Charles Kwesiga (centre), the executive

Prof Charles Kwesiga (centre), the executive director of Uganda Industrial Research Institute explains to the East African Research and Technology Organisation chiefs some of the works done by the institute. PHOTO BY DOROTHY NAKAWEESI 

By Dorothy Nakaweesi

If the East African Community member states don’t come up with concerted efforts to industrialise as a bloc, the region will become a dumping place for cheap imports.
This means that no new creation of jobs will be realised for the young population the region has and this will hinder the development goals and targets too.

What is more worrying is that the level of industrialisation and manufacturing is sliding downwards, according to a new report released.
Dubbed the ‘EAC Industrial Competitiveness Report’ released last November, it shows that in absolute terms the region’s industrial performance as measured by Manufacturing Value Added (MVA) and manufacturing trade growth rates remains well above the global average.

But in relative terms, it falls short of some of the targets set in its Industrialisation policy, below similar regional economic communities in Sub-Saharan Africa such as Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), and more strikingly registered some signs of slowdown in recent years.

The report illustrates that MVA growth has slowed down in recent years, from 5.3 per cent between 2005 and 2010, to 4.6 per cent between 2010 and 2015, thus falling short of the 10-15 per cent annual growth rate mentioned in the EAC Industrialisation Policy and Strategy and below the SSA average. This means that efforts are being made but the imports from other countries are overtaking this effort.

Ms Jennifer Gache, a senior industrial engineer at the EAC secretariat in the investment division in the promotion of Industrialization and manufacturing in an interview with Prosper Magazine at the sidelines of the memorandum of understanding signing event of the regional Research and Technology Organisations in Kampala recently said: “If you take a walk in Kampala like Nabugabo Road you cannot believe the amount of textiles coming into the country. Then there is the issue of second clothes but also the issue of new clothes coming.”

“So how do you develop a sector when you have got all these massive imports which are shading the efforts being done? Ms Gache called on the member countries to take lessons from other economies that have got similar economies like Malaysia who have helped to push and boost their manufacturing to grow.

Funding
In order to reverse the sliding industrialisation trend in the region, the regional trade organizations (RTOs) heads called on governments to come out and support their efforts by helping the youths to acquire skills in order to set up their establishments.
Prof Charles Kwesiga, the executive director of Uganda Industrial Research Institute (UIRI) who was the host to the regional RTOs in his remarks, said there is need for affordable finance, if industrialisation is to happen.

“You cannot borrow money at 20 per cent interest to establish a facility. It means all the efforts will be ruined,” Mr Kwesiga noted. In Uganda, the government has shown support, especially in the opening up of industrial parks and providing facilities but more needs to be done to support the RTOs. Ms Gache said that the people with money in the region are diverting their resources into real estates but few will invest in a processing plant. You may find that one of the reasons why this is happening is because they don’t have the knowledge.

Cooperation
In order to move forward, the regional trade organisations formed a collaboration that will see them work together in sharing knowledge and technologies in the respective member states in a bid to promote industrialisation.
Mr Kwesiga said if Uganda has some technologies that other member countries don’t have, then they will not replicate but instead come here and make use of the technologies and the same will be for the other EAC countries.

“Because we face the same problems, we end up duplicating our efforts individually as countries yet we do not have enough resources. In this collaboration, we are trying to solve the same problems using the same solutions, using the little resources that we have as a region to undertake research and technologies,” he added.

Furthermore, the RTOs through the cooperation will also address the challenge of limited skilled personnel and also leverage the little they have for the benefit of the industrial research and technologies in the region.

The RTOs are also expected to work on joint projects and to leverage them to a higher level.
“We think where there are facilities such as UIRI’s new modern technology facilities in Namanve Industrial Park that are going to manufacture machine tools, we will mobilise the youth in the region to make use of it,” Ms Gache said.

Moving forward
In Uganda, the government has shown support, especially in the opening up of industrial parks and providing facilities but more needs to be done to support the Regional Trade Organisations (RTOs).
In order to move forward, the regional trade organisations formed a collaboration that will see them work together in sharing knowledge and technologies in the respective member states in a bid to promote industrialisation.

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