Do not waste the Covid-19 crisis

Tuesday January 19 2021
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Whereas Covid-19 has ravaged livelihoods, to some, it has been an opportunity for new innovations and new beginnings. PHOTO/EDGAR R BATTE.

By Charlotte Ninsiima

No one will deny the havoc that Covid-19 has wreaked. It has been a crisis of massive intensity and thought provoking . It has been disastrous but some people have not wasted time to pander on to anything to make new beginnings and innovations.  

Corona descended on society, making change inevitable. It has disoriented some people forever, [but provided opportunities for others. 
These have been unprecedented times, rewriting lessons that will tilt the world forever. 

The word ‘innovation’ has almost became synonymous with Covid-19, not just as an aspiration but also a ‘do or die’. 

Indeed, some will attest to the fact that they have not wasted the crisis and will forever do things differently. 

Among the macro structures, one of the wins from the crisis was the implementation of the digital tax solutions some of which were implemented before Covid-19, which will provide an impetus for efficient revenue collection avenues in the current circumstances. 

The production and product verification technology is installed at points of manufacturing and entry in the case of imports.

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John Musinguzi, the Uganda Revenue Authority commissioner general, during the Taxpayers Appreciation Week, acknowledged challenges that have been presented by Covid-19, especially in terms of revenue collection. 

“This pandemic is still with us. As an institution, we continue to innovate. We are utilising all avenues of technology to deliver an efficient tax administration system,” he said. 

In the 2020/21 financial year, URA is expected to collect Shs21.8 trillion in domestic revenue, a target seen by some as ambitious in light of a struggling economy reeling from the impact of negative effects occasioned by Covid-19.   

During the Tax Appreciation Week, Musinguzi told large taxpayers that digital tax solutions will promote a verifiable assessment for both URA and businesses.

“The burden of paper work, poorly kept documentation, tax evasion and corruption, among others will be an issue of the past,” he said, inviting businesses to embrace digital tax solutions to unburden themselves. 
URA is implementing a number of digital tax solutions that are expected to ease tax collection, efficiency and compliance.  

In fact, it is not only URA, but other sectors of the economy, especially agribusinesses have been looking at rapid improvement in technology to create efficiency and profitability. 

Away from URA other stakeholders such as International Organic Exporters have not folded arms to stare at the chaos created by Covid-19. In fact, they are holding onto the chaos to find a silver lining.

After 16 years, the National Organic Agricultural Policy was launched in September, in what agribusiness actors believe will strengthen demand internally and exports of organic products. 

“The launch of the National Organic Agricultural Policy is key. Most local and international consumers of organic products are becoming more discerning on choice of what they eat,” Chariton Namuwoza, the National Organic Agricultural Movement of Uganda chief executive officer, says. 

In a virtual meeting with international dealers in December last year, 40 organic farmer association leaders discussed global trends and regulatory footnotes of compliance that stand between them and the $100b global market for organic products. 

The meeting was a turning point that sought opportunities amid a pandemic that has destabilised the world. 

Beyond this,  the Innovation Village has been so active in the innovations circles. They have steered a number of innovations. Indeed the company has been and continues to be a key driver amid the crisis.  

Japheth Kawanguzi, the Innovation Village team leader, admits the crisis has presented a double edged sword where they have had entrepreneurs tap into the low touch economy while others continue to struggle through.   
 “We launched a series of initiatives to enable entrepreneurs exhibit their potential. For example, the 97Fund was invested in over 10 entrepreneurs working with the Mastercard Foundation that has solutions for the after effects of Covid-19,”he says, noting that they are expanding into creatives through which new innovations such as MoTIV have been created. 
Further still, he says, they, just like some other Ugandans, have not wasted the crisis, noting they have built a real-time education and answers solution that provides information about Covid-19. 
Coming down to personalised experiences, Covid-19 has been a wakeup call to some to self-evaluate and assess .  

Moses Oketayot, a journalist, has not lost everything after all. He has utilised the crisis to train for a better career. 
Beyond this, the experience has taught him to prioritise personal health, saving and creating ways to stock up savings for a bad day. 

“The future is unpredictable. If you have some money, save,” he says. 
In the health sector, Ibrahim Twinomujuni, an epidemiologist acknowledges that he has acquired more knowledge to deal with diseases that are similar to Covid-19.

“We have gained infrastructure and machines, given that reagents and machines for Covid-19 can test other diseases. To the health sector, this is a plus and as a health care worker involved, I have gained skills on how to use those machines,” he says 

Away from the health sector, Brian Emurot has leveraged on the digital revolution to engage virtually. Actually, Covid-19 has opened a window for his innovation that had previously not attracted much attention. 

“Covid-19 opened a window of opportunities for more numbers to engage in digital marketing. Many have realised the veracity of virtual settings. It is now not easy to do without technology,” he says. 

Stephen Wagobi, a business consultant, ventured into automobile dealing, leveraging on the current high cost of transport. 
“There was a window of opportunity in car brokerage. Covid-19 was a blessing in disguise. I used it to educate myself about car brokerage,”  he says.  

Therefore, in all this, according to Charles Ocici, the Enterprise Uganda chief executive officer,   Covid-19 has presented an opportunity to build better survival skills no matter the circumstances. 

“We have the ability to adjust and fit in to the available resources. Covid-19 has forced us to think outside the box. People have learnt to explore ways of operating business through technology based solutions,” he says and notes work spaces have been restructured away from the usual, enabling people to remain relevant away from the traditional brick and mortar setting. 

Therefore, these and more have been learning lessons and ignited a virtue of self-drive, which is essentially becoming part of life. 
How the country builds on from this is the question that will continue to be asked with the potential to deliver Uganda into new setting.  
Whereas the crisis that has been Covid-19, has wreaked havoc, it has been a wakeup call that will change lives and the way we live forever.

Taking advantage
Uganda Revenue Authority has particularly launched a number of digital solutions during the or before Covid-19 in a bid to ease tax compliance and efficiency. 

Some of the solutions including digital tax stamps and e-ticketing and e-receipting, are expected to boost revenue collection as well as improving the performance of revenue collection. 

URA has already acknowledged the impact of the solutions which have also reduced person-to-person interactions, which could have been dangerous given the challenge of Covid-19. 

“This pandemic is still with us. As an institution, we continue to innovate. We are utilising all avenues of technology to deliver an efficient tax administration system,” John Musinguzi, the Uganda Revenue Authority commissioner general, said recently. 

In the 2020/21 financial year, URA is expected to collect Shs21.8 trillion in domestic revenue, a target seen by some as ambitious in light of a struggling economy reeling from the impact of negative effects occasioned by Covid-19.          
cninsiima@ug.nationmedia.com 

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