Our national strategy for Vision 2040 to make Uganda an upper middle income nation is good. The question is: How realistic is it? In my view, it is a question of setting our priorities right and changing our mindset by focusing on key sectors.
The planning and industrial acceleration process needs to define strong industrialisation strategies, identify priority sectors to focus on the short-term, as well as strategies for the medium and long-term, and identify the key enablers to kick-start and sustain industrial development. Agro-processing is a priority, value addition to the extractive sectors and modernisation of agriculture.
Our government needs to champion this by allocating more resources to the selected key sectors. Agriculture and value addition, energy and education should be our major focus. The government wants to have an intervention in every sector which is wrong. Instead of trying to do everything, it is better to focus on one sector and raise funds to cater for other sectors later.
Among other priority sectors should be tourism and manufacturing. Manufacturing can easily support the country’s social development agenda through the creation of jobs, the generation of foreign exchange, and attracting Foreign Direct Investment.
Manufacturing is, therefore vital, and is probably the most important engine of long-term growth and development.
An overwhelming majority of the poor live in rural areas and potentially depend on agriculture for their livelihood. Therefore, there is no doubt that a modernised agriculture sector, which creates jobs and generates value addition in agro-processing activities, would lift many Ugandans out of poverty.
It is a shame that over half a century after independence, while other regions have increased their share of manufactured exports, Uganda still depends on the export of raw materials to the industrialised world. These raw materials are processed and sold back to Uganda at much higher prices.
The manufacturing sector should, therefore, transform itself into a robust, efficient, modern and export-oriented entity. This holds the key to rapid industrialisation, which will create employment, reduce poverty, and raise the living standards of Ugandans.